Op-eds

Middle East webinar a first for SA

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
Earlier this week, a delegation from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) Gauteng Council, headed by Chairperson Professor Karen Milner, met Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Moloantoa Makhubo to discuss possible future joint projects between the council and Jewish community.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Oct 15, 2020

A second encouraging engagement this week was the holding of an online webinar jointly hosted by the University of the Free State and University of Haifa on the latest developments in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf, Iran, and North Africa. This initiative formed part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the respective universities in April 2018, a partnership that has already resulted in mutually beneficial interaction on such issues as water management.

It was the first time that the South African public was exposed to an educational webinar of this nature, allowing those with an interest in Middle Eastern geopolitics to listen to leading experts in the field. Sadly but predictably, rather than embrace the opportunities presented by this relationship, hardline anti-Israel groups condemned Free State University for hosting the event and called for it to be boycotted. The SAJBD commends the university for hosting the webinar, and encourages it to resist pressure from those who shamelessly put their own ideological agendas before the best interests of South Africa.

On the COVID-19 front, South Africans must now adapt to a situation in which much of what constituted normal life prior to the hard lockdown is being resumed, but in which the pandemic itself is still far from over. That our own community has seen an upsurge in infections over the past two weeks is a warning to all of us to continue to conduct our daily affairs with due care and caution.

“Normality” unfortunately also means having to deal with higher levels of things like crime, road accidents and, in our case, antisemitic incidents. Regarding the latter, the Board has noted an uptick in such instances over the past month, ranging from online threats and insults, direct verbal abuse, bullying in schools, graffiti attacks, and the inclusion of a stereotypical image in a university language workbook.

Working closely where necessary with the Community Security Organisation, the Board has followed up on all these cases or is in the process of doing so. As ever, we rely on community members to alert us to all such incidents that they experience or otherwise become aware of (write to [email protected]). We ask that when reporting these cases, please include as much detail as possible, including any information that might help in identifying and tracking down the perpetrators.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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