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Not in my name, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein – not in my name


Mervyn Bennun was a member of the Congress of Democrats and went into exile in 1965. He and his father, Tolly Bennun, joined the ANC the moment its ranks were opened to all South Africans. He returned to South Africa in 2000, and resigned his ANC membership at the age of 86 in June 2022 in an open letter published by Daily Maverick.

Following Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s recent tour of Israel, he explicitly said that he was acting and speaking for the sake of all South Africa. He said that because of the South African government’s ‘wickedness’, he had removed it from prayers for its welfare. Not in my name, Chief Rabbi. Not in my name.

For a prime example of the arrogance, intolerance, falsehoods and racism of Zionism, the 15-minute video recently released by South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein is so pompous that at some points it becomes a grotesque caricature.

He reports that he “travelled to Israel recently to establish a strong, parallel diplomatic channel between Israel and the people of South Africa”.

He “conveyed a message to the government and the people of Israel, on behalf of the South African Jewish community, as well as millions of our fellow citizens throughout the country, that the ANC government does not speak in our name; that we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in the battle against the forces of evil”. 

He met President Isaac Herzog and cabinet ministers personally to convey this message of support.

Rabbi Goldstein explicitly said he was acting and speaking for the sake of all South Africa. 

He said the South African government had failed its people, that support for the government was dwindling, and that most South Africans distanced themselves from South Africa’s support for Hamas. 

Because of the South African government’s “wickedness”, he had removed it from prayers for its welfare.

Rabbi Goldstein distributed more than one thousand letters from the children of South Africa expressing their love and support for the “brave Israeli soldiers” and hoping that “they’ll win the war”. 

He said that by referring Israel’s war on Gaza following the 7 October 2023 events to the International Court of Justice and accusing Israel of genocide, South Africa has made itself the ally of terrorists. 

The accusation of genocide has clearly angered Rabbi Goldstein.

Phew. Where to start a reply?

At the outset, I must state that I resigned from the ANC in 2022. I had been an active supporter from the 1950s and then a rank-and-file member. I was at the Congress of the People in 1955.

South Africa does not condone Hamas’ actions and Rabbi Goldstein knows this to be the case, having presumably researched and prepared himself for his “mission”.

On 18 October 2023, in its published statement, Cabinet condemned “the cowardly attack by Hamas that killed and injured innocent people”.

Cabinet also “condemned the heinous opportunism of the Israeli government to use Hamas’ cowardice to continue its genocide against the people of Palestine”.

In a televised address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 26 January 2024, he reminded the country that “South Africa had earlier condemned the 7 October 2023 attack by Hamas and other groups that resulted in the deaths of many Israelis and the taking of hostages”.

Ramaphosa was speaking as the State President. However, as president of the ruling African National Congress, he was almost bound to take such a view.

In 1980, before the International Committee of the Red Cross, the ANC had declared its adherence to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Protocol of 1977 on the humanitarian conduct of war — the first liberation movement in history to do so.

Article 1 of the Protocol applies to “armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist régimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination”. 

Hamas has disregarded the word and spirit of the Geneva Conventions despite the moral and political advantages of adherence.

I hold no brief for Hamas. I agree unreservedly with Dr Gabor Maté — no friend of Zionism — when he described what Hamas and other Palestinians did on 7 October 2023 as “criminal” and “criminal stupidity”, because those responsible knew how the Zionists would respond.

Israel has refused to be bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention:

“Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals”.

This protects civilians in areas of armed conflict and occupied territories. 

Israel claims, as Human Rights Watch explains, that it will “voluntarily” abide by the “humanitarian provisions” of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

After what happened on 7 October 2023, the government of Israel’s intention to bring Gaza to its present condition, and the execution of this policy, are both known to Rabbi Goldstein. 

Surely he has read South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice?

President Herzog has stated that Israel was not distinguishing between militants and civilians in Gaza. In a press conference with foreign media, he said:

“It’s an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true this rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true… and we will fight until we break their backbone.”

Over one million of the “entire nation” are children.

Major General Ghassan Alian described Gazans as “human animals”. 

