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The dangerous politics of pigs’ heads

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Is there a place for decency in politics, or does anything go when you’re pushing a political point? asks editor Geoff Sifrin in his weekly editorial comment
by GEOFF SIFRIN | Oct 29, 2014

We are living in an era of shocking acts of barbarism by entities such as the Islamic State, including the beheading of innocent journalists which are filmed and proudly broadcast to the whole world. Politics and religion - the most dangerous mix of all - feed off each other to cross every line of basic human decency.

Thankfully, South African society on the whole recoils with revulsion against this kind of thing. We have had our terrible times of human rights abuses, but nothing like we see today. Even during the worst days of apartheid, neither the liberation movements nor the apartheid regime slipped into this kind of mindless religious hatred which allowed bodies to be torn apart with pride.

Today we boast - even if there are incidents which don’t quite live up to the ideal - about our basic notions of tolerance, respect and dignity, for other peoples’ traditions and values.

It was against the background of this ethos that the Congress of South African Students placed a pig’s head in the kosher section of a Woolworths supermarket in Sea Point in Cape Town. They said it was to protest the selling of Israeli products by the store - part of a BDS-driven campaign targeting the company.

South African political and religious leaders should have rushed to condemn this act. It is likely that the majority of them are revolted by it, but they have not combined to denounce it. And not doing so allows it to become a kind of “tolerated” precedent.

Muslims, Jews, Christians and all other religious and cultural groups, have a clear interest in stopping this in its tracks. So do our politicians. We must never go down that slippery slope of desecrating the precious traditions and values of our diverse population groups.

Ironically, the Cosas action ended up also tainting the Muslim halaal food on the shelves, showing how naïve and lacking in clear thinking it was, but also showing the thuggishness political passions can generate if not tempered by basic decency.

Muslim religious authorities should take heed. Once you start on that road of mixing religion with politics, you can never predict where it will end up and who will get hurt in the process.

Even BDS-SA felt compelled to distance itself from the pig’s-head action, while still continuing its protests against Woolworths. Other South African companies also sell Israeli products, but Woolworths has been selected as the one to make an example of.

The pig’s-head saga also poses a challenge to Jewish groups or individuals who disagree with Israeli policies towards Palestinians, such as Jewish Voices for a Just Peace. If they don’t condemn it, their claim to represent true Jewish values of compassion and respect begins to sound a little hollow, even for a person who might agree with their stand on Israel.

Placing pigs’ heads on kosher shelves is not about Israel. It is blind hatred, implying that every Jew is synonymous with Israeli actions and must be targeted - whether he or she is secular, religious, politically left or right, old or young, and wherever he lives.

A statement issued by Cosas’ Western Cape Chairman Siphakamise Ngxowa, declared that Cosas “will not allow people who will not eat pork to pretend that they are eating clean meat, when it is sold by hands dripping with the blood of Palestinian children”.

We must never carelessly call anyone anti-Semitic. Doing so has caused immense harm and hurt in the past and has actually devalued the actions of “real” anti-Semites. But what Cosas has done is most definitely that. It must be called by its true name. South African society is the poorer for allowing something like this to happen. Make no mistake: It is not only Jews who should be worried, but all South Africans.

1 Comment

  1. 1 nat cheiman 05 Nov
    Cosas are rabble rousers who probably will never achieve even the lowly government matric unless they buy an exam paper and cheat. They are the dunces of the country and even the ANC are embarrassed about their actions. Their statement about them not allowing anyone to eat pork to pretend they are eating meat does not even make sense. These morons cannot even string together a legible statement. It reminds me of the "did you got a licence " days. Quite frankly, these morons probably need a map to get to school in the mornings.
    In short, every day on earth, they are stealing oxygen and using up the earths scarce resources. They all should be euthanaised to save planet earth.

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