Amanda Berman, Director of Legal Affairs, The Lawfare Project writes:

Last week, this publication featured several articles purporting to accurately assess the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict and the UN Human Rights Council Independent Commission’s subsequent investigation into alleged violations of the laws of war. These articles, like the Commission, conclude that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is guilty of various war crimes, most identifiably because of the disproportionate civilian casualty count and physical destruction of Gaza as compared to Israel. This conclusion, rabidly advanced by Jerome Slater, is both backward and illogical, misunderstanding and therefore misapplying the proportionality principle of international humanitarian law (IHL).

First, the civilian casualty count in Gaza was high because the publicly declared strategy of Palestinian militant leadership is to use civilians as human shields to guard its combatants and weapons. Allegations that Israel committed war crimes by failing to “alter its strategy” to avoid civilian casualties deny the fundamental reality that Israel could not alter its strategy without crippling its ability to accomplish the existential goal of the mission: to defend its citizens and territory from incessant rocket fire and destroy the weapons arsenals of its terrorist attackers.

Hamas, in contrast, could easily have altered its strategy to wage its war consistent with IHL, by launching rockets from less densely populated areas, and by storing its munitions in military facilities instead of UN schools and hospitals. The Commission declared that the “onus remains on Israel to provide sufficient details on its targeting decisions,” but the onus should be on Palestinian leadership to explain why it deliberately endangered its own people in such flagrant violation of international law. If this is the UN’s position, it must explain to all law-abiding nations how they can respond to attacks on their citizens and sovereign territory, if they cannot defensively strike active enemy combatants or their weapons arsenals.

Second, the only reason Hamas’s attacks on Israel were “largely ineffective,” as declared by Mr. Slater, is because Hamas lacks the sophisticated weaponry that would allow them to inflict the same level of destruction that Gaza suffered. Nevertheless, 11,000 rockets have been fired indiscriminately at Israeli civilian centers since Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2009. The Palestinians’ failure to inflict the same civilian death toll or the same extent of destruction is not for lack of trying.

Third, the civilian death toll in Israel was relatively low because Israel invests heavily in protective technology and infrastructure, like the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the bomb shelters or designated safe areas required in every building nationwide. In contrast, the Palestinian leadership uses its limited resources to feed its own corruption and to invest in an infrastructure of terror, spending, for example, roughly $100 million on underground tunnels to terrorize and abduct Israeli civilians.

It would be counterproductive for the Palestinian leadership to invest in civilian protection when its stated goal is to increase and leverage the civilian death toll in Gaza to improperly influence the international narrative against Israel. Those who truly value the lives of Palestinian civilians mustvociferously condemn the “dead baby strategy”. In continuing to rely on Hamas’s hyper-inflated civilian casualty statistics to castigate Israel – as the UN Commission did – the international community is sanctioning this strategy and is therefore complicit in the deaths of innocents.

From a legal perspective, the often-referenced proportionality argument fails to support the accusation that Israel committed war crimes. It is Hamas, not Israel, which persistently violates the proportionality principle by intentionally waging indiscriminate attacks on civilian population centers.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), said that, “Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict … does not in itself constitute a war crime. International humanitarian law…permit[s] belligerents to carry out proportionate attacks against military objectives, even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur.” “Proportionality” in the context of IHL does not require a nation to suffer the same amount of damage it inflicts, but to weigh the military need of a strike with the potential collateral damage.

According to the IDF’s comprehensive and transparent internal investigations, the proper international legal processes were scrupulously heeded in every IDF strike. In many cases, the IDF aborted tactically advantageous missions to spare civilian lives. It would be laughable to suggest that Hamas undertook any such investigations, or that offensive and indiscriminate Palestinian rocket fire was carried out “against military objectives” with any consideration of collateral consequences. Therefore, any war crimes associated with violations of the principle of proportionality are attributable to Hamas, not to Israel.

