It is a measure of how inured we have become to the constraints on public discourse that almost nothing has been said of the treatment of advocate David Unterhalter at the Judicial Service Commission’s hearings for appointments to the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

There would be little doubt in legal circles that Unterhalter’s presence on the Constitutional Court would add immeasurably to the expertise so essential to its continued performance as a legally sound, transformative force for good in our country. However, harried from all sides for his past membership of the Jewish Board of Deputies — an organisation that plays a big role in the Jewish community in SA — Unterhalter was denied his rightful place at the apex court.

Anyone who watched the mindless denigration of one of our finest lawyers, ostensibly because to be Jewish is to be a Zionist (with all that this means in ANC circles), would have to ask what the real agenda was behind the campaign. There was nothing about Unterhalter to suggest that he favours the abuse of Palestinians. To impute this simply because he’s Jewish is tantamount to censuring Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu over Britain’s invasion of Iraq.

Was it simply because Unterhalter is Jewish, or because he is white, or because a faction in the government is determined to emasculate our highest court so that it cannot in the future be the bulwark it has been against them up to now?

Michael Fridjhon

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