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Op-eds

Let’s fight the bigotry while keeping the positives in mind

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
The national and Cape councils of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies worked together this week in responding to several scandalous allegations made by Sharon Davids, an ANC MPL in the Western Cape, and the equally unacceptable attempts by ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs to deny, and even justify, them.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Mar 01, 2018

Speaking in the Cape Provincial Legislature last Friday, Davids accused the DA of having fabricated the Day Zero water crisis in order to obtain desalination contract kickbacks from what she referred to as the “Jewish mafia”. She further claimed that the antagonism to Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille within the DA was sparked by De Lille having opposed the awarding of a property for the purpose of building a Jewish day school.

There were several more obvious inferences made, to the effect that the DA was beholden to Jewish interests. Davids has since tried to backtrack by saying that she had been referring to foreign business interests, but her own recorded words belie this.

It is shocking to see such bigoted and paranoid conspiracy theories being aired in the political arena instead of being confined to the darker corners of the Internet. It may well be that the recent decision made by the ANC to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel has emboldened anti-Semitic elements within the party. The ANC’s Western Cape branch, as will be recalled, has been the driving force behind the downgrade initiative

While there are times when it is appropriate to adopt a low-key, behind-the-scenes approach to dealing with anti-Semitism, this is something that we need to confront publicly and head-on.

Our first step has obviously been to communicate with President Cyril Ramaphosa. Hopefully, we will have the opportunity of meeting with him soon to take the matter further. In our media statement, we described the allegation that the DA was pursuing a pro-Jewish agenda against the best interests of the greater Cape Town population as “a racist smear campaign against the Jewish community” and Jacobs’ suggestion that Davids’ anti-Semitism was a result of something that Jews had done as “a classic form of racist victim blaming”.

We referred to previous occasions where ANC leaders in the Western Cape, notably Marius Fransman and Tony Ehrenreich, had made anti-Semitic comments, which the ANC as a whole had neither condemned nor distanced themselves from.

The board also condemned certain remarks by Minister Naledi Pandor, who chose to use a memorial service for AnnMarie Wolpe as an opportunity to make untrue and disparaging remarks about the board. These uncalled-for attacks on the elected, representative spokesbody of the Jewish community were all the more inappropriate for being delivered in a synagogue at an occasion organised to honour a member of that community.

Despite these unsavoury developments, the sense of euphoria in the wake of Ramaphosa’s appointment continues to hold strong, receiving another boost with this week’s Cabinet reshuffle. The board will look to ways to harness this positive energy and help keep the momentum going, while at the same time ensuring that all instances of anti-Semitism that come to our attention are appropriately responded to.

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

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