Ishaan Tharoor and Jerome Slater perceive the UN’s report to be unbiased (or as Slater called it, “inappropriately ‘balanced’”), because it finds that both sides committed war crimes. But this claim of neutrality is simply a realization that this is the first time the UN has ever criticized the Palestinians in a conflict against Israel.

Equating both sides as human rights abusers does not make the report “unbiased”. In the assertion that Israel committed war crimes, and indeed throughout the report’s 183 pages, it maintains the same inherent biases against Israel that have come to be expected from all UN entities, even whileinternational military experts tasked with investigating the conflict have concluded that “none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population … [The] IDF [frequently] declined to attack known military targets due to the presence of civilians, risking, and in some instances costing, Israeli lives.” Other international legal scholars claim that Israel has gone too far in protecting civilians during armed conflict, and warn that the humanitarian standards set by Israel in its conflicts in Gaza set a dangerous precedent for moral armies fighting asymmetric wars against terrorists around the world.

Mr. Tharoor also concluded that “the report’s findings may feed into the growing case file at the [ICC]…[which] would deepen Israel’s growing international isolation…” But legal experts agree that this report will have no effect in the ICC, especially since the report finds Hamas guilty of war crimes as well. The recent reality is that Hamas has become increasingly isolated, as the entire Arab world has reached out to Israel to forge new alliances to combat Hamas and other radical Islamic extremist groups. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – once Israel’s staunchest enemies – have all undertaken new prerogatives to establish diplomatic relations and partner with Israel to advance regional security and domestic prosperity.

The UN Commission ultimately found that “there were few, if any, political prospects for reaching a solution to the conflict that would … realize the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.” But neither the Commission nor the authors of the aforementioned articles recognize that it is the Palestinian leadership, not Israel, that prevents the Palestinian people from achieving self-determination.

Peace will be possible when the Palestinian leadership decides to care more about the health and prosperity of its people than the death and destruction of Jews and Israel; when it renounces violence and declares that Palestinians will coexist in peace with Jews; and when it accepts Israel’s Jewish character and its place in the community of nations. Until then, the suffering and subjugation of the Palestinian people is on the hands of their leadership alone. The Palestinian people, and all members of the international community, must push Palestinian leaders to make the necessary internal changes that could facilitate a real and permanent peace.


Read the article here. 


David Saks, Associate Director SA Jewish Board of Deputies, writes for the Star Newspaper:

If the Media Review Network’s Aayesha Soni is to be believed (“US leaders won’t face similar charges as they’ve made deals”, 17 June), then there is essentially no difference between Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and leaders of the US, UK and Israel when it comes to alleged crimes against humanity. In the case of the first two, George W Bush and Tony Blair, the charge is that they have attacked and destroyed two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) on fabricated motives, thereby causing well over a million deaths. Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu, for his part, is characterised as someone who “launches an offensive on the besieged people of Gaza every two years, wreaking havoc and death that doesn’t spare children, hospitals and even UN shelters”. It therefore follows, according to Soni, that if the International Criminal Court (ICC) is to have any credibility, then it must put these heads of state on trial as well as African leaders like Bashir.

Soni is obviously correct that the ICC cannot fulfil its function unless it operates with complete impartiality. However, can the misdeeds of Messrs Bush and Blair, however wrong-headed their decision to invade Iraq might have been (Afghanistan is another story), really be equated to the grave counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape) on which Bashir stands indicted? As for Israel, is there any validity in comparing its military actions, specifically in its 2014 war against Hamas, with such crimes?

In reality, Israel would have little difficulty in refuting war crime charges in the theoretical event of its being brought before the ICC.  What makes an impartial judicial tribunal different from the media, political lobbies and NGOs is that it cannot pick and choose what wishes to hear, but must take into account all the evidence. Given such a forum, Israel would demonstrate how its armed forces not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but frequently exceeded that standard. It would present evidence that it had engaged in a legitimate war to defend itself against sustained attack from beyond its borders, and that it had exercised considerable prior restraint in the preceding months when it was regularly targeted by missile attacks. By contrast, Hamas’s rocket attacks had in the main deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, and it was these attacks that constituted war crimes.

