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Anti-Semitic Instagrammer says SA Jews need to recognise white privilege

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TALI FEINBERG

“It would be a lie to say there was some profound and deeply important reason I ‘zapped’ the museum. It would also be a lie to say it was mindless,” she said in an exclusive interview with the SA Jewish Report.

Pieters says she is an Ethiopian Jew who has family in Israel. She has just turned 22, and is a student who works part-time, having previously worked at the District Six Museum.

She says she shares her feeling with Instagram followers about various objects, places, and buildings as she goes about her day. “The story that the museum appeared in was part of a series of similar posts about various colonial, apartheid, and liberal environments … It was a statement of my feelings towards South African white Jews.”

Along with the zap sign, the post stated, “Jews are the worst of them all tbh tbh [to be honest]. Imagine fleeing a holocaust [sic] and then coming to a country as refugees, being helped by black people, living amongst them. Then realising that apartheid seemed more profitable and subsequently partaking in apartheid. Did I mention the apartheid government openly supported Hitler. Also since we’re here, there’s no such thing as a white Jew [unclear text]… white people practice Judaism like black people practice Christianity.” She also added “I’m Jewish, relax.”

Pieters says she knows that expressing feelings of anger and frustration in this way was wrong. “I wasn’t hoping to achieve anything, I was expressing my beliefs and airing my observations in an unnecessarily crass way. If I’d known the audience that I would eventually end up reaching, I would have curated my post and thought about it critically, but I didn’t.”

She says the response to the post was, “rather terrifying. I was emboldened in my beliefs by the responses I received, if I’m honest. More than 2 000 young, white Jews found me within a few hours on Instagram.”

The SA Jewish Report has seen screenshots of these messages, which include crude and cruel taunts, and threats to Pieters’ safety and future employment prospects.

Pieters says she understands why people were offended by the post. “I apologise for the tone of my post, but my sentiments remain the same.”

To the Jewish community, she says, “Many people over the past few days have accused me of ignorance. I’d like to point out the overwhelming ignorance of the Jewish community of the roles that Jews played from the onset of colonialism and throughout. I’m not saying Jewish people are more responsible, or should be critiqued specifically, my qualm is that they seem not to be part of the conversation at all. White liberalism has blanketed them, and allowed them to think that they’re not a cause of the problem, and don’t need to be part of the solution.”

She believes donating generously and funding nongovernmental organisations isn’t enough. “When we speak of economic emancipation, redistribution of wealth, and land, that conversation seems to be focused on Afrikaners. Nobody speaks of the Atlantic Seaboard. Cape Town is the most unequal society in the world, apparently. Why then are we not talking about where this wealth is situated – and it’s not just Stellenbosch? We all know that there are many white Jewish people who fought valiantly during apartheid, but there were many non-Jewish white people who did this as well, so I don’t see how that’s relevant.

“Anti-Semitism does exist, and I’m not ignorant of the dangers. But context is important, and we live in South Africa. We live in a society where religious persecution is not the order of the day. What’s the order of the day is poverty, unemployment, the homicide rate, femicide, xenophobia, drug abuse, corruption, and an education and healthcare system on its last breath. Yet, it took one post [Pieters’ Instagram post] to unite the white South African Jewish community in its anger. Imagine if they were angry about the things mentioned above? Or do none of those things affect them?” asked Pieters.

“White people – and I’m saying ‘white people’ specifically – have the economic, social, and political power to change this country if they really wish to do so,” she says. “As much as I regret this whole chaotic turn of events, I also don’t. Because white people unfortunately do hold the wealth in this country, and until we find a way to share it, people are going to have to be reminded of that.”

Pieters says she has visited the South African Jewish Museum and the Cape Town Holocaust Centre in the past. She is open to meeting the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), which in turn says it is open to meeting with her.

The post was reported to the Cape SAJBD via WhatsApp and email as part of its Report Anti-Semitism campaign, says Cape Board Director Stuart Diamond. “This campaign has resulted in South Africans starting to report all forms of prejudice whether it is vandalism, hate speech, prejudice, intimidation, acts of violence, and graffiti. This support is overwhelmingly positive, as it shows the public’s collective effort to drive a Western Cape and Cape Town that says ‘No place for hate’.”

He said the Cape Board was “unpacking the matter to address how we move forward in the future. The individual [who made the post] was known prior to the incident as she was involved on the University of Cape Town (UCT) campus during Israel Apartheid Week.” UCT confirmed to the SA Jewish Report that Pieters was no longer registered at the university.

SAJM Director Gavin Morris responded to the incident in an unusual way. The post had been shared on popular Facebook group ‘The Village’, so Morris invited its almost 30 000 members to visit the SAJM for free. “I have decided that the best manner in which to respond to it is to educate, not hate. I am therefore inviting all members of The Village to visit the SAJM and broaden their knowledge of the South African Jewish community and its roots in South Africa.” He says the museum has already had visitors take him up on his offer.

Says Diamond, “Like in the matter of Somerset West Private School [where a photo of learners doing a Nazi salute was displayed on the school’s website], the Cape Board believes and supports the initiative of Gavin Morris. We need to promote education and engagement to deal with the problems of hate, prejudice, and bias.”

  • To report anti-Semitic incidents such as hate speech, intimidation, violence, vandalism, and graffiti, call the Cape Board’s hotline on 021 464 4700, or email sajbd1@ctjc.co.za

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Steve Marks

    Aug 22, 2019 at 9:41 am

    ‘Why did SAJR give this dreadful woman a platform? 

    She is clearly unhappy and full of hate

    not very original though

    jews have been scapegoats for Millenia

    at 22 she is yet to learn some important lessons

    one being she ain’t that important and

    trying to make a name for herself like this

    is unimpressive

    she will fade into the gutter with the other 

    rat jew haters

  2. David B

    Aug 22, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    ‘Do we really have to give this young woman the oxygen required for this article ?

       I am Jewish !!!!  maybe she should relax and not be quoted by our paper’

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