South African Jewish publication expelled from Press Council for calling BDS cartoon anti-Semitic

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A partial view of the pro-BDS cartoon reported by the South Africa Jewish Report. Photo: Screenshot.

The Press Council of South Africa (PCSA) said on Friday it expelled a South African Jewish outlet after it refused to apologize for labeling a pro-BDS cartoon as anti-Semitic, prompting a swift response from the publication .

Judge Phillip Levinsohn, chairman of the PCSA appeals, said the news group expelled the South African Jewish Report (SAJR) after the outlet disregarded its decisions regarding a complaint about a November 2020 article covering the controversial cartoon.

In a statement Friday, ERAS Chairman Howard Sackstein said the publication actually pulled out of the PSCA six months ago, “after it became clear to us that the Press Council lacked the skills to do its job. competently, fairly and without prejudice”.

The original complaint against the Jewish newspaper was filed on behalf of the South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Coalition (SA BDS Coalition) – a movement of anti-Israel organizations in South Africa affiliated with the Palestinian National Committee of BDS – and the General Industrial Workers Union of SA (GIWUSA), both of which created and posted the political cartoon on their social media pages.

In November 2020, the ERAS published an article titled “Anti-Semitic Clover Cartoon Is BDS’ Sour ‘Last Gasp'”.

At the time, Israel’s Central Bottling Company was about to take over dairy company Clover Industries. The cartoon encouraged South Africans to boycott Clover, and was described by the ERAS as showing a “greedy, overweight giant of a man eating a pile of cash while ‘the man in the street’ is drawn as an insignificant little figure sitting in front of an empty plate.” The image was accompanied by a caption that read in part: “Greedy bosses tied to apartheid Israel. blood curd [and cheese, yoghurt, etc.]. All the reasons to boycott Clover! according SAJR.

In its report, the Jewish publication quoted University of Cape Town scholar and anti-Semitism scholar Milton Shain, who called the cartoon anti-Semitic, and also quoted the associate director of the South African Jewish Council of Deputies , David Saksas, who criticized the image for using “greedy stereotypes, exploitative Jews…to fuel radical anti-Israel positions.”

In their complaint to the PCSA, the SA BDS Coalition and GIWUSA claimed that the Jewish newspaper had falsely accused them of anti-Semitism and that the title of the article was “misleading”, while asking for a retraction of the title and apologies printed in the newspaper. ERAS.

PCSA Acting Ombud Johan Retief ruled against ERAS in January 2021, and the newspaper filed for leave to appeal in March 2021, which was denied.

Levinsohn said on Friday that the board tried to resolve the issue with ERAS but “they refused to publish the judgment against them”. The council said ERAS also ‘dropped’ a second complaint last year, after losing another appeal, then sought to step down from the press council to avoid complying with the ruling.

“Member compliance is key,” Levinsohn said. “To refuse undermines the Press Council and is unfair to complainants.”

Answer Friday, ERAS Chief Howard Sackstein said the publication had already withdrawn voluntarily last year and that the press council’s announcement “reaffirmed the paper’s decision to dissociate itself from such a body which has let down both the press and the people of SA”.

Sackstein said the disputed cartoon was “almost identical to the traditional racist anti-Semitic tropes used by the Nazis”, but the PSCA quashed the expert opinions cited in its report without a hearing and then denied the right to appeal.

“By calling on the SA Jewish Report to apologize to the racists, the Press Council has discredited itself and let the people of South Africa down,” Sackstein said. “As a result, the SA Jewish Reportwho has a proud history of resisting racism, informed the Press Council in 2021 that he was embarrassed by his association with the Press Council and would no longer associate with an organization of this nature.

“By failing to recognize the racist undertones of the cartoon, the Press Council has become party to the perpetuation of racism, hatred and bigotry in South Africa,” Sackstein added.

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