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Middle East fallout is poisoning our society

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.


  1. david saks david saks 5 February 2009


    The Zionist movement is the modern national-political expression of a millennia-old Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. These ancient roots are summed up in the Introduction to the DECLARATION OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL May 14, 1948: “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books”.

    Even after the majority of them had been forcibly exiled from their land, the Jewish people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

    The millennia-old connection between the Land of Israel and the Jewish people is inextricably bound up in Jewish culture, tradition and prayer. The Jewish peoples’ physical presence in the land has been continuous for over 3300 years. A sovereign Jewish nation has existed three times in the land. The first lasted until the Babylonian conquest in 586 BC, and the second until the Roman conquest in 70CE. The modern state of Israel, established in 1948, is the third time that the Jews have lived in the land of Israel as a sovereign nation.

  2. Mustafa Mustafa 5 February 2009


    Heard it all, read it all. Tell me something new.

    Tell me why many orthodox Jews throughout the world especially in the USA do not agree with you. What about the many Jews here in South Africa who came out publicly in the press distancing themselves far from what you and Rabbi Goldstein claimed to be speaking on their behalf?

  3. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 6 February 2009


    The facts you quote are mostly from propaganda or neo-nazi sites. Vast amounts of Arab oil money has been spent in the last 60 years smearing the Jews.

    And before the Brits – the biggest colonisers were the Muslims. Or did you think Islam an indigeneous African religion?

    In fact Turkey, itself, was an imperial conquest of Islam. It was originally Christian.

    Zionism is about the return to the Jews of their historic homeland, not someone else’s. Read a Bible.

    The fact that the Brits and the Arabs bussed in a lot of people during the mandate period (now called Palestinians) does not take away Jewish rights.

  4. Oldfox Oldfox 7 February 2009


    The is a world of a difference between Arabs and Turks (Turks are NOT Arabs) and Persians/Iranians.
    Turks are not a race – they are a mixture of people. Here is a good article on the origin of the Turks.

    Did the Turks conquer the lands which later constituted the Ottoman Empire because of religion, or not.
    Did Spain conquer most of Latin America in the name of Christianity, or was it in search of gold and silver and other loot they could plunder?

  5. Che Che 7 February 2009

    Lyndall at it again are you. For some-one who claims a degree in history you really are something else. The Palestinians occupied Palestine for centuries. Suddenly a bunch of Europeans decided that the land belonged to them two thousand years before and wanted the Palestinians out. Why don’t you read ilan Pappe’s book :The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” It is academic.The author supporst his claims with references something which you really fail to do.

  6. Mustafa Mustafa 8 February 2009


    For how long are you going to be in constant denial of anything positive in history that has been in favour of Muslims / Arabs / Persians ? Turks / Palestinians, etc. It seems that you refuse to read and substantiate your claims with references and facts.

  7. Mark Thom Mark Thom 14 February 2009

    Dear One and All who have commented so far:

    I am a South African, a Jew, a supporter of human rights and the truth. It is sad to see how many people have commented blatantly in favour of Israel when it is no big secret that they have violated all UN resolutions, peace accords, human rights and dignity of others especially the Palestinians, and abused the sacredness of the Jewish faith to get their way.

    Remember we are over 15000 Jews in South Africa (not a handful) who are opposed to what Israel has done recently in Gaza, for there was nothing Jewish about it. In fact they killed another 6 Palestinians yesterday.

    When will the killings stop? Why did Israel bomb UN establishments even though the UN officials denied any gunmen being in them? Why did Israel use White Phosphorous bombs, depleted uranium and other chemical weapons?

    If Israel was righteous and ordained as a Jewish state by G-d, then why does it have to resort to violence to “protect” itself?

    Then SAJBoD declares unilaterally that all Jews are firmly behind Israel. What a lie? Are we then responsible for inviting this poison into South Africa?

  8. Moshe Dayan Moshe Dayan 18 February 2009

    Modern Zionism has p…..away 2000 years of the moral high ground. The Jews witnessed to being God’s chosen by always being on the side of the downtrodden and hard done by. There was a beauty to the spiritual longing for Jerusalem and for the faith that endured. The state of Israel now looks just like any other of the many thousands of bully boy regimes that have inflicted themselves on human history.

  9. Mustafa Mustafa 21 February 2009

    Thank you Mark Thom and Moshe Dayan for some valuable input into this blog.

    Can somebody explain as to why Gaza is still being attacked?

    The first excuse for the genocide that began on 27 December 2008, was that Hamas was firing rockets into Israel. Given the global outrage and overwhelming condemnation by majority of the world including peace loving Jews, Israel tried to save face by hanging on to the pathetic Bush legacy – “we are doing our bit in the war against terror.” This off course never worked. Eventually a unilateral ceasefire was announced by Israel followed by Hamas.

