Jewish Board vows to fight A4P and BDS antisemitism
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has criticised a particularly ugly post by local extremists Africa4Palestine (A4P) which the SAJBD said clearly showed the organisation to be genocidal and antisemitic.
“For those who still believe Africa4Palestine is a ‘human-rights organisation’, for those who still believe Africa4Palestine wants a peaceful resolution between Palestine and Israel, for those who still believe Africa4Palestine is anti-Israel and not anti-Jewish, don’t be fooled,” it wrote.
“Africa4Palestine wants the destruction of the only Jewish country in the world, as it clearly shows in its slogan and its meme, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’. It uses the Jewish symbol of the Star of David. It wants to get rid of Jews and make Israel ‘Judenfrei’ [the term the Nazis used to describe areas that were ‘Jew free’ after murdering Jews during the Holocaust]. We condemn Africa4Palestine’s genocidal calls. The SAJBD calls for a negotiated two-state solution with Israel and Palestine existing side by side with secure borders,” the SAJBD said.
Now, SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn says, “The SAJBD will continue to hold these BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] groups accountable when they cross the line into hate speech, and where required, will take action, as we did with Bongani Masuku in the Equality Court and Constitutional Court, and Matome Letsoalo in the Magistrate’s Court.”
The image the SAJBD refers to was shared by A4P on Wednesday, 20 July. The group wrote, “We will accept nothing less than a #FreePalestine from the river to the sea!” This was accompanied by an image of a Palestinian flag plus a Star of David plus the map of Israel and then a cross, indicating that it wouldn’t accept two states.
It then showed a Magen David and a map of Israel and a cross, indicating it would want the Jewish State and its people obliterated. The last line shows a Palestinian flag and a map of Israel with a tick and a heart, indicating that only when the Jewish State and its people are eradicated, will they be satisfied.
“BDS SA and its new variant, A4P, position themselves as human-rights organisations. Nothing can be further from the truth,” says Kahn. “Time and again, their mask slips to reveal their antisemitic motives. The SAJBD has and will expose this hypocrisy whenever it emerges.
“This week, Africa4Palestine posted ‘From the river to sea’, which amounts to a genocidal call for the Jewish presence in Israel to be obliterated. Recently, it endorsed a ‘mapping’ project, which specifically targets Jewish institutions for boycott. A4P routinely equates Israelis with Nazis, not because it believes it to be true, but to cause maximum hurt and offense to Jews. It chose Yom Hashoah this year to indulge in this malicious Jew-baiting.
“A4P’s predecessor, BDS SA, likewise failed to conceal its love of classic antisemitic tropes,” she says. “One recalls its 2019 Facebook post comparing the SAJBD’s treatment of Bongani Masuku (whom the Concourt found guilty of antisemitic hate speech earlier this year) to Shylock, literature’s best-known symbol of Jews as avaricious, cruel, and filled with hatred towards gentiles. In response to Trump’s 2020 peace plan, BDS published a cartoon portraying Jews as greedy, gobbling rodents devouring ‘Palestine’ (identified, in case anyone missed the point, by the sign ‘kosher cheese’).
“Some of the most egregious antisemitic incidents of the past decade have directly resulted from BDS campaigns,” says Kahn. “They include placing a pig’s head on a kosher meat shelf during the boycott against Woolworths, and the Durban University of Technology student leadership demanding that Jewish students be ‘deregistered’. We also remember then BDS SA Director Mohamed Desai defending the chanting of ‘Dubula i’Juda’ (‘Shoot the Jew’) during a BDS protest at Wits University. After falling out of favour with BDS SA, Desai went on to establish A4P – new name, same old bigotry.”
South African Zionist Federation chairperson Rowan Polovin says, “For those who consider A4P a ‘human-rights’ organisation or a ‘Pro-Palestinian’ lobby group that’s simply critical of Israel, we suggest paying more attention to its words and deeds. The organisation doesn’t even hide its sinister intent of wiping the Jewish State and the Jews living there off the map. Indeed, one needs simply to look at its ominous post that calls for the Magen David, the symbol representing Jewish identity and Judaism, to be eliminated from the land of Israel.
“This vulgar antisemitism has no place in South African discourse, and should be rigorously challenged,” he says. “A4P represents a sad group of Jew haters who are increasingly desperate to achieve their ends, and their antics and behaviour reflect this. As proud Jews and Zionists, we denounce this hate and intolerance to the core.”
Another recent post by A4P shows a woman holding a sign saying, “It wasn’t okay in Nazi Germany, why is it okay in Palestine?”
“Equating Israel with Nazism is absurd to anyone who knows basic facts about Nazi Germany’s history,” says Günther Jikeli, the Erna B. Rosenfeld Professor in Jewish Studies at Indiana University. “It’s also deeply offensive because Israel’s population has included large numbers of Holocaust survivors. Such defamation is strong sign of a hateful obsession with the Jewish State and antisemitism.
“Calling for the end to the Jewish State is equally a strong sign of antisemitism,” he says. “There’s a 2000-year history of antisemitism that has denied the Jewish people their legitimacy or their very existence. Many antisemitic interpretations of Christianity postulated that Christians not only have a new covenant with G-d but that the ‘old’ one between the Israelites and G-d was invalid – that is, that Judaism should cease to exist and Jews had to convert to Christianity. Calling for the destruction of Israel seamlessly continues that train of thought.
“It’s no surprise that Jewish communities are deeply worried about such rhetoric, which not only targets Israel and Israelis but Jews worldwide,” says Jikeli. “Once Israel has been demonised, every Jew becomes suspicious and a potential target.”
Antisemitism expert and emeritus professor of history at the University of Cape Town, Milton Shain, agrees with the SAJBD’s statement.
Regarding the recent posts, he says, “A4P has learnt something from the Goebbels school of propaganda, but its reading on Nazism stopped there,” he says. “To draw parallels between the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust and the occupation of the West Bank is absurd. However oppressive the occupation is, the reality is that the Palestinian population has increased. This isn’t genocide. At least A4P is honest about its objectives: Israel is to cease to exist. The maps [in its post] make this quite clear.”