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The Jewish Report Editorial

Change what you look for to change what you see

  • JNF - Tu B'shvat
Two weeks ago, in a much publicised incident, Jewish teenagers wearing yarmulkes were assaulted by three unidentified men, apparently of Muslim origin, at The Zone in Rosebank. While one of the Jewish students was being hit, another assailant swore at him, saying: “You f***ing Jew” and “Your f***ing people are killing our innocent children”.
by VANESSA VALKIN | Apr 01, 2015

This marks the first physically violent incident recorded against Jews in three years in South Africa, but local community leaders are concerned we may be confronting a new, more violent era.

It is not surprising then that South African Jewry are feeling slightly under threat. With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise in the United States and Europe, our community is ultra-sensitive and why shouldn’t we be?  Last year 172 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in South Africa, compared to 52 the previous year.

A further sign of this unease was last week’s letter from the CSO which asked all shul-goers to be extremely vigilant over Pesach and requested that they consider volunteering for the CSO. Beyond this, many of our Jewish day schools have increased their budget for security and the increased manpower at the school gates is evident.

And what are the rising figures globally on anti-Semitism?

In the US, anti-Semitic incidents rose by 21 per cent last year from the previous year, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit of anti-Semitism.

According to an Israeli government report released in January, there was a 400 per cent increase worldwide in anti-Semitic incidents during July and August of 2014 - likely due to Israel’s war in Gaza last summer - from the same time period in 2013.

About 1 000 incidents took place in 2014, mostly in Western Europe, including dozens of violent attacks: beatings, assaults with weapons, and some Molotov cocktails were thrown at synagogues and Jewish businesses.

And not surprisingly, most of the incidents were perpetrated by Muslims, and primarily in countries with large Muslim communities. In fact “Islamic anti-Semitism” has become the leading type of anti-Semitism in the Western world.

 

When I flew back from Johannesburg to Cape Town last week, I sat next to a Muslim man. He was reading Islamic text (I am sure it was the Qur’an) on an iPad and I was reviewing copies of the Jewish Report.

Here we were, sitting so close together, probably thinking about the same issues but with narratives so far apart. We looked at each other briefly with tense smiles. While we did not say a word to each other, it spurred a need to know more and I began to do some research.

It is interesting that Muslims, the biggest threat to Jews worldwide, are themselves under duress. In France, for example, a popularly held sentiment among the French is that their beloved country is being overrun by Muslims. The French also assume that about a third of their own population is now Muslim, but actually only eight per cent of French residents identify as such.

This French Muslim population has seen the French government ban head scarves and other religious symbols from public schools in 2004 and then ban burqas and face-covering niqabs in 2014.

For Muslim women who obey this tradition in the same way that Orthodox Jews obey the mitzvah of wearing a yarmulke, it is tantamount to pushing religious Orthodox women from public life. One can only imagine the outcry if Jews were forbidden from wearing yarmulkes in public.

In the UK, following the Charlie Hebdo magazine massacre that occurred in neighbouring France in January, Muslim pupils in British schools are reporting a radical increase in Islamophobia. Tell MAMA, which monitors anti-Muslim hate crime in Britain, said it had logged 112 reports of physical and verbal violence in the wake of the attack at the Paris-based magazine in January.

Anti-racism groups in the UK are increasingly being approached by parents whose children have been targeted by fellow pupils, particularly after discussions were held in class about the Charlie Hebdo killings. They say there is little guidance from the schools about how to handle this and the general population is increasingly viewing all Britain’s Muslims as part of the same evil, terrorist inclined group.

So I found it noteworthy that moderate Muslims, painted with the same brush as their extremist brothers, are confronting Islamophobia, just as Jews, particularly in the Diaspora, are confronting anti-Semitism because of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

While I do not, for a minute, equate the actions of Muslim extremists in the name of Islam with the actions taken by Israel’s army in its quest to protect its borders, the extreme irony is that, in many ways, Jews and Muslims find themselves in the same uneasy predicament.

Perhaps my fellow traveller and I should have had that conversation.

 

We would like to wish all our readers a Chag Sameach. Please note this week is a shorter issue after last week’s special Pesach edition.

4 Comments

  1. 4 Choni 01 Apr
    It does not need much insight to see that the time has come for all young Jews to make Aliyah.
    No excuses.
  2. 3 Judith Yacov 01 Apr
    Wow!  What a punch line.  Food for the thought that, perhaps, a dialogue is the only way to break down the barriers of our stereotypical perception of Arabs and theirs of us as Jews.  Perhaps we have even more in common than being warring cousins from the same Semitic family.
  3. 2 Gary Selikow 06 Apr
    Interesting how the editor refers to attacks against muslims in the UK but not the far more numerous attacks and rapes by muslims of native British people, mainly children and women
    and speak for yourself Judith I have nothing in common with Arabs/Muslims
  4. 1 Mordechai 07 Apr
    Choni is correct, the time has come for all young Jews to leave SA, preference 1 is to make Aliyah, pref 2 is to go to Australia, America or Canada.
    The time has also come for their parents and Rabbi's to ENCOURAGE them to leave SA

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