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Op-eds

Jews must play their part in improving the lot of all South Africans

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
Last week, the Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG) presented its report on hate crimes in South Africa over the past five years.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Feb 15, 2018

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies, a founding and steering committee member of the HCWG, organised the official launch of the report which took place at the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre. We were also responsible for publicising the event in the media.

Based on extensive field work, the report threw much-needed light on the problems of bigotry and intolerance that continue to plague our society and on those who are particularly vulnerable to it. It was found that foreign nationals and members of the LGBTIQ community were disproportionately affected by hate crimes.

I noted in my column last week that anti-Semitism is comparatively low in this country. However, it is noteworthy that in terms of hate crimes based on religious identity, Jews were most likely to be the ones targeted.

The HCWG report was extensively reported on in the media, and its findings will hopefully provide practical guidelines for lawmakers and judicial bodies dealing with the problem. From the board’s point of view, our participation on the HCWG helps us to fulfil our broader mandate of leading the Jewish community in addressing issues of concern to the greater South African society.

It hardly needs to be emphasised that in order to maintain a safe and secure environment for our own community, it is incumbent on us to do whatever we can to ensure that the rights of all citizens are likewise upheld.

Another area of pressing concern in South Africa today is that of water security, something that the disastrous drought in the Western Cape has thrown in sharp relief. These challenges, as the example of Israel has shown, can be overcome through modern-day management techniques such as waste water recycling, drip irrigation and desalination. It is now widely recognised that our country needs to follow up these options urgently.

As a contribution to the debate, the board organised a water symposium this week where experts in the field – three from local institutions and one from Israel – shared their views on the best way forward. Israel has long offered to assist South Africa in the field of water management, and it would be palpably self-defeating were the political agendas of certain radical factions to prevent this from coming about.

As far as the immediate crisis is concerned, the board’s Cape Council is busying itself with various initiatives aimed both at helping the Jewish community get through this difficult time and at contributing to the greater effort to meet and overcome the myriad challenges that the drought is posing. 

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