One would surely expect that after 13 years of unsuccessful litigation culminating in a unanimous Constitution Court judgment finding of antisemitic hate speech against them, those on the receiving end would not have the effrontery to claim victory. Such are the realities of our all too aptly named “post truth” age, unfortunately, that the SA BDS Coalition attempts to do just that in its defence of Minister Naledi Pandor’s obsessive Israel bashing (‘Pandor recognising Israeli crimes as apartheid welcomed”, 29 July).
Brazenly misrepresenting the outcome of an important court ruling to push a political agenda is bad enough, but BDS descends even lower by jeering at the Jewish leadership for its supposed levelling of false charges of antisemitism in order to stifle criticism of Israel. Engaging in defamatory invective is the modus operandi of the local BDS movement, but this takes things altogether too far and for the record alone requires a response.
The court case referred to above is that of the SA Human Rights Commission on behalf of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (Applicant) and Bongani Masuku and the Congress of SA Trade Unions (First and Second Respondent). To summarise, earlier this year, the Constitutional Court handed down judgment in the matter, whose genesis went back to a complaint of antisemitic hate speech which th
e SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) lodged with the SA Human Rights Commission in 2009. The basis of the SAJBD’s case was that Masuku’s incendiary rhetoric had gone beyond a legitimate expression of opinion on Israel to amount to hate speech and incitement to harm against SA Jewry in general. The SAHRC upheld the complaint, finding then Cosatu international relations secretary Bongani Masuku guilty of hate speech and directing him to apologise to the Jewish community.
Refusing to accept the ruling Masuku, with Cosatu’s backing, fought the case all the way up to the country’s apex court, but in the end to no avail. While differing in certain details with the rulings of preceding tribunals, the Concourt confirmed the SAHRC’s original hate speech finding and ordered Masuku to apologise. Having reached the end of the line, the latter was left with no choice but to provide an appropriately worded written apology, and the receipt of same by the SAJBD shortly afterwards finally concluded the matter.
Such are the bald facts of the Masuku affair. From the SAJBD’s point of view, it set the important precedent that the right to denounce Israel did not constitute a license to be hurtful and insulting towards Jews and vindicated its decision to take up and pursue the matter through to its conclusion.