South Africa: Anti-Semitic incidents fall to 15-year low

South African Jewish Board of Deputies says there were only 36 recorded incidents of anti-Semitism in 2019.

Ben Ariel ,

Pretoria‎, South Africa
Pretoria‎, South Africa

Anti-Semitic incidents fell to a 15-year low in South Africa, the country’s Jewish umbrella group said Monday, according to JTA.

There were 36 recorded incidents of anti-Semitism in 2019, compared with 62 the previous year, said the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, which collects the statistics.

Only one of the incidents involved physical assault, and there were no cases of damage and desecration to Jewish property, it noted.

The statistics buck a global trend of increasing anti-Semitic activity in countries with significant Jewish populations. Some 75,000 Jews live in South Africa, with most concentrated in Johannesburg.

“We can be proud that at a time when attacks against Jews are everywhere growing both in number and severity, our country has consistently bucked the trend,” Shaun Zagnoe, the Jewish Board’s national chairman, said in a statement quoted by JTA.

“As a result, South Africa continues to be a country where Jews can fully identify with and practice their religion without fear,” added Zagnoe.

While four headstones were knocked over and smashed at a Jewish cemetery in suburban Cape Town last June, the vandalism was not believed to have been an anti-Semitic act.

While the situation for South Africa’s Jews is positive, the country has had a contentious relationship with the state of Israel. Last year, the country announced plans to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv.

A year earlier, South Africa withdrew its ambassador to Israel in protest against the deadly violence along the Israel-Gaza border.

The decision came after the Hamas terrorist organization led violent and mass terrorist acts in protest against the inauguration of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem. Hamas later openly admitted that most of those who were killed in those violent riots were members of the group.

Anti-Israel sentiments remain prevalent in South Africa, where the government has frequently accused Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs. One such example was when the ANC party proposed new rules regarding dual citizenship meant to stop South African citizens from joining the IDF.