The leader of COSATU in the Western Cape, Tony Ehrenreich, has issued a chilling threat directed against South Africa’s Jewish community. Readers may be reminded of another COSATU official, Bongani Masuku, hosted by BRICUP and UCU back in 2009, despite being deemed guilty of hate speech by the South African Human Rights Commission.
If the Jewish Board of Deputies wants to advance a Zionist agenda, they should leave South Africa and go advance their agenda elsewhere. To let these funders of a war against a defenceless people act with impunity in South Africa, is against South Africa’s commitment to the people of Palestine. The Jewish Board of Deputies must be advised in no uncertain terms that if they are not part of the solution then they are part of the problem.
The Jewish Board of Deputies are given until the 07 August 2014 to stop their Zionist propaganda in Cape Town, failing which we will boycott and call strikes at all of their member – and supporting companies and organisations. The Jewish Board of Deputies should know that just because Premier Zille supports them, it does not mean that they can act with impunity against the will of the majority of South Africans.
R. W. Johnson has responded here. He notes the echoes of earlier antisemitic slurs
The constitution guarantees freedom of speech and of the press but in effect Mr Ehrenreich is trying to insist that these rights do not apply to Jews. Secondly, like anti-Semites through the ages he is attempting to insist that the natural loyalty of Jewish people towards the wider Jewish community means that they thereby disqualify themselves from properly belonging to any country. This was the slur that Stalin cast with his talk of “rootless cosmopolitans” during the so-called “Jewish doctors’ plot”.
and then goes on to identify the inconsistency of Ehrenreich’s approach which singles out Jews for having (perceived) divided loyalties, when similar logic could be applied to Catholics or Muslims:
Yet this weapon is used selectively. After all, it makes just as much sense to attack Catholics for having a supra-national loyalty to the Pope in Rome or Muslims for their loyalty to an international creed centred on Mecca. Logically, Mr Ehrenreich ought to be telling these groups too that they have forfeited their right to belong to the national community and that they too should leave the country. But he doesn’t. He wishes to single out the Jews.
Johnson could have pressed this point further in order to demonstrate the racism inherent in Ehrenreich’s focus on the SAJBD. For supporting Israel’s actions, or at least not wishing to condemn them, is actually very different from professing loyalty to the Pope or holding Mecca in special veneration. The latter two positions are associated exclusively with Catholics and Muslims, whereas many non-Jews have some degree of support or sympathy for Israel. However they will probably not be aligned with a communal organisation such as SABJD, and are most unlikely (unless extremely vocal) to be affected in any way by COSATU’s stand. It is often asserted by Israel’s more zealous critics that the problem is not Jews, but Zionists. However Ehrenreich’s decision to target the SABJD calls that into question, just as did Masuku’s decision to hold an aggressive demonstration outside a Jewish community centre and synagogue back in 2009.