The Minister of Heritage, Amihai Eliyahu, compared Gazans to the Nazis – to whom one would not provide humanitarian aid. He added that “there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians” and proposed using a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip.

The South African ICJ application gives many more illustrations.

Rabbi Goldstein knew what was intended for Gaza and its population because he met ministers to tell them that he was bringing a message of support for that intention.

Rabbi Goldstein knew what was being done to Gaza and its population because he thanked the soldiers who were doing it.

Rabbi Goldstein has said that he agrees with the Israeli government’s view that the genocide accusation is ill-founded and meritless. As proof, he claims that the ICJ did not order a ceasefire, which was the first of the measures requested by the South African application.

South Africa had requested the ICJ to order that “the state of Israel shall immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza” – that is, a “ceasefire”.

It is true that the ICJ did not use these words. It said instead:

“The Court recalls that it has the power, under its Statute, when a request for provisional measures has been made, to indicate measures that are, in whole or in part, other than those requested.”

I assume that Rabbi Goldstein has not understood the order made by the ICJ.

Concluding that Israel was committing a plausible genocide, the ICJ ordered measures which are completely, totally, utterly and wholly impossible for Israel to fulfil without a ceasefire. Subsequent events, to international horror, have proved this to be true.

The first measure ordered, by a majority of 15 to two, is that “in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”, in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, Israel had to “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of this Convention…”

The ICJ then listed the precise conduct prohibited by the Genocide Convention. The remaining measures substantially reflect what South Africa’s application requested – by similar or greater majorities.

The ICJ seems to have been concerned to avoid any tendentious political overtones had it ordered a ceasefire explicitly, so it designed its orders accordingly.

The adjective “plausible” is synonymous with the familiar phrase “prima facie. The ICJ must still decide whether genocide as defined in the Genocide Convention has been proved; alternatively, it may decide that Israel has committed no genocide. It is unwise to predict the outcome.

South Africa’s application, however, casts a grim shadow ahead of itself. Paragraph 2 warns that:

“It is important to place the acts of genocide in the broader context of Israel’s conduct towards Palestinians during its 75-year-long apartheid, its 56-year-long belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory and its 16-year-long blockade of Gaza, including the serious and ongoing violations of international law associated therewith, including grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

These are matters which have been referred to the International Criminal Court by South Africa and other states. 

In Paragraph 85 of its order, the ICJ emphasised “that all parties to the conflict in the Gaza Strip are bound by international humanitarian law”. That includes the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Israel’s claim to be “the Jewish state” and acting accordingly has provided anti-Semites with the nourishment on which their ignorance thrives. This is the price of Zionism. 

The European Holocaust is drained of any exculpatory value it might ever have had to excuse what Israel does – Zionism has shown itself to be heartless, grasping and deaf to everyone except its praise singers like Rabbi Goldstein.

Zionists – and Rabbi Goldstein in particular – are not the first South Africans to travel abroad to make speeches, publish, and to seek the ear of governments the better to describe South Africa’s government as wicked and unrepresentative, and worked to overthrow it.

Presumably, Rabbi Goldstein used his South African passport, issued under our democratic Constitution, to travel to Israel. Those who fought apartheid were less fortunate. We forfeited our South African passports, and those at home faced the violence of apartheid.

Those who went abroad even lost their South African citizenship – not that under apartheid the masses of South Africans were ever really citizens in the first place.

There is no possibility that anything like this will happen to Rabbi Goldstein.  I want to be among the first he hears saying, “And that’s how it should be!” 

We now have a Constitution that protects Zionists’ right to call the democratically elected government “wicked”.

It is not surprising that Zionists find cause to protest now. They made no attempt to resist apartheid:

“When the Nationalists achieved power in South Africa in 1948, the leaders of the Jewish community struck a deal. In return for the Nationalists abandoning their anti-Semitism the Jewish community would support apartheid.” (Tony Greenstein, Zionism during the Holocaust: The Weaponisation of Memory in the Service of State and Nation, 2022; p. 408).

