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South Africa paper apologizes for anti-Jewish correspondence

JOHANNESBURG, March 25 (JTA) — A prominent South African newspaper has expressed regret for the publication of a series of falsified letters designed to foment anti-Jewish feeling. The newspaper The Star made the admission after the intervention of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. The paper, which says it has been the target of a hoax, has been running letters on the Israeli-Arab conflict from a person with a Jewish-sounding name. The letters, signed by an “Israel Melunsky” of Yeoville, a suburb of Johannesburg, apparently gave The Star a fictitious address, according to the Board of Deputies. Using stereotypes exploited by anti-Semites over the years, the letters claimed to vindicate Jewish and Israeli “superiority” over other peoples, particularly Arabs. One of the letters said the Jews had always been known as “the chosen people” and that there was no need to apologize for beliefs that offended others. Another recent letter said it was only a matter of time until Israel took back “what is rightfully hers, namely Hebron and the West Bank,” despite any deal struck by Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Last month, a letter stated that it was “Jewish brains, Jewish money, Jewish intellect, Jewish enterprise and Jewish military superiority which was today keeping the world going” and that “it was the duty of the Jews to guide lesser mortals and beings.” Seymour Kopelowitz, national director of the Board of Deputies, described the letters as “attacking other religions in a most vicious and despicable fashion.” The Star printed an explanation regarding the correspondence, saying that an investigation revealed that the Yeoville address given by the correspondent did not exist. The explanation also said the correspondence “relied on stereotypes to make its point and may well have been deliberately concocted to foment anti-Jewish reactions.” The paper said the letter was “printed in good faith, but The Star and the readers were hoaxed, and The Star regrets this.”