In addition to being guilty of having provoked the conflict, Hamas would be revealed as having been responsible for civilian casualties amongst the Palestinian population. Evidence – including photographic and film footage and impartial eye-witness accounts – would be led  showing how Hamas launched its attacks from the heart of its own civilian communities and  positioned its munitions and fighters there, including in schools, hospitals and mosques. In some cases, as confirmed by the UN Secretary General, it even used UN facilities for such purposes. Hamas officials openly acknowledged using civilians as human shields. Indeed, not only had Hamas made no effort to evacuate civilians, but there were documented cases of their being compelled to remain in or return to places where attacks were expected. All these actions likewise constituted war crimes, since the laws of armed conflict forbid the use of human shields and further require combatants to evacuate their civilians from combat areas.

During the war, over thirty tunnels penetrating the Gaza-Israel border and in many cases emerging close to civilian communities were discovered. These contained massive stockpiles of weaponry, including anti-tank missiles, explosive devices, and – most ominously perhaps – items needed to carry out large-scale abductions: tranquillisers, handcuffs, syringes and ropes. The evident intent was for militants to infiltrate Israel via these tunnels and abduct as many civilians as they could, thereby providing Hamas with hundreds of hostages to use as bargaining chips. In short, the Gaza incursion would appear to have stymied at the eleventh hour a catastrophe of 9/11 proportions for Israel. Those trawling the South African media for that period will find virtually no mention of these tunnels and what they were intended for. The ICC, by contrast, would be bound to hear that evidence and take it into account.

Israel would further refute accusation that it had recklessly endangered civilians (let alone deliberately targeted them). It would show in detail the precautionary measures taken to reduce civilian casualties, including such warning measures as phone calls, SMS messages, leaflet drops, radio broadcasts and communication via Gaza-based UN staff.  How many warnings did Hamas send to Israeli civilians before they bombed them, the court would be asked?

All this and more would be presented by Israel before the ICC. By the end of it, the tables will have been turned to the extent that its accusers found themselves in the dock. That being said, it would be a judicial travesty were such a case to come before the court. Regardless of the outcome, the very fact of Israel being hauled before that tribunal would be a signal victory for those seeking to use international law as a political weapon against it. Ultimately, it comes down to how political agendas regularly stymie global efforts to bring to heads of state guilty of gross human rights violations to book, a problem that looks to be all but unsolvable for the time being.

View the article here.




Programme Director; The President of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Mr Zev Krengel; Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Cllr. Parks Tau; Mr Leon Levy; The South African Jewish Board of Deputies; Distinguished Guests; Comrades and Friends; Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today on the subject of the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter.

Both at the level of historical value and political philosophy, the Freedom Charter’s importance subsists in its advancement of the human agenda. That in itself elevates the Freedom Charter to the level of some of the politically seminal documents in modern history.

At the risk of drawing the long bow, one could argue that at least at a symbolic level, the Freedom Charter ranks alongside such documents as the Magna Carta (the Great Charter), a political statement that revolutionised the character of Great Britain, locking its future trajectory into a political rationality that would change the cause of its history even as it impacted further afield.

However, what levels off the Freedom Charter with documents such as the Magna Carta, which precede it both in time sequence as well as the depth and breadth of the historic influence, is that the former is a product of popular participation.

Indeed, that it is the product of all classes, ethnic and racial groups, religious affiliations, gender and geographic representation, equally impassioned by the same moral vision, makes it a historically unique coinage.

Most historic documents that heralded a new era in human affairs were the mental labours of those born to the purple, in a manner of speaking. This would include philosophers, scholars, the clergy, the barons, the aristocrats, and many others from the upper crust of society.

The Freedom Charter is an inclusively shared vision whose abiding value as a formative document carves its place in historical monumentality.