Greenstein notes that it was only in 1985 that the Jewish Board of Deputies called for an end to apartheid: “The BOD had long abandoned Jewish anti-apartheid activists. It was only when apartheid was crumbling that South Africa’s Jewish community tried to embrace the Jews that they had ostracised.” (Greenstein, p. 408).

It is true that under South Africa’s former racist demography, Jews were over-represented in the anti-apartheid struggle. 

In 2001, Milton Shain’s book, Looking Back: Jews in the Struggle for Democracy and Human Rights in South Africa, was published. Its foreword states frankly that most Jews accommodated themselves to colonial segregation and, after 1948, to the “institutionalised system of apartheid”.

South Africa’s general election will be on 29 May 2024, and not even Rabbi Goldstein knows what its results will be. South Africa has grave problems indeed. Our disappointment and anger, and even a sense of betrayal, portend a successful commitment to solve these.

Rabbi Goldstein, however, travelled abroad to proclaim his hostility to the very idea of hope.

Former president Nelson Mandela said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Albert Smith says:

    Well said sir. The world is devoid of the unselfish leadership displayed by you and many others in years gone by. Leaders today, including of the Rabbi Goldstein variety, only serve (or seek to serve) out of self interest and self enrichment

  • John P says:

    An excellent article, well written and supported with relevant facts by a man who has been around long enough to see much of mans inhumanity to man.
    Regretfully we can now expect the right wingers to come out slugging, repeating the same Zionist propaganda they always use to try and justify the treatment of the Palestinian people. Not just by Israel but by Britain since the inception of the Israeli state and, in particular, by the Americans driven by their religious zeal and the racist mind set of many of their citizens.
    Even more predictable will be the response of the Zionists themselves who seem to
    believe that as God’s chosen people they can do no wrong. As they do with every Jew who does not fall in line and questions the Zionist way they can be expected to attack the writer on a personal basis and to denounce him as “not really a Jew”

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    Thank you Mervyn for a studious attempt to address Rabbi Goldstein. Regarding your concluding observation … note that the last remaining apartheid state since the capitulation of the SA one … has been on US (and ‘western’) sponsored steroids ! With the unmitigated support of the US, it has ignored all resolutions of the UN and its subsidiaries including the ICJ . In fact between the two (and a few European lackeys) of them serious and cynical moves are underway to try and make the UN ‘irrelevant’. The recent shipping in of ‘aid’ via a temporary port (when existing land crossings are adequate) is an example of this cynicism and games being played. As for Rabbi Goldstein … the biblical saying “forgive them for they know not what they do” might suffice … except that in this instance, he knows perfectly well what he is doing .. just like the regime he endorses there, knows what ‘genocide’ is ! No doubt … you like the Profs Chomsky and Shlaim and people like Beinart et al … will be accorded the highest accolade that Zionism can award, as being ‘self hating’ Jews. Here the likes of Beyers Naude was labeled an ‘afrikaaner hating’ Afrikaaner ! Carry the designation with distinction and pride.

  • Shlomo BenChaim says:

    The writer, a left wing dissident and Erev Rav (Jew?) lost me at ANC.
    Typical “Kasrilesque garbage”
    He cites opinions as facts and distorts the narrative to suit his own political agenda. Let me remind the writer that Hamas would not ask him for his political affiliations or allegiances to the ‘Palestinians’ before brutalising him or his family had they been victims on Oct7. Neither would the Nazis of 1939 ask him ‘how Jewish he was’ or afford him any privileges other than that of KAPO that sold out fellow Jews in the death camps of Europe. He is a minority voice anyway and certainly not part of our community.
    I hope and pray that the writer is never allowed to set foot on Israeli and Jewish soil for the rest of his natural life and I also hope the Chevra Kadisha refuse to bury him in a Jewish cemetery when he finally shuffles off the mortal plain. No Kadish for you mate.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Just as I said … dismiss all those (like our own conscientious objectors in the struggle against apartheid) who object to the Zionist agenda as ‘self hating’ Jews . Surprised more of these occupied minds (like the lands they occupy) have not been heard ! It really does not matter ‘where’ one is buried or even cremated, it is the ‘legacy’ or what King called ‘character’ that matters. Maybe that is too difficult for an occupied mind to comprehend .

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