South African Court’s Guilty Verdict Against Antisemitic Writer for Online Rant Hailed by Jewish Community
A court in South Africa has pronounced the first-ever criminal verdict in a case of antisemitism, after it found a freelance journalist guilty of posting abusive tweets targeted at the Jewish community on Twitter.
Matome Letsoalo — a former contributor to the online South African outlet News24 — was found guilty following a hearing last Friday at Randburg Magistrate’s Court near Johannesburg.
Letsoalo will appear in court again this Friday to receive sentencing.
During 2018, Letsoalo posted a series of violently antisemitic tweets laced with obscenities from an account that was subsequently shut down.
In one tweet directed at South Africa’s Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), he wrote: The #Holocaust Will be like A Picnic When we are done with all you Zionist Bastards. F*** All Of You.”
Another targeting the same organization read: “@SAJBD Must get Decimated. We Can’t Have these Scandinavian Rats, Fake Jews, Zionist Bastards Running our Economy.”
He also posted distressing Holocaust photographs, a swastika and images of a burning Israeli flag.
When criticized online for calling Jews “rats” and “scum,” he posted a picture of a semi-automatic weapon and tweeted, “I’m ready for you.”
The SAJBD hailed last week’s court verdict as “a major step forward in the battle against online antisemitism.”
The board’s president, Wendy Kahn, said in a statement: “This outcome sends a strong message that threatening and hate-filled attacks on our community will not be tolerated and that the SAJBD will do everything necessary to bring those responsible to justice, no matter how long it takes.”
The lawyer who represented the SAJBD said in a separate statement that the two years spent attempting to prosecute Letsoalo had been worth it.
“We will continue to assist in the prosecution of those that attack our community, seemingly with impunity, and we hope that this conviction will be a lesson to those who do so,” Ian Levitt said.
According to the South African Jewish Report, “Letsoalo has been blocked or suspended from Facebook and Twitter, and he doesn’t appear on News24 anymore.” The publication noted that “disturbing tweets going back as far as 2014 allegedly show him to be openly antisemitic and racist.”