Linkage of anti-Semitism and Israel hostility a global phenomenon

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South African Jewish Board of Deputies National Director Wendy Kahn took part in an “Expert Stakeholder Consultation on Monitoring and Combatting Antisemitism” meeting in Geneva Last Thursday, where she updated the forum on recent incidents of anti-Semitism in South Africa.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Jul 05, 2018

The one-day meeting took place under the auspices of Dr Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights.

Participants included Dr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN Human Rights Council’s High Commissioner, Rapporteurs from several European Union countries, representatives of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and a range of academics and human rights practitioners. That Wendy was one of the presenters in this distinguished forum is a credit to our community, and testifies to its high stature on the global Jewish stage in spite of its relatively small size.

Wendy spoke about how the board was responding to recent anti-Semitic incidents in South Africa, referring to the legal and constitutional remedies available for confronting racism and hate speech in the country.

She stressed that in South Africa, the majority of anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric are linked in some way to anti-Israel sentiment and events in the Middle East in general. She learned from fellow participants that South Africa was not unique in this regard; the conflation between hostility to Israel and hatred of Jews is in fact a global phenomenon.

Frequent references were made to the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, an event whose purpose was to fight racism, but which notoriously ended up facilitating the launch globally of a new form of anti-Semitism, this time revolving around hostility towards the Jewish state.

Wendy also attended a meeting of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in Israel. This was preceded by the WJC National Community Directors’ Forum, an annual gathering of Jewish communal professionals from around the world to share experiences and discuss issues of common concern.

The board had the privilege of co-hosting this prestigious event in Cape Town last year. We benefit enormously from the support we receive from the WJC, and are gratified by the important part that representatives of our community, historically and in our own time, have been able to play in this vital institution.

Two board members, Mary Kluk and Gauteng Council Chairperson Marc Pozniak, are serving on the executive of the WJC. During the four-day conference, delegates visited Nahal Oz, a kibbutz, whose fields have been burnt by recent arson attacks from across the Gaza border. That night, the residents they met had to sleep in bomb shelters because of rocket attacks.

On the same day as Wendy was speaking in Geneva, the board laid criminal charges against three local individuals for anti-Semitic hate speech and intimidation. We are receiving strong support from different quarters for the steps we have taken to ensure that justice is done in this matter. As I emphasised in my previous column, anti-Semitism remains a relatively low-level threat to our community, but as we know, it can easily escalate if it is not confronted firmly at the outset, and nipped in the bud.


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