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The Jewish Report Editorial

Don’t cancel the truth

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On the night of 6 October last year, more than 3 000 young, vibrant partygoers in Israel went down south to dance, hang out with friends, make new friends, and generally just have a great time at the Nova festival. At 06:30 the following morning, hell was unleashed on them when an unknown number of Hamas terrorists descended and began a killing and raping spree in which 400 lives were brutally taken and 40 innocent people kidnapped and forced into Gaza, where many are still being held.

I’m fully aware that all of you already know these horrific facts, but there are so many in this world who simply refuse even to hear about it. Worse, they won’t acknowledge the devastation caused by what happened at this festival on 7 October. I cannot understand how so many people around the world condemn the death and destruction happening in Gaza but won’t even listen to the occurrences that led to it.

Last week, two brave young women, Millet Ben Haim and Mazal Tazazo, came to South Africa to share their horrific experiences of 7 October at the Nova festival. They lived through the horror, the fear, the anguish of that morning that will be indelibly imprinted in their minds forever.

Being willing to come to this country and share what happened to them has got to be one of the most courageous things to do, especially when they knew they would be confronted with people who either dismissed what they experienced as irrelevant because they are Jews, or called them liars. Can you imagine having to face that?

But these two women, brought out by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), came to help spread awareness of 7 October in Israel and to tell the world the truth behind Israel’s war with Hamas and why there’s a need to ensure that such depravity is never allowed to happen again on Israeli soil. Also, they are pleading with the world to help get Israeli hostages home.

The way these two traumatised women were treated by Israel haters on the University of Cape Town campus was inexcusable (see page 3), but when the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) – our national broadcaster – cancelled an interview with Ben Haim because of pressure from haters, I saw red.

As a journalist who has been in the media for close on 40 years, there’s no excuse for that. Our task is to seek out the truth. Our task is to ask the questions and get the answers. Our task is never to be pressured by one side not to hear another side. We give people a right to respond. We give our audiences all sides to a story. In some cases, like the situation in South Africa around Israel, some of us must give the side being ignored because it simply isn’t being told elsewhere.

What kind of journalists or media company refuses to hear a personal story by someone who survived a massacre? Ben Haim had no plans to discuss what’s right or wrong about fighting in Gaza. She had no plans to respond to issues around Israeli or Middle East politics. She’s neither a politician, an active soldier, or someone who wants to give their opinion about war and politics. She’s a young woman who went to have fun almost six months ago, and is now here to tell of her horrific experience, nothing more or less.

It’s an important story to tell – how her friends were murdered in front of her eyes, and how she dodged bullets and prayed to survive and not be brutalised by Hamas terrorists. It’s not an easy story to tell. It’s painful, but she was determined to bear witness to that day for all those who were murdered, raped, brutalised, and abducted.

But her interview on Metro FM last Thursday, 21 March, which had been set up in advance, was cancelled. Just like that.

Why? It’s unfortunately no longer a surprise when organisations bow to pressure from Israel haters. Another young woman, Mmabatho Montsho, who is described as a South African fine artist, actress, writer, and film director, according to the SAJBD, cancelled her upcoming interview on the station because of Ben Haim’s interview. This same woman on Instagram refers to herself also as a lover and a fighter. Well, the latter I can see clearly, but I’m not seeing any love emanating from her.

The point is, Montsho is fully entitled to cancel her interview, that’s her choice. That shouldn’t have influenced the national broadcaster to cancel an interview with an international visitor about a massacre she had survived. That’s despicable behaviour!

The SABC has consciously silenced this testimony. The national broadcaster, like so many other media houses, has refused to hear the truth. Yes, I understand that Israel’s war on Hamas is controversial. I understand that there are many who condemn Israel for the lives lost in Gaza. But surely it’s incumbent on the media to hear all sides of the story? Surely, we don’t succumb to pressure from haters and silence a survivor of a massacre?

There are hard truths in this world and some we don’t want to hear or believe, but it’s our role as journalists to hear them. We may not agree, and we may not like what they are saying, but we need to hear and tell all sides.

I understand that there’s an investigation into this at the SABC, but I’m not holding out too much hope as there has already been so much evidence of this unacceptable bias in our media. It’s a slippery slope, one we have already started to descend.

I hope our journalists don’t all become parrots of the same speech, refusing to hear anything that doesn’t fit their belief system. I understand that this war has polarised people, but it’s vital to be able to hear and read all sides of the story so that the audience, listeners, or readers can make up their own mind. They should never be forced to agree with you because that’s the only side they are hearing.

May this be a lesson for all us in the media about what not to do.

Shabbat shalom!

Peta Krost


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