South Africa’s Chief Rabbi bashes government over latest statement

Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein explains that the ANC government has recently given Israel observer status in the AU institution even though the South African government tried to convince them otherwise.

 A placard depicting former South African President Nelson Mandela hangs on a barbed wire during clashes with Palestinians and Israeli security forces, near Ramallah December 6, 2013.  (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
A placard depicting former South African President Nelson Mandela hangs on a barbed wire during clashes with Palestinians and Israeli security forces, near Ramallah December 6, 2013.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein has bashed his government because of a statement made by the country’s foreign minister urging the United Nations to classify Israel as an apartheid state.

“It’s based on a completely false understanding of reality,” Goldstein said Wednesday. “Intellectually, legally and morally, the allegation is a disgrace; it is a complete distortion of the facts.”

The African National Congress government “is also out of step with Africa,” Goldstein said, explaining that “the African Union has recently given Israel observer status in the AU institution, even though the South African government did everything in their power to persuade them not to do that.”

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday that Israel should be classified as an apartheid state and that the UN General Assembly should establish a committee to verify whether it satisfied its requirements, Al Jazeera reported.

“The Palestinian narrative evokes experiences of South Africa’s own history of racial segregation and oppression,” she said. The comments and accusations were reportedly made at the second meeting of the Palestinian Heads of Mission in Africa, held in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s capital cities.

South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. (credit: Courtesy)South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. (credit: Courtesy)

The ANC is a South African social-democratic party. Before becoming a political party, it was a liberation movement fighting apartheid. Since 1994, it has been the country’s governing party. Its first member to serve as president was Nelson Mandela.

“I think that firstly, the accusation is offensive to the victims of the real apartheid, because if everything is apartheid, nothing is apartheid,”

South African Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein

“The views of the ANC government are well known,” Goldstein said. “I think that firstly, the accusation is offensive to the victims of the real apartheid, because if everything is apartheid, nothing is apartheid,” the chief rabbi said dramatically.

Goldstein explained that the AU, as a majority body representing the entire continent, “does not view Israel like that [as an apartheid state].... It’s important to note that this ANC is not the ANC of Nelson Mandela anymore. They have lost the confidence of their own people.”

Goldstein also accused his government of aligning itself at the UN “with countries that are not democracies, who are abusers of human rights. They have aligned themselves with China, Russia and Iran. They are in the process at the moment of evicting hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans from South Africa. They have unfortunately not aligned themselves with democracies.

“Israel and South Africa are democracies and therefore, South Africa should be aligning itself with a fellow democracy in the Middle East. Israel is the only democracy in the region, the only one with this protection of human rights where every citizen – no matter who they are and what their race, religion or color is – has equal rights within the society.”

“I have interactions with many of my colleagues and certainly with the leaders of some of the largest churches in South Africa. They reflect a support and an appreciation for Israel,” Goldstein said.

“I think [the ANC] views are out of step with South Africa and out of step with Africa. It’s a disgrace to the values of the South African constitution.”

South African Jews

According to Goldstein, over the years, together with other organizations in South Africa, Jewish organizations have consistently, privately and publicly, organized symposiums and written articles “to refute this allegation, because it is so deeply offensive to our community,” he said.

“As South African Jews, it’s a defamation of the Jewish state” to categorize Israel as an apartheid state “and also a deep insult to the victims of the real apartheid,” he said.

Goldstein asked for people around the world to criticize this charge of apartheid. 

“It’s important whenever this allegation is made, that not only South African Jews, but all decent people in the world come out against it, so that this false allegation doesn’t convince uneducated people to believe it. This libel, in fact, [should not be] allowed to stick.”

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.