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The dark underbelly of anti-Semitism




However, anti-Semitism is aimed at you and me. And we know how far this revolting hatred has been taken over the centuries. While anti-Semitic verbal tirades may seem to some to be just words, they seldom are. Words are often just the beginning.

So, when anti-Semitism rears its ugly head, it’s never acceptable.

In some cases, however, it’s more horrifying than others.

This week, when Joburg Jewish Mommies administrator Phillipa Bergman brought to our attention the revolting anti-Semitic ravings of a young Pretoria woman, I initially assumed her social media identity must have been hacked.

This woman was the brand ambassador for a fitness company, a bodybuilder, and an athlete. She’s pretty well known, but not for being anti-Semitic.

I couldn’t believe that any sane, thinking person could spew the nauseating things she said. She wrote, “It was the Jews that bombed, raped, sodomised, and burned all people in Germany alive. Hitler was innocent. Our history has been twisted to favour the Jews without question.”

She went on and on, saying there “was a special place in hell” for Jews, and that our “religion is just as corrupt as the souls” we embody.

She made it quite clear that she hadn’t been hacked, and brazenly and proudly accepted responsibility for what she wrote and believed. “They [her beliefs] are mine. I’m entitled to them, and no one will bully me into believing that their religion is superior to mine.”

What’s crazy is that she felt no shame at being called out for racism. To the contrary, she didn’t flinch. She didn’t even try to make an excuse. She made out that it was acceptable to denigrate us and deny the Holocaust, to deny the death of six million Jews, calling Hitler innocent. As if it was okay to throw such ugly abuse at us.

Imagine Adam Catzavelos being caught out, and standing by his racism. Imagine Penny Sparrow doing that. It’s outrageous!

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies gave her an opportunity to apologise, and she flat out refused.

It will be interesting to see what will happen now. Will she be hauled through the courts and fined like Sparrow and Catzavelos?

Or will she avoid censure? Will she get away with it?

Is it acceptable in this country for her to say that about Jews? Is racism seen for what it is no matter who is involved?

We shall see.

I believe those involved must be called to account and either genuinely apologise or face the full might of the law.

I’m aware that top legal minds are mulling over what is or isn’t acceptable when it comes to hate speech. The key question appears to be: does it incite violence?

And if it doesn’t necessarily incite violence when you hear it, surely the more you hear it the bigger the impact? What about those who discover that it may be legally acceptable to vomit this kind of hatefulness, what then? Do they stop doing it if nobody makes a big deal about it? Or do they get worse?

Another aspect of this young woman’s saga I found deeply concerning is that in her explanation to Tali Feinberg, our journalist, she refers to her beliefs as “informed” by documentaries she didn’t go looking for. She claimed they “popped up on Facebook” and “out of curiosity” she had a look.

How on earth do such “documentaries” pop up on Facebook? How does that happen, and why?

Professor Milton Shain, who is a global expert on anti-Semitism, said that he believed she had been digging in the dark web. This is an ugly part of the internet that isn’t readily available and requires a browser that keeps you anonymous to access it. The point is, somehow these documentaries and false and hateful information are out there for people to access. I’m not sure there is anything that the world can do to stop it.

So, how do we help people filter out the noise of racism?

What makes a young woman – or anyone for that matter – hear these ugly falsehoods and buy into them?

I guess I will keep wondering, but hope that sanity and sense prevails, and most people recognise what’s real and what isn’t. I can only hope.

The truth is, anti-Semitism or any racism is never okay. Hating someone because of their race, colour, religion, gender, or sexual preference isn’t acceptable. As Jews, I’m sure you will agree that we need to make sure we set an example as it’s very difficult to point fingers at others if we don’t practise what we preach.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peta Krost Maunder


Note: This is our official Shavuot edition. We will be publishing next week on erev Shavuot, but it won’t be a printed edition. It will be our first 100% online edition. Like all our newspapers, it will be jam-packed with fascinating, newsy stories for you. Please make sure to go to and download your edition.

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