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.
Since its initial conceptualisation in 1919, the historic Durban Jewish Club has been not only the centre of Jewish communal life in Durban, but a frequently used public space for the broader society. The building itself, "surrounded by bush, rippling dunes of corrugated white sand mingled with ochre earth", was officially opened on 4 May 1931. Since then, it has been host to generations of people, with a history that has witnessed wars and political unrest, conferences and public meetings and music and theatre performances.
“COSATU has got members here even on this campus; we can make sure that for that side it will be hell”
“COSATU is with you, we will do everything to make sure that whether its at Wits University, whether its at Orange Grove, anyone who does not support equality and dignity, who does not support the rights of other people must face the consequences even if it means that we will do something that may necessarily cause what is regarded as harm…”
Determining where the boundary lies between legitimate freedom of expression and prohibited ‘hate speech’ can never be an exact science. During the flurry of debate that took place around the controversial Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill earlier this year, this was something that came through especially strongly. Err too much on one side, and victims of genuinely hurtful and insulting verbal abuse are left without a remedy; err too much on the other, and a fundamental pillar of democracy is undermined.