Cape Town - Western Cape Cosatu leader Tony Ehrenreich has defended his call of “an eye for an eye” against South Africa’s Jewish Board of Deputies - for being “complicit in the murder of the people in Gaza”.
The board reported on Thursday that Ehrenreich wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday: “The time has come to say very clearly that if a woman or child is killed in Gaza, then the Jewish board of deputies, who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the people of SA with the age-old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye. The time has come for the conflict to be waged everywhere the Zionist supporters fund and condone the war killing machine of Israel.”
On Thursday night the board said it was laying both criminal and civil charges against Ehrenreich “for hate speech and incitement to violence against the elected, representative leadership of the SA Jewish community”. “This will include laying charges of incitement with the police and lodging a formal complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission.”
Board chair Mary Kluk said the Facebook post was “a flagrant violation of South African law prohibiting hate speech and incitement to cause harm”.
“Ehrenreich’s inflammatory post incites violence and hatred against the representative body for South African Jewry. What makes it even worse is the fact that he holds a leadership position within Cosatu, South Africa’s largest trade union organisation. It also comes at a time of heightened tension over the Israel-Gaza conflict, thereby inflaming an already volatile situation.”
Ehrenreich defended himself, telling the Cape Argus: “There must be actions that are commensurate with the atrocities. Commensurate action doesn’t mean violence - it means, for example, imprisoning returning soldiers who have fought there for the Israeli state.”
Such action should also include “charging the Jewish Board of Deputies criminally”, at the International War Crimes Tribunal/International Court of Justice in The Hague, or under South African law - “for funding the Israeli war machine”.
“That’s what I mean by ‘an eye for an eye’ - it doesn’t mean violence,” he said. But then he added: “If it was my own children (dying at the hands of the Israelis), there would have been sh*t in this town (Cape Town), I promise you. Maybe that’s what we need to do - to act as if they (the victims in Gaza) were our own children - to dissuade each other from these dastardly deeds.”
In a later statement on Thursday, Ehrenreich said he “stands by” his Facebook comments, although they were “in my private capacity - I am not anti-Semitic and am not calling for violence against Jews”.
He concluded: “If my statements make some people uncomfortable, then so be it, it is infinitely less discomforting than having your family wiped out.”
He said he would lay counter-charges against the Board of Deputies for “being complicit through their actions or inactions, in the killing of women and children in Gaza”, which he referred to as “genocide”.
The African Christian Democratic Party responded to Ehrenreich’s Facebook post, saying it “calls on the police to take these threats on a minority group in SA seriously”.
“We are particularly interested to see how the Human Rights Commission responds to the blatant undermining of our democracy by a public figure and leader like Ehrenreich, and we call on Parliament to hold the commission accountable in terms of responding to attacks like this on minority groups,” said spokeswoman Cheryllyn Dudley.