The South African Jewish Board of Deputies urges South Africans, when commenting on issues of public concern, to avoid resorting to antisemitic hate speech, including sinister invocations of behind-the-scenes Jewish financial domination. It is becoming more commonplace for those in leadership to refer to “Jewish based entities” somehow being behind financial institutions and manipulating politics through economic power.
Conspiracy theories such as these thrive in societies experiencing high levels of socio-economic and political turmoil. When those in positions of power make such statements, there is a real cause for concern.
This kind of discourse is clearly racist, and is antithetical to the kind of democratic, anti-racist values on which any socially cohesive society is predicated. Negative Jewish stereotyping, and the innate irrationality of attributing extraordinary, as well as malign power to members of a particular ethno-religious group is further indicative of something fundamentally unhealthy in our society.
For all its current travails, the requisite democratic structures are in place in South Africa to enable its people to confront and successfully overcome the many serious challenges currently facing our country. That presupposes, however, that South Africans are united by a common desire to strive together to achieve those goals, and for that, sufficient levels of mutual trust, empathy and respect are needed. This is why the growing prevalence of hostile racial rhetoric, of which anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are just one part, poses such a serious problem to the national well-being.