Tony Ehrenreich has been found guilty of “prohibited hate speech, of harassment, and of violating the complainants’ right both to dignity and to equality” after the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) released a 26-page ruling that upheld complaints laid against him by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD).
In August 2014 Ehrenreich reacted to the ongoing Operation Protective Edge, a military operation by the Israeli Defense Force that devastated the Palestinian territory of Gaza, by calling for revenge attacks against the SAJBD and other “Zionist supporters” in retaliation for the Palestinian death toll.
Ehrenreich, who was chairperson of Cosatu in the Western Cape at the time, said: “The time has come to say, very clearly, that if a woman or child is killed in Gaza, then the Jewish board of deputies, who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the people of SA with the age old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye.”
According to a statement released by SAJBD, the SAHRC “unequivocally upheld a complaint against Ehrenreich lodged by the SAJBD.” Ehrenreich was “found guilty of prohibited hate speech, of harassment and of violating the complainants’ right both to dignity and to equality”.
Ehrenreich had reportedly been “directed to apologise in writing to the SAJBD and affirm his commitment to constitutional values”.
The SAHRC found that Ehrenreich’s utterances would have constituted a clear violation of the complainant’s rights regardless of whether a clear distinction between the board of deputies and South African Jews as a whole was made or not.
It was found that Ehrenreich was essentially calling for members of a targeted group to “be murdered by their fellow South Africans in retaliation for acts taking place in another country”.
SAJBD chairperson Shaun Zagnoev said: “The SAJBD welcomes the SAHRC ruling. It sends an unequivocal message that there is no justification for propagating hatred and making threats against fellow South Africans, irrespective of one’s political views (including on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict).”
At the time of Ehrenreich’s statements, The Citizen reported that he intended to lay a counterclaim with the SAHRC.
He said in a statement at the time: “I am in turn laying charges against them for supporting crimes against humanity in Gaza, and for being complicit through their actions or inactions, in the killing of women and children in Gaza.”
What has become of Ehrenreich’s counter complaint is unclear.
Asked how he felt about the ruling, Ehrenreich said: “I stand by my support for the community of Gaza against Zionist aggression. The SAJBD must stop their support for Israeli army aggression. I would carefully consider the findings of the SAHRC and hope to engage with the SAJBD to help them understand the error of their ways.”