“Social Media is a double-edged sword”, said Zev Krengel, National Vice-President of the SAJBD, “It allows racists to spew hatred that causes terrible hurt to general South African citizens. We want to live in a democratic country where there is freedom of expression, but we need to act responsibly”.
Mr Krengel made these remarks at the launch of the Active Citizens Code of Courtesy, which took place in Johannesburg on 3 February. Together with leading industrialists, James Motlatsi and Bobby Godsell, he has launched an initiative aimed at achieving the goal he outlines.
Krengel, Motlatsi and Godsell have written up the Active Citizens Pledge, in which ordinary South Africans commit themselves to making a real different in South Africa by taking up an additional four hours a month to help in education crime-prevention, job-creation, environmental protection or some other form of active citizenship.
An accompanying Citizens Charter calls for ordinary people to determine the moral tone of our country, with resource groups to help achieve these goals. Godsell, in his introductory remarks, spoke about interfaith being the golden threat that looks to the principal of treating others as you would have them treat you.
He would like to see these initiatives take place in our Synagogues, Mosques and Churches – all places where people come together to prayer. A practical drive is the #OneMillionPads drive, expressed by Bongiwe Gambu which will go a long way in helping young women in rural areas.
In his closing remarks, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, spoke about the need not to abandon hope. As he expressed it, it is better to travel with hope, than to arrive.
The irony of the Gauteng Legislature hosting an “International Solidarity Day with Palestinians inside of Israel” are great. It is absurd that in a time of gross persecution of religious minorities throughout the Middle East, the Gauteng Legislature chooses to single out the only country in the Middle East where religious minorities enjoy complete legal protection. Israeli- Arabs have full political, social and economic rights. Discrimination on the basis of race, religion is strictly forbidden under Israeli law. No reasonable person can compare this to the kind of outright persecution that takes place in virtually every other Middle Eastern country. It is relevant that while millions of Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and residents of other Middle Eastern States have become refugees, Israeli –Arabs have overwhelmingly chosen to remain in their own country.
In a press statement issued by the Union of Arab communities in South Africa, there is a call for the International Community to act in “solidarity with Palestinian citizen of Israel”, to “reaffirm its support for inclusive, unconditional democracy and minority rights in the region”.
Should the Gauteng Legislature and ANC truly wish to fulfil this lofty mandate, it should appraise itself of the true facts around the current situation in Israel and beyond. There is currently an unacceptably high level of brutal violence in the region, including the ongoing stabbing of indiscriminate targets, including women and children by Palestinians, (which is yet to be condemned by the Gauteng Legislature).
The Gauteng Legislature, which represents the people of Gauteng, has allowed itself to be used for petty propaganda in an attempted publicity stunt that will in no impact meaningfully on the Israeli-Arabs or the Palestinians. They are however, by giving lip service to “helping the situation”, simply creating a feeling of alienation among its own, diverse citizens. Should the Gauteng Legislature wish to make a meaningful contribution to helping the people of Palestine, they should be calling on both the Palestinian and Israeli leadership to come to the negotiation table, as it is only in this way that a peaceful resolution to the conflict can be found.
The SA Zionist Federation and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies remain committed to seeing a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict, one in which results in a two-state solution.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has lodged a complaint of hate speech with the SA Human Rights Commission against Port Elizabeth attorney Maureen Jansen. This is in response to a comment posted by Jansen on her Facebook in which, amongst other things, she referred to Jews as ‘monsters’ who should be ‘exterminated’ for their support – whether active or passive – of Israel. The comment, posted on 8 December 2015, reads: “Bloody Israelis should be exterminated along with all the ‘Jews’ everywhere who support Israel by action or silence. The Semites of the Torah are long gone. These monsters are Jewish converts, not Semites”.
SAJBD National Chairman Jeff Katz said that although preceding the current slew of racist remarks on social media, Jansen’s comments were just one more instance of how certain hate-filled individuals confidently propagated virulent racism against their fellow citizens.
“Such hate-mongering goes beyond defaming and threatening any particular group of people; they go against the culture of non-racialism on which our democracy is founded, and as such are an attack on all South Africans” he said.
The SAJBD strongly condemns Jansen’s racist comments, as well as those by Penny Sparrow, Velaphi Khumalo and Nicole de Klerk in recent days. No cause, whether political or otherwise, can ever justify incitement to violence, particularly when based on race, religion, ethnicity or other such grounds.
CKNJ Vice President Alana Baranov writes in the Sunday Tribune that hate has no place in South Africa.
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