The SAJBD is the umbrella representative spokesbody and civil rights lobby of the SA Jewish community. It promotes the safety and welfare of South African Jewry, including combating antisemitism in all its forms, and builds bridges of friendship and understanding between Jews and the broader South African population.
A delegation of Israeli Members of Parliament (Knesset) is currently on an official visit to South Africa. The delegation has met with leaders across the South African political spectrum, including with the ANC, DA, Cope, ACDP, IFP & FF+. The delegation also met with Jewish and Christian organisations, as well as the Business community.
Since its initial conceptualisation in 1919, the historic Durban Jewish Club has been not only the centre of Jewish communal life in Durban, but a frequently used public space for the broader society. The building itself, "surrounded by bush, rippling dunes of corrugated white sand mingled with ochre earth", was officially opened on 4 May 1931. Since then, it has been host to generations of people, with a history that has witnessed wars and political unrest, conferences and public meetings and music and theatre performances.
“COSATU has got members here even on this campus; we can make sure that for that side it will be hell”
“COSATU is with you, we will do everything to make sure that whether its at Wits University, whether its at Orange Grove, anyone who does not support equality and dignity, who does not support the rights of other people must face the consequences even if it means that we will do something that may necessarily cause what is regarded as harm…”
Determining where the boundary lies between legitimate freedom of expression and prohibited ‘hate speech’ can never be an exact science. During the flurry of debate that took place around the controversial Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill earlier this year, this was something that came through especially strongly. Err too much on one side, and victims of genuinely hurtful and insulting verbal abuse are left without a remedy; err too much on the other, and a fundamental pillar of democracy is undermined.
SAHRC on behalf of South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), Emerge Victorious Against Hate Speech in the Equality Court
Today, the 29th June 2017, the Equality Court, sitting at the South Gauteng High Court, found in favour of the South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission or SAHRC) acting on behalf of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), in a matter against Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) International Relations Spokesperson Bongani Masuku, as first respondent and COSATU as second respondent, for statements Masuku had made in February and March 2009, that have been found to be hate speech. The complaint was brought to the Commission in April 2009.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) welcomes the judgment handed down in the Equality Court this morning confirming that COSATU International Relations Spokesperson Bongani Masuku was guilty of hate speech against the Jewish community. The case was brought by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) after Masuku refused to comply with its ruling on a complaint lodged by the SAJBD in 2009.
Lord Joel Joffe, who passed away in London earlier this week at the age of 85, was a leading human rights lawyer. He was best known for the prominent role he played during the famous Rivonia Trial of 1963-4 as the legal defense team’s attorney. Amongst the leading anti-apartheid activists that he represented in the trial were Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada. After the trial, Joffe settled in the UK, where he gained further renown for his human rights and philanthropic work.
Within hours of hearing about the devastating fires raging through Knysna , South Africans countrywide were provided with a range of options of how they could help those most effected. Within the Jewish community, the SAJBD, working closely with its Cape Town office and the Garden Route Jewish Association, took the lead in assessing the needs of the communities and providing support.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) welcomes the renewed commitment by the ANC to supporting peace initiatives aimed at resolving the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. On Sunday 11 June, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Chair of the ANC NEC subcommittee on International Relations Edna Molewa, and ANC NEC subcommittee member on International Relations and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane reiterated their commitment to a negotiated two-state solution aimed at achieving peaceful co-existence between the different parties.
Yesterday, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) together with the Principal of King David Victory Park Mr Andrew Baker met with Dr Larry Harmer, Principal of Edenvale High. The aim of the meeting was to find a way forward, following an incident that took place when Nazi slogans and gestures were directed against Jewish learners from King David Victory Park by learners from Edenvale High at an inter-school one-act play competition. This was in the context of a performance by King David of the Holocaust-themed drama ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’.
In 1960, the famed archaeologist Yigal Yadin met Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi to report on his latest discoveries in the Judean Desert. As recounted by Yadin, he opened his presentation with the statement: “I am honoured to be able to tell you that we have discovered fifteen dispatches written or dictated by the last President of ancient Israel eighteen hundred years ago”.
When my children were in primary school, they had no idea what their Mum did as a job. I didn’t fit in the mould as a doctor, lawyer, speech therapist or teacher. When it came to careers’ day in grade 2 they asked me to come in and talk to the kids but my talk was met with blank stares. I never handed out surgical masks or Nandos burgers. I was just a lady with a complicated story.
I have no illusions about `Israel Apartheid Week’ (IAW) being an antisemitic hatefest with BDS and their cohorts dressing up as human rights activists and using this platform to spew hatred against SA Jewry.
