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Beware of false sense of complacency on anti-Semitism

  • 2b-Letter7
Your article on anti-Semitic incidents in South Africa at a 15-year low (SA Jewish Report 30 January 2020) refers.
by Darren Bergman, Constituency head of Alberton | Feb 13, 2020

I am left with a cautiously optimistic feeling when reading this article, given the heavy hitters that have been quoted, of which I have great respect and admiration, but I couldn’t help but get a sense that we have politicised the situation to create a sense of calm and an image that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies is in control. The timing of this article has not escaped me either, considering the reports and responses to this topic in recent past publications.

I would hate to raise alarm or create panic, however I would be just as uncomfortable with the people tasked with our safety and protection being complacent or out of touch with the political climate. We need to ensure that Jewish people in South Africa understand where they stand and what their future is. This mustn’t be dressed up in jargon or massaged into positive propaganda.

Let’s begin with the inconvenient truth of emigration. We are in a major wave of Jewish people leaving the country. This translates to less Jewish people in the workspace or in the academic environment that can witness or report incidents of anti-Semitism.

Second, social media has become a hotbed of hatred. There has been an unnatural sensitisation to this, and therefore almost a complacency in letting it go. It has brought about a lack of reporting or outrage when incidents like this occur. On the other side of the coin, it could create the impression that anti-Semitism is out of control.

I do admit that in South Africa we still enjoy freedom of religion and association in the main. I believe that we are somewhat sheltered in the major areas from direct anti-Semitism, and still enjoy a high degree of comfort in being able to walk around in religious ware. I agree with David that the SAJBD has been highly effective where alerted, and that the fact that we have a committed group of people willing to protect our installations has gone a long way in staving off more events of anti-Semitism.

However this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, that it has dropped, or that it won’t be waiting for us around the corner. I would spend more time investigating why the reporting of anti-Semitism is at an all-time low in South Africa in an environment that has been sparked by division and hatred along race, gender, and religious lines. Before we pat ourselves on the back, let’s introspect as to whether the lack of reporting of anti-Semitism of late is a positive for our small community or in actual fact something that we should all be concerning ourselves with. 

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