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The Jewish Report Editorial

No place for bullying

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I can’t bear bullies! I know I am not alone in having a serious aversion to anyone or any group who tries to make themselves feel better by making others feel bad about themselves. I can’t stand people who push others around just because they are not able – for whatever reason – to stand up to them.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Feb 21, 2019

Having said that, it seems we have an epidemic of bullies right now, be it in schools, in the workplace, in local and international politics, and so it goes on. Somehow, in spite of rules and regulations, bullies find their way to the fore, and do such damage.

Does it stem from the days of apartheid, where white people put black people down to ensure they had it all? Racism creates bullies. What is it about people that they feel the need to see those of another race as inferior to inflate their image of themselves? Perhaps we have lived with racism for so long, it is endemic here.

As Jews, we have had the darkest experiences of bullying through the ages, not least of all during the Holocaust. Our bullies are anti-Semites. And, around the world, this form of bullying is on the rise.

There was a 37% increase in anti-Semitic activities in the United States in 2017, according to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation at the end of 2018. In Britain, there is reported to have been a 16% rise in anti-Semitism in 2018, which amounts to 1 652 incidents, according to the Community Security Trust, a Jewish protection and research organisation. France was recently reported to have had a 74% increase and Germany a 10% increase in anti-Semitism.

In actual fact, in South Africa we do not have anti-Semitism anywhere near the severity of Europe and the US. South Africa is – believe it or not – extremely tolerant and accepting of other religions and faiths.

In terms of the community’s experience, I see bullying playing out much more when it comes to anything to do with Israel.

I guess as Jews there is a tacit acceptance and expectation that we will somehow support the Jewish state. But as a gentile, if you so much as voice your support for Israel, you will make enemies. These enemies are bullies, and apparently come down on such people like a ton of bricks, to use the cliché.

And, if you stand up and write an opinion piece that defends Israel’s right to invest in South Africa, boy oh boy, those bullies are likely to make you regret that you opened your mouth or put pen to paper! It is as if people are not entitled to their opinions, especially when they are offering educated views, and make sense.

Last Friday, Rhulani Thembi Siweya, a national executive member of the ANC Youth League, wrote a reasoned argument that was published in the Daily Maverick about how BDS-SA undermines South Africans. She took this anti-Israel organisation to task, saying that it doesn’t even listen to what ordinary Palestinians want. She went on to say that, “BDS-SA policy that Israel has no right to exist and South Africa must not pursue policies that are in its own best interests, must be dismissed.”

It didn’t take long before the Youth League sent out a strongly-worded press release about how this was not its view, it supported BDS-SA, and was 100% anti-Israel.

We were then unable to speak to Siweya no matter how hard we tried. Could the screws have been put on her using the now familiar bully-boy tactics of the anti-Israel lobby? Did she stick her head to far over the parapet?

Do you recall when online radio host Gareth Cliff openly said that Israel had a right to defend its country and people? The vitriol and venom that was showered on him was horrific. Once again, he was reasoned and could explain exactly why he thought the way he did. He dismissed and ignored the bullying for what it was.

Others, like model and media celebrity Shashi Naidoo, could not withstand the bullying, and turned back on what she had originally believed because, apparently, it seemed easier.

Then there was Mpho Phalatse, who is in charge of Johannesburg’s health and social development portfolio, and who publicly declared that she and “the City of Joburg stands with Israel”. The next thing, the ANC, EFF, and BDS came at her. It led to temporary suspension from her job until she apologised. Bullies!

Then, consider the proposed Clover deal, and how quickly it was pushed into a corner because of bullies. I do hope those involved find a way to make this remarkable deal work, and don’t succumb to these vicious tactics. Apparently, while BDS-SA and the Youth League is against the deal, the government and Siweya are firmly in favour of it.

To be honest, I often worry about the people we write about – or give a space to view their opinions – who openly support Israel. We have such an opinion piece in the newspaper this week on page 4, explaining why there is no way Israel could be an apartheid state, and why using this term is insulting to South Africans and Israel.

What happens when the bullies hear or read about it? What will they do?

Considering all the bullying that goes on for racial, religious, and other reasons, is it any surprise when there is bullying and taunting at school? It seems that bullying is permitted to be the way of the world. However, I and every other like-minded person abhor this way of operating. It is totally unacceptable as it destroys rather than builds people and relationships.

Stand up for your beliefs, be my guest, but don’t bully me in the hope that I will succumb to your beliefs. Our country – and our world – needs to start getting rid of bullying tactics, and start treating every human being, no matter their age, colour, creed, or religion, as they would want to be treated.

Let start somewhere, so that we can be an example to our children in how to behave.

Shabbat Shalom!

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