opinionBy Doron Isaacs
This is an open letter sent this morning by Doron Isaacs to Radio 786. In it, he explains why he refuses to be interviewed by the station.
Dear Sir / Madam,
In early January 2013, upon the announcement of the matric results, Radio 786 requested to interview me. The interview was requested of me in my capacity as Deputy General Secretary of Equal Education. Equal Education is South Africa's largest education rights organisation. Its head office is in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
I declined to be interviewed. I explained that this was due to the Holocaust-denial broadcast previously on Radio 786, for which no apology has been offered. I was requested to put my concerns in writing, which I now do. In the interim I have received from you the press statement issued by the Islamic Unity Convention on 14 January 2013.
My understanding of the facts is that on 8 May 1998 Dr Yakub Zaki was interviewed on Radio 786, and that he expressed views to the effect that the Jews caused the Anglo-Boer War, conspired to steal South Africa's resources, controlled world banks and that the "million plus" Jews who perished in the Second World War had died of infectious diseases.
I regard these views as malicious fabrications of history intended to cause hatred for Jewish people in the present day. In my view therefore, such Holocaust denial constitutes anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a form of racism.
The fact that remembrance of the Holocaust is desecrated today, by those who recruit its memory to justify oppressive conduct by the State of Israel, does not in any way justify Holocaust denial or anti-Semitism.
I do not claim that these are the views of Radio 786. I do not know if they are. My objection is that these views were broadcast on Radio 786 and that no apology has been made.
It is likely that the broadcast of such views is prohibited by law. Perhaps that should not be the case. But whether something should be legally permitted is a different question from whether or not it is morally acceptable. Clearly, the broadcast of such racism is morally intolerable, and any radio station who wittingly or unwittingly broadcasts racism must apologise unreservedly.
Zackie Achmat has expressed similar sentiments which approximate my point of view fairly closely.
For the record, I am Jewish. I am known within the Jewish community as an outspoken opponent of the oppressive and racist policies of the State of Israel. In 2008 I co-organised a delegation of 23 eminent South Africans to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We spent considerable time viewing the effects of Israel's policies of dispossession and apartheid, particularly in the West Bank. I have also played a role in generating public petitions of Jewish signatories in opposition to the bombing of Gaza.
My opposition to racism against Palestinians in Israel stems from the same value system that ensures that I stand implacably opposed to racism against Jews on Radio 786.
I am quite convinced that the fight for full freedom for Palestinians is also a fight for a world in which all forms of prejudice, bigotry and domination are eliminated, including the hatred of Jews. I am also quite sure that the struggle to defeat anti-Semitism is also a struggle for all people to be free and equal, including Palestinians.
Also for the record, I am a regular guest on Voice of the Cape FM. I very much value the opportunity to participate in their programs.
Boycott is a tactic of non-violent resistance against oppression. I support its use, in some instances, against Israel, and I support its use now against your radio station.
This then is my explanation for refusing to be interviewed on Radio 786. I intend to maintain this position until Radio 786 has offered a full apology for the broadcast of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and I intend to encourage friends and colleagues in civil society to do the same.
Doron Isaacs is Deputy General Secretary of Equal Education.