Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

Cosatu: Anti-Semitic?

Readers who are of a mind to do so may scroll back and go through articles where I have tackled Islamophobia. This is an exercise I have done repeatedly not for any recognition but because I believe that intolerance is an evil which should not be allowed to go unchecked. It has also included an ongoing struggle against homophobia, misogyny and all the other hatreds that seem to afflict the human race.

This time out I want to look at anti-Semitism in light of Cosatu’s decision to march to the offices of Beyachad, a Jewish community centre in Raedene, a densely populated Jewish residential area, as opposed to the Israeli Embassy.

South Africa, as we have repeatedly seen, has steadfastly refused to deal effectively with racists and bigots at parliamentary level, which has only served to intensify the spreading of intolerance, which has had and will continue to have serious consequences. The xenophobia we witnessed last year was sufficient warning of how ugly this can become. Yet repeatedly we have seen ministers and deputy ministers making racist remarks seemingly with impunity.

Across the hallway one of the ANC’s alliance partners, Cosatu, decided that they would illegally demonstrate outside local Jewish offices in Johannesburg. In essence that any feelings towards Israel regarding the Palestinian conflict should be directed at the local Jewish community and not against Israel or that old hoary chestnut, the Zionists. This was not aimed at the Israeli Embassy nor was there a Zionist gathering worthy of targeting — just simple raw anti-Semitism aimed at the local Jewish community.

Cosatu are of course free to correct me if I’m wrong — perhaps they might even be able to set out how, during this march, they delineated between those Jews who are Israelis, those who are Zionists and those who are Jews but do not fall into either of the other two groups. What about those Jews who are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. Was Cosatu’s desperate need to display their hatred of Jews too compelling to waste time on the niceties? While they’re doing this exercise perhaps they might also confirm who decided not only on the march but where it should take place.

More importantly Cosatu should now set out for us when it was, and by whom it was decided, that South Africans should start to vent ill-feeling regarding overseas confrontations on local communities? In time they may well see that calling this a dangerous precedent is the understatement of 2009.

If we as South Africans allow this as the way forward then we will be opening up a Pandora’s box that might never be closed. By way of example and using the conduct of Cosatu to guide us, what you are inviting is inter alia a Hindu-Jewish march against the Muslim community to express outrage over Mumbai, perhaps a black African Muslim march against the Muslim community to protest Darfur, a feminist march against Islam regarding the blowing up of girls’ schools in Pakistan and on and on ad nauseam. Indeed if regard is had to the global Islamic community right now, extremists are currently involved in conflicts on almost every continent and against almost every race, creed, culture and sex the planet has to offer. Moreover the targets involved are more often than not civilians.

Accordingly should our local Muslim community, based upon the Cosatu model, be held accountable for their actions?

If you needed time to answer that don’t try and operate any heavy machinery. Of course you cannot ask our local Muslim community to answer for extremists just as you cannot fault Muslims who identify with their co-religionists throughout the world. If our local community doesn’t feel a bond with those who share their version of Islam, then they are unique. Most of us identify with those who share our religious beliefs.

The fact that Muslims identify with those who share their religion does not mean that they condone extremism nor support it. Even where they do support it but go about their daily lives in South Africa as lawful citizens there can be no call to bring pressure on their community. Where individuals take part in terrorism they can be dealt with individually but certainly no more than that.

That is just the Muslim community, what about the rest? Where do you draw the line or are people suggesting that groups post a 24-hour guard to keep an eye out on events happening around the world? If for example Russia and Georgia return to hostilities would local communities with ties to the conflict begin preparation for local conflict?

Accordingly to target protests against local communities for events overseas is not only inciting violence but dangerously groping in the dark. Unless Cosatu can furnish us a reason why they chose to target a local community for events in the Middle East and how they went about distinguishing which individuals supported what cause, there can be no doubting that as an organisation they are simply anti-Semitic.

Indeed and without minimising the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are a number of other conflicts on the planet right now where casualties and atrocities have far exceeded anything that has taken place in Gaza and in respect of which Cosatu appear quite oblivious. Perhaps they might address this issue as well: How does this conflict in so far as a South African trade union stand out above all others, particularly with so many wars on our own continent? Do they draw a conflict out of a hat and then storm the castle or did all roads simply lead to an inherent hatred?

