A group of Christian leaders in South Africa, joined by the country’s Chief
Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, has called on the ruling African National Congress
party to refrain from taking “partisan action” in its stance towards the
Israel-Palestinian conflict during its national conference that began Sunday
The ANC’s 53rd National Conference was convened in the city of
Mangaung, also known as Bloemfontein, and will see the 5,000 party delegates
vote on the party’s leadership as well as numerous other resolutions and issues
affecting the party.
The issue of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is
likely to be addressed in conference motions on South African international
relations, and religious leaders have raised concerns that the resolution will
not deal with the issue in a balanced manner.
In an open letter to the
conference delegates published on the front page of South Africa’s Sunday Times,
seven Christian leaders and Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein called on ANC delegates
“not to endorse a divisive motion of conflict” but instead to promote peaceful
negotiations between the parties to the conflict.
“South Africa has no
just cause for choosing sides,” the letter read. “We should support both sides
in their struggle for a peaceful solution.
When South Africa’s ruling
party chooses sides in this bitter conflict, our country loses the credibility
to be a voice for peace between the parties, and only the agenda of conflict is
served. Such actions impede a peaceful solution that would enable Jews to live
in their ancient Biblical land in peace side by side with their Muslim
The letter also criticized the possibility that an ANC
national conference resolution would include a call for boycott divestment and
sanctions to be enacted by South Africa against Israel.
In October this
year, the 3rd International Solidarity Conference organized by the ANC in the
capital Pretoria declared its support for a boycott, divestment and sanctions
campaign against Israel, with ANC chairperson and former South Africa deputy
president Baleka Mbete accusing Israel of being “worse than apartheid South
The letter was signed by, among others, Archbishop of
Johannesburg Buti Tlhagale, and President of International Federation of
Christian Churches Pastor Ray McCauley.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post,
Goldstein said that the leaders who signed the letter represent approximately 10
million people around the country, and that many of them wish to see a different
approach from the government towards the conflict.
“They are looking for
an approach which is more balanced and supportive of peace rather than one which
is one-sided,” Goldstein said.
The chief rabbi argued that “more
significant than what the ANC does or doesn’t do is that millions of people see
that the correct approach is for South Africa to be more balanced and support
both sides in finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”