The African National Congress has declined to censure the party’s social media manager for Western Cape province this week after Jewish groups complained about a post she had written praising Adolf Hitler.
A screenshot on Twitter of Rene Smit’s Facebook wall showed a picture of the Nazi leader with a caption reading, “Yes man, you were right... I could have killed all the Jews, but I left some of them to let you know why I was killing them. Share this picture to tell the truth a [sic] whole world.”
In an interview with the weekly South African Jewish Report on Monday evening, ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe asserted that the post only represented Smit’s personal views and not those of the party. Mantashe also declined to censure the party employee, and according to the Jewish newspaper, he also “persistently refused” to distance his party from her comments.
“If I issue an ANC media release, then it is the ANC’s view,” he was quoted as saying.
The South African Jewish Board of Governors filed a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission over the post, declaring that it constituted a “serious breach of the Prohibition of Hate Speech.”
“The message conveyed by the post was that the nature of Jewish people everywhere is so intrinsically evil as to have justified the murder of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis. It further suggests that just as Jewish victims of Nazism had no right to live, so is this true of all Jews today,” said SAJBG chairwoman Mary Kluk.
“Freedom of expression is an important democratic value, but it cannot be allowed to take the form of hateful rhetoric against others, whether on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or any other such grounds,” she said.
The controversy over Smit’s comments came only days after South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein challenged ANC Deputy Secretary- General Jessie Duarte to a public debate over her remarks comparing Israel and Nazi Germany.
Last week, Duarte condemned Israel’s strikes on Hamas targets as “barbaric attacks on the defenseless Palestinian people of Gaza,” adding that Israel had turned the “occupied territories of Palestine into permanent death camps.”
“As we are reminded of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, surely we must ask the people of Israel, has the term ‘Lest we forget’ lost its meaning?” she said.
Duarte also stated that the ANC “will be joining the Palestinian solidarity and boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in organizing protests and pickets calling for the immediate end to Israeli violence against the Palestinian people.”
The South African BDS movement subsequently issued a public call for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.
“We must do more than lament & carry banners #ExpelIsraeliAmbassadorToSA,” the BDS movement tweeted.
On Wednesday, Ambassador Arthur Lenk was reportedly summoned to the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation to explain the rationale behind Israel’s current air campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“Before the ANC involves itself further in inflammatory rhetoric, it should discipline its senior member who tweeted appreciation and praise for Hitler and the Holocaust, and publish a full and unreserved apology,” a senior Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity when asked about the BDS tweet.
“How it deals with a supporter of genocide within its senior ranks will be the true test of whether it is an organization with any interest in achieving peace in our region, or an organization rife with hate, intolerance and anti-Semitism,” the official said.
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