Even before the Lewinsky affair made him a by-word for sexual incontinence, the libidinous Bill Clinton had been embroiled in a sex scandal that nearly toppled his presidency almost from the outset. In 1994, a certain Paula Jones sued him for sexual harassment, claiming he had propositioned her three years earlier, exposing himself in the process. “How would you like to test-drive this baby” is what Clinton reputedly said on that occasion, referring, of course, to what was destined to become the world’s most famous phallus.

The lawsuit was dismissed in the end, and while on appeal an out-of-court settlement to the tune of $850 000 compensated Ms Jones for the severe emotional trauma she had suffered. Lucky girl.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton also survived potentially crippling criminal corruption allegations. This was the Whitewater scandal, in which he was accused of providing an illegal $300 000 loan to his partner in a major land deal while governor of Arkansas. This, too, dominated the headlines for a while before fading away once it became clear that charges would not be laid.

Clinton ended up serving two full terms as president. He remained popular to the end, and taken as a whole was by no means unsuccessful.

The lesson for South Africa is obvious. If the US could survive, and indeed thrive, despite having at its head a man who had been implicated in serious sex and corruption scandals, then why should the ascendancy of Jacob Zuma continue to be viewed in doomsday terms by so many intelligent people? Recently, I wrote an article at the request of an Australian Jewish blogsite on the implications of the Zuma presidency for the SA Jewish community. What was interesting was how unwilling they were to accept that the decision not to proceed with the charges against Zuma had been above board. The implication was that threats and intimidation must have played a part. This, unfortunately, is how the rest of the world tends to see Africa, and South Africa, despite fifteen years of democracy and four elections, remains included in this Afro-pessimistic view.

Further scepticism is routinely expressed when I report on the relatively low levels of anti-Semitism that exist in this country. I sometimes get the impression that they believe me to be too intimidated to tell the truth about what is really going on, rather as the Jews of today’s Iran (and as those of the old Soviet Union used to do) tell foreign journalists how wonderful everything is for them since they know too well what the consequences will be to them and their families if they tell the truth. Some people simply do not want to hear any good news about Africa.

That being said, it has been a bit upsetting to learn of the wide distribution of an exceedingly nasty new booklet entitled “The Greatest Myth that the Jews Belong to the Abrahamic Faith”. Here is a sample of the some of the charming sentiments contained therein: “If the Jews could become Muslim and thereafter intermarry with them, and then there might be a slight possibility that their offspring could become normal human beings without the brutal barbaric tendencies they have!

This would seem to be a locally produced publication, since Chief Rabbi Goldstein and I both receive an honourable mention (“Hark at the rampant hypocrisy of professional propagandists such as David Saks and Rabbi Warren Goldstein who shamelessly defend the indefensible in the print media”). The book is allegedly written by one Haj Mofsowitz Potashnickh (“ex Jewish Rabbi from Romania”). Surprise, surprise — there is no such person, at least according to Google.

There is no copyright, but rather “any method of distributing, whether by electronic, print or other means, is permitted and encouraged”. What is a bit more disturbing is how enthusiastically the producers have been doing just that. Reports have been coming in of foreign embassies, newspapers and university libraries being amongst the recipients.

Incidentally, those responsible for distributing the above material are also anonymously disseminating anti-Christian screeds. One of my colleagues was sent this in error when he emailed for a copy of “The Greatest Myth…”

It remains a fact that Jews do not face significant levels of hostility from their fellow South Africans — in many ways the opposite is true. What a pity that some people are evidently so intent on seeking to change this state of affairs.


David Saks

David Saks

David Saks has worked for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) since April 1997, and is currently its associate director. Over the years, he has written extensively on aspects of South African...

Leave a comment