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S. Africa Jewish board protests mistreatment of Jewish delegation

(JTA) — The South African Jewish Board of Deputies lodged a protest with the African Union over the treatment of a Jewish delegation at its recent summit.

The board of deputies has asked the president of the African Union Summit, Dlamini Zuma, for clarification as to what caused the Jewish delegation to leave early from the summit  in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

The delegation — nine representatives from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations — left before the opening ceremony after members of the Egyptian and Iranian delegations saw some of its members wearing kippahs and objected to their presence, calling them “an Israeli delegation.” The South African delegation also complained.

A summit organizer told Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, of the objections. Hoenlein responded that it would be “outrageous” to complain about an Israeli delegation, but that in any case, the people in his group were Americans.

The board of deputies said in a statement issued Monday, “The SAJBD, which represents Africa’s largest Jewish community, is outraged over this blatant display of anti-Jewish bigotry at this important gathering of African leaders. By and large, the greater part of the African continent has been mercifully free of anti-Semitism. It is therefore deeply regrettable that certain countries were allowed to introduce their prejudiced and grossly intolerant attitudes at a gathering whose purpose was to bring Africa’s diverse communities together.”

The board of deputies wrote to Zuma requesting clarity on what occurred and “is seeking an explanation from the AU as to how this incident was allowed to happen and what steps are being considered to prevent its future recurrence.”

“The banning of people from public forums by virtue of their race, religion, ethnicity or any other grounds of identity runs completely contrary to the South African ethos of tolerance, acceptance of diversity and commitment to fight racism and bigotry,” the board said.

 

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