Hate speech ruling against Bongani Masuku, guest of BRICUP and UCU

Background on Engage:

The British Commission for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) with the University and College Union (UCU), plan to host a speaker, Bongani Masuku, who has been under investigation by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for a complaint of hate speech lodged by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) on March 26th 2009. The SAHRC recently ruled to uphold the complaint, finding that statements Bongani Masuku had made did amount to hate speech.

Copied to the SAJBD, here is the ruling of the South African Human Rights Commission.

From it:

“21. On the day in question Mr Masuku was speaking to students who included both Jewish Zionists and Palestinian supporters. There appeared to already have been noted tension between these two groups. Therefore by Mr Masuku making those remarks he surely intended to incite violence and hatred that was already potentially imminent amongst these two groups. COSATU members of Palestinian supporters present at this rally could easily have been incited to hate, and even attack their Jewish counterparts. This is exactly what Section 16(2) of the Constitution seeks to prevent.

22. Mr Masuku’s heated statements made amidst an already tense audience appeared to advocate hatred against Jews and all other supporters of Israel. This is inciting violence based on religion, an area which freedom of expression does not protect.

23. Mr Masuku in his response to the allegations put to him by the South African Human Rights Commission, states that he was heckled by what he refers to “as a particular section of the audience – most of whom seemed to be members of the South African Union of Jewish Students”. This statement leave little doubt that the references made by him referred to Jews.

24. The statement that “it will be hell” for any group of students, taken in its proper context is intimidatory and threatening. It is conveyed as a warning to the effect that should one support Israel, one would suffer harm. Harm for the purposes of Section 16(2), as confirmed in the Freedom Front decision is wider than mere physical harm.

25. In responding to the allegations relating to the emails sent by him, Mr Masuku fails to deal with the context in which he used the words “…whether Jew or whomsoever does so, must not just be encouraged but forced to leave…” These words in effect come across that unless South Africans agree with his views they should be forced to leave South Africa.

26. In view of the content of the speech made and emails sent by Mr Masuku it is clear that the expressions amount to the advocacy of hatred and thus would not fall under the protection of Section 16(1) of the Constitution.

27. The comments and statements made are of an extreme nature that advocate and imply that the Jewish and Israeli community are to be despised, scorned, ridiculed and thus subjecting them to ill-treatment on the basis of their religious affiliation. A prima facie case of hate speech is clearly established as the statements and comments by Mr. Masuku are offensive and unpalatable to society.


28. In light of the above, the Commission hereby finds that the statements made by Mr. Bongani Masuku amounts to hate speech.”

The University and College Union is willing to sacrifice its anti-racist credibility to welcome and host a person who unashamedly, as an anti-racist and without a trace of irony, demands that his country’s Jews be menaced. This is a perversion of the necessary and valid campaign for Palestinian rights and a perversion of anti-racism.

Update: Harry’s Place – Bongani Masuku’s claimed constitutional right to hate speech. South Africa’s Palestine Solidarity Committee alleges gullibility on the part of their country’s Human Rights Commission, accuse it of issuing “a pack of lies”, accuse South Africa’s organised Jewish community of “constant, frivolous, and false accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’”, and declare their intention to appeal against the ruling above.

BRICUP’s guest Bongani Masuku falls foul of Human Rights Commission

Alana Pugh

The South African Human Rights Commission found that Bongani Masuku’s statements amounted to hate speech.

This post is by Alana Pugh-Jones of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

Bongani Masuku, International Relations Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), will be one of the speakers in the upcoming BRICUP seminar series entitled, ‘Israel, the Palestinians and Apartheid: The Case for Sanctions and Boycotts’.

BRICUP, a an organisation of UK based academics set up in response to the Palestinian Call for Academic Boycott and with the mission to ‘support Palestinian universities, staff and students’ and ‘to oppose the continued illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands’, is hosting numerous talks at universities across the UK. Speakers on the line up include amongst others the former South African Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils and Omar Barghouti of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

But it is the inclusion of Bongani Masuku in a public lecture series, run by a self described academically orientated organization, which is cause for concern.

Mr Masuku currently has a case of hate speech being reviewed against him at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The SA Jewish Board of Deputies laid a formal complaint with the SAHRC against Masuku in March, on the basis of “numerous inflammatory, threatening and insulting statements” he has made against the South African Jewish community. In a press statement, the Board accused Masuku of using “overtly threatening language” in reference to the mainstream Jewish community because of its support for the State of Israel.

