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Human rights group upholds Jewish complaint

CAPE TOWN (JTA) — The South Africa Human Rights Commission upheld a hate speech complaint lodged by a Jewish group.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies had filed the complaint in March against the Congress of South African Trade Unions International Relations spokesman Bongani Masuku following "various threatening, inflammatory and derogatory statements" against the mainstream South African Jewish community and its leadership, according to a Jewish Board of Deputies’ news release.

In its complaint, the board detailed how Masuku in a public address at the University of the Witwatersrand, as well as in written communications, had threatened to target South African Jews who supported Israel, saying that their lives would be made "hell," that vigilante action would be taken against families suspected of having members who served in the Israeli army, and that Jewish supporters of Israel should be "forced to leave South Africa."

The human rights commission found that a credible case of hate speech had been "clearly established," as Masuku’s statements and comments were "offensive and unpalatable to society." It has asked him to apologize to the Jewish Board of Deputies within 14 days, after which the matter will be referred to the Equality Court for final adjudication.

"While instances of racist and inflammatory rhetoric directed against sectors of society will inevitably occur from time to time, it is encouraging to see that this country has in place effective mechanisms to deal with them," said board chairman Zev Krengel. "We applaud the SAHRC for sending out a clear message that the right to freedom of expression does not include a license to indulge in hate speech and incitement."
 

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