South African Jewish Leader Tells Parliament: Anti-Israel Sentiment in Country Often Degenerates Into Antisemitism
Anti-Israel sentiment in South Africa often degenerates into antisemitism, a South African Jewish leader told a parliamentary committee in Cape Town last week.
“Fostering hatred and division amongst fellow South Africans is harmful to our society and does nothing whatsoever to bring an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement closer,” Mary Kluk — national president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) — said during an International Relations Portfolio Committee hearing last Friday.
An allAfrica.com report quoted Kluk as further saying, “It has been more than 20 years since democracy, but some organizations like the BDS SA (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions South Africa) are intolerant of Jewish people. These protests are issues that are supposed to be about Israel. There are some Jews who associate themselves with the message of the BDS movement. We welcome their opinions, but calling for Jews to be fired from universities and be killed is not tolerance.”
Kluk was joined in the appearance at parliament by SAJBD Parliamentary Liaison Chaya Singer, South African Jewish Federation Cape Chairman Rowan Polovin, South Africa-Israel Forum Chairman Benji Shulman and South African Friends of Israel Director Jamie Mighty.
According to SAJBD, the group “commended the South African government’s steadfast support for a two-state solution and reiterated the unique role that the country can play in facilitating a resolution to this complex conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
As The Algemeiner reported, violent antisemitic graffiti was found a month ago at the campus of South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), a mere two weeks after a Jewish student was verbally assaulted by an angry mob of protesters.
According to a statement by the South African Union of Jewish Students Countrywide (SAUJS), “Kill a Jew” and “F*** the Jews” — were spray-painted on a wall of a school building.
In a June 2015 interview with The Algemeiner, SAJBD national director Wendy Kahn said the anti-Israel BDS movement in South Africa had become “extremely painful” for the country’s Jewish community.
The movement was “trying to abuse South African history and the South African story for [its] own narrow purposes,” Kahn said. “We don’t see any benefit whatsoever in the BDS strategy. All it’s doing is further polarizing the parties in the Middle East, and it’s causing hostility between fellow South Africans.”
South Africa’s Jewish population is currently estimated to be around 70,000 — down from a 1970s peak of around 120,000 that has fallen in subsequent decades due to steady emigration.