JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (JTA) — A South African Muslim group wants the country’s chief rabbi removed from a religious leaders’ forum over the Gaza incursion.
The South African Muslim Judicial Council is questioning whether South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein should continue to be a member of the prestigious National Religious Leaders’ Forum comprising clerics from all the major faiths.
This follows a hot debate on a talk radio station last week between Goldstein, who plays a key role in the organization, and Muslim theologian Moulana Ebrahim Bham, in which Goldstein said the war in Gaza is one of self-defense and that the South African Jewish community "passionately" believes Israel is the victim and is conducting itself "in a manner which is a just and legal war" into which it was forced against its will.
Council spokesman Nabeweya Malick said his organization was questioning Goldstein’s position and "whether he holds the necessary moral and ethical authority to be part of this noble forum."
Goldstein told JTA that the religious leaders’ forum was established at the behest of former President Nelson Mandela "to give expression to the dream of the rainbow nation, where all can live together with tolerance."
Goldstein is co-author with Mandela’s grandson, Dumani Mandela, of "The African Soul.’ He has a doctorate in human rights law and his thesis was published as a book "Defending the Human Spirit: Jewish Law’s Vision for a Moral Society."
On Sunday, the chief rabbi’s office, together with the Israeli Embassy, the Jewish Board of Deputies, the Zionist Federation, the Beth Din the Israel United Appeal-United Communal Fund, the S.A. Rabbinical Association and the Union of Orthodox Synagogues, held a solidarity prayer meeting in Johannesburg.
Palestinian supporters held protests in Pretoria and Durban Sunday. An anti-Israel march led by the Muslim council was held in Cape Town last week.
The Muslim council spokesman said the chief rabbi’s statements have given justification for continued military action and did not mention a call for a cease-fire. "Speaking as a rabbi, where is his compassion? The forum is for all religious leaders to maintain some kind of sane moral position," he said.