Press Statement on Freedom of Speech by South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace

17 August 2014

Jewish tradition prefers to promote discussion rather than unquestioning acceptance. Discussion and debate is usually regarded as a Jewish intellectual pursuit.  The Jewish religion is studied in pairs or in groups, where people respectfully debate with each other, thus learning and developing an understanding of the texts and parables.  This is our Jewish tradition, of which we are normally very proud.

However, when it comes to discussion about Israel, a section of the mainstream Jewish community closes down all debate. Any criticism of Israel is treated with fear and usually the Jewish person who questions the Israeli Government’s actions or policies is subject to vicious verbal attack.

The petition published last week in the Sunday Times and Bussiness Day ( challenges the Jewish community and the Israeli state to recognise the human rights violations perpetrated by the State of Israel. We are questioning whether Israel is a just State. This debate is necessary for change. Without entering into debate and investigating alternatives, the cycle of violence will continue. The inability to question and address the genuine grievances of the Palestinians who are refugees living in refugee camps suggests the Israeli Government is consciously not wanting discussion on a peaceful solution.

Israel has a vastly superior military force in the region and does not exercise its choice to engage in genuine negotiations for a just peace. On SABC News, Sunday 3 August, the South African Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, said: “When we as a country debate the Middle East conflict, we can do so with respect, with dignity realising that there are millions of South Africans on both sides of this debate and you can’t vilify opponents, there is such an attempt to bully and intimidate that you are almost not allowed to hold an opinion differently.” However, we have seen in the media vitriolic attacks on Saul Musker, Sam Musker and Joshua Broomberg and a lot of Jewish people have not upheld the Chief Rabbi’s words, vilifying people who condemn the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel. We urge the mainstream Jewish community to continue in the Jewish tradition and promote discussion and debate, especially about Israel. We call on the State of Israel and Palestinian leadership to engage in genuine debate. Within this debate and genuine negotiation, a just peace will be attained.

For more information and media queries

Rina King – 076 785 7944 or
Follow us on Twitter: @jewishvoicesjp

Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP) is a group of Johannesburg Jews who wish to add our voices to the growing group of Jewish people who dare to disagree with the current blind support for Israeli violence against a civilian population.