South African Jewish leader sees anti-Israeli sentiment degenerating into anti-Semitism

(Photo: Reuters)Former South African President Nelson Mandela lays a wreath in the "Hall of Remembrances" with Chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Azner Shalez (2R) October 18, 1999 as Mandela honoured the six-million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Earlier Mandela toured the Holocaust Museum. Mandela will meet Prime Minister Ehud Barak this evening and tomorrow travels to the Palestinian self-rule area of the Gaza Strip.

South African Jews are worried that anti-Israel sentiment is increasingly degenerating into anti-Semitism that is used to scapegoat them in their country.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has informed a parliamentary committee in Cape Town informed that due to a growing trend of anti-Semitism in the country Jews are being made to feel unwelcome in their own country.

Mary Kluk, chair of the executive committee of the Jewish board briefed the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation in the South African Parliament Nov. 25

The Jewish body was informing the committee on its views regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, AllAfrica.com reported.

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Kluk said, "It has been more than 20 years since democracy but some organizations like the BDS SA [Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions South Africa] are intolerant of Jewish people.

"These protests are issues that are supposed to be about Israel. There are some Jews who associate themselves with the message of the BDS movement.

"We welcome their opinions, but calling for Jews to be fired from universities and be killed is not tolerance," she said.

South Africa's Jewish population has dwindled to less than 70,000, but Jews have paid a prominent life as business leaders. During the apartheid era Jews were prominent in supporting the liberal opposition to  the ruling National Party and a number of them were prominent in the African National Congress when it was a liberation movement.

Two day earlier the National Coalition for Palestine came to brief the Committee on a petition it had sent two years ago where it spoke of human rights abuses committed by Israel on Palestinians were raised.

It called for disinvestments to Israel and the cut off of all ties with that country.

DIALOGUE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE

Another representative from Jewish board, told the parliamentary committee that Israel is a place of refuge for Jews around the world and that the board supports a dialogue between Israel and Palestine.

"Israel has a right to exist alongside a future Palestine State. It will be a phenomenal privilege if Israel exported its technology on water to South Africa for, example," he said.

Members of the parliament wanted to know if there were steps being undertaken by the board to promote the two-State solution in the country. They also wondered about the possibility of applying South Africa's approach of dialogue until solutions are found.

The chairperson of the committee from the ruling African National Congress, Siphosezwe Masango, said it did not seem that the board and the pro-Palestine organizations have a common advice that they could provide.

Whatever position one takes on the matter, it will always be viewed with suspicion. Palestine and Israel must settle the land question in a manner satisfactory to both sides. As long as the land question is not settled, it will always give rise to extremism, Masango said.

There was outrage earlier in November following the discovery of anti-Semitic graffiti at one of South Africa's top universities while student riots were continuing across campuses over disatisfaction with education and the government.

Phrases such as, "Kill a Jew" and "F*** the Jews" were found spray-painted on a main building at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg Nov. 1, The Jerusalem Post reported.

It said this was not the first incident of anti-Semitism to take place at Wits (as the university is known) during the recent protests.

Two weeks earlier a student wearing a kippa, a brimless cap often worn by Jews was walking out of a lecture hall, when he encountered a group of protesting students.

When he stepped aside, he was verbally accosted and called a "Mother F****** Jew" by members of the crowd, the Post reported.

Wits University spokeswoman Shirona Patel said it is aware of the offensive graffiti sprayed on two walls on Wits' campuses.

"The graffiti has been removed from our campus walls. The university condemns the offensive messages being propagated, and we deeply regret the insult that it may cause to members of the Wits community," she said. "Should we identify any of the perpetrators, they will be held accountable for their actions."

The South African Union of Jewish Students said in a statement that it "unequivocally condemns the antisemitism being demonstrated on campus.

"There can be no justification for such hateful, ignorant and offensive acts," it said.

Outgoing Wits Student Representative Council spokeswoman Fasiha Hassan condemned this act and referred to it as "deplorable" and "hate speech." She denied that the SRC had any involvement in the graffiti.

However, in 2015, former student council leader Mcebo Dlamini openly expressed his love for Adolph Hitler. Dlamini said he admired the Nazi German dicatator, who sent millions to their death during the Holocaust, for his "charisma" and "organizational skills."

"Dlamini's anti-Semitic utterances are based on the import of a prejudice deeply rooted in European history," Wits faculty member Vashna Jagarnath wrote in South Africa's Daily Maverick Nov. 3.

"The most sophisticated histories of the emergence of racism in Europe show that it developed out of the persecution of Jews and Muslims by Christians. For hundreds of years, when Jews and Muslims had to flee the often severe intolerance of Christian Europe, the more open societies of North Africa and the Middle East provided refuge," said Jagarnath.

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