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Anti-Jewish slur in Zimbabwe paper

CAPE TOWN, Nov. 14 (JTA) — Accusations of an alleged Jewish plot to destroy Zimbabwe´s economy have been featured prominently in a newspaper there. The Bulawayo Chronicle, which supports the government of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, last week published a 3,000-word article alleging Jewish responsibility for the ongoing economic problems facing Zimbabwe. This is the second time in three months that Jews have been singled out for attack there. At the beginning of September, Mugabe was quoted as saying: "Jews in South Africa, working in cahoots with their colleagues here, want our textile and clothing factories to close down." At that time, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the African Jewish Congress condemned Mugabe´s remarks as being both racist and anti-Semitic. Over the past few years, Zimbabwe has been plunged into increasingly autocratic rule, which many observers believe is designed to keep the aging 77-year-old Mugabe in power. He has ruled Zimbabwe for more than 20 years. Zimbabwe´s Jewish chief justice, Anthony Gubbay, resigned earlier this year under government pressure. Many white-owned farms have been invaded by self-styled war veterans who demanded a redistribution of land. Both press freedom and the main opposition party are under government threat. Moreover, Zimbabwe´s economy has been in a tailspin. Agricultural production has fallen dramatically, and industrial production is suffering as well. The newspaper article, "Company Closure Racket Unearthed," by Innocent Madonko, focused on the Broomberg family of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe´s second largest city. Madonko stated that the collapse of the family company — once the country´s leading textile manufacturer — was "engineered by a closely knit community of Jews with interests in India, Germany, South Africa, Namibia and the United Kingdom." He accused the "racketeers" of being part of a wider Jewish conspiracy. Mervyn Smith, chairman of the African Jewish Congress, criticized the "pointed and gratuitous references to the fact that those accused of misdoings are members of the Jewish community." "The effect of continually pointing this out is to create the erroneous and highly offensive impression that there is a Jewish-led conspiracy to undermine the Zimbabwean economy. It is reminiscent of many other conspiracy theories that have been invested over the centuries in order to stir up hatred against the Jewish people," he said. There are about 800 Jews remaining in Zimbabwe — 500 in the capital, Harare, and 300 in Bulawayo. Two decades ago, the country had a population of 6,000 Jews. It has been suggested that the real target of the article was not the entire Jewish community, but a prominent Zimbabwe economist and business consultant, Eric Bloch, who has written for the opposition press and is a known critic of Mugabe.

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