Silence and solidarity
After the moving and impactful demonstration in solidarity with the hostages in Gaza on Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg two weeks ago, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) organised a follow-up event in Durban last Sunday, 5 November.
National staff travelled down to Durban to assist our KwaZulu-Natal colleagues to co-ordinate the initiative. As in Johannesburg, the demonstration included a placard showing photos and descriptions of each hostage together with a red balloon for each, displayed along the beach. And as in Johannesburg, we were overwhelmed by the heartfelt empathy and support shown by ordinary members of the public. Events like this are important not just for our own community, but for the many Christian and other non-Jewish supporters of Israel. They give people an opportunity to come out in solidarity with the Israeli people and in particular the victims of Hamas terror in an environment in which the government, media, and civil society in general hasn’t just been shamefully silent about those atrocities but to a considerable extent has taken the side of the perpetrators.
Effective closure of SA embassy in Israel
The extent to which the South African government has been all but captured by the Hamas-supporting Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions factions was again underlined his week when it was announced, following a cabinet decision, that the staff of the South African embassy in Tel Aviv was being recalled to South Africa “for consultation”. As a result, the embassy is now essentially closed, with all the negative implications this has for South African citizens of all creeds and backgrounds already in the country or wishing to travel there in the future. The government has been coming under massive pressure both from within its own ranks and the radical anti-Israel street to take this step, and also to shut down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria. However, for the time being at least, official sources have given the assurance that this isn’t on the cards. The SAJBD has been fighting a determined seven-year battle to keep the South African embassy open. Once calm and order has hopefully been restored in the region, we will spare no effort in pushing for this essential link between the two countries to be restored.
The media front
Overall, the media coverage of the war has been very distressing. Working closely with the South African Zionist Federation team, we’re responding to media queries as soon as we get them and making sure our voices are heard against the prevailing demonising narrative. In particular, Radio 702 has created much concern and kol hakavod to National Director Wendy Kahn who went on the station earlier this week to set the record straight. The previous day, I was interviewed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation regarding the latest pro-Hamas distortions being peddled by Department of International Relations and Cooperation Minister Dr Naledi Pandor.
Comments against Israel, no matter how defamatory they might be, fall within the parameter of freedom of expression, but denigrating and defaming Jews as a people crosses the line into prohibited hate speech. We have noted instances of this happening over the airwaves, and are in the process of taking appropriate action against those responsible. The message we intend sending by acting against these and other perpetrators of antisemitic hate-mongering is that antipathy towards Israel doesn’t translate into a license to bait, smear, and incite hatred against the Jewish community and that there’s a price to be paid by those who indulge in it.
- Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.