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Julius Malema says he never meant to hurt the Jewish community

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Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), insists it was never his intention to hurt or upset the Jewish community with anti-Semitic conspiracy claims. He was referring to claims he made in a press conference on 23 August that Jews are training right-wing extremists to become snipers to kill blacks over land.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Sep 06, 2018

This almost-apology was made to Zev Krengel, the Vice-President of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), who held a private meeting last Thursday with Malema to discuss the hurtful remarks.

At the meeting, Malema acknowledged that he was a member of the Lemba tribe, which believes itself to be the Black Jews of Africa, descendants of the lost tribe of Israel.

“He was like, ‘I’m Jewish myself’,” says Krengel. “Malema is a practising Christian. Most Lemba believe they have Jewish ancestry, but believe in Jesus.”

The Lemba, an ethnic group native to Zimbabwe and South Africa, has religious practices and beliefs similar to Judaism, which they say were transmitted by oral tradition.

“The Lemba tribe has a story of descending from King Solomon through Africa, and claims to be Jewish,” says Rabbi Dr Akiva Tatz, an expert in Halacha and medicine, who was in South Africa recently. Tatz has been researching the legitimacy of the so-called “Jewish gene”. He said of the Lemba, “A number of them may, in fact, have the gene. Although the research needs to be carried further, the case may have some standing, thanks to the evidence so far.”

Though the Krengel-Malema meeting was held at the request of SAJBD, the EFF leader responded within 48 hours, according to Krengel.

At the meeting, held at the headquarters of the EFF in Braamfontein, Malema assured Krengel, and by association the community, that he did not intend to hurt the community with his comments.

He said he was talking about an Israeli.

The Israeli in question, Idan Abolnik, is a martial-arts expert who has lived in South Africa for 15 years. He uses knowledge gleaned from his experience in the Israeli Defence Forces to train people in self-defence. YouTube videos of him training Afrikaans farmers and others in self-defence sparked Malema’s rants at a press gathering on land reform two weeks ago.

Malema had told the packed media briefing that “There’s a group of white right-wingers who are being trained by Jews in Pretoria to be snipers.”

This sent shock waves through the community.

Krengel told the SA Jewish Report this week that the two leaders had held cordial, relaxed discussions for about an hour, during which Krengel explained to Malema why the community had taken offence. “I explained that when you say Jews are training white farmers to be snipers, you are in fact inciting the average black South African against Jews.”

Krengel explained to Malema that one Israeli man, who technically might be Jewish, does not represent South African Jewry. “And if it is an Israeli, then use the word ‘Israeli’, don’t use the word ‘Jew’. I also said that if it is an Israeli, it doesn’t mean that it’s all Israelis.

“I explained to him that wording is important to the Jewish community, which has always felt nervous because of its 2 000-odd years of persecution. This, I told him, makes us hyper-sensitive to random comments, and we have reason to be this way,” said Krengel.

“I told him that we are extremely sensitive to nuances which he might not realise.”

This gave rise to further discussions about the history of Jews in South Africa going back to the time they left Lithuania to settle in South Africa, starting in the 1800s. “I explained to him that the majority of South African Jews are from Lithuania, and this led to further discussion about persecution and the Holocaust,” Krengel said.

“He heard what I had to say, and hopefully he understood. I believe that Malema has no issues with the South African community. I have met many anti-Semites in my time, and I don’t believe he is anti-Semitic. He certainly showed no animosity towards Jews in South Africa, or the world. Time will tell.”

Said Krengel: “I told him that Africa had always been good to the Jewish people, and that we didn’t want to see this perfect record broken.”

Krengel said Malema was prepared to engage. He didn’t ignore the request to meet, and there was a “commitment to hear why we were hurt. He said it was never his intention [to do so]”.

In a short statement issued after the encounter, the two leaders said, “This afternoon, Zev Krengel of the SAJBD met with the leader of the EFF, Julius Malema, in a relaxed meeting at the EFF offices. He raised the issue of the recent comments made by Mr Malema which has caused hurt to the Jewish community. Mr Malema confirmed that he was talking about an Israeli.”

Krengel invited Malema to a Shabbat dinner, saying that it remained to be seen whether he would take up the offer.

3 Comments

  1. 3 Syd Kaye 06 Sep
    Well that's all right then!!
    Malema is a charmer like all sociopaths.
    Don't be naïve. He is reckless and dangerous..
    Its what he says and does that counts not what he says he meant. 
  2. 2 Charlotte Corbett 06 Sep
    Malema has always said that he's from the Pedi tribe, so it's interesting to see that he now claims to be a Lemba. 
  3. 1 STAN GADDIN 07 Sep
    I LIVE IN AUSTRALIA SINCE 1993.  I VISIT MY FAMILY IN SOUTH AFRICA EVERY FEW YEARS AND ALWAYS ENJOY "BEING BACK HOME". I SUPPORT AUSTRALIA IN ALL SPORTS AGAINST ALL COUNTRIES EXCEPT WHEN THE TEAMS PLAY SOUTH AFRICA. 

    MAY THE COUNTRY REMAIN SAFE AND BE PROSPEROUS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE.

    MAY THE "YIDDEN" BE SAFE FROM ALL ANTI-SEMITISM

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