Witch trials in South Africa?

I watched Shashi Naidoo’s “mea culpa” (or rather bullied into submission apology) with a great deal of sadness and anger. Referring to her impending and I am sure well-choreographed, visit to “Palestine” for “re-education”, I had awful images of a Siberian gulag circa Stalin’s regime. Naidoo spoke movingly of promoting peace but the irony of saying this surrounded by an organization like BDS (boycott Divestment and Sanctions) who are anti-peace and normalization between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours, favouring that bridges be bombed rather than built, made me feel that perhaps Naidoo is a symptom of something extremely worrying that is brewing in South Africa – the steady erosion of the freedom of speech.

Shashi Naidoo holds joint press conference with BDS

Naidoo was subject to bullying, threats to her life and threats of rape for posting comments on Facebook that were favourable to Israel. If anyone still believes that BDS is a human rights organization, think again. The jig is up. All you have to do is spend a little time on social media to see how BDS and their supporters are trying to intimidate or threaten anyone who has a different opinion to them on Israel and some have used threatening language that even calls for physical harm to Jews or threatened the community with punishment “worse than the Holocaust”.

Shashi symptomatic of something far greater than the bullyboy tactics of BDS and their supporters and their abilities to coerce an uncomfortable apology- she is a symbol of the steady erosion of free speech in South Africa.

This is not unique to her. She joins an illustrious group of international celebrities who have been threatened because of their support for Israel like Sir Paul MacCartney, Alicia keys and even the Argentinian football team who cancelled a friendly warm-up match pre the World Cup with the Jewish State. Argentina’s foreign minister spoke about these threats calling them “worse than ISIS”. Some have stood their ground against hatemongering and some like Shashi are too terrified not to.

Shashi deserves our compassion, as do the many who have to face the juggernaut of hatemongers.

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The Media Review Network’s Iqbal Jasset shows me some “love” on Twitter

It is more than just the Israel-Palestine issue or the importing of a far-away conflict into South Africa, it is about the intimidation and witch trial by media. South Africa’s mainstream media has been largely silent. I cannot help wonder if it is fear – or indifference.

The media still fails to draw a correlation between indifference and biased reporting and the rise of anti-Semitism. The constant coverage of only one side is fodder for hatred – and sometimes violence.

The levels of hatred and threats that go unchallenged and allowed to infest social media have spelled the death knell of the freedom of speech in South Africa. Threats are not relegated to an incident here and a post there but rather a growing epidemic that has found a tailwind on social media. It is very easy to hide behind an avatar….

Trade Unionist, Zwelinzima Vavi threatens “racist Zionists”

South Africans fought hard and many paid with their lives to end the racist Apartheid regime and birth a democratic country with equality for all and one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.

All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. Anti-Semitism is not just a problem for the Jewish community. It is everybody’s problem. Anyone who cares about democracy, equality and is concerned about racism and discrimination in the Rainbow Nation needs to take a stand. Don’t be a bystander and let the hatred flourish.

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