It was a welcome to South Africa that passengers disembarking from an El Al flight from Tel Aviv at O.R. Tambo Airport near Johannesburg will never forget.
While they waited for their bags at the luggage carousel, a man began screaming: “You are wicked... the Jews are wicked people, the Jews are very wicked people.”
“To assist with the water [crisis] in Cape Town, you were rejected because you are wicked.... Tell your government to change, we are not Palestinians,” he shouted, adding again, “They are wicked people.”
Dylan Rendel, who witnessed and filmed the incident, said it was “extremely scary.”
“We were all just standing there waiting around, and the next minute there was just this screaming and shouting – loud and abusive. Everyone was just so shocked as to what was happening. This person started making racial comments and then started attacking the Jews. Her didn’t attack Israel, he was attacking the Jews. It was blatant antisemitism.”
Viral video of antisemitic incident at Johannesburg airport calling Jews wicked (Dylan Rendel)
Rendel said the man shouted directly at some of the Jewish passengers, and during his rand claimed to have flown to Israel where he said he was denied entry into the country. “I don’t know what happened, I can’t verify it but to make it clear he wasn’t attacking Israel, just the Jews, saying that we are all the same and that we’re ‘wicked.’”
Rendel said there was no security at the scene “and no one was doing anything” as the man continued his rant. Eventually a teller from one of the ticket counters came to try and calm him down. “After 15 minutes two... South African police officers... tried to calm him down” and escorted him away.
“At the end of the day, there were tourists coming in, Israelis, there were South Africans returning, children and families, it was extremely scary and unprovoked. It didn’t have to happen.”
Another passenger who asked to remain anonymous, said it was an awful way to start “her visit to South Africa.”
“It was disturbing. I’m visiting, I haven’t been back to the country in several years and just to see this blatant antisemitism is awful. It saddens me to see what this beautiful country is becoming. The government is too influenced by groups like BDS (boycott divestment and sanctions against Israel) and it’s now filtering down.”
Also on Thursday, several antisemitic social media posts targeting the South African Jewish community and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) went viral.
On Twitter, user Matome Letsoalo said, “The Holocaust will be like a picnic when we are done with all you Zionist bastards. F*** all of you.” He also posted several pictures from the Holocaust, a Swastika and an Israeli flag burning as part of the tweet.
As he received responses from various people, he posted a picture of a semi-automatic weapon saying: “I’m ready for you.”
Another post that called Jews “rats” and “scum” was also circulated by the same Twitter user.
A WhatsApp conversation – in which the writer said, “You Jews/Zionists will see your time coming,” called Jews “pigs” and said Jews “belong in Hell” – was also reported.
In a statement, the SAJBD said, “Over the past 24 hours, a flurry of viciously antisemitic and threatening attacks have been made against South African Jews, both on social media and in direct face-to-face encounters.
“The incidents, which are being followed up by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, have generated great anxiety and anger in the Jewish community and screenshots of the offending posts have gone viral.”
SAJBD chairman Shaun Zagnoev said while it was unfortunately common to find antisemitic content online, it was rare for it to be so virulent and inflammatory.
“The posts show how easily radical anti-Israel sentiment can spill over into hateful slurs and threats against Jewish people in general. We are being told that we are ‘scum,’ ‘rats,’ ‘bastards,’ ‘pigs,’ ‘swine’ and ‘fat-nosed f***ks,” Zagnoev said. “We are further being warned that ‘our time is coming’ and that ‘the Holocaust will be a picnic after we are done with you.’”
The SAJBD acknowledged the incident at the airport in which Jews were verbally abused and said in a statement, “every single one of these incidents is not only at attack on the Jewish community, but an attack on our very democracy.
“Racism has no place in this country. And certainly, any minority group is protected by the Constitution, which protects our freedom of expression and association,” the statement continued.
“It is no coincidence that these antisemitic comments are coming after the very public humiliation and ‘re-education’ of model Shashi Naidoo for expressing her support for Israel. It would appear that those who support Israel are now ‘legitimate’ targets for attacks.
“The vast majority of South African Jews are overwhelming and proudly South African, proudly Jewish, and proudly Zionist. We will not be intimidated by these attacks and we call on every single South African who is opposed to any form of racism and who values democracy and freedom of expression to say ‘enough is enough!’ We need to condemn politicians who whip up racism and we need to condemn extremist groups who intimidate and harass individuals who are vulnerable and express an opinion that doesn’t agree with theirs. There is simply no place for hate in our country."