Cartoons in the Lenasia Times are the latest in a series of “anti-Semitic activities” cited by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies.
In a report compiled by the Board of Deputies for the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University, newspapers such as the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Tribune, Independent on Saturday and Lenasia Times have been singled out.
The report titled “Anti-Semitism in South Africa: SAJBD Report for 2001”, published in the Jewish Affairs for Autumn 2002, says that the overt anti-Israel bias of the mainstream media and of the South African government became increasingly marked. It points out that “anti-Semitic propaganda mainly emanated from elements within the Muslim community.”
It lists groups such as Qibla, Islamic Unity Convention, Muslim Judicial Council, Iraqi Action Committee, Islamic Propagation Centre International as well as the Media Review Network.
It says the MJC was formerly regarded as a “moderate organization” but has now “taken an increasingly hard-line stance on the Middle East.”
It accuses the IPCI for issuing “an anti-Semitic poster” at the World Conference Against Racism and reports that the Deedats had “close links with the bin Laden Family.”
The MRN is described as a “particularly vocal radical Islamist grouping”, whose activities have extended far beyond those of a mere media advocacy group. It accuses MRN’s senior members as having “met with the leadership of Hamas and Islamic Jihad” and for bringing out Dr Uri Davis who is labeled as an “extreme anti-zionist Jewish academic.”
Not even the Minister for Public Service and Administration Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi is spared. She is accused of contrasting the ANC’s commitment to non-racism and non-sexism with the attitude of “Shylock, the Jew, in the Merchant of Venice.”
The South African Communist Party spokesperson, Mazibuko Jara is cited too, for having said that the SACP was concerned that the SA Jewish community was “financially assisting the Israeli government to suppress the Palestinian people.”
Tim Modise, Thami ka Plaatjie, Ronnie Kasrils and Mercia Andrews are listed as well.
About Lenasia Times, the report refers to a “series of crudely drawn cartoons, making up an Islamic extremist’s most wanted list.” It charges that the accompanying captions relating to Arafat, Clinton, Albright and Kissinger were “extremely anti-Semitic.”
In a sub-heading titled “Responses to racism and Anti-Semitism”, the report refers to SAJBD’s protracted legal battle with Radio 786 over an hour-long programme during May 1998, which it accuses as having featured “many instances of anti-Semitism and holocaust denial.”
In an ironical twist to this report, a ruling delivered a few days ago, the Broadcast Monitoring Complaints Committee (BMCC) of ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of SA), dismissed the complaint by the SJBD against Radio 786.
A full four years later, the Acting Chairperson of the BMCC, Advocate Roland Sutherland SC, stated that it is in his view unarguable that under the South African Constitution, the articulation of criticism and the expression of opinions which incense the sensibility of others who hold the contrary opinions “must be endured with forbearance in the interests of freedom of speech.”
Sutherland also found there was “no attack in the broadcast on the Jewish religion or Jews as such, and the vituperative criticism is reserved solely for the Zionist Movement and those whom the broadcast claims are its allies.”
This ruling, following a lengthy and fierce legal battle is significant for it effectively strips the SAJBD of any pretext to prevent criticism of Israel, especially the ruse of anti-Semitism.
(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)