NEWS & ANALYSIS

Tony Ehrenreich censured for threats against Jewish community - SAJBD

SAHRC unequivocally upholds complaint against former WCape COSATU head for 2014 Facebook post

COSATU’S TONY EHRENREICH CENSURED FOR THREATENING JEWISH COMMUNITY

On 13 August 2014, then Western Cape Cosatu chairman Tony Ehrenreich posted a comment on Facebook calling for revenge attacks against the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and other “Zionist supporters” in retaliation for the deaths of Palestinian civilians. Amongst other inflammatory comments, he wrote, “The time has come to say very clearly that if a woman or child is killed in Gaza, then the Jewish board of deputies, who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the People of SA with the age old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye”.  

On 12 September 2018, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) unequivocally upheld a complaint against Ehrenreich lodged by the SAJBD. Ehrenreich was found guilty of prohibited hate speech, of harassment and of violating the complainants’ right both to dignity and to equality. He was directed to apologise in writing to the SAJBD and affirm his commitment to constitutional values.  

In its 26-page ruling, the SAHRC observed that even if a clear distinction had been made between the SAJBD and South African Jews in general, the statement would still have constituted a clear violation of the complainants’ rights. The language of Ehrenreich’s Facebook post in essence called for war against members of the targeted group and openly stated that they should “be murdered by their fellow South Africans in retaliation for acts taking place in another country”. This was “deeply psychologically and emotionally hurtful in terms of Section 10(a) of the Promotion of Equality and Prohibition of Unfair Discrimination Act”, and further constituted incitement to cause harm, which was prohibited under the Bill of Rights.   

SAJBD National Chairman Shaun Zagnoev believed that the ruling provided a useful addition to existing case law that helped to clarify where the boundaries lay between freedom of expression and constitutionally prohibited hate speech.

“The SAJBD welcomes the SAHRC ruling. It sends an unequivocal message that there is no justification for propagating hatred and making threats against fellow South Africans, irrespective of one’s political views (including on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)” he said.

Zagnoev added that the SAJBD would continue to pursue cases like this to their conclusion, regardless of how long it took, in order to ensure that those who threatened or defamed the Jewish community were called to account. He noted that several other ANC Western Cape political figures had also made antisemitic statements in recent years, which the SAJBD was currently pursuing through the SAHRC. 

Statement issued by Charisse Zeifert, Head: Communications, South African Jewish Board of Deputies, 12 September 2018