SAJBD ADVISORY

by The SAJBD on 30 October 2014

in Media, Notices

ADVISORY
The South African Jewish community will be holding a demonstration against rising antisemitism and intimidation in our country. There has, over the past few months been an escalation of levels of antisemitism and hate speech against members of the Jewish Community. This has included direct verbal threats, anti-Jewish grand-standing by political and civil society leadership, as well as physical threats of violence through social media. The climate has been created that led to the crossing of the line last week, with the placing of a pig’s head in what was thought to be the Kosher meat section of Woolworths by the Congress of South African Students (COSAS).
The demonstration will be held on Thursday 30 October, from 12:00 – 13:00, outside the Woolworths Corner Main Road and Fort Road (opposite Mr Price), Cape Town.
Members of the Jewish Community, and fellow- South Africans who stand for the values as enshrined in our Constitution will come together to say that Hate Speech in this country, irrespective of which minority it is directed at, will not be tolerated and accepted. Nor will South African Jews be intimidated by this rising form of racism.
South Africa has traditionally had low rates of antisemitism compared to other countries. Alongside all South Africans, including fellow minority groups SA Jewry has been able to affirm their own cultural and religious beliefs, whilst simultaneously fully identifying with South Africa, and what it stands for. It is for this reason that the Jewish Community, and like-minded South African will take to the street and highlight this growing and worrying trend.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies yesterday lodged a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission against COSAS and their Western Cape Provincial Chairperson Siphakamise Ngxowa for their antisemitic demonstration and hate speech.
This protest seeks to highlight the un-South African nature of this act by Cosas, and to uphold the South African values of tolerance and inclusiveness.
SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn will read out a statement calling for South African solidarity against hate.
We invite the media to attend.
For more information, please contact: Charisse Zeifert on 082 427 2788

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Disregarding all standards of basic decency, the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) today chose to send an ugly message to the Jewish community of South Africa. This morning, as a protest against Woolworths for stocking Israeli products, COSAS members in Cape Town deposited a pig’s head in the kosher meat section of a Woolworths food store. A press statement issued by COSAS Western Cape chairperson Siphakamise Ngxowa, inter alia declared that Cosas “will not allow people who will not eat pork to pretend that they are eating clean meat, when it is sold by hands dripping with the blood of Palestinian children”.

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is appalled by this hate-filled demonstration. We have seen “Shoot the Jew” being chanted at public gatherings and explicit threats made to carry out revenge attacks against the Jewish community for events taking place in Israel and Palestine. Now we have been presented with yet another case of anti-Israel activism crossing over into blatant antisemitism.

It is common knowledge that pork is strictly forbidden according to Jewish dietary laws. This is why depositing pigs’ heads at places associated with Jews and their religion has long been a tactic of those wanting to offend and intimidate the Jewish community. In the past, however, such acts were carried out anonymously. By contrast, Cosas has not only done so in full public view, but has gone about widely publicizing this gross act of bigotry. It is further noteworthy that BDS-SA, which is heading up the campaign to boycott Woolworths, not only failed to condemn the incident but have assisted Cosas in publicizing what it had done.

The SAJBD regards this incident as a hate crime and is investigating its options regarding taking the matter further.

Cosas’ actions have nothing to do with human rights activism. They are acts of racial and religious hatred aimed at causing maximum offense to Jewish people. They are also completely at odds with South Africa’s proud tradition of tolerance and decency and have crossed the moral divide.

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AJWS’s Response to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Epidemic in West Africa

20 October 2014

The current epidemic of Ebola virus disease (EVD) is far larger than all previous epidemics combined.[1]  As of late October 2014, nearly 9,000 cases have been identified in five West African countries, with more than 50 percent of those cases in Liberia.[2] The scale of the epidemic in Liberia, which shows no signs of abating, has led to a large-scale breakdown of health care systems. It has greatly affected the socioeconomic well-being of the majority of the Liberian population, and has especially affected marginalized and underserved communities.  Due to AJWS’s longstanding work in Liberia and the West Africa region and our niche in grassroots grantmaking, we have been working in partnership with local organizations to respond to this epidemic.

There is an incredible amount of misinformation around Ebola, as it is not a disease that West Africans are typically familiar with. There is a huge mental burden of the disease and many people are filled with terror, as the primary messages have been that “Ebola kills” or that it is untreatable. Rather, what is needed is evidence-based and sensitive messaging to inform the public about the logistics of treatment, care and testing. There is a need to change the story from “Ebola kills” to the fact that symptoms of Ebola are treatable, and the earlier one gets treatment, the higher chances are of surviving.

