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.”