Bombing of Johannesburg Synagogue Raises Concerns About Scapegoating

The Jewish community here is deeply disturbed by the bomb blast that damaged a synagogue in the Rosettenville section of Johannesburg on Sunday. It had also been defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.

The incident occurred two days after an explosion damaged the home of a Jewish City Council member, Clive Gilbert, in another section of the city.

Jewish community leaders ascribed the incidents to right-wing extremists opposed to changes that are altering South Africa’s apartheid society. Jews are being made the scapegoats, they said.

“We fear that it signifies a new stage in their anti-Semitic campaign,” a spokesman for the South African Zionist Federation told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The target Sunday was the South Eastern Hebrew Center in Rosettenville, a section of southern Johannesburg.

The blast occurred at 1:38 a.m. local time, according to the Citizen, a daily newspaper here. It said the device appeared to have been planted on the side of the synagogue, directly opposite the rear entrance of a nursery school housed in the building.

The attack seemed to be aimed at the synagogue, not the school, but windows and the glass door of the school were cracked.

Spray-painted in black on the synagogue’s front wall were two swastikas and several slogans that made reference to Jewish support for the anti-apartheid movement. Last month, Jewish leaders met here with Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress and one of the leading opponents of apartheid.

One slogan said, “Jews are the same as Mandela.” Another showed a Star of David with an equals sign next to the letters ANC.

Harry Schwarz, a member of Parliament for the Yeoville district and a member of the executive of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said the bombing was clearly the work of right-wingers.

“We have witnessed quite a lot of anti-Semitism recently. It is rearing its ugly head in different places, but it seems it is the same small group that is responsible,” he told the Citizen.

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