04 January 2009 - South African Jewish Board of Deputies finds its courage
The Board wisely and bravely rejected a false "apology" from the Deputy Foreign Minister:
Jewish Board rejects Hajaig's apology
The row over allegedly anti-Semitic remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig refused to die after she issued an "unequivocal apology" - which the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) immediately rejected as very equivocal.
Hajaig apologised for any pain she may have caused to South Africans and particularly the Jewish community with her recent remarks about "Jewish money power" controlling the West. She denied that she was anti-Jewish though she admitted she had "conflated Zionist pressure with Jewish influence" in her controversial statement.
But the SAJBD said she had "failed to address, let alone repudiate" her "blatantly anti-Semitic sentiments" and so it was pressing ahead with a complaint against her for anti-Jewish hate speech which it laid last week with the SA Human Rights Commission.
However, some members of the Jewish community felt that Hajaig's apology, even though "mealy-mouthed" should be accepted.
The row first blew up over Hajaig's statement - at a pro-Palestinian rally in Lenasia on January 14 to protest the Israeli assault on Gaza - that the control of the US and most other Western countries was in the hands of "Jewish money".
"Sometimes I feel that America and [its] people - and most of them don't think anyway - are completely led by their nose, by the Israeli interests that surround the Zionists that are in America," she was reported as saying then.
"They in fact control, no matter which government comes in to power, whether Republican or Democratic whether Barack Obama or George Bush, inclined to be the same, 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."
Hajaig has not denied making these remarks.
The SAJBD, the American Jewish Committee, the Democratic Alliance and other organisations condemned her remarks for playing into historic, racist stereotypes about Jews that had sometimes led to "tragic consequences".
Hajaig said in a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday, that she had been opposed to apartheid and all forms of racism - including anti-Semitism - all her life. But she had also been "cognisant of the immense suffering that the Palestinians have experienced" as a result of Israel action, including the recent Gaza war.
She had addressed this suffering in her Lenasia speech where she had also deplored "the attempts of Zionists to justify policies" including "unmitigated state violence directed against unarmed civilians; as much as I deplore indiscriminate attacks against Israeli unarmed civilians.
"At a singular point in my talk, and entirely unrelated to any South African community, I conflated Zionist pressure with Jewish influence. I regret the inference made by some, that I am anti-Jewish. I do not believe that the cause of the Palestinians is served by anti-Jewish racism.
"As a member of the South African government and a committed member of the ANC, I subscribe to the values and principles of non-racialism, and condemn without equivocation, all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism in all its manifestations and wherever it may occur.
"To the extent that my statement may have caused hurt and pain, I offer an unequivocal apology for the pain it may have caused to the people of our country, and the Jewish community in particular."
But the SAJBD said in a statement in response that it was pressing ahead with its complaint to the SA Human Rights Commission against Hajaig. It said it had received no communication from her.
It said her statement "failed to address, let alone repudiate, the blatantly anti-Semitic sentiments originally expressed by her, but merely apologised for any hurt it might have caused to the Jewish community. The bulk of the statement, in fact, focused on the Middle East situation and Ms Hajiag's viewpoints in this regard.
"It can only be concluded that Ms Hajaig stands by her previous statement that the United States and most other Western countries are controlled by Jewish money power. As such, her latest statement does not constitute an acceptable apology but, in fact, serves to compound the original insult to the Jewish world, the people of South Africa and the United States government.
"The SAJBD urges the South African government to unequivocally distance itself from the false, inflammatory and racially offensive allegations made by Deputy Minister Hajaig."
SA Human Rights chairperson Jody Kollapan confirmed last night that he had received the complaint from the SAJBD and intended to meet the board's leaders on Monday to discuss the complaint and the outcome they hoped for.
He declined to comment on the substance of the case.
Hajaig's apology seems rather similar to the condemnations issued by Isaacs, Geffen, et al. in their refusal to address the issue of antisemitism without attacking Israel at the same time. The attempt to separate Jews from Israel continues. Congratulations to the Board for standing up to it.