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Malema gives FW the last tweet

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I feel sorry for Julius Malema. This is why.

A few moments after the death of FW de Klerk, Julius Malema tweeted an article that contained the announcement of his passing. This was immediately followed by a tweet, “Thank you G-d” along with a few dancing emojis. Although the tweets weren’t linked, the message was clear. It was also clarified in the comments that followed.

I’m no defender of the former president, and cannot even begin to comprehend what he evoked in those who lived under apartheid.

What I can somewhat relate to is my own experience. As Jews, we’re familiar with prejudice and hatred. My father, until his passing last year, wouldn’t buy and drive a German vehicle because of what the Nazis had done to his family. My mother’s father refused to speak German from the time he left Germany, and until his death, carried with him a visceral hatred of his homeland. Germany might have been defeated in 1945, but the hold that it had over my family continued for decades.

The German genocide wasn’t the first. Thousands of years before that, Jews are told that we were enslaved in Egypt. The conditions were apparently horrendous, with male children being thrown into the Nile whilst their parents built the cities. And so, to celebrate freedom from slavery, each year on Passover, Jews across the world gather in families and at dinner to retell the story.

Passover is in essence a celebration of freedom.

The Seder evening begins with recounting of the horrors of our bondage. The story then shifts, with Moses arriving on the scene and bringing with him the chapter of the plagues. When we speak about this, we pour out some of the wine from our glass onto a plate next to us. The reason we do this, we tell our children, is because no matter how terrible the Egyptians were to us, we still don’t rejoice in their suffering. The fact that they went through the plagues and then died in the Red Sea needs to detract from our joy. We cannot be unequivocally happy when someone suffers. Even if it’s our enemy.

There’s more to this. Passover is the festival of freedom. Not just physical freedom but also spiritual and emotional freedom. Jews haven’t been slaves in Egypt for thousands of years. That’s something to celebrate. But it’s equally as important to celebrate freedom from emotional bondage. By showing that we don’t take joy in the death and suffering of our slave masters, so we indicate that we are truly free from that slavery. Both physically and emotionally.

By now my point should be obvious. My late grandfather and father might have physically survived Hitler’s Europe, but that didn’t mean that they were free of the impact of that time. Hitler might have ultimately lost, but to some extent, he still had a hold over the people who defeated him.

My initial reaction to Malema’s “Thank you G-d” tweet that immediately followed the death of FW de Klerk was to be appalled. I reported it to Twitter, knowing that as the tweet stood alone, nothing would be done about it. By the time Malema tweeted that Twitter had found nothing wrong with his tweet, instead of being angry, I felt sad. Much like I did for my grandfather. Because no matter how many dancing emojis Malema included in the tweet, the fact that he needed to celebrate the passing of FW de Klerk, meant that the power still rests with De Klerk. And that he’s not truly free. And that’s a terrible pity.

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