By Tyla Dallas
“Ask the Jew to see his number tattoo” — the phrase uttered by a 30-something-year-old at a busy bar on a Friday night. “Hitler should have f*cking roasted you bastards” — the statement spat at a tenant when a property dispute turned sour. “You’re a stingy half-Jew” — the abuse hurled at a boy by a colleague during his work shift.
In the last two years working as the Board’s Legal Researcher, and now Marketing and Legal officer, people’s ability to hurl hateful words at one another has ceased to shock me. Offend? Of course! Disturb? Most definitely! Yet our highest courts have held that speech that may shock, offend and disturb you, may still be a protected form of expression. So when should we take action?
The Board favours a restorative justice approach to discrimination, with the aim to engage and educate the offender so that they understand the offensive nature of their comments. Even where a statement seems so egregious, the context in which it is said may not support successful litigious action being taken. We want to empower our community to live an authentic and proud Jewish life. Ideally, free from intimidation and harassment; but realistically, hate will always permeate. Antisemitism is the oldest form of hate, mutating from racially- to religiously-based, and relying on common tropes such as ‘global Jew dominance and manipulation’. It is racism. It is discrimination. Yet, when it happens, it is not uncommon for it to be brushed off as ‘sensitivity’.
Are we as Jews sensitive? Well, speaking for myself, it is a resounding YES. Was I always? No. When I started at the Board, I was admittedly unfazed by the ‘Jew-baiting’ I had grown accustomed to it throughout my life. Growing up in Durban, attending public school and being raised in a mixed-religion household, my Jewish identity was only one part of me. It was only when I started immersing myself in courses on antisemitism that I began to slowly but surely ‘get it’. I am sensitive to antisemitism because of the past endured by my people. I am sensitive to antisemitism because I am scared for my family’s safety. Like racism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia and all other discriminations, antisemitism has no place in our society. It relies on ‘othering’ — subjugating a part of a person’s identity to their whole world-offering.
My biggest learning has been that my sensitivity does not trickle down — not everyone perceives things the same way. Around the board table, this is true, as well as within our community. How could broader society be any different? For many, antisemitism is so deeply ingrained and generally accepted that it is not even recognised as harmful. So, how do we correct this? Do we react any time someone voices a racial slur like ‘Jews are stingy’?
The Cape SAJBD believes that education is the only real deterrent. Communicating despite one’s differences, learning about others’ challenges and past, and working together to help society are crucial. Breaking down these barriers allows us to see the beauty in those different to us.
With this being my last article for the Board as I move on to other challenges, I have created an educational booklet titled Confronting Antisemitism that will become part of the Board’s educational tool-kit to address antisemitism. It defines antisemitism, its history and the ways to respond to it. Email email@example.com to get your copy!
If you experience any form of antisemitism or anti-Jewish bias including hate speech, intimidation, assault, vandalism or graffiti, report it to the Board. Either call, text or WhatsApp our #ReportHate Hotline on 079 994 5573 or complete a #ReportHate tool available on our website.
• Published in the August 2022 Digital Edition – Click here to read it.
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