What makes the Freedom Charter an iconic document is its projection of the notion of justice as the inter-generational political imperative. The Magna Carta, as were many religious, philosophical and political discourses before and after, similarly revolved around justice as the deepest yearning of the human soul.

For the purposes of our gathering tonight I wish to reflect on the preamble of the Freedom Charter, as it is foundational to the democratic vision that defines post-apartheid South Africa.

The Freedom Charter’s preamble becomes all the more cardinal when one considers that it sets out the ideal political state most desirable for us as a people. Looked at this way, the Freedom Charter is a politically constitutive document in that it prescribes for a particular form of human society, on the strength of its exalted moral authority.

What then, does this preamble say? The Preamble reads: (quote)

We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:

that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people; that our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality; that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities; that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief; And therefore, we, the people of South Africa, black and white together equals, countrymen and brothers adopt this Freedom Charter; And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.’

Programme Director;

In seeking to understand the meaning of the Freedom Charter’s preamble today it is instructive to first explore, if only briefly, the historical context that necessitated its emergence in the first instance. In this exercise the aim is not so much to rehash the historical process by sharing a descriptive picture of the process leading up to the drawing up of the Freedom Charter. That much is common knowledge.

Of importance is revisiting the rationale for this historical episode, the better to sharpen our understanding of the Freedom Charter’s key injunctions in post-apartheid South Africa.

While historical detail may be all too cumbersome at times, that should not dissuade us from pruning the historical hedge for context. The historical context serves as a catalytic mechanism which enables succeeding generations to cultivate a discerning mind into what has shaped current reality.

To paraphrase Hegel, what history teaches is this: that people have never learned anything from history. In itself this observation makes a comprehensive, three-dimensional and yet dispassionate reading of history all the more pivotal to connecting the present with the past in a coherent form that elevates human understanding.

In this regard, historical imperatives compel one to preface one’s approach in this address with singling out the role of the African National Congress (ANC) as a prime mover that wrought the incipient contours of non-racial consciousness embodied in the Freedom Charter. Granted, the Freedom Charter is the product of multiple political formations who shared a common vision about the future of our nation in the face of debilitating political oppression.

These formations included the ANC, the Congress of Democrats, the South African Indian Congress, the South African Coloured People’s Organisation as well as the South African Congress of Trade Unions. Subsequently known as the Congress Movement or Alliance, these forces rallied behind the ANC after its banning, drawing sustenance from the cohesive philosophy of the Freedom Charter.

As such the Freedom Charter is ultimately the collective imagination of multiple progressive forces ranged against systemic racism who, as an alternative, posited alternative ontological possibilities.

Yet of all these formations the ANC had been the representative of the biggest section of the people of South Africa, and therefore the most potent force. History will also credit the ANC on another level. The ANC was formed as a nationalist organisation, to unite and represent the African people, who had been left out of the body polity. Similarly, during this historical period the African continent was steeped in heroic nationalist struggles for freedom from European colonialisation.

South Africa, unlike many other African societies, was a nation that had drawn to its shores many different nationalities from all corners of the world. For one thing, the discovery of mineral resources such as gold and diamond was among prospects that attracted some of these waves of migrations. For another, the global political environment of the period marked by religious and political persecutions entered South Africa into the list of ideal destinations for many.

Modernisation and the state formation in our country stem from these socio-political and economic developments. Unfortunately, this also spawned greed, which expressed itself in racial oppression. In turn racial oppression was defined by political domination, economic exploitation and social discrimination.

By definition, the anti-colonial struggle had a racial character, driven as it was by an emerging ideology of African nationalism in the face of white European domination. It is against this background that the historical provenance of the progressive and indeed humanist nationalism of the ANC is thrown in bold relief. On closer inspection one sees the ANC evolving in opposite ways to the popular sea of Africanist consciousness engulfing the African continent.

Partly this explains the grounds for the break away from the ANC of what would be known as the Pan-Africanist Congress when the former espoused the key tenets of the Freedom Charter contained in the preamble, which says that: ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white…’.