In terms of the conflict itself, lest some of my co-religionists suggest I am dodging the real issue, I have made my views very clear on the subject and hopefully been fair to both sides without pulling punches. As an Orthodox Jew, albeit without sufficient training to speak on behalf of the community, I do believe that Israel’s response has been disproportionate and that the time is long overdue for the establishment of a two-state solution. I also believe that the Palestinians have “sponsors” whose agenda does not include a Palestinian state and who would be quite happy to see this conflict continue indefinitely. Accordingly both parties need to shed the spoilers, the opportunists and get around a table.

The Muslim and Jewish community of South Africa have generally gotten along very well. Events that are taking place overseas do and should concern us all as they seem to impact on the planet as a whole. What they should not do is drive a wedge between us in South Africa. The aim should be to rather build on what we have achieved here and assist in bringing peace to that tortured region rather than allowing others to have fun demonstrating their latest intolerance.

If we as South Africans don’t clamp down hard on all intolerance we will invariably all land up as its victims.

Cosatu marches against jews cartoon thumbnail
Wonkie Cartoon: Cosatu protest events calendar

  • gill

    Beware the cunning use of words to create a juicy great big fib out of a fact.

    Here are some facts
    1) Israel did not attack Gaza. Israel RETALIATED against terrorism.

    2) Israel is deeply saddened by innocent lives lost when they retaliated AGAINST THE TERRORISTS AFTER 8 YEARS OF INDISCRIMINATE ROCKET ATTACKS. Their aim was terrorISM – HAMAS – and not the Palestinians.

    Makes a difference, huh?

  • gill

    Beware the cunning use of words to create a juicy great big fib out of a fact.

    Here are some facts
    1) Israel did not attack Gaza. Israel RETALIATED against terrorism.

    2) Israel is deeply saddened by innocent lives lost when they retaliated AGAINST THE TERRORISTS AFTER 8 YEARS OF INDISCRIMINATE ROCKET ATTACKS. Their aim was terrorism — and not the Palestinians.

    Makes a difference, huh?

  • Numeracy

    Mr Trapido,
    There are some who obsess about whether it was 6,000,000 or 5,999,999 or 6,000,001. Where this compulsion to split hairs comes from beats me.
    Similarly there are those, like yourself, who are chanting the mantra of “proportionality” in regard to Israel’s rocket-rage, ditto its response to similar attacks from Hisaballah.
    Surely the claimed 1,300 civilian and combatant casualties is a record for the LOWEST in any modern war.
    For my edification, what is a proportionate response to tens of thousands of rockets, threats to eliminate one’s country and suicide bombers. Certainly the number of rockets being fired at Israeli civilians has abated but not stopped. This must indicate that Israel’s reaction was appropriate.
    What you (and the local media) fail to mention is that:
    Both UNRWA and Human Rights Watch (normally hyper-critical of Israel) have criticised Hamas for stealing humanitarian aid and murdering political opponents.
    The UN has subsequently admitted that UN school that was the target of Israel’s babaric and fascist shelling was actually not hit.
    The ANC invited Hamas to South Africa for a state visit three years ago. Hardly impartial.

    If you missed the deputy foreign minister’s anti-Jewish outburst, why are you rushing into print? (In typical ANC manner it was the subject of a Malema-style apology).

    Just reply what is “proportionate”.

  • Jeff

    Sha, I’ve yet to meet a muslim that condemns any muslim atrocities wherever they occur. It’s all about supporting the umma.
    There’s something inherently wrong somewhere in Islam, that they only seem to care about wrongs to other muslims.
    Then there is Darfur where African muslims seem to be less important than Arab muslims.


    I refer you to the following by Henryk Broder…

    “But the mere fact that you are discussing the issue — when there are also other and more pressing problems that need attention — is a good sign. If I may in all modesty make a suggestion: leave the good old anti-Semitism to the archaeologists and antiquarians and historians. Devote your attention to the modern anti-Semitism that wears the disguise of anti-Zionism and to its representatives. You will find some of the latter among your own ranks.”


  • Sha


    The Muslim Judicial Council condemned the attacks in Mumbai, see the statement by Ighsaan Hendricks in the Cape Argus on 1 December 2008. I also distinctly remember condemnation of the September 11 bombings as well as the London train attacks. Closer to home, the MJC condemned the behaviour of Pagad.



