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March 15, 2021 1:02 pm

‘I Would Rather Cease to be Chief Justice’: Top South African Judge Reiterates Refusal to Apologize for Pro-Israel Comments

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South Africa’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is seen at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. Photo: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko.

South Africa’s chief justice on Sunday rebuffed a demand that he publicly apologize for comments in which he criticized his country’s hostile policy toward the State of Israel, countering that he had not overstepped his authority as a judge in doing so.

Mogoeng Mogogeng told a prayer meeting on Sunday night that the constitutional provision invoked to censure him on four counts of misconduct had been misapplied. “That provision is about ensuring that while you are a judge, you can’t become a mayor, you can’t become a premier, you can’t become a minister, you can’t become a member of Parliament because you will then be exercising executive authority,” Mogoeng stated, saying that he had made his points about Israel as a South African “citizen.”

South Africa’s Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) — which investigates complaints made against judges — had found Mogoeng guilty on March 5 for comments made at an online seminar in June 2020, in which he appeared alongside South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. Mogoeng invoked his Christian faith as the reason for his “love” of Israel, criticizing the South African government for maintaining close diplomatic ties with the country’s former colonizers while frequently attacking the Jewish state as a reincarnation of its former apartheid regime.

Mogoeng declared at Sunday’s prayer meeting that his comments on Israel had been made under divine instruction, confirming that he would not back down.

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“I respect the law. I will not defy the law,” he said. “But if it does come to the point where I am forced to do the abominable, or I am forced to reject God, then I would rather be without money, be without any position. I will never refuse to obey the Lord.”

He elaborated: “If I get to the point where there is a judgment that says, ‘You must say you hate Israel and the Jews’, I would rather cease to be Chief Justice. If I get to the point where they say, ‘Mogoeng, you must say you hate the Palestinians and Palestine’, I would rather cease to be Chief Justice than to do it, because my God has instructed me to love and not to hate. I hate evil deeds, I don’t hate anybody.”

Mogoeng then claimed that he knew of “many attempts to kill me.”

“The Lord has cancelled those attempts. There was a recent one this year — a plot to kill me. The Lord revealed it. Anybody from today, who is plotting to disgrace me, they will die before they can even do it, in the name of Jesus,” he said.

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