In September, local anti-Israel activists made a presentation to the International Relations and Cooperation Portfolio Committee in Parliament. It was, predictably, an emotive and grossly selective account of how Palestinian homes were lost during the 1948 War of Independence , with SA Jewry being portrayed as the villains who established a forest over a destroyed Arab village. Last Friday a delegation from the Jewish community, led by the SAJBD, was given an opportunity of responding in the same forum. Part of this necessarily consisted of responding to some of the more blatant accusations made against Israel and our community. However, we also took the opportunity to encourage the government’s efforts to continue engaging with both parties with a view to encouraging a negotiated solution to the Israel /Palestine question and to draw attention to how the confrontational, inflammatory tactics of anti-Israel radicals results only in polarisation and quite frequently open antisemitism in our country without making any contribution whatsoever to advancing the prospects for peace. In adopting this position, we align ourselves with those working for a peaceful solution to the conflict, which includes our government, in contrast to those who dishonestly demonize one side while promoting the politics of boycott and disengagement in order to shut down any real constructive debate on the issues.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies urges South Africans, when commenting on issues of public concern, to avoid resorting to antisemitic hate speech, including sinister invocations of behind-the-scenes Jewish financial domination. It is becoming more commonplace for those in leadership to refer to “Jewish based entities” somehow being behind financial institutions and manipulating politics through economic power.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has sent its submission on the ‘Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill’ to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for consideration.
The much awaited Bill aims to give effect to South Africa’s obligations, in terms of both our Constitutional and international human rights instruments, concerning racism and discrimination; to provide for the offence of hate crimes and hate speech; as well as the prosecution and prevention of these crimes.
The growing prevalence of hostile racial rhetoric, of which anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are just one part, poses a serious problem to the national well-being.
You know that a society is in trouble when sinister invocations of Jewish financial domination show signs of gaining common currency. And you know that it is really in trouble when those in positions of leadership start talking in that vein.