Saturday, June 18, 2011

The South African Mail and Guardian Suspends Intern for Online Anti-Semitism

The thing that most intrigues, or maybe turns my stomach, about this, is that it is an example of the way the anti-Israel narrative has been permitted to usurp and override the histories and issues of, well, everyone else.

During the First Durban Conference, that UN gathering on racism that turned into a single-minded attack on one country, and one country alone, I recall seeing a picture of two ladies from Brazil, in indigenous Brazilian dress, holding signs denouncing Israel. Indigenous people in Brazil have a lot of problems. I dare say that Israel is not responsible for any of them. But what were these women doing, in front of the cameras of the world, in their beautiful woven dresses? Denouncing Israel, to advance another people's agenda at the cost of their own.

At the same conference, a man who was there to discuss the often dreadful discrimination against, and difficult situation of, the 'scheduled castes' of India, once known as 'untouchables', complained that the Palestinians and their supporters took over everything. His group would hold a demonstration, and the next thing they knew they would be surrounded by Palestinian flags. The struggle of a wretchedly oppressed social group shoved aside--to make room for the neverending, ever-expanding, Palestinian narrative.

And now we have a young South African man who may not be old enough to remember the days of apartheid himself, but his parents and grandparents certainly do. And his first response when asked about it is to effectively deny his own experience, his own people's fight for freedom, and to accede--even actively promote--the ahistorical, dishonest appropriation of the word 'apartheid', and what it meant in South Africa--and to give away his birthright of liberation to the anti-Israel movements.

Ngoako Matsha may be posting anti-Semitic drivel on Facebook, but I'm not angry with him. I feel bad for the kid. He's been brainwashed into giving away what's rightfully his--and he's not even getting a nice bowl of lentil soup out of it.

The Mail & Guardian has suspended an intern, Ngoako Matsha, for an anti-Semitic comment posted on social media platform Facebook. Matsha has been a trainee at the M&G since February 2011, but was commenting in his personal capacity.

In response to a posting by Facebook member Benji Shulman, requesting that users suggest a "basic decent history of apartheid", Matsha posted "Petty apartheid is building tall walls to separate Israel from Palestines." Shulman responded, posting, inter alia, "Thanks for that peace of pseudo-politics but I need something that will stand up to logical argument." Matsha made the following statement in response: "You racists! No wonder Hitler killed all the Jews, because you’re all a bunch of racists."

At 10.23am on June 15, as he was arriving at eTV for an interview with Jeremy Maggs, M&G editor-in-Chief Nic Dawes was informed of the comment by Twitter user @SteveMagid. He immediately spoke with Matsha’s supervisor, who spoke to Matsha and confirmed the authenticity of the comments. By 1.15pm, Dawes had returned to the M&G offices, spoken to Matsha and informed him of his suspension, and that he would be subject to a disciplinary hearing.

In an email sent to staff at 14.12pm, Dawes wrote that "The remarks made on Facebook discussion are fundamentally at odds with the most fundamental values of the Mail & Guardian, the Constitution, and basic human decency. Justifying the Holocaust in this fashion is hate speech and is completely unacceptable in any forum."

The M&G editorial code of ethics clearly stipulates that hate speech is unacceptable. Said Dawes, "I was deeply disappointed and angry when I learned of these remarks via Twitter, and when their authenticity was confirmed by Matsha. Obviously it was appalling to see the Mail & Guardian associated in any way with the hatefulness of anti-Semitism, but more importantly these comments were an awful violation of our most deeply held beliefs, and would have required serious action even if they had never been made public."

The M&G has just completed a series of editorial workshops, at which the outline for a social media policy was discussed, and where it was made clear that the basic foundation would be that an employee would say nothing on social media platforms that he or she would not be willing to see published. Clearly, Matsha's anti-Semitic comment would not be acceptable to the M&G in any forum whatsoever.

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