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South Africa isn’t an anti-Semitic country




Also, some readers don’t like the fact that we write about BDS [the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement] so much, saying we are giving it an unwarranted platform for its irksome deeds.

However, be that as it may, I would go as far as to say that we are at the coalface of anti-Semitism in this country. We make sure you are aware if it’s happening, when it’s happening, who is behind it, and why. We pursue anti-Semites, and we aren’t alone.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) makes sure anti-Semites know they cannot get away with their ugly statements and treatment of this community.

What we are all clear about is that Jewish people are totally free to practice our religion in this country. We are free to live a totally Jewish life. We can wear religious Jewish garb, and nobody is going to harm or even bother us.

We are free to have kosher stores, restaurants, and even many shuls. Our religion is just one of many in this country, and we are left to practice it and be who we are without prejudice. If university exams fall on Jewish holy days, the SAJBD alerts the authorities, and alternative arrangements are made.

The chief rabbi goes to speak at national political and interdenominational events (see page 5). We have held events where the president has come to address our community with affection. I can go on and on.

So, when the news of the latest American Defamation League (ADL) survey on anti-Semitic sentiment around the world came out, I wasn’t alone in being shocked and quite dismissive that South Africa was one of the countries at the top of the list (see page 1).

In Ha’aretz’s online newspaper, it claimed that the study showed South Africa as the second most anti-Semitic country in the world. Or at least it claimed that 47% of the population harboured anti-Semitic sentiments, just 1% down from Poland, where 48% of the population had these ugly feelings towards Jews. Just below South Africa was Ukraine, then Hungary, Russia, and Argentina. France, which we all know to be terribly anti-Semitic, and where Jews can be in danger if they wear a kippah in public, was way down the list. Germany, also known to have a rising anti-Semitic trend, was below France. England, too, was way below South Africa.

Reading this and other information about this particular survey made me angry. I know that this country has issues and yes, the government is pro-Palestinian and has friends in Hamas, but we are free to be Jews in South Africa, and nobody hassles or worries us about it.

Surveys like this from a reputable organisation can only do damage to our state of mind here on the southern tip of Africa. I mean, what are we expected to feel when the United States’ foremost anti-Semitism fighter makes these claims following supposedly reputable research?

But you and I know it can’t be true. Most people in South Africa don’t really know what being Jewish is, and if they do, they don’t really bother us as a group.

Recent research by the Kaplan Institute has produced figures supporting what we know to be true. Despite this, we asked one of our investigative journalists to find out what happened to get to the former result, and why it was put out. Was there something untoward about the research?

Almost as soon as the ink on those newspapers with articles about the ADL survey was drying, this newspaper started getting messages from Israel and other countries telling us to emigrate now.

Every now and again, we get an influx of doomsayers contacting us, telling us it’s time to leave South Africa. Some do this because they firmly believe we are in trouble here, others simply need to justify their decision to emigrate. Even if they don’t need to justify it and are blissfully happy, in this instance, they have been given inaccurate information about us.

I can safely say that there are few places in the world where Jews have the kind of freedom that we have to live the way we do. I’m so grateful for that, and I love living in this country. Yes, we have an abundance of problems and they all have an impact on our pocket – among other areas – but we still have a good life and a fantastic community.

16 Days of Activism

As we move into the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, I ask you to spare a thought about what you can do to stem this particular crisis. We all know that our community is far from free of gender-based violence – we write about it often.

The SA Jewish Report has a fundraising campaign in place to pay for psychological help for the young Israeli tourist who was attacked and raped while on holiday here with her boyfriend recently. We are also raising funds for psychological assistance for South African women who have been raped. Help us to help them!

While we cannot change what happened to them, we can do what we can to help them through this horrific time. We can do something – so let’s do it.

Donations can be made to the following account: Ian Levitt Attorneys Trust Fund, Absa, Rosebank Central Branch, account number 4046253714. Reference: Israeli tourist.

Shabbat Shalom!

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