    Cosatu’s Bongani Masuku writes:
    “I continued to quote Mandela when he said that all who have not accepted or woken up to the reality that we now live in a democratic South Africa where racism or promotion of it is a crime, are free to leave the country. I repeat, whether Jew or whosoever does so, must not just be encouraged but forced to leave, for such a crime is so heinous it cant be tolerated. This is why it is offensive to hear people justify the murderous state of Israel’s wrongs in all sorts of names. The simple thing is that Israel is the source of the problem, without occupation, there should be no need for rockets, full stop!!! We cant continue to be blackmailed by anybody, including Jews, that whenever we speak about their evil acts, we must be called anti-semitic, but they have the god-ordained right to murder, rape and kill innocent children in Palestine.”

    I think that one has to conclude that Bongani Masuku has been stating official Cosatu policy. It is an interesting development and much thought should now be given to the implications of Cosatu’s policy with regard to The Jewish Question in SA.

    Bongani’s words might just be viewed as bluff and bluster, but Jews have previously made similar mistakes by underestimating such threats and have paid with their lives.

    Cosatu will have considerable influence after the next election and are presumably now discussing precisely how they will force some Jews to leave.

  • Jeff

    A few mealy-mouthed comments by the MJC is virtual silence in comparison to the hate-filled anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist marches that we see in Cape Town by muslims who are making a political statement in support of Palestinians, who they support just because they are fellow muslims and not because they are “victims.
    Similarly the world-wide images of hundreds of thousands of muslims all over the world who celebrated 9/11 and the London bombings. Even London muslims were rejoicing.
    The whole Pagad thing in Cape Town was just a drug war. It was muslim agsinst muslim. MJC couldn’t have cared less if muslims hadn’t been involved.
    I have many muslim friends and acquaintaces who are decent people, but not one of them has ever had the decency to say that 9/11 was wrong. I assume because they are afraid of what could happen to them if they did.

  • Jeff

    Michael, I really appreciate your articles. However, I think that Islam is the most intolerant and violent of all politico-religious ideologies.
    As an atheist, I must say I have no respect for any ideology/religion that claims that only it’s followers are “God’s chosen”, which all the Abrahamic religions do.
    However, I have always had great admiration for what the Jewish people have contributed to civilization in general. At least Judaism doesn’t go around killing people in the name of their relgion and prozelitizing.
    As far as Israel goes, I strongly support it’s right to exist. If a country is surrounded by those who wish to destroy it, I feel it has every right to do everything in it’s power to protect itself. If those who wish to destroy Israel get killed when it defends it’s citizens from attack, they have no cause to complain. Actions have consequences.

  • Oldfox


    I don’t regard 9/11 as a “muslim atrocity”, but as an atrocity. I clearly remember Iran (its government) and the Iranian people condemning the attack – this was reported in the media at the time.
    There are many links on Internet to these statements made at the time, but Muslims condemning terrorism.




    The attached article “Sowing antisemitism” by Jonathan Freedland should never have been published in The M&G. It is a personal affront to progressive human rights anti-racist activists like Prof Farid Esack (“Muslims Against Racism”) and Prof Steven Friedman. What, after all, is wrong with anti-semitism if it helps to distance Bad Jews from Israel?

    I know that there are a lot of Bad Jews out there. We really should be forced to wear swastikas and magen dovids; the yellow star is old yamulke/hat and is quite unfashionable.

    “Liberals rightly recoil from the pressure on Muslims to denounce jihadism or even Islamism. Yet they make the same demand when they suggest Jews are okay unless they are Zionists. The effect is to make Jews’ place in society contingent on their distance from their fellow Jews, in this case, Israelis.”

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/traps Michael Trapido

    Jeff – I appreciate the kind words.

    Islam like Judaism has it’s good and bad. There are extremists in every group.

    Where I think many people make a mistake with Islam is in considering fundamentalists to be extremists.

    They are not the same thing. The overwhelming majority believe in the fundamental principles of Islam and a very small percentage are extremists.

    If you look at a population of almost 1.5 billion worldwide (almost a quarter of the world’s population) then of course you will be aware of that community. How could it be otherwise?

    In using generalisations every time we have an attrocity we do the Muslim community a major disservice.

    As I made the point in this article, the local community and indeed Muslim communities worldwide must be judged in isolation. You can never attribute good or bad to an entire community based upon events a million miles away.


    There can be little doubt that “The Jewish Question” has now officially arisen in South Africa. It is a question with an illustrious history and has regularly popped up all over the place. And that is why it is so interesting.