Specifically, Masuku had openly and repeatedly stated that COSATU would target Jewish supporters of Israel and “make their lives hell” and urged that “every Zionist must be made to drink the bitter medicine they are feeding our brothers and sisters in Palestine”. He had explicitly demonised South African Jews who, unlike Ronnie Kasrils and others, had not “risen above the fascist parochial paranoia of Israel”, writing that such people could not be expected to be regarded as human beings by people like himself.

Masuku’s various statements were believed to constitute serious breaches of the Prohibition of Hate Speech as contained in the South African Constitution. Public pronouncements declaring that Jews who support Israel are not welcome in South Africa and should be forced to leave, as well as calling on COSATU’s members to target Jewish businesses and to confront Jews who support Israel wherever they might be even if this means doing something that in his own words, “may necessarily cause what is regarded as harm”, prompted the SA Jewish Board of Deputies to take action.

This week, the HRC released its finding, in which it unequivocally found that Masuku’s statements amounted to hate speech and recommended that the matter would best be resolved through litigation before the Equality Court to seek a public apology from him. Whatever the findings may be, inviting someone who openly and consistently promotes threatening action towards a community instead of employing factually based arguments to forward their cause, is a dangerous move which not only serves to undermine whatever merits may exist in the event but will only provide a platform for furthering hatred and tension around the Israel and Palestine debate.

Alana Pugh-Jones
Johannesburg, South Africa

Mira adds:

University and College Union boycotters and BRICUP members, including Mike Cushman, Hilary Rose, Steven Rose, John Chalcraft and Jonathan Rosenhead have ushered anti-Jewish racism into their movement. Their organisation’s uncritical hosting of Bongani Masuku shows that, for them, hatred of Israel is an acceptable substitute for powers of analysis. This is why BRICUP cannot be effective on behalf of Palestinians and why it’s reasonable to speculate that BRICUP’s main concern isn’t Palestinian emancipation, but hatred of Israel.

Update: see Ami’s guest post on Harry’s Place and background from Ben Cohen on Z-Word blog.

Update 2: According to the Facebook group page for Israel, the Palestinians and Apartheid, UCU is co-hosting the Leeds event.

BRICUP dreams of apartheid while the Abraham Fund works for co-existence

BRICUP is touring some boycott celebrity speakers round the country to talk about ‘Israel, the Palestinians and apartheid: the case for sanctions and boycott’. Perhaps somebody could ask Omar Barghouti to kindly explain about Tel Aviv again, for those of us who still don’t understand how he could demand boycott of a really good university, and then go and privilege himself by enrolling there.

Or perhaps we could just give our attention to something better, because meanwhile in the real world Israel has once again brought new meaning to the word ‘apartheid’. A delegation of senior Israeli police officers is visiting Belfast to find out  how to provide a respectful service for minorities:

“The mission, which includes nine brigadier generals from various police departments, is part of an educational program that aims to introduce the officers to practical tools for providing egalitarian and respectful policing services to Israel’s Arab citizens.

The program was developed by the Training and Education Department of the Human Resources Division and the Abraham Fund Initiatives.

This program is part of a joint venture between the Israel Police and the Abraham Fund Initiatives aiming to improve relations between the police and the Arab community. The venture was initiated following the October 2000 events and the publication of the Or Commission recommendations.”

That this has gone ahead under the current Israeli government is a tribute to the Abraham Fund and their friends in the Knesset. As well as advocating for Arab citizens with the Israeli right, the Abraham Fund has to make arguments to Arab citizens who want to turn their backs on Jewish ones. One example is a recent move to boycott “Jewish organisations” by Arab citizens of Sakhnin, to which the Abrahan Fund responded:

“Many of Israel’s supporters understand that just as in the past they contributed toward immigration, absorption, infrastructure development, and project renewal, today the issue of integration of Israel’s Arab citizens is an important and urgent national necessity which needs to be advanced to the top of the agenda.”

To precisely this end, the Abraham Fund is having a global online benefit on December the 9th 2009 during which they will present their work and how it is helping Israeli society. Register to join them real time, free.

Bonus link: The Abraham Fund’s Mohammad Darawshe, speaking in London earlier this year.

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