A shocking display of Jew-baiting

2009-02-04 00:00

By and large, we South Africans have much to be proud of — until recently. We have to ask ourselves how, in a mere 14 years we have so rapidly declined to being faced with a likely leadership represented by such luminaries as Jacob Zuma, Julius Malema, et al.

From almost nowhere, we are aware of a new persona in our midst, one whose name only days ago, would have meant little to most of us — Fatima Hajaig, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Whether this woman will remain at her post or be summarily dismissed for gross abuse of her position, coupled with utterances that can be accurately construed as “hate speech” directed at the Jews of South Africa, is the question.

Two events highlighted the deputy minister’s true colours, a meeting called by herself with the ambassador of Israel, Dov Segev-Steinberg, within a few days of Israel’s assault against Hamas, followed some days later by a public gathering which she addressed at Laudium, an area with pro-Palestinian leanings.

Organised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions in association with the Palestinian Solidarity Committee, the South African Council of Churches and NGOs, the meeting unequivocally (and predictably) defined the sole villain as Israel with the Gazans as the sole victims.

In her address Hajaig stated (as broadcast on Radio Islam) that “America, as well as other Western countries, is in the grip of Jewish money power. They, in fact, control [America] no matter which government comes into power, whether Republican or Democratic, whether Barack Obama or George W. Bush. The control of most Western countries is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country then you cannot expect anything else.” This enlightened insight into the spectre of Jewish money influencing and controlling world events was met with rapturous approval by the crowd.

This is a shocking and dangerous display of Jew-baiting that would have found comfort with anything uttered by the emerging Nazi party in the thirties. Predictably, threatening statements followed against the local Jewish community — that those with Zionist sympathies must be expelled from the country and that action was warranted against South African Jews serving in the Israel Defence Forces.

Finally, echoes of Nazi Germany were evoked by a proposal to boycott so-called “Jewish businesses”. An extensive list was provided so that everyone knew exactly who to target.

At the acrimonious meeting with Steinberg, Hajaig asked whether Elias Inbram, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent and spokesman for the embassy, who accompanied Steinberg, was “a token black”.

“When your colleagues in Europe attend a meeting such as this do they also take someone along such as the person sitting next to you?” When Steinberg replied that he failed to understand the question, the minister turned to her aide and remarked: “I think we are dealing with an ambassador who doesn’t understand questions.”

One can only wonder whether she would have posed the same question to the United States Ambassador Eric Bost, an African-American, or Raymond Brown — also an African-American — who occupies the position of councillor for Political Affairs. I dare say, not.

If we are to assume that this despicable tirade by the deputy minister is acceptable to our government then we are in serious trouble. It would clearly indicate that internal discipline at the highest level has not only broken down, but that ministers can willfully incite hatred against a minority group of their choosing without fear of retribution. Further, it would show that essential elements of human rights, which are enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, are in clear danger of being discarded.

One can only ask, in the interests of not only the Jewish minority but the entire country, whose concern about this xenophobic display should be equal, and what would constitute an appropriate response? A mere apology, issued by the minister on the instruction of her superiors would be meaningless. Nothing short of her sacking would eliminate the cancer she has propagated. Will the government have the guts to do this ? Past history does not engender much hope.

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