I don’t blame the owner of the Swiss Hotel for the signs they posted. Signs that informed their Jewish Guests to please shower before using the Hotel swimming pool. And signs that instructed them to not harass the staff with regard to the usage of the fridge.
I don’t blame them at all because it makes perfect sense.
Let me explain why. Two weeks ago, The Saturday Star, one of Johannesburg’s leading newspapers, led with an article with the Headline “Fearless!”
The piece was a lazy one. It was un-researched article about Janna Ayyad Jihad written by Sameer Naik. An alarming majority of the article is in quotation marks and seems to be a reproduction of a speech that she might give at a rally. Some of her best lines are quoted in that article in bold and read as follows:
I try to live my childhood as best as I can, but it’s hard. When we’re playing outside, Israeli soldiers come and start shooting at us. We get pepper sprayed and have gas canisters thrown at us. They are stealing our land, killing children, burning children, arresting my friends and injuring loved ones.
Remember the blood libels? Where Jews were meant to have stolen children and used their blood for the matzah? Well that is so 19th Century. Welcome to the blood libel of the modern age. Where Israeli soldiers (Jews) burn Palestinian children at will, where they shoot at them at play and pepper spray them just for good measure.
The Saturday Star quite happily and comfortably propagated the falsehood.
The writer of the article made no attempt to qualify any statement made and somehow fails to mention that the very area that Ms. Jihad comes from had just the week prior had been witness to the brutal murder of the Salamon family as they sat down to eat their Sabbath meal. The writer fails to mention that many members of Ms. Jihad’s family are known terrorists responsible for the murder of Jews as they ate pizza and tried to live in peace. Peace that Ms. Jihad would not want because they are Jews living in Israel. Something that is so painful to her family that they exalt and celebrate the murder of every Jew in the State of Israel.
The writer failed further to question the ethical concern of using a child to achieve the goals of the propaganda machine and the logical question of how the child had been educated and schooled.
I wrote to the editor. And the sub editor. And I submitted a counter piece. I acknowledged that they might not want to print my column as it didn’t treat their paper kindly. But, I suggested (perhaps somewhat manipulatively) that it might assist in incorrect a perception of bias.
Silence. No reply. No acknowledgement. No article.
And then. The week following, the paper lead with a panicked and hysterical article about the fact that ISISI is alive and well and kicking in some suburbs of Johannesburg. They are recruiting! They are here! And Something could happen! The writer seemed to be amazed and shocked that this could happen in peace loving South Africa. A country that well understands the dangers of racism and of bigotry. The confusion seemed genuine.
And it might even have been.
But no dots were joined. I wanted to write to them (again) to suggest that their article of the week prior (and countless others) were responsible for the growth of extremism. I wanted to explain that if you stoke the flames then the fire that results should not surprise you.
I wanted to but I didn’t. And I should have.
Because regular peace loving South Africans read the Saturday Star. Muslims and Christians and Hindus and Atheists and those who can’t remember. And although they might not care about what happens thousands of kilometers away, something about the way Jewish soldiers burn children will stick. Something about Jews being dirty will form part of their understanding about the people of that religion.
It is impossible to really understand why the hotel owner failed to see that her signs and approach were offensive. It is impossible to re read everything she might have read and rewatch everything she might have watched.
But with the constant and relentless affront on Israel and on Jews it is little surprise that these events occur.
And the worst part is that for the owner then it might well have been perfectly reasonable to erect a sign asking Jews to shower.