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Court orders South Africa chief judge to apologise for pro-Israel comments

South Africa's Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoen in Cape Town on 15 February 2018 [RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images]
South Africa's Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoen in Cape Town on 15 February 2018 [RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images]

South Africa's Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was yesterday ordered to apologise after being found guilty of violating the country's judicial code of conduct for pro-Israel comments he made in June.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) of South Africa, a body that exercises control over the state's judiciary, ordered the country's top judge to retract his comments and make a public apology.

In June, Mogoeng took part in a webinar organised by Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post in which he said that he was under an obligation as a Christian to love Israel, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem which actually means the peace of Israel.

"And I cannot as a Christian do anything other than love and pray for Israel because I know hatred for Israel by me and for my nation will, can only attract unprecedented curses upon our nation," he said.

However he acknowledged: "Whatever I have to say should not be misunderstood as an attempt to say the policy direction taken by my country in terms of their constitutional responsibilities is not binding on me. But just as a citizen, any citizen is entitled to criticise the laws and the policies of SA or even suggest that changes are necessary, and that's where I come from,"

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Following yesterday's ruling, Mogoeng said he stood by his comments and that he would not apologise or retract them — "even if 50 million people were to march every day for 10 years for me to do so, I would not apologise".

"If I perish, I perish," he said.

The case was brought to court by human rights organisation, #Africa4Palestine, which submitted an official complaint to South Africa's JSC.

Mogoeng also came under fire from political parties including the country's ruling African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP), opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters, South African churches and church organisations, the Muslim Judicial Council and Jamiat Ulama of South Africa, judicial bodies, legal experts, intellectuals, trade unions, commentators, civil society organisations and others.

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