Hackles Rise when Zimbabwe Paper Runs ‘repugnant’ Anti-semitic Diatribe

“Vile, repugnant, racist rubbish” was how one Jewish leader reacted to an anti- Semitic article that appeared recently in a Zimbabwe newspaper.

A Johannesburg-based journalist, Samu Zulu, prompted Jewish criticism with an Op-Ed piece he wrote for Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail.

In the article, Zulu wrote about 19th-century British colonialist Cecil Rhodes, for whom Rhodesia — as Zimbabwe formerly was known — was named.

After describing Rhodes as “the most detestable two-legged white man ever to set foot in Zimbabwe,” Zulu went on to say that Rhodes was not a “Briton of Anglo-Saxon extraction, but a Jew whose surname is derived from an island in the Aegean Sea, where his forefathers lived until the 17th century.”

Zulu also wrote: “Like other Jews in Israel, America, South Africa and even Zimbabwe itself, Rhodes also became a shameless oppressor in his search for wealth and absolute power.”

The piece prompted Ivor Davis, a former journalist residing in Zimbabwe, to fire off a letter to the Sunday Mail.

Davis, a past president of the Hebrew Congregation in Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare, refuted Zulu’s claim that Rhodes was Jewish and then demanded an apology and a retraction for Zulu’s “offensive and repulsive attack on the Jewish people.”

Attacking Zulu’s reference to Jewish oppressors in the region, Davis then dashed off a list of prominent Jews who had fought against South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Davis is one of about 800 Jews remaining in Zimbabwe — 500 in Harare and 300 in Bulawayo. Two decades ago, the country had a population of 6,000 Jews.

Zulu subsequently wrote a letter to the Sunday Mail in which he made no further anti-Semitic comments. But he persisted with his contention that Rhodes indeed was a Jew, quoting from “Rhodes of Africa” by Felix Gross and citing as proof the phrase “the prominent large Rhodes nose.”

In the same letter, he took a swipe at Davis, referring to him as a “Rhodesian racist.”

Davis in turn wrote a letter to another newspaper, the Harare Independent, under the headline “Cecil Rhodes a closet Jew?”

In this letter, Davis wrote that he had seen “Jewish” noses on many non-Jews, including the present pope.

Referring to Zulu’s swipe, Davis wrote, “I am ‘a Rhodesian racist’ — like Cecil Rhodes was Jewish!”

Davis, who hails from London’s East End, has lived in Africa for the past 45 years — 33 in Kenya and the past dozen in Zimbabwe.

He always has been a fervent letter-writer when he finds an injustice, he told JTA.

“Had it been purely about Rhodes being Jewish, then all of us would have had a good laugh,” he said. “But the anti-Semitism aspect of it got me going. I feel that it is important to answer these kinds of attacks.”

Commenting on Zulu’s anti-Semitic allegations, Mervyn Smith, chairman of the African Jewish Congress, said: “This is vile, repugnant, racist rubbish written with only one object — and that is to portray Rhodes as an even bigger villain to the black people of Zimbabwe by labeling him a Jew as well.

“One has to ask what causes this hate speech,” Smith said.

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