No ceasefire in SA antisemitism
Anti-Israel incidents continued to occur around South Africa in spite of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, with many turning antisemitic and targeting individuals and businesses.
One message was sent around the globe as South African Jews the world over reeled at the shameless attack on businesspeople who have South Africa’s best interests at heart. These include the executive chairperson of Cape Union Mart, Philip Krawitz, and the owner of Dis-Chem.
“Brother and sisters, this fight is far from over. It’s time for us not to just talk the talk but also walk the walk. We have Zionist enemies in our midst and we have to educate ourselves and our families as to who they are and how we can counter them,” wrote Shukri Darries, in a message riddled with spelling errors that the SA Jewish Report has corrected here.
“Firstly, we cannot boycott all their products because we will become overwhelmed once we discover how much of our country they actually own. We have to be targeted in our approach and hit a few at a time,” Darries wrote, amongst many untrue points. “The money we unknowingly/foolishly or wilfully spend here is directly helping to keep our brothers and sisters oppressed. We need a slight mindset change to achieve victory against these Zionists under our noses.”
Another message making the rounds on WhatsApp called for a boycott of the Benmore Gardens Pick n Pay, accompanied by an image of a Magen David hanging from the roof of the store (presumably above a kosher section).
Meanwhile, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ (SAJBD) David Saks reports that “the 20 reported antisemitic incidents in South Africa recorded in May almost exceed those logged in the first four months of the year. In addition to direct antisemitic attacks on Jewish individuals or institutions, there has been a predictable upsurge in antisemitic rhetoric on social media. This rhetoric has been characterised by an unusually high degree of religiously-motivated antagonism.
“The incidents recorded to date include one of physical assault, three involving threats of violence, four of verbal abuse, and six of direct abuse on social media,” he says. “There have further been numerous calls for Jewish businesses to be boycotted, and several occasions where calls have been made at public rallies for ‘Zionists to be kicked out of South Africa’.”
For example, “a community member was punched twice in the face after getting into a verbal altercation with anti-Israel protestors on Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg. In addition, a community member was threatened at a Johannesburg gym.
“Protestors gathered outside a community member’s home in Rouxville saying that they wanted ‘to take his house and bomb him’. They took pictures of his house, and one also said, ‘I am a terrorist and will kill you’.”
Norwood bakery Baked on Grant has advertised that the shop will “continuously assess our supply chain to ensure that we don’t support Zionists”. When a community member queried this, she was told by the owner that she “wouldn’t buy from Jews”.
Saks says the SAJBD is assisting community members and examining its legal options to response to incidents.
SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn says, “BDS [Boycott Divestment Sanctions] activities have zero impact on Israel or on bringing peace to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. All it is doing is attempting to intimidate and threaten South African Jews. Its ongoing campaigns to demonise and boycott Jewish businesses in South Africa, something it has been attempting for close on a decade, clearly shows its antisemitic intent. As much as it has pitifully tried to mask its antisemitic boycott using the “Zionist” mask, it is exposed again and again. The call on Twitter to boycott Pick n Pay Banmore (sic) because it has a Magen David over the kosher section shows that the boycott is against kosher food and therefore South African Jews. Baked on Grant let the façade slip when the owner told a community member on the phone ‘I won’t buy from Jews’. BDS, your colours are showing.”
While the business owners mentioned in Darries’ message felt that they couldn’t respond for fear of a backlash, the SA Jewish Report was able to obtain a letter that the executive chairperson of Cape Union Mart, Krawitz, wrote to his staff, bringing sanity and hope amidst the hate to which he was subjected.
“I’m greatly saddened by messages through social media accusing me of providing funds for the Israeli army and therefore calling on Muslims to boycott companies within our group,” wrote Krawitz. “It’s concerning that such stories can do the rounds without making any attempt to establish the facts. These emails date back to 2014, when a similar smear campaign was launched. There is absolutely no truth whatsoever to the allegation that I have ever donated funds to the Israeli army. On the contrary, I have always adopted a pacifist approach, and have never donated money to any army anywhere in the world. I have often stated that after the battle, peace talks inevitably take place. Why, therefore, should one not start with the peace talks and avoid the tragic loss of lives?
“Just as I respect all religions, I’m a proud Jew,” he continued. “I have a special spiritual connection with Israel, but have equally been a long time protagonist of the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and mutual co-operation. My publicly-stated views on this subject have been quoted in the media as far back as 2002 (Cape Argus, May 2002). I have repeated these views in person to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, to whom I was introduced in Cape Town.
“What is true is that I have donated funds in my personal capacity, both in South Africa and in Israel, to entities endeavouring to build relationships between Jews and Muslims, and Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis,” wrote Krawitz. He has supported the Peres Centre for Peace through the Israel Tennis Centre, “where children from disadvantaged Palestinian and Israeli communities in and around Jerusalem come together to participate in an educational programme which encourages the values of coexistence and mutual understanding”.
He has also given to a technology centre in Ramle, “an economically disadvantaged city with more than 30% Arab residents. This centre specifically aims to bring together Arab and Jewish Israelis to learn to work towards building co-operation and coexistence.”
He supports the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, “where Arab and Jewish Israelis are treated side by side”, and the Interfaith Intercultural Youth Programme in South Africa, “bringing together all faiths and races with the aim of providing an opportunity to develop understanding, co-operation, and coexistence”.
Krawitz said, “Our company employs hundreds of Muslim staff, many of whom occupy senior positions within our group. It’s sad that misleading information has been put out in the public domain working against the very ideals that we have striven for at Cape Union Mart. However, I have been greatly heartened by the incredible messages of support from Muslim staff members who know exactly what I stand for. For that, I am extremely grateful!
“As the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, I hope that you will use the closing hours to reflect on the value of truth, and put an end to the malicious lies which are being spread in an effort to damage our company and put jobs at risk,” he wrote. “I wish all our Muslim staff Ramadan Kareem and Eid Mubarak. Let’s continue to work together to build a family of mankind, in a world where we all respect each other, and find ways to unite through our commonalities rather than divide ourselves through our differences! Let’s continue to create jobs, develop people, and build South Africa.”
- To report antisemitism, cyber-bullying, intimidation, or threats, email email@example.com (Johannesburg) or call, text or WhatsApp the Cape SAJBD’s #ReportHate Hotline on 079 994 5573, or complete its #ReportHate tool here: https://bit.ly/3hH1ZbU