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World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder met last week in Johannesburg with South African President Jacob Zuma and called on the South African leader to take a stand against anti-Israel smears.
The two met to discuss racism and intolerance in South Africa and the surrounding region, the WJC said in a press release on Sunday, and the WJC head took the opportunity to denounce comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa.
"The people in South Africa should know that Israel is not an apartheid state," Lauder said, and called on South African citizens to "speak out whenever such unfair and biased statements are made."
South African Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig told a Palestinian solidarity rally earlier this year that "The control of America... is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country then you cannot expect anything else."
Following these comments, Lauder was concerned to tell the South African president that intolerance and anti-Semitism remain utterly unacceptable.
Lauder asked Zuma "to continue the fight against all forms of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism in South Africa and in the region, and to pursue a balanced, fair and constructive policy with respect to the conflict in the Middle East."
Lauder, wary of South Africa's stance towards Israel's policies, told Zuma that "there are no simple solutions to this complex problem," but remained positive, stating that South Africa has the ability to help "forge policies that are fair and balanced towards both Israel and the Palestinian people."