South African unionist ordered to apologize for antisemitic hate speech

Bongani Masuku called for Jewish lives to be made "hell" among other incendiary remarks.

June 29, 2017 18:10
1 minute read.
Students hold a Hezbollah flag during a demonstration at Wits University during 'Israeli Apartheid W

Students hold a Hezbollah flag during a demonstration at Wits University during 'Israeli Apartheid Week'. (photo credit: SAUJS)


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A senior South African trade unionist called for Jewish lives to be made “hell,” among other incendiary remarks, and eight years later he is being taken to task for his words.

Bongani Masuku, international relations spokesperson for the Congress of South African Trade Unions, was ordered by a Johannesburg court on Thursday to apologize to the South African Jewish community after he was found guilty of hate speech.

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The Equality Court in Johannesburg held that Masuku made statements that were “hurtful, harmful, incite harm, and propagate hatred, and amount to hate speech,” during a 2009 public address at Johannesburg’s Wits University and in various written communications.

Judge Seun Moshidi ordered Masuku to make an “unconditional apology” to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, or SAJBD, the umbrella organization of the South African Jewish community. He must apologize in the next 30 days or within a time period agreed to by the parties.

The case was brought by the South Africa Human Rights Commission after Masuku’s long failure to comply with its 2009 ruling, which also demanded the trade unionist apologize to the SAJBD.

According to South African News24, Masuku threatened that South African Jews would be targeted due to their pro-Israel stance, that Jewish lives would be made “hell” and that Jewish families suspected of having family members serving in the Israel Defense Forces could be subject to vigilante violence. Masuku also said that pro-Israel Jews should be “forced to leave South Africa.”

The public address took place at an event hosted by Wits University Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Young Communist League.

Thursday’s judgment was welcomed by the SAJBD, which expressed their wish to see a speedy conclusion to the drawn-out saga.

“The SAJBD particularly welcomes the fact that in terms of the judgment, threats and insults against Jews who support Israel cannot be justified on the alleged basis that such attacks are aimed not at Jews but at ‘Zionists,’” said a statement released by the organization.

“The SAJBD hopes that Bongani Masuku will... apologize to the Jewish community, thereby bringing this painful matter to finality and allowing all the parties to move on.”

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