Yet, as the abiding legacy of the Freedom Charter testifies, the non-racial outlook that the ANC developed as a result of its sophisticated theorisation about the nature of the South African state would prove enduring. In retrospect, it is clear that it was a precocious outlook grounded in superior philosophical claims.

With this in mind our focus should now turn to the character of the ANC’s political theory regarding the apartheid society and related to that, the future of post-apartheid society.

The ANC benefited from the long historical sweep that included the Satyagraha principle of Mahatma Ghandi, the African People’s Organisation under the leadership of Abdullah Abdurahman, individuals who studied abroad, Marxist activists at the turn of the century and other influences. All these influences shaped the nascent consciousness of the ANC in ways that disposed it to the expressly non-racial cast that would emerge at the time of the Freedom Charter.

To this extent, a case could be made that the historical environment percolated non-racialism into ANC consciousness.

Interestingly, the formation of the ANC Youth League in the early 1940s saw an emerging radical Africanism represented, among others, by no less a figure than the young Nelson Mandela himself.

Yet with time even the radical but exclusionary Youth League nationalists would mature into non-racial outlook with a cutting-edge understanding of the South African political character. They would, in turn, be counted among the hardened devotees of the ascendant non-racialist thought in the ANC.

In sum, the theoretical justification underlying the Freedom Charter was that whereas the geographic territory known as South Africa belonged to the indigenous Khoisan people and Africans, modern day South Africa was the product of the labours of all who had made South Africa their home.

This theory therefore posited antithetical political and moral perspective to that espoused and enforced by the racist regime. Thus the Freedom Charter was not a document seeking revenge for the historical injustices visited upon the oppressed South Africans. To the contrary, it was a document that envisaged the unity of the South African people in a unitary state.

In the final analysis what made the Freedom Charter a morally acclaimed political statement universally appealing to the majority of South Africans, especially from the section of the oppressed, was its humanist political and moral claims.

As we have seen, the preamble of the Freedom Charter itself suffices to explain these impeccable starting points that put the human person at the centre of political existence irrespective of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, class or historical origins.

In spirit and substance, the Freedom Charter is anchored on and moves from a human-centric angle. Against this background, what is most logical to ask more than two decades after the defeat of the racist regime is whether the preamble of the Freedom Charter comports with the unfolding South African realities.

Do South Africans feel that post-apartheid South Africa belongs to all of us, black and white? While I cannot presume to provide the answer to this weighty question given the diversity of South Africans and their different positioning, I can share my understanding of what the drafters of the Freedom Charter meant for a post-apartheid landscape.

While my input on this score is neither sufficient nor authoritative, I am certain it will nevertheless make possible extrapolations about the current period in South Africa.

At an abstract level, South Africa belongs to all those who have embraced it as their country. What this means is that no one is more South African than the other. To belong is to have an unconditional sense of belonging.

Conceptually, this comes down to an inclusive form of nationalism, steeped in common values that appeal to all the people of our land within the framework of our system of democracy. The preamble to South Africa’s constitution resonates stirringly with that of the Freedom Charter.

However, this may be the necessary but by no means sufficient condition for all South Africans to feel that they belong. What makes people feel attached to their country and to each other is an inter-generational, all-inclusive nationalism manifested on the social, economic and political planes.

An inclusive form of nationalism is framed by a sense of social cohesion not just at the level of rhetoric but in practical terms. National events or holidays that speak to our history should draw all South Africans to the celebration of such events. Such events should evince neither party political bias nor ethnic or racial connotations. Instead, historical and national events should override our group differences even as they cement a common sense of nationhood.

An inclusive form of nationalism is the highest form of social cohesion where what unites us is much stronger than what divides us. There has to be imperatives that supplant our historically pre-defined identities and artificially constructed consciousness. It is patently possible to be a multi-confessional, multi-ethnic, multi-vocal society and still be a united people within the context of shared nationhood, unencumbered by the deadweight of particularist nationalism spawned by the past.

