The Jewish Report Editorial

Do we have a rising neo-Nazi problem?

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I am not coming to you this week with any solutions or smart comments, but rather questions. These are questions that I have been mulling over for a while, but they have come to a head this week.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Sep 07, 2017

It is about anti-Semitism in South Africa and whether we have a rising problem.

Back in March, we were shocked by Edenvale High School pupils who used Nazi taunts to ridicule King David Victory Park performers at a school play festival. While it was upsetting, the numerous online comments and social media responses to this incident that reiterated the anti-Semitic sentiments were more horrifying.

Thanks to the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), the Edenvale scholars were enlightened by the Holocaust education they received from the Holocaust and Genocide Centre.

Then there was a hiatus, but in the last few weeks, we have had two incidents of anti-Semitism. The first was Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mngxitama and his horrific tweets. 

In this case, while what he tweeted was revolting, it was once again the social media responses that concerned me. It showed a widespread ugly anti-Semitic sentiment.

So, while the SAJBD will relentlessly pursue a fair punishment for Mngxitama to ensure he understands that what he said was unacceptable, what of all those others who responded? 

Then, at the University of Pretoria last week, there was someone or a group of people, who wrote “Gas all Jews” and put swastikas on the noticeboards on campus.

The SAJBD contacted the university’s vice chancellor to express its concern about the “graffiti”. The university immediately condemned this and any form of discrimination and hate speech, saying it would not hesitate to act against anyone found guilty of this type of behaviour.

“When the University became aware of a notice board that was vandalised with anti-Semitic graffiti on its Hatfield campus, we immediately removed it and notified campus security to investigate the incident,” according to a statement from the university.

They did the right thing, but who was behind it? Why did they feel the need to do this?

I totally understand that these are not the first, nor will they be the last anti-Semitic incidents that the SAJBD deals with. And perhaps the aggressive anti-Semitic sentiment on social media is a sign of what is going down on social media. Perhaps it isn’t something to be concerned about.

But, if we take a look abroad, we see a real upsurge of anti-Semitism, a so-called neo-Nazi uprising. It is happening in many parts of Europe, but perhaps France is taking the brunt of it. The increase in aliya figures from France, bear testimony to this.

Most recently, we saw it in Charlottesville in the US, where white supremacists went beserk in their racist anger and Jews bore some of the brunt.

While it was not specifically aimed at Jews, but rather black people, they took racism out on us too. My colleague from JTA, Ron Kampeas, wrote about his experience there: “I’ve been hated directly for many things (try being a journalist, anywhere), but it had been a while… since I’d faced visceral hatred just for, well, looking Jewish.”

People there were wearing signs like “Goyim know!” and “Jews are satan’s children” and the ugliness went on.

However, in Charlottesville, it was clearly white supremacy and neo-Nazis.

What is this that we are experiencing? Am I just seeing this because I am now editing this newspaper and it has been the same for many years? Perhaps. Maybe it has improved substantially and I wasn’t that aware of it before. That is possible. Should we be concerned? I don’t know.

Is there anything we can do about it? Well, other than the hard work that the SAJBD is already doing to counter any anti-Semitism wherever it rears its ugly head, I don’t think so.

What I can say really doesn’t help is when Jewish people write opinion pieces (see page five) in support of anti-Semitic behaviour.

Perhaps they think that in this democracy, their opinions that ultimately denigrate their own community, is free speech. Perhaps it is, but in times like these, it can only fuel a fire.

What I do know is that in these time, the community should be setting aside our differences and working together to ensure we are “a light unto the nations”. Just saying…

Shabbat shalom




1 Comment

  1. 1 David B 27 Oct
    Absolutely correct - a rise in polarisation of opinions generally , as well as an overall intolerance of diverse opinions for open and intelligent discussions -- just 2  examples are ' global warming ' and the causes and cures thereof , as well as ' same sex marriage' which opens the door to soooo many differing opinions and reasons for those opinions.
    However there are way too many ( passionate ? ? ? ) people who would intolerantly shut down the discussion with ' You don't understand ' or you are a 'dinosaur'  -- that it is mostly not worth going there in the first place. 


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