Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
Chief Rabbi Warren GoldsteinCourtesy

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently drew parallels between the plight of the Palestinian people and that of Black South Africans during apartheid.

Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, who has served as the Chief Rabbi of South Africa since 2005, argued in a letter published in the Sunday Times that comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa are misguided.

“Mr. President, you have dedicated your life to achieving peace, and sacrificed much for this noble cause,” wrote Rabbi Goldstein.

“We all long for peace. We all pray for peace. But we must start with the facts. The Talmud teaches that one of God’s names is Shalom — Peace — and that His ‘royal signet’ is Truth. These two values are intimately connected. There can be no peace without truth. And so, it is from a love for peace that I write this letter about the truths of the situation.”

“The truth is that this most recent war has nothing to do with the pending evictions from Sheikh Jarrah, which involve a property dispute between title owners and occupants of the homes. The ruling was made by a court of law — part of an independent judiciary on which Jews and Arabs serve — and bears no similarity to the evil forced removals of apartheid. There is no Group Areas Act in Israel, no legally designated areas for specific religious groups, no forced removals based on ethnicity or race,” clarified Rabbi Goldstein.

All Israeli citizens, including Arab Israelis, “are equal before the law, have the right to vote, and serve at every level of government,” he wrote. “At this very moment it is the Arab-led parties in parliament that hold the balance of power and will determine who will form the next government. Israel is a vibrant, liberal democracy with an aggressively free press, complete freedom of speech and association, and the full equality of all its citizens enshrined in law, and there is no segregation of public facilities.”

Rabbi Goldstein took issue with President Ramaphosa’s claims that Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian land” makes peace between Israelis and Palestinians impossible.

The truth, argued Rabbi Goldstein, is that Palestinian Arab leaders have consistently rejected Israeli offers of a two-state solution.

“There have been many opportunities to establish a Palestinian state — beginning with the UN resolution in 1947 partitioning the area into a Jewish and Arab state. Then there were the years from 1948-1967 when the territories of the West Bank and Gaza were under the control of Jordan and Egypt respectively,” he wrote.

“For almost two decades, the world, the UN, and the Palestinian leadership had the opportunity to establish a Palestinian state when the territories were under Arab control — but they didn’t. There was no occupation then; and yet no Palestinian state, and no real demand for one.”

“Since then, over the past two decades alone, in addition to the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, there were two formal offers made by successive Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, one including 91% of the West Bank, the other 93% of the West Bank. Both were rejected.”

“We must understand why all the efforts to establish a Palestinian state failed. If we don’t truthfully confront that question there will never be peace,” wrote Rabbi Goldstein, who clarified that the goal of Palestinian Arab leaders, and particularly Hamas, “is the eradication of the Jewish state, as they make clear by firing thousands of rockets into densely populated civilian areas, from within their own densely populated areas, to maximize casualties on both sides — a double war crime.”