Jewish Board of Deputies takes BLF's Mngxitama to Equality Court over Holocaust tweets

Cape Town - The South African Jewish Board of Deputies on Tuesday launched an Equality Court case against Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mngxitama, saying his recent tweets mocked the orchestrated murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

The SAJBD in its court papers said it wanted the court to impose a fine of R150 000, order Mngxitama to apologise on Twitter, remove the offending posts and participate in an education programme at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre.

The SAJBD filed their complaint at the Johannesburg High Court on Tuesday, just over a week after Mngxitama tweeted, “For those claiming the legacy of the holocaust is ONLY negative think about the lampshades and Jewish soap.” 

He later tweeted, “I concur with @helenzille that the aroma of the burning flesh from the furnaces of the holocaust may wet [sic] the appetite of the S.A. cannibals.”

The tweet was possibly a reference to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille's controversial tweets earlier in the year when she said the legacy of colonialism was not all negative.

Zille later apologised.

WATCH: Zille apologises for colonialism tweet

In its supporting affidavit, SAJBD national director Wendy Kahn said it had received a number of complaints from the Jewish community after the “highly offensive and hateful comment” was made.

The tweet was reported on locally and internationally, but Mngxitama “expressed no regret about what he had posted”.

“[He] on the contrary justified it by saying that it had had the intended effect of drawing attention to certain controversial comments about colonialism made on an earlier occasion by Zille, who he claimed is Jewish,” Kahn said.

The references to lampshades and Jewish soap allude to the belief that during World War II, the skins and body fat of murdered Jews was used by the Nazi regime to manufacture lampshades and soap, she explained in her affidavit.

Demean Jewish people 

 “While some historians have since discredited this theory in view of the necessary evidence being lacking, the belief still widely persists and is utilised too on a fairly regular basis by those wishing to taunt, humiliate or otherwise demean Jewish people. 

“In addition to belittling the sense of collective trauma that Jewish people continue to experience over the Nazi genocide against Jewry, scoffing references to ‘soap’ and ‘lampshades’ effectively deny the essential humanity and dignity of Jewish people by mocking them.”

Mngxitama’s second comment on “burning flesh from the furnaces of the holocaust may wet [sic] the appetite of the S.A. cannibals” referred to the mass cremation of Jewish corpses in the Nazi concentration camps, Kahn said.

“Since the Holocaust, the theme of Jewish persons being burned [alive] in ovens and furnaces has been a commonplace in anti-Semitic abuse and propaganda, whether it is celebrated as something that Jews brought on themselves by their alleged criminal behaviour, made the subject of anti-Jewish ‘jokes’ or even invoked as something that should be repeated.

“Typically, Jews are mockingly likening to ashes, which like the ‘soap’ and ‘lampshades’ slurs, serves to dehumanise them altogether.”

Mngxitama’s “deeply hurtful and offensive” tweets also resulted in a number of overtly anti-Semitic comments on Twitter, with several of these being sent directly to Jewish people, Khan said.

Mngxitama told News24 that he "looks forward to meeting" the SAJBD in court. 

He said colonialism was the holocaust of black people. 

"Their [SAJBD's] arrogance is outstanding and is typical white ignorance.... black suffering is not something that registers in the white imagination."

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