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03 Feb 2009 16:28
Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig on Tuesday apologised for any pain caused by alleged anti-Semitic remarks she made at a rally a few weeks ago.
“To the extent that my statement may have caused hurt and pain, I offer an unequivocal apology for the pain it may have caused to the people of our country, and the Jewish community in particular,” said Hajaig in a statement.
She said she regretted the “inference” made by some people that she was “anti-Jewish”.
“I do not believe that the cause of the Palestinians is served by anti-Jewish racism.”
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said that during a recent speech in Lenasia, Hajaig allegedly said: “Jews control [the United States], no matter which government comes into power, whether Republican or Democratic, whether Barrack Obama or George Bush.”
They claim she also said: “Their control of America, just like the control of most Western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country then you cannot expect anything.”
On Tuesday, Hajaig said that at a point in her talk, unrelated to the South African community, “I conflated Zionist pressure with Jewish influence.”
She said as a member of government and the African National Congress (ANC) she subscribed to values and principles of non-racialism.
“[I] condemn without equivocation, all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism in all its manifestations and wherever it may occur.”
Hajaig said she wanted to reiterate that the major issue in relation to the Palestine-Israel conflict was the “enormous suffering of the Palestinian people, and the struggle for peace for all its people based on justice and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
“As deputy minister of foreign affairs, I reaffirm the government’s commitment to engage all parties, in Israel and Palestine to find an amicable and just resolution to the conflict in that region.”
On Tuesday, South African Jewish Board of Deputies national chairperson Zev Krengel said Hajaig had given only a “veiled apology” in her statement.
“She is still not apologising for what she has said. She is apologising for the hurt.”
Krengel said he believed she still needed to apologise for what was actually said and repudiate it.
He said she had used her apology to make another statement towards the Middle East and almost “justify” what she had done.
“You don’t have to be anti-Semitic to be pro-Palestinian,” he said.
Krengel said the board of deputies still believed that working with the Human Rights Commission was the way forward on the matter.
He said the board was open to a settlement of the matter.
“We believe in the atmosphere of South African reconciliation and acceptance ...
[and would want] a full and unreserved apology to the South African people, South African Jewry and world Jewry.”
Krengel said it was important that all South Africans were apologised to as “any form of bigotry and racism is unacceptable in South Africa”.—Sapa
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