Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Ellul 5761 - August 29, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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South African Jews Battered By Anti-Israel Frenzy, Bracing for Conference
by D. Saks, South African correspondent and Yated Ne'eman Staff

The world press is covering Israel's problems over the upcoming World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, at the end of this week, but South Africa's own Jews are having related troubles of their own that have so far been ignored in the general press.

South Africa's 80,000 strong Jewish community continues to be subjected to what may be the most virulent anti-Israel propaganda in the country's history in the buildup to the conference. The United States announced that Secretary of State Colin Powell will not attend, and that it may not even send a lower-ranking delegation if offensive items are not deleted from the agenda.

If the U.S. does not attend, it will rob the conference of much of its prestige.

However, as preparations for the high-profile UN conference are completed, anti-Israel activity country-wide in South Africa has been raised to new levels, including hostile media coverage, demonstrations and protest prayer gatherings. For the first time, South African Jews have also begun to be singled out for attack for their traditional support of the Jewish state.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the South African Communist Party expressed his party's concern at allegations that the South African Jewish community was helping to "finance the oppression of the Palestinian people."

The Jewish Board of Deputies released a press statement strongly condemning these statements while pointing out that funds raised by the local Jewish community for Israel were used for humanitarian purposes only. The Communist Party, which is numerically small but which has traditionally exercised considerable behind-the-scenes influence with the ruling African National Congress, claimed its spokesman had been misquoted and that it had only been referring to certain sectors of the Jewish population.

Ronnie Kasrils, a Jewish member of the Communist Party and current Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs, commented in the press that while many individual Jews had been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy in South Africa, they had mostly been atheists and supporters of the Palestinian cause.

In Cape Town, the biggest protest rally to have taken place in South Africa in over half a decade was held with about 15,000 people, mostly Muslims, taking to the streets to call for South Africa to sever all ties with Israel. Shortly afterwards, the Anglican church in Cape Town held an inter- denominational solidarity prayer meeting to express support for the Palestinians. During the preceding week, the virulently anti-Zionist academic Uri Davis was in South Africa to promote his book Israel and Apartheid. Davis, a former Israeli who now lectures at Nablus University, was given wide coverage by all sectors of the local media and also addressed several gatherings at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Russell Gaddin, National Chairman of the Jewish Board of Deputies, urged the Jewish community to be strong in the face of the propaganda onslaught, saying that he believed the levels of anti-Israel rhetoric would drop once the Durban conference was over. The Board of Deputies is coordinating the efforts of various international Jewish organizations at the conference, including the World Jewish Congress, Anti- Defamation League and American Jewish Committee.


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