Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Shevat 5763 - January 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Upsurge in South African Antisemitic Activity
by D. Saks, South African correspondent

Just one day before the close of the secular year, a total of 38 graves in the Strand and Pineland Jewish cemeteries of Cape Town were vandalized. The attacks received widespread media coverage and were roundly condemned by local religious leaders, although subsequent investigation has suggested that the extent of the damage was exaggerated.

Since then, there were several more antisemitic incidents in the country, raising uneasy questions as to whether the worldwide upsurge in anti-Jewish activity has at last reached South Africa.

Particularly disturbing was the receipt by five different institutions of a threatening letter in which an unidentified white powder was enclosed. The letters were allegedly sent by a local cell of the far-right British grouping Combat 18, the armed wing of the Neo-Nazi organization Blood and Honor. They were received by the three branches of King David School, Johannesburg's main Jewish day school system, as well as by the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Killarney Mall, a shopping center frequented by Jews.

Combat 18 has a history of carrying out violent attacks against racial minorities and is openly pro-Nazi and antisemitic. The text of the letter accused the jews (sic) of having for too long "tormented the white race" and warned that the Jews of South Africa would "now be crushed." The inclusion of white powder was reminiscent of the international anthrax scare that followed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, although in this case the powder turned out to be harmless. All five letters were handed over to the Bomb Squad for further investigation.

In other incidents, a Jewish teenager was reportedly subjected to antisemitic abuse before being violently assaulted by an unidentified black man whilst walking home from school. That same day, antisemitic graffiti was found written outside the gate of a Jewish nursery school in Johannesburg.

While the above occurrences have caused some concern, antisemitism on the whole continues at a relatively low level in South Africa. Only forty incidents were reported in all of 2002, as opposed to over 600 in Australia, a community of comparable size, and where many former South Africans have since made their homes.

The most serious single incident last year took place in September, when four Jewish youths had an altercation with several colored men at a petrol station and were afterwards pursued and shot at. One of the youths was slightly injured by flying glass when the back window of their vehicle was shattered by gunfire.


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