Violent wave of anti-Semitism breaks out in liberal Cape Town

CAPE TOWN, July 15 (JTA) — Cape Town’s 25,000-member Jewish community — the second largest in South Africa — is reeling from what has been described as the worst outbreak of anti-Semitism in recent years. Jewish leaders condemned the firebombing this week of a local house that is owned by a Jewish family and the subsequent bomb threats to a Jewish old age home and synagogue that are also located in the Cape Town suburbs. The firebombing took place days after a crowd of Muslims marched Saturday on the Israeli Embassy in Cape Town shouting anti-Semitic slogans. All of the incidents are believed to have been sparked by the distribution of flyers in the West Bank town of Hebron that depicted the prophet Mohammed as a pig stepping on the Koran. In Cape Town, which has a large, militant Muslim community, the condemnations took a violent turn. Early Monday morning, gasoline bombs were thrown at the home of Ivan Maron, an observant Jew who operates a Jewish book center. An estimated $50,000 damage was caused to the home, which was left uninhabitable. Maron’s daughter, Martine, said her parents and older brother were asleep when the attack occurred. “Two bombs came flying through the window. Thank God I was awake, sitting in the lounge — where I seldom sit — and able to call the police and the fire brigade.” Shortly after the attack, police received a telephone call from a man who claimed responsibility for the firebombing and who said that the Highlands House old age home and the Wynberg Synagogue would be the next targets. Saturday’s march was on the Israeli Embassy in Cape Town was scarcely less threatening. It was marked by chants of “Death to Israel” and “One Zionist, One Bullet.” The leader of the march, Abdulatif Abrahams, said, “Our prophet was blasphemed and that is not kosher, but we were not marching against the Jewish people — we will rise up in a group against any atrocities against Muslims or non-Muslims.” He said the slogans used at the march should not be taken literally. Hours before the march took place, worshipers at the Wynberg Synagogue arrived for Shabbat services to find pamphlets slipped under the door. Jackie Sachar, chairman of the synagogue, said the pamphlets included such statements as “Gas Chambers for the Jews.” South Africa’s chief rabbi, Cyril Harris, had previously written to a local Islamic council to dissociate the South African Jewish community from the Hebron flyer. Several local Muslim leaders lashed out at the firebombing and the threats against the Jewish community. A leading Islamic cleric, Sheikh Seraj Hendricks, said the attack and threats were “wanton savagery.” “If a Muslim group is responsible, the attack should not be confused with the attitude of the general Muslim population, just as the `pig’ poster should not be confused with general Jewish attitudes.” The South Africa Jewish Board of Deputies issued a statement condemning the firebombing and march.

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