Enough of intimidation & blackmail against those who seek to exercise their basic Constitutional Rights

Earlier this year, the ANC repeatedly denounced artist DJ Black Coffee simply for exercising his democratic right to perform in Israel. Then civil society went for journalist Gareth Cliff, depicting him as a moral pariah for daring to put forward an alternate opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Now Dr Mpho Phalatse, MMC for the DA in Gauteng, has become the target of hysterical condemnation for having expressed support for Israel at a South African Friends of Israel conference on Sunday.  This is despite her subsequent clarification that she did so in her personal capacity. 

These are just the most recent instances of attempts to silence South Africans who challenge the anti-Israel narrative. It is all part of an environment in which Israel is being demonised to a degree that bears no relationship to reality. The propagandist whipping up of emotion aims at ensuring that only one opinion on the subject will be allowed, with anyone who disagrees with that narrow-minded, usually agenda-driven, opinion becoming a target for vilification. 

Anti-Israel bigotry does not merely threaten the rights of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of South Africans who are passionate supporters of Israel. It also poses a serious threat to democracy in our country. South Africa has one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world, one that guarantees freedom of association and freedom of expression. Despite this, those who express support for Israel, or increasingly those that express differing or dissenting views on a broad range of topics, face horrendous intimidation, hate speech and attempts at silencing them, not just from members of the general public but, much more seriously, from the political establishment as well. Dr Mpho Phalatse has become the latest target of this totalitarian strategy.

This is an unacceptable situation. Ours is a democracy that entitles every one of us to hold and express differing opinions. We call on all South Africans to stand up against those who resort to bullying and intimidation to prevent others from exercising that inalienable right. 

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The SAJBD was heartened by an email we received from Mr Solly Hattia, a member of the Muslim community.

“My experiences living amongst a Jewish community.  My first engagement with Jewish people began when the company I worked for merged with a Jewish family-owned-business and to whom I was then to report to as my new CEO.  My first encounter with my new Boss, Ronnie Norwitz, was on a Friday when he came down to my office at around 12 looked at his watch and said “Solly aren't you going to be late for your Friday prayer?”  Never before in all my years of working, had I ever had this courtesy from a boss!  His other interesting comment on my return from the Mosque was all ways, "Friday's are good days ".  Ronnie would always say this with the gesture of a clenched fist swinging his arm through the air as if he was going to hit someone.  He always greeted me with a smile and a kind word.  Braai days at work you would find him at my fire naturally. 

THE REAL PROBLEM WITH IQBAL JASSAT’S LATEST SCREED

At the biennial conference of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies Gauteng Council next week, Gauteng Jewry will have the first opportunity of engaging directly with President Ramaphosa since his assumption of the presidency earlier this year. Rather than delivering the traditional keynote address, Mr Ramaphosa will be exchanging views with eminent business leader Stephen Koseff on challenges currently facing South Africa, what the Jewish community is (or could be) doing to help address them and how each sees the future of the country and its people. In other words, it is not about what this country should be doing to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian, or any other foreign policy issue, but is framed as being a South African conversation between fellow South Africans on South African issues.