Bongani Masuku and COSATU found guilty of antisemitic hate speech in the SA Equality Court

On 29 June Judgment was handed down in Johannesburg’s Equality Court, unequivocally upholding a South African Human Rights Commission ruling that Cosatu international relations spokesman Bongani Masuku had been guilty of anti-Semitic hate speech.

In 2009, he threatened at Wits University to mobilise Cosatu members on campus to make life there “hell” for people he called “Zionists”. He threatened violence, “with immediate effect” against families in SA whose children had moved to Israel and served in its army.

He threatened concrete harm against people who lived in Orange Grove, known as a Jewish neighbourhood, who did not agree with him about Israeli politics. On a website, Masuku wrote about the overwhelming majority of living Jews, those who in one way or another identify with Israel, as though they were supporters of racism and fascism.

To drive his point home about those Jews, including those who live in SA, he wrote Hitler was their friend.

Masuku said those Jews he defines as “Zionists” should be forced out of SA.

He threatened to make the people in SA, whom he defined in this way, drink “bitter medicine”.

Follow this link for a piece by David Hirsh in the SA press, which outlines the importance of the case.

Masuku and COSATU persistently mis-represent what they did as “criticism of Israel” and as “solidarity with the Palestinians”: “This was not just a trial against COSATU and its International Secretary, Bongani Masuku,” said COSATU, “but effectively a trial against workers rights to offer solidarity, freedom of expression and the struggle for justice and dignity for all.”

Follow this link for the response from COSATU

In its response COSATU divides Jews into good Jews and bad Jews, Jews who are with the struggle and Jews who are against the struggle.  The representative institutions of the Jewish community are defined as being pro-aprtheid, pro-imperialist, dishonest, Zionist and racist.  On the other hand, COSATU says that “The proud record of heroic Jews in our ranks, who selflessly fought against apartheid, such as Joe Slovo, the former Chief of Staff of the ANC military wing, Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK), Dennis Goldberg Rivonia trialist with former President Nelson Mandela, and many other great stalwarts of our revolution, will forever inspire our struggle for full equality, freedom and justice for all.”

This dishonest characterization of South African Jews portrays most ordinary Jews who identify, in one way or another, with Israel as being racist and pro-apartheid while it portrays antizionist Jews as the only good antiracist Jews.

In the trial before the Equality Court, COSATU relied upon the expert testimony of an antizionist Jew, Steven Friedman.  The judge was clear in his judgment that “as a Jew” does not constitute expertise.  He wrote that Friedman’s evidence was “trite” and “partisan”.  He wrote: “Although the evidence shows that Friedman has immense interest in these matters, these have not been the focus of his academic career”.

Follow this link for the full judgment.

Follow this link for the expert witness testimony of David Hirsh, which explains the issues in the case and which goes through the complex relationships between hostility to Israel, antisemitism and Jewish identity.

We in Britain first knew of Bongani Masuku in 2009 when the University and College Union (UCU) invited COSATU to send a delegate to a behind-closed-doors conference on boycotting Israel.

A year later, UCU had time to think carefully about what Mr Masuku had said, and to understand the significance of the Human Rights Commissions finding of antisemitism.  Michael Yudkin, a world renowned scientist, took a motion to UCU Congress from the Oxford branch. The motion said‘Congress dissociates itself from Masuku’s repugnant views.’  UCU Congress explicitly refused to dissociate itself in that way from Mr Masuku’s antisemitism.

Follow this link for the motion which was passed at UCU Congress, refusing to dissociate itself from Bongani Masuku’s “repugnant” views.

Follow this link for David Hirsh’s piece in the Jewish Chronicle about Masuku and the UCU.

Follow this link for the analysis written by Jeff Samuels QC of the Masuku judgment. 







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