The assailants allegedly hurled antisemitic insults at the youths and physically assaulted two of the three youngsters.
“[The Jewish boys] were wearing kippah [yarmulke],” said Kahn, who stated that the attack was motivated by antisemitism, as the boys were clearly identified, and the statements directed at them included references to religious and political tension in the Middle East.
These attacks are shameful and, as much as they seem to represent an escalation in anti-Semitism in South Africa, they also seem to point to a relatively new trend in South Africa that I noticed last year during Operation Protective Edge in Israel. Before then, anti-Israel sentiment popped up whenever Israel took action against Palestinians but it largely remained anti-Israel sentiment.
Last year that changed and anti-Israel sentiment became thinly veiled anti-Semitism and then not so thinly veiled. What it signified to me was that South Africa was losing its relatively sheltered status compared to much of Europe which has witnessed violent attacks like this for some time now.
On one hand it seems like South Africa is just following the same regressive trend that has gripped Europe, the United States and other developed countries: it has become more acceptable in some sectors to lash out at Jews if the rage is prefaced by some sort of objective to Israel’s actions regarding the Palestinians (regardless of there being any justification for the rage). I’d say that is just progress except it isn’t. It is, however, not unusual lately.
On the other hand, South Africa following this trend means the culture of tolerance and its embrace for diversity which South Africans began to cultivate after 1994 has withered. Surely South Africa, of all countries, should lead the world with a values-based tolerance for diversity of legitimate opinions and beliefs? Instead politics and sensationalism have done away with any real semblance of an enlightened approach based on Constitutional values and a respect for human rights.
What remains, both in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, is the latest version of a seething and ancient hatred for Jews. Objections to Israel’s approach to the Palestinians by the likes of the BDS Movement is just a cover for a deeper hatred and a much bigger threat that faces not just Israel and the world’s Jews but much of the world’s population.
I don’t think this is the last time people who are visibly Jewish will be attacked in South Africa’s malls and on the streets. Tragically, I suspect this will only get worse in time and the sooner more people realize this and do more to prevent it, the better. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be a politically popular option anymore.
I hope I am wrong.