OPINION

SAJR vs the Press Council: When in doubt, blame the victim

Hassen Lorgat |

06 June 2022

Hassen Lorgat says if anything the publication was treated extremely leniently

When in doubt, blame the victim

There has been an unprecedented, seemingly mobilised, assault on the decision of the Press Council of South Africa to expel the South African Jewish Report (SAJR). This assault has come from various people who hold influence in some circles in our society. The arguments, in the main, go like this:

  1. Those who complained are racists, were and have always been;
  2. The cartoon was racist and they will never apologise for this. The editor Ms Peta Krost says that it is an “apology they could never make” (interesting to note, that the grounds for labelling us was the dissemination of the cartoon);
  3. Those who wanted us to apologise, the Press Council, are racist; and
  4. In addition, the Press Council are incompetent (adjudicators and also a bad process).

To justify their attacks, they have put forward as “proof” – not in the hearing but afterwards – racist cartoons, caricatures and have generally shared images that denigrate Jewish people. They hoped, by association, to place the critics of Israel and Zionism in the same basket. As a “last gasp”, they argue that they had indeed resigned whilst all of us were not looking.

I will be dealing with these concerns and conclude that, at all times, these show disdain for the struggle of Palestinians for national liberation and freedom. Since most of the commentators present themselves as those concerned about the universal values of press freedom, communication and human rights, I will end with some reflections on these.

Let me deal with the attacks on the Palestine Solidarity Movement in point form as they appear:

When in doubt – Blame the victims

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The false accusation of antisemitism

The main claim of the SAJR is that BDS was antisemitic, racist because of a cartoon shared on the BDS Facebook page. This offensive article was published on the 6 Nov 2020 article by Tali Feinberg entitled: Antisemitic Clover cartoon is BDS’s sour “last gasp.”

I, as a human being and a member of the PSA (a member of the BDS), and the union GIWUSA complained to the Press Council about the contents of the article. We believe that the cartoon was not racist and that, by sharing it, we were not complicit in racism. We argued in the court that the cartoon was shared by a BDS affiliate but was drawn by GIWUSA (not by the BDS, Mr Sackstein).

In “researching” her story, Feinberg sent “questions” to many in the Palestinian solidarity movement, including Ronnie Kasrils and the BNC Omar Barghouti. Barghouti castigated the writer for her biassed assumption, thus: