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Inevitable consequences of ‘sowing the dragon’s teeth’

by Ant Katz | Oct 29, 2013

BDS lobbyists countrywide were compelled to do some much-needed damage control in the wake of the “Shoot the Jew” incident at Wits last month. This was in part necessitated by National Co-ordinator Muhammed Desai’s disastrously ill-conceived attempt to invoke what might be termed the “Malema Defence” (namely that this is not to be taken literally, that it referred only to the actual perpetrators of injustice, that it was no more than part of South Africa’s “Struggle” heritage etc).

Other BDS activists knew very well this wouldn’t wash, neither in a legal sense (the Equality Court has long since declared “Shoot the Boer” to be prohibited hate speech) nor in the equally important court of public opinion.

Some sharp things have been said about Desai by his dismayed colleagues, as well as about those cadres whose enthusiasm for the cause had evidently eclipsed their basic common sense.

Within the various expressions of pious horror from (some elements of) the BDS lobby, one soon detects a pronounced sub-theme, namely that the Zionist lobby was sure to reap the propaganda benefits from the Wits fiasco. An astounding piece of hyperbole was provided by Doron Isaacs and Nathan Geffen, who lamented that the “own goal” had undermined what was already “an extremely difficult struggle waged against one of the most effective and dishonest propaganda campaigns in history”. (Yes, “in history!” Does one detect just a hint of frustration here?).

BDS SA board member Faried Esack, while providing the required strong words of denunciation, could not resist adding: “It is unfortunate but not unexpected that supporters of Israel will focus on the singing of this song.”

While damage control motives obviously exist, this need not imply that these and other statements distancing BDS from the offending slogan are necessarily insincere. In all likelihood, many BDS activists probably did find them grossly offensive. However, in presuming to disclaim all responsibility, they are unquestionably being disingenuous.

The singing of “Dubula iJuda” did not simply occur out of the blue, without any kind of context or preceding series of events. In reality, it was the logical - perhaps even inevitable - outcome of the direction anti-Israel campaigning has been taking, particularly over the course of this year.

It is quite obvious that BDS SA has decided to go all-out in exploiting the apartheid-era legacy and all the bitter racial tensions it continues to give rise to as a way of smearing not just Israel but also its Jewish supporters.

Just as Israel is the “new apartheid”, so are Zionist Jews the new Afrikaner Nationalists. Just as the hegemony of the latter was fought against and ultimately overthrown, so must the Zionists, as Ahmed Kathrada recently put it: “Our university students, supported by our trade unions and civil society organisations are making it abundantly clearer by the day that [Israeli] apologists are not welcome in our country.”

Kathrada is certainly correct that various trade union, student and civil society organisations have adopted an uncompromisingly rejectionist stance against the Jewish State. Moreover, this is now increasingly taking the form of intimidating others into acquiescing in that agenda along with vilifying the mainstream Jewish community for opposing it.

In March, Wits SRC members, cheered on by Desai and other BDS SA activists, violently disrupted a concert by Israeli-born pianist Yossi Reshef. The same Wits SRC had the previous year adopted a resolution endorsing an academic and cultural boycott against Israel, and its members were determined to enforce it, even if it meant flouting the rules of the university itself.

In its public statements, it had called for the liberation of Wits from “the tentacles of Zionist money”, and the subsequent disciplinary proceedings instituted against the perpetrators of the disruption have been attributed to the sinister forces of Jewish financial pressure. 

Next came Yom Ha’atzmaut at Gold Reef City. Protesters again invaded the premises and sought to disrupt, on this occasion unsuccessfully. Afterwards, BDS SA issued a slew of press statements levelling inflammatory and palpably false accusations of activists having been violently assaulted, at the direct instigation of the Jewish leadership.

In May, BDS SA even tried to pressurise the organisers of this year’s Gandhi Walk to exclude the SA Jewish Board of Deputies from participating, this despite the event having nothing whatever to do with Israel.

The above are just some of the more overt manifestations of what has become a persistent and systematic demonisation of South African Jewry for its support for the Jewish State. This is why the chanting of “Shoot the Jew” by BDS SA supporters and the manner in which their national co-ordinator attempted to defend it, was not an unfortunate departure from it but the logical culmination of the BDS SA campaign.

They have assiduously sown the dragon’s teeth, and we are starting to witness the inevitable consequences. If anything good is to come out of this latest assault on the integrity and right to dignity of South African Jewry, it is that South Africans as a whole will have had their eyes opened to the extremism of the boycott lobby and to the dangers that this poses to the well-being of society as a whole.

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