By Harris Zvi Green
Two South African Jewish lawyers recently offered their candidacy to fill vacant judicial positions in two of South African national courts. The Judicial Services Commission is responsible for judicial appointments in South Africa. The application process includes a hearing with the members of the Commission.
The Jewish candidates were subjected to intrusive questioning regarding their levels of religious observance, their opinions on the proposed two-state solution to resolve the Middle East conflict and their connections to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) – the representative body of South Africa’s Jewish community. According to press reports, it was made abundantly clear to the Jewish candidates that traditional observance of the Jewish Sabbath was problematic.
None of the other candidates were asked questions regarding their levels of religious observance. None of the other candidates were asked for their opinions on the Middle East conflict. None of the other candidates were interrogated regarding their connections with different communal organizations.
The above poses of several serious questions:
(1) Since when is the level of a candidate’s religious observance relevant to the judicial position he is applying for? And if it is relevant, then why is it relevant only to Jews? Why isn’t it relevant to Christians, Muslims or Hindus?
(2) Since when do South African courts of law have jurisdiction on matters relating to the two-state solution in the Middle East?
(3) Since when have the members of South Africa’s Judicial Services Commission acquired the expertise to fully understand and appreciate the multitude of nuances relating to the two-state solution?
(4) Why is it that the SAJBD is singled out by members of the Judicial Services Commission as a pariah communal organization? What about all the other communal organizations who represent the Rainbow Nation’s different religious and ethnic groups?
(5) Surely a judge with an ideologically driven opinion on any issue is expected to recuse himself from adjudicating a case if he encounters a conflict of interests. This is a fundamental requirement for ALL judges regardless of their religion. Apparently, members of the Judicial Services Commission believe that ONLY Jewish judges can’t be relied upon to exercise their judgement.
(6) Where are the judges who serve on South Africa’s judicial system? Their silence is deafening!
Why is it always necessary for Jews to prove their loyalty to the countries they choose to serve? Why are different standards always applied to Jews?
In 1961 Adv. Israel Maisels successfully defended Nelson Mandela and 90 other people of all races in the “Treason Trial”. The same Israel Maisels was, for his entire life, involved in Jewish and Zionist causes. He was an observant Jew and served as the president of the United Hebrew Congregation, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the South African Zionist Federation and the Israel United Appeal.
The questions posed by the Judicial Services Commission suggest that Adv. Maisels would not have been considered to be eligible for a judicial position in South Africa.
Does South Africa – the Rainbow Nation – encapsulate the ideals propagated by Nelson Mandela? Is this what Madiba’s vision was all about? No. It most certainly is not. The Judicial Services Commission is guilty of religious and racial discrimination in its ugliest form.
My late father served in the South African Armed Forces in World War II. He was seriously wounded. He lost most of his fingers. His sight and hearing were badly impaired. He underwent 19 operations in 11 months. He bore the scars of his loyalty to his country of birth until the day he died. Some Jews paid a higher price. Other Jews paid the ultimate price.
What gives the 23 members of South Africa’s Judicial Services Commission the right to question the loyalty of Jews to South Africa? Not only isn’t it constitutional. It’s unethical. It’s immoral. It’s racist.
In an official statement, the SAJBD claims the process conducted by the Judicial Services Commission was “overtly prejudicial” and “unconstitutional”. I can’t disagree with that but I believe the situation is far more serious. The actions of the Judicial Services Commission are discriminating and reek of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism has become politically correct.
I urge my Jewish friends in South Africa and around the world not to engage in the age-old battle of striving to prove your loyalty to the country in which you reside. Generations of Jews tried doing just that. They assimilated. They compromised their identities. They did their utmost to conceal their Jewish roots. They all failed. Dismally so. This is a war that can’t be won.
The statement of the SAJBD is important. It expresses the outrage of the Jewish community but the ball remains in the hands of the applicants for whom I have the following message.
Guys, I recognize your professional ambitions. I appreciate your desire to serve your country and its judicial system. However, if I were in your situation, I would withdraw my candidacy. I’d tell the hacks serving on the Judicial Services Commission to take a hike. I certainly wouldn’t compromise my identity or my heritage.
Your action on this issue is far more important than resolving any case you might be called upon to adjudicate.
About the writer:
Harris Zvi Green, born in Cape Town / South-Africa. Graduated from the University of Cape Town with a B. Com. degree and immigrated to Israel 51 years ago. He served as the Chief Financial Officer at a number of Israeli hi-tech companies. He is now retired. Married with three married children and is the proud grandfather of 13 grandchildren.
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