The Human Rights Commission is a national institution of post apartheid South Africa. Part of the antidote to the old racist system, and independent of government, this institution functions as the linchpin of the new constitution which endows the rainbow nation with a set of legal and democratic guarantees.
The Human Rights Commission ruled last week that the statements of Mongani Masuku on the subject of Israel amounted to antisemitic hate speech. He is a senior official in the South African trade union movement and is currently in the UK on a trip paid for by the University and College Union to promote the exclusion of Israelis, and only Israelis, from the global academic community.
The Human Rights Commission does not makes its judgments frivolously. The Human Rights Commission is aware of the distinction between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. The Human Rights Commission is not pro-Israel and is not concerned with defending the reputation of Israel. It is concerned with racism.
Masuku has openly and repeatedly stated that South African trade unions would target Jewish supporters of Israel in South Africa and “make their lives hell”. He urges that “every Zionist must be made to drink the bitter medicine they are feeding our brothers and sisters in Palestine”.
The Human Rights Commission recognized unequivocally that using anti-Israel rhetoric, Masuku has attempted to mobilize South African trade unionists against Jews in South Africa – against the vast majority of them anyway, those who do not identify themselves as anti-Zionist. Masuku believes that Jews who are not anti-Zionist are “agents of apartheid and friends of Hitler” and he proposes to relate to them as though they were both.
UCU has paid for this man to tour Britain’s campuses to make the argument for a boycott of Israeli universities.
Surely, when it is explained to UCU that Masuku is here to use antisemitic hate speech then it will realise that it has made a mistake?
But no. The distinction between criticism of Israel and antisemitism has been explained to UCU countless times over the past decade but UCU is not interested and it continues to turn a blind eye to antisemitism.
A UCU spokesperson told a journalist from the Jerusalem Post that the sources of the evidence against Masuku was not credible.
“We don’t comment on stuff doing the rounds on the Internet and in the blogosphere and never will,” he told the Post.
The UCU spokesperson does not understand who the South African Human Rights Commission is or the significance of what it has judged.
But there is nothing new about this. UCU has demonstrated repeatedly that it is simply not bothered by antisemitism if it comes packaged in the language of criticism of Israel.
Jews in UCU have been bullied, have resigned, have been pushed out and have been silenced. The situation is so serious that at the last UCU Congress there were no Jews left who were prepared to oppose the boycott campaign.