South African minister in spat with Jewish body

February 5th, 2009 - 10:40 am ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Feb 5 (IANS) South African Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Fatima Hajaig is at the centre of an alleged anti-Semitism row after the body representing the local Jewish community refused to accept her apology for allegedly claiming at a pro-Palestinian rally last month that America and most Western countries were controlled by Jewish money.The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD)has called a statement by Hajaig “a veiled apology”, and will continue with its call on the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate the statement by the minister.

Despite the South African Parliament accepting Hajaig’s apology, the Jewish Board said in a statement: “The SAJBD urges the South African government to unequivocally distance itself from the false, inflammatory and racially offensive allegations made by Deputy Minister Hajaig.”

Hajaig was the chief speaker at a rally in January in the huge mainly Indian township of Lenasia, south of here, as a protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

The minister allegedly said: “The control of America, just like the control of most Western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country, then you cannot expect anything.”

With Hajaig’s comments being circulated worldwide via the YouTube website, she issued a statement on Tuesday after returning from a visit to Japan: “”At a singular point in my talk, and entirely unrelated to any South African community, I conflated Zionist pressure with Jewish influence. I regret the inference made by some that I am anti-Jewish. I do not believe that the cause of the Palestinians is served by any anti-Jewish racism.

“As a member of the South African government and a committed member of the African National Congress, I subscribe to the values and principles of non-racism and condemn without equivocation all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism in all its manifestations and wherever it may occur.

“To the extent that my statement may have caused hurt and pain, I offer an unequivocal apology for the pain it may have caused to the people of our country and the Jewish community in particular.

” I wish to reiterate that the major issue in relation to the Palestinian Israel conflict is the enormous suffering of the Palestinian people and the struggle for peace for all its people, based on justice and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

“As Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, I reaffirm the government’s commitment to engage all parties in Israel and Palestine to find an amicable and just resolution to the conflict in that region.”

But SAJBD Chairman Zev Krengel was unmoved by Haijag’s statement: “”This statement failed to address, let alone repudiate, the blatantly anti-Semitic sentiments originally expressed by (Hajaig), but merely apologised for any hurt it might have caused to the Jewish community.

“The bulk of the statement in fact focused on the Middle East situation and Ms. Hajiag’s viewpoints in this regard.

“It can only be concluded that Ms. Hajaig stands by her previous statement that the United States and most other Western countries are controlled by Jewish money power. As such, her latest statement does not constitute an acceptable apology but in fact serves to compounds the original insult to the Jewish world, the people of South Africa and the United States government.

“So far as the SA Jewish Board of Deputies is concerned, this matter is in the hands of the SA Human Rights Commission.”

While the Commission continues to consider the matter, a South African Parliamentary spokesman said the matter was now considered closed following the acceptance of Hajaig’s apology.

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