In light of this dire situation, AJWS has responded swiftly and responsively. Our partners are working in almost all counties of Liberia, with a focus on the most heavily burdened areas. AJWS has raised over $200,000 thus far, and has disbursed grants to partners who are primarily working on community awareness raising and the provision of sanitation materials. Our partners build on existing trust, relationships and organizing structures within the communities, in order to effectively raise awareness about Ebola symptoms, prevention, care and treatment. Our partners are working with County Health Teams and Ebola Task Forces to ensure coordination with local efforts as well as local religious and political leaders who are able to influence community attitudes. Volunteers are being trained and equipped with protective gear as well as hygiene materials, to ensure that door-to-door and community outreach is done safely.  All information being used and disseminated is Ministry of Health approved.

Finally, as AJWS works in neighboring Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, we are exploring ways to raise awareness about Ebola and to proactively stop any potential outbreaks in those countries.

We hope to raise additional funds to:

  • Provide additional grants to existing Ebola fund grantees, as most disbursed grants are small and are only for 3-4 months
  • Grant to new community-based grantees to reach additional parts of Liberia
  • Grant to larger institutions such as the Civil Society Taskforce and an international NGO that is working on a medical response to the Ebola epidemic
  • Engage organizations in Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire to do awareness raising and prevention work, and to proactively preempt any possible cross-border outbreaks

 

Liberia Grantees Response (as of 20 Oct 2014):

All grantees are using Ministry of Health (MoH) approved materials and are working with county health teams and Ebola task forces in their respective regions to improve coordination and collaboration with other entities.

  • MARWOPNET is using its radio station to spread messages about Ebola prevention and referral pathways in northern Liberia
  • The Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa is engaging community-based organizations and rural media institutions to carry out a sensitization campaign against the spread of EVD, including distribution of hygiene materials
  • SEWODA is training staff and peace committee members in Ebola prevention and response and conducting community outreach in Maryland, River Gee, and Grand Kru counties
  • GRASS is proactively disseminating information about Ebola virus among communities in Grand Bassa County
  • BAWODA is focusing on women and children as the most at risk in Grand Bassa County, and is training and equipping volunteers who will conduct community sensitization and is using religious groups and institutions such as Sunday schools to spread prevention messaging
  • WANEP is conducting an awareness campaign around Ebola prevention and treatment in Margibi, Lofa, and Bong counties, and is training and equipping volunteers who will target over 3,000 households with information and hygiene promotion materials
  • FCI is conducting an awareness campaign and is training staff and volunteers who will in turn target about 7,000 households and public institutions in Rivercess County with information and hygiene promotion materials
  • Imani House International is renovating part of their clinic to be able to act as an Ebola quarantine and triage center, and is continuing to provide much needed primary care services in light of the collapse of health care systems in and around Brewerville, an underserved community near Monrovia
  • DEN-L is conducting an awareness raising campaign with Ebola-related information and improving community coordination and response, targeting 11,000 households in Bong County, Liberia, targeting women as well as other CSOs and community surveillance teams for engagement
  • COPDA is engaging tribal and religious leaders on Ebola prevention and awareness, training and equipping staff and volunteers to conduct a door-to-door sensitization campaign targeting 6,000 individuals, and is providing psychosocial support and counseling to survivors of Ebola and their families, in Nimba County.

[1] WHO Ebola Response Team. (23 Sep 2014). Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa – the First 9 Months of the Epidemic and Forward Projections. Accessed from: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1411100?query=featured_home&#t=article

[2] CDC. (12 Oct 2014). 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa.  Accessed from: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/index.html

 

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Hate Crimes should be considered as both a priority crime, and be understood and reported on differently from other forms of crime, said Dr Juan Nel, at a Hate Crimes Working Group Media breakfast on 22 October.

The aim of the breakfast was to strengthen the media’s understanding of hate crimes, and the sensitivity around reporting on it.  What made hate crimes different from other criminal acts, explained Dr Nel, of the Hate Crimes Working Group, was the motivation for the attack:  Hate Crimes were motivated by prejudice, and the perpetrators seek to demean and dehumanise the victim based on the fact that the victim doesn’t conform to the ideas of the “norm”.  These can include the victim’s race, ethnicity, culture, appearance, age, religion or sexual orientation.

The reason they should be a priority was not because of its prevalence, but because the severity of the attack extends to the family, group and society at large.  These attacks were anti-democracy and anti-open society.  The fear with which victims live prevents them from living life to the full.  He and his colleague, Yolanda Mitchell, provided details on the legal attempts to delete crime and hate speech, as well as then news tool that have been developed to capture details of both victim and perpetrator.  This will aid in understanding the phenomenon better.

Dr Nel noted that hate crimes are preceded by hate speech.   In her presentation, Wendy Kahn, the National Director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies gave concrete examples of some of the hate speech made through social media, against the SA Jewish Community.  She joked that it should be referred to as “anti-social” media, due to the viciousness of the attacks that can be now made anonymously.  Lucinda van der Heever from Sonke Gender Justice gave a practical example of a hate crime that occurred against a young David Olyn, a young gay man in Cape Town among a coloured community.  Olyn was viciously raped and murdered.

The media were encouraged to ask questions of the various partners that were there.  The breakfast was hosted by Sonke Gender Justice and was funded by the Open Society for South Africa.

 

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