/ 19 August 2011

Glenn Beck to punt conservative Zionist message in SA

Controversial right-wing American talk-show host Glenn Beck, who has called United States President Barack Obama a racist and said that obese people should all die, is coming to Cape Town to address a group of South African Jews.

One of the most controversial figures on US television and radio, Beck is being hosted by Group 18, an Israel advocacy group that “sees a broad and growing campaign to delegitimise the state of Israel and threaten its very right to exist”, according to its website.

Paradoxically, Beck has been attacked for alleged anti-Semitism and “bigoted ignorance” by the Anti-Defamation League, which was responding to a statement by him that “Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like Islam — radicalised Islam is less about religion than it is about politics.”

Beck has accused Obama of “exposing himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or the white culture — this guy is, I believe, a racist”.

But his views are unpredictable. For example, he has said that the families of 9/11 victims should “shut up — I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining” and that “those fat people that sit on their couch … I say let them die”.

It is Beck’s comments on Israel that have earned him the favour of some South African Zionists. He openly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, claiming that the US administration is “protecting killers and the terrorists”, and recently told the Israeli Parliament that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict boiled down to a campaign for the destruction of Israel and the West in general.

His address, to be held at the Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town on August 25, is titled “The Courage to Stand With Israel”.

But the local Jewish community is far from unanimous in its enthusiasm about Beck. In a letter to Group 18 from the South African Union of Progressive Judaism, chair Steven Lurie said Beck’s planned appearance would bring “a voice of intolerance and virtual hate speech to South Africa, where these attitudes are totally unacceptable”.

“We have no doubt that he will sow discord among the community and raise tensions, not only between Reform and Orthodox but also between liberals and the more conservative and right-wing in our community. If you listen to his talk on Israel on YouTube, he will also raise tensions among the Muslim community.”

Nathan Geffen, co-organiser of the South African human rights ­delegation to Israel in 2008, described Group 18 as “a right-wing lunatic fringe group in the Jewish community — Many people in the community are very upset about this.”

Group 18 had not responded by the time of going to print.