    The reason for the ceasefire was that Israel stopped the rocket fire. But the rockets are still being fired. So what have they achieved apart from butchering over 1400 people? The answer is a more racist, stronger right wing which may be headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. Not to forget the Bouncer (Lieberman) on the political scene laying claim to fame. An interesting role model for a society that claims to be chosen by God and to be righteous.

    Over a week ago Hamas agreed to an Egyptian brokered 18 month truce. Israel showed willingness to go ahead with it.

    But then Israel went back into Gaza in the past few days killing more people. Ehud Olmert said no to the truce because the goal posts have been shifted once again by them and this time they are using the Gilad Shalit excuse. What’s next?

    What’s even a bigger joke is that government spokesman, Mark Regev, said that he can’t understand why Hamas is refusing the Red Cross and other Human Rights Groups to visit or inspect the situation with Gilad Shalit. How convenient to mention this when it is the same Red Cross and Human Rights Groups (including Israeli based ones) which you refuse to listen to when they expose your army’s treacherous war tactics and gross violation of human rights.

    It seems that Israel and the Zionist lobbies have got a readymade set of applausible, predictable excuses available on hand that in the event of them getting caught doing something wrong, their response is ready for the media.

    In conclusion, the reason for all these excuses and goal post shifting is simple. Ehud Olmert is desperately seeking a face saving exit from office, given the fraud, bribery and corruption allegations that’s hounding him, as well as the fact that his recent war on Gaza was futile and achieved nothing but senseless murder, endless devastation and no hope for peace.

  10. Yasmeen Yasmeen 26 February 2009

    David Saks,

    Your article is truly sickening. You monitor anti-semitic remarks as a job, but it seems that to foster Islamophobic sentiment is your primary goal.
    Your obsessive attack on Muslims and Islam makes this blindingly obvious.

    How you can actually condone the genocide of a helpless, imprisoned people is unbelievable. If that is not enough- you blame them for being attacked!

    You complain about rockets being fired into Israel but don’t acknowledge that it was Israel that broke the truce, by blocking food and medical supplies which it agreed NOT to do. When a nation is starving, what do you expect them to do? Sit back and starve to death? Yet, when they retaliate, you blame them for their own genocide!

    And sadly, you have not learnt the stark distinction between Zionism and Judaism.

    What is most alarming is that the lives of Palestinians simply mean nothing to you. I wonder what you would have to say if the situation were exactly the same, but Israelis and Palestinians were in the reverse position! Enough said.

  11. Leonard Leonard 27 February 2009

    Yasmeen, I share your sentiments completely and the myth that the ideology of Zionism has anything to do with the religion of Judaism needs to be constantly exposed. I am a Jew and love my religion and culture. Through much introspection and work on myself, I have seperated my religion of Judaism with the ideology of Zionism. People who couple Zionism with Judaism need to keep themselves blinkereed from the reality of occupation at all costs; if they for one moment acknowledged the crime that Israel has been and continues to perpetrate against the Palestinians, their very identity would come into question and they need to preserve this identity at all costs.

  12. Leonard Leonard 28 February 2009

    I beleive that the reason Saks wrote this article is that he tought he would draw anti-Semetic responses. In this was the case he would “prove” that there were anti-semites “out there”. Instead, there have been rational responses from thinking people. Thank you. Leonard Shapiro.

  13. Leonard Leonard 28 February 2009

    …you see, it in the interest of the Zionist enterprise to keep the Israeli Jews and Jews outside of Israel in fear of anti-Semitism, so that they will turn a blind eye to the oppression of Palestinians. They perpetuate this myth that, “everybody hates us” and “wants to see us destroyed”. I have met so many thousands of people in my life and have only been on the recieving end of an anti-semetic comment once, and that was when I was 12 years old. I feel compleley safe as a person as well as Jew, in South Africa. Our constitution promotes equality and non-discrimination on every level.

  14. david saks david saks 1 March 2009


    The Gaza Palestinians are not “starving to death”. They are the recipients of massive humanitarian aid from the international community.

    It is rubbish that Israel is “blocking food and medical supplies”. The opposite is true.

    If Hamas were prepared to co-exist peacefully alongside Israel, there would be no need for extraordinary border restrictions etc. But Hamas is not – they are committed to Israel’s violent destruction, and use every Israeli territorial concession to persist in their murderous attacks against Israeli civilians.

    “The genocide of a helpless and imprisoned people”?! Don’t make me laugh. If the Israelis wanted to commit genocide, all they would have to do is behave like Palestinians – for one weekend. Heaven forbid. However, that the Jewish people should ever sink so low as to behave like Palestinians.

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