South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein has raised eyebrows with his comments on the Gaza conflict, with the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation condemning his verbal attack on ANC deputy secretary-general, Jessie Duarte. On Sunday, Rabbi Goldstein lambasted Duarte for comparing Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to the Nazi Holocaust, calling it a “hate-filled outburst”.
Duarte had earlier said Israel had “turned the occupied territories of Palestine into permanent death camps”. In response, Rabbi Goldstein said Duarte “must be held accountable for her morally repugnant words, which have brought the ANC into disrepute.”
In a statement on Tuesday, the Foundation said it was “appalled by the one sided and blinkered response” of Rabbi Goldstein to the Duarte.
“One would have expected a more sober and calming response from a man of the cloth. The Chief Rabbi’s response, together with that of the myriad of Zionist lobby groups in South Africa, deflects from the real issues at stake in this conflict, namely: the rights of the Palestinian people to national self-determination; the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands; the indiscriminate targeting of civilians – particularly women, children, the aged and the disabled; and the flagrant disregard of international law and international humanitarian law.”
The Foundation said the ANC’s unequivocal stance on the Palestinian crisis is consistent with the global outpouring of anger and a desire to see an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine. According to the Foundation, Rabbi Goldstein’s remarks was an “attempt to personalise” the matter by targeting the ANC’s top brass.
The organisation also referred to alleged threats by the Chief Rabbi against the Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Obed Bapela. Deputy Minister Bapela reported at a solidarity rally in Lenasia on Sunday that the Chief Rabbi had called him after the release of the ANC statement and asked him to disassociate himself from the statement and further demanded that it be removed from the website of the ANC. When Deputy Minister Bapela indicated that this would not be done, it’s was reported that the Chief Rabbi indicated that there would be “consequences” for the ANC.
“While we deplore the loss of all life, be it Palestinian or Jewish, we cannot turn a blind eye to the stance taken by the Chief Rabbi. The report of the Deputy Minister on the conduct of the Chief Rabbi is particularly worrisome for the Foundation,” the statement continued.
“The crisis in Palestine will not be hidden away from the South African public through such crude attempts at curbing the expression of views that are not the liking of the Chief Rabbi and others.” VOC