Mogeng Mogoeng: What about Dennis Davis and Siraj Desai?

Ben Levitas says the two judges have also expressed their political opinions on Israel and Palestine

Judge Mogoeng in good company for expressing political opinions

11 March 2021

High Court Judge Siraj Desai, has an illustrious record of political involvement and activism on behalf of the Palestinian cause, and yet attracted no censure, either while in office or afterwards. In 2009 the Judge went on lead a group of 15 South African activists who flew to Egypt to join a planned Freedom march on the Gaza strip in support of the Palestinians, but were stopped by Egyptian troops. This event was organized by the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA).

Judge Desai again entered the polical arena in 2011 with his own opinions when he promoted boycotts and sanctions against Israel and went on to say that the Israeli occupation of Palestine was “one of the longest continuing breaches of human rights in the world.” He was involved with the screening of an anti-Israel film at the District Six Museum and Presided over the South African support committee of the notorious and one sided third Russell Tribunal in 2013.

As late as 2020 Judge Desai as a guest of the Muslim Judicial Council engaged publicly with the Palestinian Ambassador Hanan Jarrar, calling for solidarity with the Palestinian people and criticizing the “Deal of the Century” accords in the Middle East.

So, it appears to be fine for a sitting judge to express his political opinions as long as they are targeted at condemning Israel!

Another esteemed judge Dennis Davis, has been unrestrained in expressing his political preferences and opinions like in 2008, when he saw a “stark” parallel between apartheid South Africa and the position of the Palestinians.

In 2014 he signed a petition distancing himself from local Jewish organizations and calling Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza disproportionate. In 2013 he tried to stop the visit by Alan Dershowitz to South Africa and entered into a very public debate about the political issues. During his time as a sitting judge he suffered no opprobrium or criticism or calls to recant any of his opinions. 

So, it appears to be fine for a sitting judge to express his political opinions as long as they are targeted at condemning Israel!

What the Judicial conduct committee failed to examine was what were the motives of the plaintiff  bringing the action against the Chief Justice MogoengMogoeng, namely “Africa4Palestine”. Africa4Palestine, grew out of the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement targeting only Israel, with the clear intention of eliminating Israel from the family of nations.

If the judgement against the Chief Justice is carried out it will not only stifle healthy debate but will signal the beginning of the end for freedom of speech. The ‘cancel culture’ will also make support of Israel a politically untenable standpoint in the public domain.

Ben Levitas