Press "Enter" to skip to content

Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have abounded for centuries

What I find especially striking about Sentletse Diakanyo’s post of January 30 endorsing the myth of world Jewish power was the number of readers it attracted — at the time of writing fast approaching 9 000 (a record for Thought Leader?). Why has this grubby piece of crude conspiracy-theorising struck so responsive a chord? Maybe it’s just further evidence of the “Jews are news” principle, but I fear the underlying explanation might be less innocent than that.

Diakanyo naturally portrays himself as an objective truth-seeker in his defence of Deputy Minister Fatima Hajaig, who has been in the soup following revelations that she had claimed America and other Western countries to be in thrall to Jewish money power. However, even ignoring for the moment his reliance on the screeds of a known white supremacist and racist crank as Marc Weber, the tone and language of his article is a dead give-away. In short, it is a scurrilous piece, bristling with antagonism and (notwithstanding his attempt to forestall charges of anti-Jewish prejudice by his sneering reference to the “nauseating anti-Semitism card” being used to silence people like him), charged with clear anti-Jewish venom.

For a start, Diakanyo has chosen to depict the South African Jewish leadership as being insincere and manipulative, if not outright underhanded, in lodging their complaint against Hajaig for hate speech. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies Board, he claims, is seeking only “to whip up the emotions of the Jewish community and social activists”, which is an “abuse” of such national institutions as the Human Rights Commission and is “tantamount to fear-mongering and a despicable attempt at playing victim to some invented threat to their dignity and human rights”.

So there you have it: Jewish leaders are trying to pull a fast one over the people of South Africa, undermining the country’s institutions in the process. Where have we heard this kind of thing before?

Diakanyo is entitled to disagree with the stance Jewish leaders have taken, but it is another matter altogether to accuse them — without a shred of evidence — of being deliberately deceitful. He compounds the offence by pouring crude scorn on the very notion that Jews might have any legitimate concerns of anti-Semitism. (What would people conclude, by the way, about a person declaring that black people played the “nauseating racism card” to silence criticism against them? They would pretty much know where he was coming from).

The crux of Diakanyo’s article is that Hajaig’s statement regarding Jewish financial control of America and most other Western countries is based on fact, not perception. To “prove” this, he cites various statistics showing the disproportionate involvement of Jews in American public, commercial and academic life, such as that “Jews constitute more than 25% of the elite journalists and publishers, more than 17% of the leaders of important voluntary and public interest organisations and more than 15% of the top ranking civil servants”.

As Conrad Steenkamp puts it, however, there is indeed “a big difference between saying Jews are an influential minority (which they are) and claiming that Jewish money ‘controls’ the Western world (which it does not)”.

One would expect the extraordinarily disproportionate achievements of Jews throughout the world (at least in countries where they are allowed to compete on equal terms with their compatriots) to elicit admiration and perhaps emulation.
Instead, all too often we have seen the opposite to be the case. Instead, Jew haters have concluded from this that “Jews have too much power”. It follows that they could only have reached such positions of influence by dishonest means, since how otherwise could so small a group attain such influence? And that leads logically to the conclusion that the Jews must be stopped.

Diakanyo falls into this ignoble category. For him, as with so many Jew-baiters over the centuries, high levels of Jewish accomplishment are not something to be admired but on the contrary, are evidence of sinister Jewish designs against the general well-being. This is why he refers to “self-evident yet unspoken and vexing truths” about Jewish influence and ‘power’ in America. Ordinary Americans are seen as being somehow held captive by this, unable to speak out for fear of repercussions: “There is this fear to speak truth to power that is prevalent everywhere and so is the risk present of having one’s voice silenced with a nauseating anti-Semitism card”.

One of the saddest things I have read was a little pamphlet put out by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies in 1940 for dissemination amongst the wider population as a way of counter then rampant anti-Jewish sentiment. This earnestly sought to portray Jews as productive, patriotic citizens by detailing the kind of contributions they were making to the world.

The very fact that Jews back then felt obliged to effectively justify their existence in this rather pathetic way is sad enough. What is worse is that it probably did more harm than good. It is precisely the fact of disproportionate Jewish achievement that fuels anti-Semitic ideologies. Bizarre, but true.

My advice to Diakanyo is to stop fooling himself regarding his supposed cool-headed objectivity on this issue and be honest enough to acknowledge his own, evidently deep-rooted, prejudices. Obsessive hatred of Jews has always been the preserve of the world’s losers and second-raters. Does he really wish to join their ranks?

Author

  • 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 history, Judaism and the Middle East for local and international newspapers and journals. David has an MA in history from Rhodes University. Prior to joining the SAJBD, he was curator -- history at MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg. He is editor of the journal Jewish Affairs, appears regularly on local radio discussing Jewish and Middle East subjects and is a contributor to various Jewish publications.