Let me state unequivocally from the outset that I fully supported Israel’s operations in Gaza. I have no doubt whatever that these were both justified and necessary given more than three years of almost constant missile attacks against its citizens, that Israel acted throughout with commendable restraint and that Hamas, through its cowardly and despicable policy of basing its terrorist infrastructure in densely populated civilian areas, is morally responsible for each and every civilian casualty for which Israel was so widely and unjustly blamed.

Expressing such a view will not make me popular in a society where Israel’s “brutality” and the Palestinians’ perennial victimhood is taken as axiomatic — indeed, many people will, and do, hate me for them. That, I suppose, is their right, just as it my democratic right to hold and express opinions others do not like. What is not OK is that opposition to my kind of interpretation of the Middle East conflict should express itself as hatred directed against the local Jewish community (aside from the small fringe that has aligned itself with the Israel-bashers).

This is what has been surfacing more and more over the past few weeks. It has become a little frightening how often I have encountered propositions in the media and at public gatherings to the effect that Jews everywhere are collectively responsible for the “genocide” in Gaza and that unless they behave like the “good Jews” who have come out against Israel, they will become fair game as Muslims worldwide take revenge.

The dichotomy between “good” and “bad” Jews came out very strongly during last week’s Cosatu solidarity rally for Palestine in Lenasia. It also witnessed what might be the first instance of public Jew-baiting by a member of government in over half a century as Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig informed a deliriously cheering crowd that America, as well as other Western countries, was in the grip of Jewish money power.

What the honorable FJ actually said was: “They in fact control [America]. No matter which government comes in to power, whether Republican or Democratic, whether Barack Obama or George Bush. The control of America, just like the control of most Western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country then you cannot expect anything else”.

Comrade Fatima’s brazen invocation of the spectre of Jewish money exercising its malign behind-the-scenes influence in shaping world events was greeted with a particularly enthusiastic roar of appreciation by the audience. She even used the words “Jew” and “Jewish” rather than the code-word “Zionist”.

In addition to such revolting conspiracy theorising, various other speakers at the Lenasia rally made threatening statements against the local Jewish community.This included calls that anyone with Zionist sympathies be expelled from the country, that “Israeli” businesses be boycotted (a list of Jewish-owned businesses is in fact now doing the rounds within the Muslim community and further afield) and that action be taken against South African Jews who served in the Israeli military.

One presenter said: “The common enemy is making inroads in South Africa … the Zionists in South Africa must be kicked out of the shores of South Africa”. Another speaker praised “our Jewish brothers and sisters” who had come out against the Israel Defence Force, assuring them “there is a place in the world we are building in South Africa for you”. Those who had not done so, he warned, had “better watch out because the winds of change are blowing”.

Regarding local Jews allegedly serving in the IDF, another presenter shouted (again to rapturous and sustained applause): “We are going to become impimpis, we are going to become impimpis … the business that we are going to carry out with the Jews, with these Zionist entities. We are going to talk to them, were going to find out if their sons have gone to fight our brothers and sisters in Palestine and then we’ll say to them come and fight us at home”.

Other speakers included ANC Provincial Secretary Nazeem Adams and Eddie Makue, general secretary for South African Council of Churches. Makue denied that the fight against Israel and Zionism was anti-Semitic, saying that he and his fellow activists only wanted to bring their “Jewish brothers and sisters onto the right path”.

“This is a global struggle. We are inviting you to join us in it, otherwise you will be mowed down in the annals of history as people who refuse to support justice and peace” he said, as the crowd bellowed its approval.

All in all, it must have been very much reminiscent of a Nuremburg rally.


  • 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.


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...

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