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Op-eds

Anti-Semitism in South Africa is low, but vigilance is crucial

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
Since the collapse of the Oslo peace process in September 2000, there has been an alarming rise in anti-Semitism globally, and the upward trend continues. Last year, our counterparts in the UK recorded more than 1 700 anti-Semitic incidents (145 involving violent assault) – the highest annual total on record.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Feb 08, 2018

In countries such as Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Ukraine, annual incidents now average from the low hundreds to well over 1 000. Combating this escalating menace has become one of the foremost concerns of global Jewry.

Compared with all of this, South Africa’s Jewry has been remarkably fortunate. In 2017, for the second year running, fewer than 50 incidents were recorded, none of which involved violent assault. In fact, on only two occasions over the past three decades has the annual incident tally exceeded the 100 mark. That our situation differs so markedly from that of even Western democratic countries is extraordinary.

A survey, conducted by the World Zionist Organization ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, revealed that more than half of respondents said they were afraid to wear Jewish symbols in public. Here, we do so without thinking twice. Amid all the negativity regarding the current situation in which South Africa finds itself, these are positives that we should always bear in mind.

Having said this, we should never become complacent and relax our guard. While actual acts of hostility against our community remain infrequent, there exists within our society a disturbing undercurrent of virulent anti-Semitic sentiment. One sees this primarily on social media as well as in comments posted on online news sites. If not effectively confronted from the outset, hateful words can all too easily lead to hateful actions.

That is why we do not see the comparatively low rates of active anti-Semitism in South Africa as being a reason to relax our vigilance. Rather, we adopt a zero-tolerance approach to all acts of anti-Jewish prejudice so as to ensure that these low rates are maintained or, preferably, lowered still further. Those seeking to harm Jews precisely because they are Jews need to know that such acts have consequences and that the SA Jewish Board of Deputies will do whatever it can to ensure that those who perpetrate them are called to account.

SA-Israel sporting ties celebrated

Over the weekend, South Africa and Israel’s national tennis teams took each other on in an enthralling Davis Cup tie in Irene, Pretoria. The board and the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) encouraged members of our community to attend, not least as a gesture of support for ongoing sporting ties between the two countries, and many (board and SAZF members included) eventually did.

 In view of the general positivity and goodwill generated by the event, the final result hardly mattered, but for the record, the Israeli team won 3-2

 

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 Chai FM every Friday 12:00 to 13:00.

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