Fatima Hajaig’s Anti-Semitism

“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?. – Fatima Hajaig, South African research council, addressing an anti-war rally in Lenasia on January 14.

We have reached a dangerous and profoundly disturbing new level in South Africa if anti-Semitism is now considered acceptable enough that a senior government official, a deputy minister of Foreign Affairs no less, can make a vile, racist and conspiratorial claim like this to a cheering crowd and receive no formal censure from her superiors or widespread media coverage and condemnation. This is sick.

We have known that anti-Semitism was on the increase in South Africa, as it is around the world, but for too long there’s been a reluctance to believe that things were really getting this bad. Because South Africa had not seen the more extensive attacks on synagogues and Jewish graveyards that have occurred in many parts of Europe, the assumption was that it meant that attitudes were more moderate here. South African Jewish organisations like the Board of Deputies refrained from speaking out harshly against the South African government even as its representatives became increasingly strident and unhinged statements regarding Israel and the loyalties of South African Jews, believing instead that their policy of polite and non-hostile engagement was encouraging moderation within the ANC. It’s now clear that they, along with those of us who hoped South Africa was immune from this wave of hatred, were wrong. Anti-Semitism is alive and well and at levels not seen in decades; it’s time we all stood together and exposed it as the disgusting bigotry that it is.

Let’s be clear, regardless of your personal stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the rightness or wrongness of either party, anti-Semitism is never okay. Not under any circumstances. It is no different from the racism that we deplore when it’s used against black people, Indians, Arabs or the like and it should be condemned in equal measure without equivocation.

And Ms Hajaig must face severe consequences for her actions, especially considering how senior she is and the responsibility she is meant to carry as an official representative of our country. That’s why I welcome the decision by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies to lay a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission and I am in full agreement with the Democratic Alliance’s statement on this issue, with the exception that I don’t believe an apology should be sufficient; I think Hajaig should be sacked.

I sincerely hope President Motlanthe does the right thing and dismisses Hajaig outright. He needs to send a strong message to both South Africa and the world that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated and that it does not represent the views of the ANC. But if he fails to act or, worse, defends Ms Hajaig, then we can only assume that her words represent the belief and policy of the South African government. I find that prospect frightening.