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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Jewish board lays complaint over minister's comments


The Jewish Board of Deputies has filed a complaint of hate speech against Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Fatima Hajaig with the South African Human Rights Commission.

In a statement on Wednesday, the board said the complaint was in response to Hajaig's alleged statements during an address in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, on January 14.

She allegedly said: "They [Jews] control [America], no matter which government comes into power, whether Republican or Democratic, whether Barack Obama or George Bush ...

"Their 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."

Board chairperson Zev Krengel said: "The decision to lodge the complaint had not been taken lightly, but there had not been any realistic alternative.

"Not since the era of pro-Nazi Nationalist MPs more than half a century ago had such statements been made against Jews by a senior government official."

Board director Wendy Kahn described the alleged comments as "classic anti-Jewish stereotyping and conspiracy-theory mongering".

She said such comments were typically used by those seeking to portray Jews as scheming, manipulative and disloyal to the countries in which they lived.

"The Jewish community is outraged by such a public display of bigotry by a senior government representative. As South African citizens, we cannot allow this kind of comment to be brought into this country."

Foreign affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said the department was not aware of the board's complaint. He added that it also had not received any complaints in this regard.

When asked if the department would investigate the allegations, Mamoepa responded by saying Hajaig was in Japan attending the South Africa-Japan Partnership Forum.

"The South African government of which Hajaig is a member of has committed itself to fighting all forms of racism in all its manifestations, including anti-Semitism," he said.

The Democratic Alliance has called for Hajaig to be sacked if she did not offer an immediate public apology.

Party MP Tony Leon said: "It is incumbent upon Hajaig to immediately apologise to the people of South Africa in general, the Jewish community in particular, and to US President Barack Obama.

"In this regard, it is telling that more than two weeks after she was requested to apologise by, amongst others, Zachie Achmat, Nathan Geffen and Guy Berger, she has still not seen fit to do so.

"This makes it clear that she feels absolutely no contrition, nor believes her comments to have been offensive." -- Sapa

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