    In the circumstances, The South African Jewish Board of Deputies should hold a symposium…. “The Jewish Question in South Africa”. It could invite national and international speakers for a different perspective… Profs Finkelstein and Chomsky from The USA, Fatima Hajaig, Bongani Masuku (Cosatu), Ronno Einstein and his Professor from South Africa etc. Even President Ahmadinejad??

    I will produce a magen dovid/swastika “T” shirt for the delegates in conjunction with Cosatu’s graphic designers.

    It Patrick Craven would prefer to hold the symposium at Cosatu, kosher catering should, of course, be arranged for the more orthodox delegates.


    Since Prof Steven Friedman came to Fatima Hajaig’s defence following the silly media hullaballoo which greeted her awful/appalling anti-semitic comments, will he now kindly do the same for Cosatu’s Bongani Masuku?

    It is important that everybody knows precisely where Prof Friedman and Ronnie Kasrils stand. And it would be extremely unfair to leave Bongani in the lurch. After all, he was “just taking orders”??

  • Frank Nnete

    Jeff on February 16th, 2009 at 9:57 pm,
    “…I think that Islam is the most intolerant and violent of all politico-religious ideologies”. I think you have stepped firmly out of the realm of atheism with this one.

    As a matter of interest the doctrine of ‘gods chosen’ is also found in Calvinist teachings used by Afrikaner settler populations and spin-offs of that religiosity today.

    Blacklisted dictator,
    Why just discuss the Jewish question, what about the rest of the national question. What of other SAn groups experiencing prejudice and pogrom.


    I wonder whether there also might be one or two unforeseen flies in the Cosatu boycott Israel ointment?

    If Israel qualified for 2010 would South Africa/Cosatu/ ANC actually allow her to play? And what would happen if South Africa is drawn against Israel?

    I wonder whether a boycott of Israel might lead to some other countries boycotting South Africa and 2010?

    Israel are currently second in their world cup qualifying group, one point behind Greece.

    “The Tennis Channel has refused to broadcast the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, in protest of the United Arab Emirates’ refusal to grant an entry visa to top Israeli player Shahar Pe’er, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

    Tennis Association (WTA) tour Larry Scott said that the lucrative Dubai tournament risked being struck from the women’s tennis calendar.

    Speaking in a telephone interview, he said the WTA would consider “what types of sanctions are going to be deemed to be appropriate in light of what has happened, including whether or not the tournament has a slot on the calendar next year.” Asked if there is a risk that the tournament could be dropped if Pe’er does not get redress, Scott replied: “You could say that, yes..”

  • Jeff

    I blamed all three Abrahamic religions for their “God’s chosen” approach. Quite possibly there are others. Calvinism, is merely one form of Protestantism which is a part of Christianity, which is one of the Abrahamic religions.
    I suppose anyone who worships a god through their religion must to a large extent think God has chosen that religion and it’s folowers to be chosen.

  • Jeff

    I know there are many decent muslims. “Some of my best friends are muslims”. I make no apology to them for my “Islamophobia”. I find it’s tenets absolutely repulsive.
    It escapes me who said,”Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things, but it takes religion to make good people do bad things”.
    Unfortunately, many good people who are muslim, will not speak out about muslilm atrocities because they belong to the umma. It’s a form of “Islam, right or wrong”.
    Israel is surrounded by enemies, and that’s largely because they are Arab (Muslim)states, bent on Israel’s destruction. Jews have suffered enough throughout history. If the Arab states would grant them peace they would not be forced into these wars of self-defence.

  • Oldfox


    Numerous groups/nations throughout history have called themselves “God’s chosen”.
    Rastafarians. The Aztecs.


    I wonder whether the ANC/COSATU will actually boycott Israel when Zuma comes to power..

    At precisely the same time as Cosatu was trying to stop the unloading of cargo from Israel , South Africa’s largest cargo terminal operator (Transnet) selected NICE’s state-of-the-art digital video surveillance solution to improve security at key ports and ensure compliance with this country’s critical infrastructure regulations. And where are NICE’s HQ? Israel.

    And if you don’t believe that the world works in such ironical ways, check out…


    As the various daily shenanigans proceed, particularly in the South African context with regard to Israel, her detractors and the wider Middle East, I reflect on the following…
    In 1990, a year after the fatwa, Salman Rushdie wrote: ‘I feel as if I have been plunged, like Alice, into a world beyond the looking glass, where nonsense is the only available sense. And I wonder if I’ll ever be able to climb back through.’

