South African Jewish Board accepts apology on anti-Semitic remarks

February 6th, 2009 - 2:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Feb 6 (IANS) The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has accepted a second apology from Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig after President Kgalema Motlanthe intervened over her allegedly anti-Semitic remarks at a pro-Palestine rally in the mainly Indian area of Lenasia.The board had earlier refused to accept an apology by the minister, claiming that it did not go far enough after her remarks at the rally, where Hajaig reportedly said that the US and most Western countries were “in the hands of Jewish money”, and largely controlled by “Zionists”.

“SAJBD commends President Motlanthe and his cabinet for ensuring that Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig has now made an unequivocal apology for and full retraction of the unacceptable anti-Semitic statements she made,” SAJBD said in a joint statement by the organisation’s National Chairman Zev Krengel and National Director Wendy Kahn.

“Previous to this, the SAJBD rejected the deputy minister’s original statement purporting to be an apology on the grounds that she had very clearly avoided addressing, let alone repudiating, the blatantly anti-Semitic sentiments originally expressed by her.

“The SAJBD is satisfied that her second apology, which came about as a result of cabinet’s discussions on the matter and President Motlanthe’s subsequent meeting with the deputy minister, constitutes an appropriately unambiguous and unequivocal expression of regret for those statements.”

Although government spokesman Themba Maseko would only say that Motlanthe had “held discussions” with Hajaig, informed sources said she had received a “dressing down” from the president.

Maseko said Hajaig had “expressed her deep regret for making the statement”, and had accepted that the comments she had made were contrary to stated government policy.

“She subsequently apologised unreservedly and unequivocally for the comments, and agreed to withdraw them unconditionally.”

Maseko said it was “safe to say that the president would have reiterated government policy that anti-Semitism equates to racism in this country … and that (the South African government) will not support any form of racism”.

“This is a welcome reaffirmation of the Government’s firm commitment to combating all forms of racism and prejudice in our society, including anti-Semitism,” Krengel said.

SAJBD had also lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission against Hajaig, but media spokesman Vincent Moaga told IANS that since the board had publicly accepted the apology, the commission would not consider the matter further.

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