‘Jews’ a useful metaphor for South African conspiracy theories


Aubrey Matshiqi, a political analyst writing in The Rand Daily Mail, uses the historical repression and hatred of Jews as a metaphor to examine the risks inherent as South Africa’s economic and social crisis deepens. The question considered by AntiSemitismWatch is whether this apparently clever literary analogy belies a disturbing truth the South African Jewish community faces as a consequence of the systemically anti-Semitic BDS movement?

“Some elements within the political class will look for “Jews” to blame as they try to gain advantage over their political opponents. The “Jews”, if this happens, will be forced to wear yellow stars of race, class, nationality, tribe and place of origin, by which they will be identified as enemies of the revolution, the people and the national interest.

Elements of this are already upon us. The Fees Must Fall campaign, we are told, is being driven by a hidden hand.

This hidden hand sees the Fees Must Fall phenomenon as an opportunity for regime change. Given the fact that many parts of the world are in crisis precisely because of the hidden hands of some permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the allegation may not be completely far-fetched. However, it is not uninteresting that the allegation coincides with our national sense of crisis and a governing party that is under siege.

Furthermore, the allegation is not inconsistent with an allegation that some in the tripartite alliance have been making since the time of the Marikana massacre. They argue that there is a multiheaded serpent that is slithering its way across our political landscape with destruction on all of its minds. Each head represents a “Jew” to blame for our woes — opposition parties, civil society formations, the media, and powerful countries, such as the US.

The point I am making is that when countries, organisations and institutions are under siege and seem to have no solutions for their problems, finding “Jews” to blame becomes a strategic option. This, however, is too easy and convenient an option. We must look for the real reasons why we are in crisis.”

While the point is perhaps well made that elements of South African society may be vulnerable to the political consequences of the crisis the unfortunate reality is that, driven by the BDS movement, plain, old-fashioned anti-Semitism is thriving.

AntiSemitismWatch has reported extensively on the effects of this. Mirroring the experience on campuses across the UK and the US, South African university students have disproportionately bore the brunt.

2016-03-08-18-22-33-1617720259The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has regularly spoken out on the impact of BDS and its acolytes, like Israeli Apartheid Week, through which anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are perpetuated.

The SAJBD’s Wendy Kahn said in a statement reported yesterday said: “We are witnessing mounting instances of anti-Israel rhetoric crossing over into overt anti-semitism‚ particularly on the university campuses. Last week‚ attempts were made to disrupt a religious learning session for Wits Jewish students‚ with the speaker being rudely interrupted and participants subjected to offensive verbal abuse (such as that “Jewish money” controls the university).”

The pig head placed in a supermarket’s kosher counter (it turned out to be the Halaal counter) marked another anti-Semitic low by BDS activists.

2016-03-08-18-16-19--371288810Similarly, the novelist Steve Apfel writing in today’s Israel National News says, “The Jew among nations is a proven device for diverting anger or catching votes and Israel is the new catchall. Zuma’s [Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa] counting and reading may be at the level of junior school, but he keeps a finger on the angry pulse of society. The millennial Jewish problem remains a handy antidote for the ills that the ruling party has created.”

The political and social crisis in South Africa, fanned by endemic corruption at the highest levels of government, and growing economic inequality have led to a crisis of leadership for the ruling African National Congress party and the country. It is against such a backdrop that, desperate to reclaim a libertarian post-aparthied reputation, the promotion of conspiracy theories can be perpetuated. BDS movement ideology has conveniently helped to provide a ‘legitimate’ framework within which to do that.


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