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Anti-Semitism Now: A View From South Africa

Anti-Semitism Now: A View From South Africa

"Anti-Semitism is by no means dead. I can no longer pretend that I am just like everyone else on campus. If the world is determined to hate me, then I must be something special."

by Laurey Forman

In South Africa amidst the 20,000 non-Jews that constitute my university, I always prided myself on contributing to the diverse ethnic and cultural mix which makes campus life so colorful. I would avidly discuss Jewish practices with Moslem friends of mine, and attentively draw in the fascinating customs of Moslem women.

All this has changed with the violence in Israel, marring my rose-tinted view of the world.

Campus life is tense, to say the least. The Moslem Students Association held a march on campus which culminated in the burning of the Israeli flag. A free speech wall at the main intersection of the university road is graffitied with the slogan "Jews-Bahais-Jews-Hutus" -- referring to us as African tribal murderers.

The South African Union of Jewish Students put up posters condemning these acts as perpetuating antagonism towards Jewish students. The Moslem Students Association responded by putting up slogans announcing that they are not anti-Semitic, but anti-Zionist.

Jewish students responded by putting up a poster in Hebrew, which read Am Yisrael Chai -- "the Jewish people are alive." This was promptly torn down.

All this leads me to one conclusion: Anti-Semitism is by no means dead. The perceived might of the Israeli army is merely a vehicle used to allow for free reign of anti-Semitism. The burning of the flag on campus has sparked further protests supported by top political parties. Many condoners have adopted the slogan: "Palestine equals Apartheid."

This slogan confounds me to say the least. It stands for the antithesis of two causes I have always felt strongly for and against. Growing up in apartheid South Africa, I saw the injustice firsthand. I was 12 years old when the system collapsed, but was nevertheless not too young to adamantly oppose it, and actively support its implosion. I know what the ugly face of unjustified oppression looks like.

Israel always stood, for me, as a manifestation of justice. After centuries of oppression, the world finally recognized our 2,000-year yearning to return to Israel -- the center of spirituality radiating in a world gone mad. The threat of losing this and the thought of it being equated with the most unjust and oppressive system evokes the sense that the world has inverted good with evil, and now one cannot tell the difference.

If the world is determined to hate me, then I can only stop them by wholly embracing myself.

I can no longer pretend that I am just like everyone else on campus. If the world is determined to hate me, then I must be something special. In a world where university curriculums still teach the anti-Semitic literature of Elliot and Lawrence, these "facts" are overlooked in the name of literary appreciation. No one cares that D.H. Lawrence wrote poems about gassing the Jews, a few years before Nazi death camps were put into practice. No one cares.

If the world is determined to hate me, then I can only stop them by wholly embracing myself. We as Jews cannot negate the importance of having pride in our heritage and our homeland. We have to know and believe that we are a great and worthy nation who has every right to the land we were promised 4,000 years ago.

With God's help, we can show the nations of the world that we are not subservient people who will succumb to the evils of hatred. We are a proud nation of priests who can say that despite the anti-Semitism, despite the rioting and fear and tension, despite all these illusions... indeed, Am Yisrael Chai -- "the Jewish people are alive."

"Israel Diary" is a forum where people across the spectrum can express their thoughts and views on life in Israel. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author. Submissions should be sent to:

October 28, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Neil Goldberg, March 15, 2002 12:00 AM

Feelings on life in school

America is a very ignorant country. The fact is most people don't realize if
U.S.A did not winn world war two all jew would seize to exsist. Israel should not have to talerate terroisiom and yet when the US faces it it's a big deal and they'e telling Israel not to respond. I hate to say this , but the US are not getting the job done with terrorisiom and they do not have Bin ladden so i fell there is nedd for a change.

(6) Jacqueline Tommasini, November 3, 2000 12:00 AM


The truth of the matter that people are ignorant and aren't interested in enlightening themselves, they listen to the ravings of fanatics and take their word as the truth. If only they would delve into history and discover the truth of Judaism, of Zionism, of Israel for themselves. Violence is an anathema to Judaism, Zionism and Israel.

(5) Leslie Thomas, November 1, 2000 12:00 AM

Not all bad

Living in Cape Town, South Africa I can see that things are a bit more tense now betweent he Jewish and Muslim population. However, today my headmaster organised a meeting between the Muslims and Jews of grade ten. The aim of the meeting was to discuss Israel and the current situation. I am a grade 12 pupil, but I was invited on behalf of the Jews. I was amazed to see that each person was able to speak his/her opinion without interruption. In the end one of the Muslim boys came up to me and shook my hand. Things might be getting worse, but things are still mcuh better in South Africa for Jews than in most of the diaspora. I wish you could have experienced what I experienced today and perhaps peace is not an illusion after all. As far as the government supporting the Palestinians. There are much more Muslims that Jews here, provinvial elections are coming up, they would lsoe a lto of votes if they supported the Jews. As for your sorrow, I am sorry. It's not politics that will find peace as far as I'm concerned but it is the young generation with their ideals who can maintain it.

(4) Julian Joffe, October 29, 2000 12:00 AM

Sadly, this is a good article. But worse is to come

I have recently left S.A. and I foresaw these Anti-Semitic beginnings. the problem is the President of the country is a JEW hater himself. Before he was voted in, I saw and heard him on international T.V. saying that S.A. does not want the whites and especially the JEWS. We don't want The JEWS they can all leave. S.A. will be better without them.

So with the government backing them how can we not expect ANTI -SEMITISIM to FLOURISH.

(3) Anonymous, October 29, 2000 12:00 AM

Am Yisroel Chai - also Laurey Forman!

My heart goes out to you, Laurey! I think you're managing to keep your head amid violence and I congratulate you. However, don't think that no one cares. People do, all over the world, and so does G-d. It's very hard to speak calmly of truth when people are being carried away by emotions, but that doesn't mean you're wrong (of course) or that they won't return to being rational someday (one hopes). I wonder if the distinction they're making between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism might be used to dialogue with the Muslims, saying that if Zionism is racism, then so is Palestinianism, and the two groups must learn to share the land and bring out the best of the two faiths, i.e. love, brother/sister-hood, compassion, mercy. Good luck to you - and also, you write well - I hope you continue to do so. Your Jewish sister, Debra M.

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