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Cape Jew-baiting a step too far

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Over the past two months, the Cape Town Jewish community has been targeted by a series of threatening, inflammatory, and not infrequently overtly antisemitic demonstrations, both in its communal heartland and outside one of its largest Jewish schools. These “protests”, as has become all too apparent, are simply platforms through which a relatively small group of extremists are allowed to engage in unbridled displays of hatred and naked aggression towards the Cape Town Jewish community under the guise of standing up for human rights. We’re continually in contact with and, as needed, are supporting our Cape counterparts in responding to the vitriolic attacks to which they have consistently been subjected to.

The right to freedom of expression allows for protesters to express whatever views they like about the policies and actions of a particular country. However, a line is crossed when slogans like “One oppressor one bullet!”, “Death to Zionists!” and “What a pity Hitler never finished the job” are shouted at community members attending communal events or outside their places of work. Likewise, social media references to “Jewish supremacist monsters” is out-and-out Jew-baiting, however much it is dressed up as a moral crusade.

The Cape Board decided last week that enough was enough, and went public with its concerns. In a strongly worded statement, it called on local religious leaders and the government to put a stop to these targeted protests at Jewish facilities (which include the historic Gardens Synagogue – the “Mother congregation” of South African Jewry – as well as the South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre, and Gardens Jewish Community Centre). The fact that those responsible continually refer in their social media posts to organisations that have nothing to do with Israel, yet are Jewish, cannot be interpreted as anything other than hatred of the Jewish community. The Board will “not stand by idly and allow members of our community to be harassed at our places of work, home, and worship” the statement declared. The Cape statement has since been picked up by a number of news outlets, with Executive Director Daniel Bloch also being interviewed by SABC News. I commend Daniel on the dignified, restrained but forthright manner in which he presented our community’s case.

Though the Board’s focus has necessarily been on confronting the growing prevalence of inflammatory demonstrations against our community as a whole, we continue also to follow through on individual instances of antisemitic abuse that have come to our notice. Last week, a long-running case concerning antisemitic verbal abuse against a Cape Town community member was satisfactorily resolved through a successful mediation process hosted by the South African Human Rights Commission. Another, more recent, hate speech matter, in this instance involving hate mail on the part of a religious leader, is also being followed up, and we’re confident of a similarly satisfactory outcome.

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

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