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Fighting a Nazi in court

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As Gauteng Council Chairperson Professor Karen Milner put it, it’s not every day that one gets to fight an out-and-out Nazi and beat him. Last week, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) recorded such a victory when the Randburg Magistrates Court confirmed the previous imposition of a restraining order against white supremacist and crusading antisemite Jan Lamprecht. It was Professor Milner who in July last year laid a criminal charge against Lamprecht, resulting in her receiving hate mail and being subjected to online abuse after the latter retaliated by publishing her personal details along with disparaging comments about her on his website. In terms of the order, Lamprecht was compelled to remove the offending items, and has been interdicted from publishing any more such material.

The court’s confirmation of the restraining order brings to a successful close the first stage of this matter. While the criminal case against Lamprecht is still to be heard, the legal proceedings instituted to date have already resulted in a distinct toning down of the inflammatory rhetoric on his website. Like others before him, he has learnt that when the SAJBD says there is a price to be paid for attacking Jews and that those who cross the line will be made to pay that price, we mean what we say.

The judgment brings to mind a previous instance of the SAJBD taking on proponents of Nazism in the courts and winning. This was the famed Grahamstown libel trial of 1934, when leaders of the notorious South African National Socialist Movement (better known to history as the Greyshirts) tried to frame a Port Elizabeth rabbi by “discovering” a document allegedly written by him that rehashed standard Protocols of the Elders of Zion-derived tropes about alleged Jewish plots to control the world. Nearly a century has ensued since then, but the need for us to confront these calumnies from time to time in court sadly remains.

As with a number of previous successful prosecutions that the SAJBD has conducted in recent years, this result was made possible by the unstinting support of Ian Levitt Attorneys. We thank Levitt and his superb team, in particular advocate Laurance Hodes and Nick Kourie, for the hard work and countless hours they have devoted to the case. It’s indeed largely thanks to the selfless efforts of distinguished legal practitioners in our community that the SAJBD has been able, over the decades, to fulfil its core mandate of protecting the safety and upholding the dignity of South African Jewry.

A second relevant legal ruling handed down last week was the long-awaited judgment of the Constitutional Court in the Jon Qwelane hate-speech case. We have taken a keen interest in this matter, and indeed took part in the capacity of amicus curiae (friend of the court) with the South African Holocaust & Genocide Foundation when it was heard last year because of the relevance of its outcome to our own hate-speech case against the Congress of South African Trade Union’s Bongani Masuku, currently before the Concourt. We will meet our legal team shortly to consider the implications of the Qwelane judgment.

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

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