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Hitting a nerve: Jewish woman takes on local antisemite



Many people have stood up to presidential hopeful Mehmet Vefa Dag’s radical homophobia, but few have called out his rabid antisemitism. However, one young Jewish woman felt it was her duty to speak up, especially considering how extreme his hatred is towards Jews and Israel.

However, after Michelle Dickman (31) started responding to Dag’s hateful tweets, he immediately went after her, even threatening her safety. He shared images of her Twitter profile and face in several tweets, twisting reality to call her an “Israeli agent”, even dehumanising her by describing her as an “it”.

Among many predatory and defamatory statements, he said, “This agent is the biggest obstacle in front of our country, it should be caught or deported immediately”; “We will bring you to justice, we will not allow you to interfere in our country’s internal matters”; and “If any patriot can give us this Israeli agent’s information, we will be heartily happy.” He then tweeted a South African flag and said, “We will cleanse our country from traitors.”

His followers joined him, with one called “Hangriest Boer” saying, “The world is waking up to you Jews and your crimes, it won’t be long before there are repercussions. You should go back to the demon child-rapist nest called Israel.”

Dag was banned from Twitter after users reported him for his hateful rhetoric. However, he soon returned to the platform under a new username, @AFRICANDEMOC, with antisemitic, homophobic, extremist tweets and conspiracy theories. He says he’s a “President candidate for 2024 South Africa” and his party is called the Truth and Solidarity Movement.

After the SA Jewish Report reported on his antisemitism, he tweeted a link to the article, saying “welcome to our dance with Israeli agents in South Africa”.

Speaking to the SA Jewish Report, Dickman, who works in commercial real estate, says she noticed Dag’s homophobic tweets two weeks ago. “Then, he started with the antisemitism. When I saw that he was in Cape Town, and how bad it had become, I couldn’t sit by and watch. Every time he tweeted something antisemitic, homophobic, or racist, I would say that he was wrong. There were a lot of those.

“I have the Israeli flag in my Twitter profile, so he obviously saw that and said I should go back to Israel. I explained that I’m not Israeli, I’m South African, and being Jewish doesn’t mean being Israeli.” She pointed out the irony that Dag isn’t a native South African – he’s Turkish – and yet he tries to make South Africans see their fellow citizens as traitors. She also noticed how he egged on other users to share their antisemitism openly.

Though Dag has called on people to target her, Dickman says, “I’m not afraid he’ll hunt me down or even do anything. If anything, it tells me that standing up to him as a Jew has clearly hit a nerve. I’ve had enough of people getting away with spewing so much antisemitic hate and no-one doing anything about it. His responses tell me that I’m doing the right thing.”

Is she scared for her safety? “Not in the least,” she says. “I’m pretty sure he’s one of those people that act all tough behind the keyboard but if you were to face him in person, he may not be so brave.”

Meanwhile, Dag has continued his antisemitic tweets, saying that “[Zionists] are sick people,” accusing Zionists of being paedophiles, and saying “Zionist don’t have a chance to live in Cape Town”. He continuously refers to “Zionist systems” as infiltrating South Africa and the world.

Dickman isn’t sure if she’ll take  action against him, but at the same time, “he needs to have consequences. When his account was suspended, I told him it was because of hate speech and the way he was talking about people wasn’t right, and he was so shocked. He said Twitter had double standards. Right now, I don’t think I will do anything legally but if it escalates, then definitely.”

Social media lawyer Sarah Hoffman says Dickman “could potentially have recourse in any one, or all, of the following: laying a criminal charge of incitement of violence; doxing, which is the action or process of searching for and publishing private or identifying information about a particular individual on the internet typically with malicious intent and is now recognised as a crime under the new Cybercrimes Act; or obtaining a protection order against Dag for harassment in terms of the Protection of Harassment Act.”

“We’re lucky because he has such a small following that the real-life impact won’t be as bad as it could be,” says Dickman. “But there are people who support him, and no-one knows what they’re capable of. It definitely has the potential to become a problem.”

She says some others have stood up to his antisemitism, but she hasn’t witnessed them being targeted and called “Israeli agents” like she was. “I don’t know how many people in the Jewish community use Twitter,” she says. “I would love to have more people stand up to him and have people fight back against him on a bigger platform. There are a lot of people that stand up against the other things he says, so I don’t feel alone in standing up to him.”

She feels it should be made more public that “someone who is ‘running for president’ is so blatantly antisemitic, and whatever can be done to stop him should be done. If everyone stands up against him, it will make a difference. We see in the news everyday people being attacked in New York for wearing a kippah, or on a bus in London someone calling someone antisemitic, derogatory names, and there isn’t much we can do about that. But this is in our city and our country. We can put an end to this.”

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