  • Oldfox


    I can understand the killing/murdering of civilians incl. babies in Gaza by the IDF. But please explain why chickens and cows were also deliberately killed, why did tanks deliberately destroy agricultural “tunnels” (hothouses with plastic sheeting, not glass)?

    See e.g.
    Gaza desperately short of food after Israel destroys farmland

    Well, I guess the Palestinians should be very grateful the IDF did not plough salt into the ground, like the ancient Romans did after they conquered the Carthaginians.

  • Frank Nnete

    Sure. I take the point about Calvinism being part of the Abrahamic religions. I was just pointing out that the same phenomenon is found close to home.

    Thanks for the link i found it useful.

  • Jeff

    Hi Frank,
    I might be mistaken, but I don’t know of any Calvinists lately who use religious intolerance and violence to try and destroy a nation just because they think Jews are apes monkeys, pigs and dogs. The Arab countries surrounding Israel, want to destroy it because its citizens are Jews. These Arabs can’t be anti-semitic in a nationalist sense as they are Semites themselves. They are anti-semitic only in the sense that they hate Jews. I can only assume because of some deep-seated inferiority complex.(Possibly well deserved).
    I really have no time for anti-semites of any ilk. People should accept responsibility for their own shortcomings and stop seeking innocent scapegoats. It’s bloody tragic in more than one sense.



    It is time for me to speak unto The Jews of Johannesburg about something which pains me greatly. It is the wide-spread hatred of My People which, in the modern era has been called antisemitism. On the other hand, Prof Farid Esack uses the words ” Jewish hatred” and I see no reason why our different terms are not inter-changeable because they meaneth the same thing. For verily if a man is anti The Semite is he not truly hating The Jew? I am not talking semantics but common sense.

    In recent days, there has been much talk of antisemitism. Of course, I refer to The Deputy Foreign Minister’s unfortunate words which led me, and one or two of my disciples, using modern technology to communicate our displeasure. We chose the fax machine. Although there is none on Table Mountain, I took the lift down to the city where such technology resides. And, of course, as is now well-known, I faxed Fatima. This fax was important and was widely reported throughout our fair media.

    I have also been receiving emails, at my office on sea level, alleging that Cosatu is antisemitic. Whether it is, or isn’t, isn’t relevant at the moment. I was not at the demonstration in Raedene led by Ronno Einstein so I cannot comment on whether comparing Jews to Nazis is actually antisemitic. This debate is a can of worms and I tell The Jews in Johannesburg that I have too much dignity to enter into its dirty recriminations.

    It is my belief, however, that The Jews of Johannesburg are creating antisemitism by not condemning The Israelites. Surely The South African Zionist Federation should speak out against the Israelites war on The Hamasites? Isn’t that what a Zionist federation is obligated to do in post-apartheid South Africa?

    Let me remind The Pharisees that the high walls at Beyachad do not make them safe. I prefer to walk bare foot on the sand at Sea Point in the company of my disciples. We are not scared. Sometimes I even paddle in the sea although I do admit that I have never walked upon the water as it is usually too rough.

    Here endeth my sermon on Antisemitism / Jewish Hatred.


    I think that your readers (and Cosatu) should take a look at this…


  • Bryn

    I don’t consider myself to be anti-Semitic. I am passionately anti-religion, whether it’s Christianity, Islam, Judaism or any of a vast number of other belief systems.

    I condemn Israel’s actions because it is a human tragedy, not only for the Palestinians but also for Israelis. I condemn the building of that wall because it has detrimental effects on people’s lives. I support the plight of the Palestinians because they too have the right to live in a land of their own, in peace.

    Just a question, because I’d genuinely like to know – Let’s say the Palestinians get their own country and tensions in the Middle East start to ease, what, if anything, happens with Jerusalem?

  • Jeff

    Sorry, but I disagree with you. In the case of Israel, I think if you are surrounded by a huge majority who want to destroy your existence, then you’d better hit them good and hard, because they are not going to listen to reason. They hate Jews, especially Israeli Jews full stop.
    The jihadist who abound in the middle east have the destruction of Israel as their primary objective. They have no intention of settling for anything less.
    Remember that for muslims any form of deceit is allowed in a war against Jews and infidels.

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