We must re­li­giously show tol­er­ance

The Star Early Edition - - FOOD VERVE -

Charisse Zeifert is head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

LAST Mon­day morn­ing started on a high note if you were lis­ten­ing to SAfm’s Fo­rum@8 with Sak­ina Kamwendo.

The dis­cus­sion was “Re­li­gious Tol­er­ance” and the five speak­ers, each rep­re­sent­ing a dif­fer­ent faith com­mu­nity, were in agree­ment: South Africans need to be more tol­er­ant of each other, lead­er­ship needs to en­sure that the var­i­ous faiths work to­gether in syn­ergy and ed­u­ca­tion about one an­other is cru­cial.

The Mul­lah ex­pressed his ap­pre­ci­a­tion that the re­spec­tive faiths had reached out to the Mus­lim com­mu­nity to con­demn the re­cent mosque des­e­cra­tions in the Western Cape, in­clud­ing the de­posit­ing of a pig’s snout in one of them, while the rabbi was at pains to ex­plain the be­nign na­ture of Halaal and Kosher signs on food prod­ucts.

How­ever, the good­will ex­pressed by the pan­el­lists was not present in many of the SMSs and com­ments made by the lis­ten­ers. These spoke to a dif­fer­ent re­al­ity on the ground: anger, frus­tra­tion, and fre­quently, out and out prej­u­dice.

In this en­vi­ron­ment, scape­goat­ing be­comes in­evitable, with mi­nor­ity groups in­vari­ably be­ing sin­gled out. Add to this mix our cur­rent volatile po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, and all too of­ten Jews end up as be­ing the prover­bial “foot­ball” kicked around for po­lit­i­cal gain.

Take, for ex­am­ple, an ar­ti­cle that ap­peared in the City Press last week, dis­cussing the po­lit­i­cal suc­ces­sion de­bate in the ANC. This re­ported that in cer­tain quar­ters Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa was be­ing de­scribed as a li­a­bil­ity to the party be­cause he was “in the pock­ets of the Jews”.

In an­other ex­am­ple, also re­ported by City Press in Novem­ber last year, Ed­ward Zuma stated as fact the spu­ri­ous claim that “min­ing li­cences are given to Jews”.

Around the same time, fol­low­ing #FeesMustFall-re­lated anti-Jewish graf­fiti ap­pear­ing on Wits Univer­sity cam­pus, Twit­ter dis­cus­sions around state cap­ture re­sulted in ac­cu­sa­tions that “whites and Jews per­fected state cap­ture in 1900”.

For­mer Western Cape ANC chair­per­son Mar­ius Frans­man has been es­pe­cially culpable of play­ing the Jewish fi­nan­cial con­spir­acy card. Speak­ing on Voice of the Cape on Fe­bru­ary 26, 2013, in what was self-ev­i­dently a ploy to elicit Mus­lim sup­port for his party, he as­serted that Western Cape Jewry was un­fairly ben­e­fit­ing at the ex­pense of Mus­lims be­cause of the poli­cies of the DA .

(“We saw that the DA had given over build­ing contracts in the Bo-Kaap as well as lots of contracts in Woodstock and Ob­ser­va­tory that his­tor­i­cally were in the hands of Mus­lim par­tic­i­pants and now they have given it to peo­ple from the Jewish com­mu­nity”).

Later that year, he again sin­gled out Jews as be­ing es­pe­cially guilty of ben­e­fit­ing at the ex­pense of the ma­jor­ity pop­u­la­tion, stat­ing that “98 per­cent of the land own­ers and prop­erty own­ers ac­tu­ally is the white com­mu­nity and, in par­tic­u­lar, peo­ple in the Jewish com­mu­nity”.

These and sim­i­lar such in­ci­dents are part of a grow­ing trend in which con­spir­acy the­o­ries al­leg­ing Jewish con­trol of global fi­nance and the sin­gling out and scape­goat­ing of Jews specif­i­cally for South Africa’s ills are be­com­ing a com­mon fea­ture of po­lit­i­cal dis­course.

Such no­tions are both racist and fac­tu­ally base­less. They con­sti­tute clas­sic anti-Semitic modes of think­ing that his­tor­i­cally have been ex­ploited the world over to both pro­mote and jus­tify dis­crim­i­na­tion, and some­times even vi­o­lent at­tacks, against Jewish com­mu­ni­ties.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has been ac­tively and con­sis­tently call­ing for hate crimes leg­is­la­tion to be im­ple­mented in this coun­try. We work to­gether with other or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing the Hate Crimes Work­ing Group, to ed­u­cate against the sin­gling out for at­tack, any com­mu­nity be­cause of its colour, faith, eth­nic­ity, re­li­gion or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. We do so be­cause we know that hate crimes be­gin with hate speech.

In a so­ci­ety that strug­gles with in­ci­dences of racism, and where iden­tity has long been used as a means of marginal­is­ing and re­press­ing peo­ple, we urge all po­lit­i­cal par­ties and good cit­i­zens to es­chew this kind of lan­guage and in­stil and prac­tise the cul­ture of tol­er­ance and re­spect that our coun­try so dearly needs. Our re­li­gious lead­ers talk­ing that morn­ing on SAfm were on the same page. The chal­lenge is to get all the good peo­ple of this coun­try to follow, so that racist scape­goat­ing and con­spir­acy the­o­ris­ing re­mains lim­ited to the fringes of public dis­course, where it be­longs.

ACTS OF HATE: In a se­ries of re­cent hurt­ful at­tacks, a mosque in Kalk Bay was bro­ken into and des­e­crated, and a pig’s snout was left at the door of one in Si­mon’s Town.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.