Indeed our past need not imprison us. Our differences in appearance and outlook on life need not equal enmity or reflexive discrimination. Ironically, in spite of apartheid social engineering South Africans have over the years seen an evolution of cultural hybridity consisting of all elements of its diverse people. We have to consciously work to cement these commonalities, which are in reality rooted in our historically co-extensive social space.

At a deeper level such instinctual South African nationalism boils down to the dignity and worth of the human person. Nelson Mandela and his generation symbolised this form of nationalism in word and in deed. It remains our challenge today to interrogate our commitment to this grandest ideal that valorises unity as the basis of the development of the human spirit.

At the same time we are called upon to understand this transformative nationalism in the context of history that has shaped our current socio-political landscape. It is not and will not be easy.

Full and inclusive citizenship in modern democracy is predicated on economic well-being that enables a citizen to enjoy meaningful life. Short of economic well-being, political rights become nominal and a pro forma state that induces cognitive dissonance in ordinary South Africans who bear the brunt of history.

Full citizenship, an inclusive society, presupposes fairness and justice in the distribution of economic gains.

This is the central feature of post-apartheid South Africa which flies in the face of both the defining philosophy and spirit of the Freedom Charter. While this may be the concern of government of the day, the ascendant moral framework attendant to the historical import of the Freedom Charter behoves all of us, private citizens, civil society and indeed big business more importantly, to equally embrace this responsibility to see the goals of this document through.

South Africa is a developing country with limited resources yet a monumental task to effect social transformation to give full meaning to the notion of full citizenship to its entire people persists.

Because change is pain leadership becomes a hectic exercise that calls for the Wisdom of Solomon, or in our case, Nelson Mandela. Those who have benefited from the past need to also understand that for as long as economic inequalities define our social landscape we cannot yet speak of South Africa belonging to all who live in it. No less a figure than Chief Rabbie Saks has contended that ‘change has become part of the texture of life itself, and there are few things harder to bear than constant flux and uncertainty.’

Such high level of consciousness enables both sides to acknowledge the long shadow of the past over the present and the commensurate need to fade it away. All of us have the duty to understand that without including a broad cross-section of society in the project of social transformation within the framework of commonly embraced moral vision very little change can and indeed will happen.

During the course of this social transformation mistakes happen that detract from the nobility of the cause. Among others, economic greed, the desire to accumulate wealth and enrich ourselves in cynical ways, is taking a hand in the matter.

During this process of national reconstruction and development those tasked with the responsibility to bring about social change and lead the nation to a clearly defined moral vision cannot afford to falter.

I would argue that those of us charged to run the affairs of the state have the moral obligation, at the very least, to respect this responsibility by being as irreproachable as humanly possible. From this viewpoint, all South Africans, black and white, have the onerous task to be a critical mass of moral authority ensuring that the nobility of the Freedom Charter is not compromised today, tomorrow or anytime in the future.

I would argue that inclusive, instinctual nationalism means the ability to give vent to our views, no matter how critical, with no self-consciousness to our race, tribe, religion or gender.

Before concluding, let me take this opportunity to congratulate members of the Jewish community who sacrificed so much for the liberation of South Africa. Most of these illustrious individuals made a sterling contribution to the Freedom Charter itself.

It goes without saying that all those Jewish souls were men and women who had learnt from history. Motivated by the long history of anti-Semitism, their consciousness would not hear of human oppression in any way, shape or form.

Among others, the list includes Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Ronnie Kasrils, Hilda Bernstein, Harold Wolpe, Eli Weinberg, Dennis Goldberg, Albie Sachs, Wolfie Kodesh, Arthur Goldreich, Ray Alexander Simons, Benjamin Turok, Leon Levy, Raymond Suttner, Rowley Arenstein, Max and Audrey Coleman and many others.