What struck us this year was how hard the BDS folk tried to convince the public that IAW wasn’t antisemitic. It was definitely a case of `the lady protesteth too much’. One of the opeds on this theme, which appeared in the Sunday Tribune on the eve of IAW, was by SA Jews for a Free Palestine activist Sheila Barsel, who dogmatically dismissed our claims of antisemitism as being not `accurate’.
It is remarkable that, seventy two years after the Holocaust, a seemingly never-ending amount of new material on the tragedy continues to emerge. Surely by this time, the history of this period, should have already been told. Yet, on an almost daily basis, new stories are coming to light and fresh research (thanks in large part to the recent opening of Eastern European archives) is being undertaken. New books are being written, while educators are constantly looking for ways to ensure the Holocaust is never forgotten.
The Pesach 2017 issue of Jewish Affairs has just come off the presses and posted on the SAJBD’s Website. Click here to read it. The printed version will be mailed to subscribers shortly.
Last month, the editorial board of Jewish Affairs lost one of its most loyal and long-standing members, Dr Elaine Katz. An obituary to Elaine will appear in the next (Rosh Hashanah) issue of the journal.
Jewish South Africans who have made their mark – the areas of involvement covered include the medical field, book trading, Indian civil rights, agriculture and provincial rugby – feature in the first section of this issue. Two of them – the trade unionist and Vanguard Bookshop founder and owner Fanny Klenerman and Gandhi’s strong-willed, devoted young secretary Sonja Schlesin – receive an occasional mention in mainstream histories. The articles by Dr Veronica Belling and Harriet Feinberg respectively look at the lives and careers of these two bold, unconventional Jewish women who, in their different ways, were so far ahead of their times.
During these troubled times for our young democracy, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) calls on all citizens to unite in confronting corruption and maladministration, protecting the Constitution and fostering a stable economic and political environment. It is undeniable that the principles of accountability and good governance are being seriously undermined and that the interests of isolated factions and individuals appear to be getting precedence over those of the country as a whole. Regardless of race, political affiliation and social background, South Africans must work together in confronting these serious problems.
In January, the independent TV station ANN7 organised a panel debate on security in Sandringham for a programme it was making on the subject. It was reported that one of the panellists, Zahir Omar (of the Muslim Lawyers Association of SA), made explicitly antisemitic comments during the discussion.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies joins all South African in mourning the loss of Ahmed Kathrada, one of the founding fathers of our democracy and anti-Apartheid stalwart. The heroism and self-sacrifice that he showed in taking a stand against injustice will be his enduring legacy. Our condolences go to his family and friends.
All South Africans have an equal right to safety and security, regardless of where they might be living. This means that equal attention needs to be paid to addressing problems of crime and violence that occur outside the main urban areas.
Confronted with the charge that Israel is equivalent to Apartheid South Africa, it is tempting simply to retort that it is probably the only country in the Middle East that is not an apartheid state. One could further make an ostensibly compelling case as to why this is so. Take the example of Iran, where the only non-Muslims allowed to become Members of Parliament are those elected by their respective communities to the five seats reserved for religious minorities. Does this not call to mind the separate seats for ‘Bantu’ and ‘Coloured’ representatives elected on separate voters’ rolls in the apartheid parliament? In Yemen, there reportedly remain restrictions on Jews with regard to places of residence - Group Areas Act?
At the opening of this year’s “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW), former President Kgalema Motlanthe warned the BDS organisers of the event against allowing antisemitism to creep into their campaign: “Antisemitic actions couched in the language of human rights, and disguised by its discourse cannot be countenanced. Such actions not only undermine the humanity of a people, and entrench a painful history, but also serve to undermine our commitment to principled and moral action. It is crucial that the struggle for human rights and an end to oppression be absolutely severed from such religious intolerance and bigotry.”
“Israel Apartheid Week will be a trap for Israel and will move us closer to the liquidation of the Zionist entity”. Thus did Radio Islam announce the launch of IAW earlier this week, and in all honesty, it was refreshing to hear the true purpose of that initiative presented in such clear, unambiguous terms. For IAW’s proponents, the key to Israel’s demise lies in pushing a global boycott campaign against it. As the thinking goes, just as white South Africa was brought to its knees in this way, so will “Apartheid Israel” eventually be consigned to history.
For the SA Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) at Wits, this year’s instalment of the anti-Israel propaganda festival known as “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW) got off to a predictably rocky start. On arriving on Monday morning to set up our stands on the section of the Great Hall piazza allocated to SAUJS, as per agreement with the University, we were aggressively confronted by Palestinian Solidarity Committee members, who attempted to remove or tear down our displays and jostled, verbally abused and threatened our members.
It was both predictable and inevitable that this year’s Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) would result in incidences of antisemitism. The Piazza at the Wits University Campus was divided into two separate areas to allow space to both pro-Israel under the banner of SA Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) and the BDS movement under the banner of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) to present their views.