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Op-eds

Curbing hate and delivering meals all in a day’s work

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
Two long-running hate-speech cases were successfully brought to finality last week, when the South African Jewish Board of Deputy’s (SAJBD’s) complaints against two prominent Western Cape political leaders, Marius Fransman and Tony Ehrenreich, were upheld by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). A great deal of sustained effort by our professional staff went into achieving these outcomes, for which I thank and commend them.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Sep 20, 2018

In 2013, Fransman, who was then ANC Western Cape leader and Deputy Minister of International Relations, made a series of offensive statements concerning South African Jewry. This included alleging that Jewish businessmen were unfairly benefiting at the expense of the black population in general, and the Cape Town Muslim community in particular, and accusing the Jewish leadership of being disloyal to South Africa and of trying to undermine economic transformation. The SAHRC found that these statements impugned the dignity of the Jewish community, and directed Fransman to apologise.

The Board’s case against Ehrenreich was based on a comment that he posted on Facebook in August 2014, calling for revenge attacks against the SAJBD, and other “Zionist supporters” whenever Palestinian civilians were killed. This included stating, “The time has come to say very clearly that if a woman or child is killed in Gaza, then the Jewish Board of Deputies, who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the people of SA with the age old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye.”

The fact that Ehrenreich was at the time an ANC Cape Town City Councillor and Chairman of the Western Cape Congress of South African Trade Unions made his statements all the more shocking. The SAHRC found that the comments constituted hate speech and harassment, and impugned the community’s right to dignity. Ehrenreich was directed to furnish the SAJBD with a written statement apologising for his post. Should he fail to do so (as seems likely), we will take the matter up at a higher level. Such blatant threats and incitement against our community cannot and will not be tolerated.

Another uplifting initiative was the relief effort that we, together with Zaka, organised in the aftermath of the fire in the Johannesburg CBD. We were asked to assist only with supper for the firefighters, but on arrival, we were confronted with 700 students who had been evacuated from their residence. They had no idea where they would be spending the night, no food, and some had exams the following day. At short notice, we were able to arrange hot meals for them. Our Facebook report on the initiative has, to date, attracted just less than 50 000 hits.

Lastly, we were delighted to learn that our dynamic National Director, Wendy Kahn, has been included in The Jerusalem Post’s latest list of the world’s “50 most influential Jews”. We are very proud of Wendy for this well-deserved recognition of everything she has and is achieving for our Jewish community indeed, for global Jewry. She heads up a winning team because she unfailingly leads from the front, inspiring her colleagues to greater efforts by her own determined, tireless, and dedicated example.

With the year 5779 now underway, be assured that the SAJBD will continue to safeguard your civil rights, responding to incidents of hate against our community so that we can continue to live as proud Jews in South Africa.

•     Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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