Through their efforts we are reminded that denial of justice to a specific people knows no geographic boundaries. The holocaust, pogroms, genocides, ethnocide, massacres, Trans-Saharan slavery, the Dark Passage and apartheid are among shameful episodes in human history. Such demented human acts detract from the inherent grandeur of the notion of being human.

Equally debasing the human soul are mass starvations, poverty, malnutrition, environmental degradation, illiteracy, racism, pigmentocracy, sexism, religious discrimination, and, generally, the racially defined state of under-development that robs a huge section of humanity of its innate right to exist to the fullest extent within the strictures of the human condition.

Most shockingly, these abominations still persist under our noses at the time when the human species has reached the very height of social development imaginable, not least in the realm of consciousness.

I wish to call on all South Africans, not least the Jewish community, following on the example of the historical figures mentioned above, to be an active part of the process of reconstruction and development of South Africa.

My limited research tells me that the Torah, which is among the holiest books in Judaism, is a moral blueprint on how to live a good and honest life.

Not only is it a book about laws governing a person’s relationship with God, but it is also about laws relating to how to treat other people. It addresses fundamental values such as the sanctity of life, justice and equality, kindness and generosity, the value of education and social responsibility.

Interestingly, these are the values the Freedom Charter champions. In this regard I am confident that the Jewish community will continue in the vein of the above names to make this a better country for all its people and posterity.

In conclusion, let me emphasise that the Freedom Charter is an honest attempt by inspired masses of humanity on the southern tip of Africa to fire up elevated forms of human consciousness with the object of raising all South Africans, the oppressor and the oppressed alike, above the dehumanising level of racial oppression.

In its simplicity, the Freedom Charter valorises our humanity through affirming universal principles that define modern history.

By juxtaposing its exalted, democratic moral claims to those of the prevailing racial oppression, it was able to undermine the whole edifice of apartheid racial ideology.

This makes the Freedom Charter a product of the creative human imagination responding to the imperatives of a definite historical period.

In its expansive conception of the human agenda, the Freedom Charter projected the notion of justice into the post-apartheid future, envisaging the human society defined by some of the noblest principles of the modern era; liberty, equality and fraternity. It posited the notion of justice as the meta-historical override, upholding the irreducible ideal of equality as an inter-generational imperative.

Looking back at the 60 years since the adoption of this iconic document, we cannot but marvel at the resilience of the human spirit.

I thank you for your kind attention.



The 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter with Former President Kgalema Motlanthe

24 June 2015

This Friday, 26 June 2015, marks the sixtieth anniversary of the famous Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto, where delegates from around the country adopted the Freedom Charter as the basis for a future democratic, non-racial South Africa. On Tuesday, at the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre, the SAJBD held a special commemorative function […]

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SAJBD celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter

23 June 2015

On 26 June 1955, at the Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto, the Freedom Charter was adopted as the statement of core principles of the South African Congress Alliance.  A blueprint for our democracy, the Charter envisaged a South Africa in which all people enjoyed freedom and equality, regardless of race or creed. To […]

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23 June 2015

Over the weekend, it was announced that two distinguished members of the South African Jewish community were amongst those who will receive prestigious awards in terms of this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list. They are Mick Davis, who received a knighthood, and Jonny Clegg, who was awarded an OBE. The Board has written to congratulate […]

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The Cyber-Safety Action Guide and The Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate.

18 June 2015

Imagine a world without hate. The Cyber-Safety Action Guide (CSAG), which is an education and hate report facilitation tool, gives you the opportunity to report any issue pertaining to hate you might have. Find the CSAG here. Your voice is the most powerful tool in fighting hate online. Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate. The Best Practices is an initiative, […]

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Standing Up To The Hate

15 June 2015

“Standing Up To The Hate” Wendy Kahn writes for Jewish Life magazine. Read the article here.

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Kaditshwene is an Example of our Neglected Heritage

10 June 2015

Charisse Zeifert writes for the Sowetan: Kaditshwene is an Example of our Neglected Heritage. Read the article here. 

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