The Tiger and Keffiyeh

Every year, around this time, South Africans eagerly await the publication of the Matriculation results (High school Seniors). The results came out at midnight last night to relief and joy and disappointment. As always.

One of the students who wrote these examinations was the unfortunate Jewish child who chose an accessory that got him and his school and his community into a spot of bother. It was ugly for a time, but it was dealt with and we all moved on, as he is one of our children.

And then this morning, with tens of thousands of children having received results, The Star newspaper, one of South Africa’s leading papers, on their front page chose to highlight his results. In an article that drags up a story that can only be painful for everyone including the child, they dredged up every aspect of this unpleasant affair. The article focuses on what could have happened to the child in retribution for his choices including being stripped of his Deputy Head boy position and losing his awards. None of these happened but the articles covers this nevertheless. And although we cannot be shocked by the obsession with Jews and with Israel, it continues to amaze and disappoint.

News24 is no different. Over the last few days, with another plane going missing in Asia, they chose to report on a mother tiger eating its young in Jerusalem, with banned Palestinian youth tours to Israel and almost everything else that must rate on the cusp of news interest.

The Star article had clearly been prepared well in advance as the results only came out at midnight last night. The research was done and the quotes prepared and all that needed to be added was the amount of distinctions that he achieved. No matter what he achieved, he was going to appear on the front page. And simply because he is a Jewish child who wore a keffiyeh.

Can you imagine instead if the Star chose to focus on a child with disabilities, or a child who had overcome life challenges in order to succeed in his results? Can you imagine if for once they didn’t obsess over the few Jews in South Africa and with Israel and focused on the bigger picture? Can you imagine if they weren’t divisive, just for once?

As South Africans and as Jews outside of Israel, we have become used to the approach of the media and even desensitised to the overwhelming focus on Israel. Pick any other country and try and find them in the press. Page through the paper and compare. The result is shocking.

But it seems that balance is hardly possible and as we usher out 2014, a year where the disproportionate focus on Israel in the media was so prominent, it bodes poorly for South Africa’s compulsion and need to have Israel in the headlines almost daily.

About the Author
Howard Feldman is a lawyer, a physical commodity trader by industry and a writer by obsession. He is very active in the Jewish community and passionate about our world.