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« Wolf In Sheep's Clothing Condemns Jewish Report | Main | A Dictator In Need »

November 21, 2006



Jane Duncan (FXI) has stated in an email that she wiil respond to my questions shortly.

Prior to making her press statements she did not contact Geoff Sifrin to allow him to put forward his point of view.

Quite clearly she has been judge and jury in her own make-believe court. This is a serious blunder for somebody who should be defending the freedom of the press.

Orwellian? It is"1984+22" with a bit of "Animal Game Reserve" thrown in for good measure!

But the best, and I know you won't believe it,
is that it seems that a George Soros foundation might, indirectly, be helping to fund her activities!

Now that is something that even the great George Orwell could not have dreamt out.

South Africa has moved into a "post-Orwellian" phase!


There is some good news in the pipe-line. The Goethe Institute
is writing an article for The Jewish Report criticizing Kasril's Israeli/Nazi epithet. It should appear on Thursday.

I reckon that Kasrils will be livid, especially since he wrote that I was "waxing lyrical" about The Goethe!

I think that the cards are falling in our favour. Kasrils has over-played his hand and we can now win a few tricks.


Well done Anthony. You have been doing some great work.

How do you know Ms Duncan did not speak to Sifrin before making the statement? That is absurd. Will you please keep us all in the loop as to her response. We wait anxiously.

Did the Goethe institute reply to your email? I wonder if we could get a hold of that article and publish it on the blog. Can you see what you can do?

I have just been informed by another reader about the biased nature of the FXI. Hope to post an update shortly.



Geoff Sifrin told me that she did not speak to him.

I have also contacted the ombudsman at The M&G with the complaint. He tells me that he is independent of the editor. I know that sounds unlikely but it is important to keep the pressure on and not to give up when we have a good case.

Re The Goethe, I think it is ownly fair that The Jewish Rept publish it first. But once it is out there I will certainly ask permission from Geoff Sifrin and Nikolai Petersen of The Goethe re the blog.

I will keep you in the loop and will update you as soon as I get replies from Jane Duncan and the ombudsman at The M&G.



Peterson of the Goethe Institute will not be writing an article for the Jewish Report because the powers that be at Goethe feel that everything from their side has already been said.



Dear Nikolai,

I am extremely disappointed to hear that you have been silenced.

It is extremely important that "The Kasrils Israel-Nazi Slur" is excised from the pages of the South African press. Clearly, however, your superiors have more important considerations. I can only assume that they are reluctant to upset the South African government.

However, I really appreciate your willingness to write the article. You are a "mensch" and did your very best to help the South African Jewish community.

kind regards



I will put money on it that we wont here a peep from the FXI about it. I am offering odds of 100:1. Any takers?

Anthony can we publish that letter from the Goethe Institute on the face of the blog?



Nikolai sent me the letter direct.

Are you asking me whether it can be included as an editorial or are you suggesting that i shouldn't have copied it as a comment?



I would use it as an editorial.

As Jews we will have to fight the Israel/Nazi slur on our own. Perhaps I was naive to think otherwise?

Just heard from Geoff Sifrin. A story is appearing in Maariv today and Jerusalem Post tomorrow.


But it was a private correspondence. I think we would need permission to publish it. No?


Please note that Nikolai's surname is spelt PETERSEN.



From"private correspondence" to "historical fact".

I am not asking Nikolai for permission.

As blog ed, I am afraid that you will have to make the decision.

Joel Pollak

The FXI has a history of selective attack/defense. Recall a couple of years ago that when tabloid newspapers starting hitting the scene in SA, the FXI condemned them, saying that they were "dumbing down" the media. Actually, they were increasing the number of people who read by millions. The FXI was in favor of reading for the elite, but not for the poor.


Dear Anthony Posner,

In response to your questions.

(1) Did the FXI meet or contact Geoff Sifrin before reaching a decision in the case?

No we did not, but I think you are aware of that already. But there again, we did not meet with Ronnie Kasrils either, but I do not see you asking that question. I wonder why not, if your underlying concern is the principle of 'hear, and then decide'.

The question that may then arise, then, is on what basis did we form our comment? Well, we commented on the basis of the paperwork that was available to us, which included the following:
Your original article
Ronnie Kasrils's response to your questions
The Jewish Report editorial
Kasrils's open letter of response.
In our view this paperwork was sufficient to form a view on the matter, which is what we did. The reasons for not running Kasril's statement are clearly spelt out in Sifrin's editorial; it is not as though we had to battle to understand the paper's reasons. If the reasons were not clear, then there could have been a basis for having canvassed Sifrin's views first. On the contrary, the issues were crystal clear.

(2) How much time was Geoff Sifrin given to make his submission on behalf of The Jewish Report to the FXI?

See response to question 1.

(3) What internal process was taken at the FXI before a decision was reached in the case?

I find this a difficult question to answer, as this (and in fact all your questions) point to a fundamental misapprehension of what the FXI is. We are not a quasi-judicial complaints body that hears cases and then reaches a judgement (like a tribunal or an ombudsman); we are an advocacy organisation that defends freedom of expression on the basis of its mandate and the policy positions taken by the Executive Committee, flowing from the constitution. By our very nature, we take positions, and are geared to taking particularly quick decisions when approached by the media for comment.

So how do we take positions? The Executive Committee takes a decision on a matter of policy. Matters of policy include issues like hate speech, pornography, defamation, etc etc. The decision that would be most relevant to this particular case is hate speech. Our position in this regard is that we endorse the definition of hate speech as defined in the South African Constitution, namely that hate speech is advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm. So we part ways with the extremely broad definitions of hate speech contained in international instruments like ICCPR and CERD, and do not seek to amend the Constitution to change the definition. Our further policy position is that the notion of 'incitement to cause harm' must be narrowed to refer to physical harm only. This policy decision has been taken to prevent abuse of the hate speech exception in s.16 of the Constitution, to censor legitimate speech. The FXI office then operationalises this policy decision, within the framework of the mandate given to the office by the Constitution (which is available on our website).

One of the ways in which we do that is to comment in the media on allegations made by particular groups on what constitutes hate speech. If the interpretation is overly censorious, in that it does not meet the objective test of 'incitement to cause [physical] harm', then we oppose something being labelled hate speech. The Jewish Report case is one such case.

As mentioned above, as the office we make a judgement call about whether there is sufficient information to comment on an issue, within the framework of the policy. If there is not, then we will either canvass the parties concerned or refuse to comment. This is a process we engage in on a daily basis, on a range of different issues. We may be called on to comment on a spread of issues up to twenty times a week, so our processes are geared towards quick responses.

In this case, we decided to comment but did not feel the need to canvass the parties through meetings as the 'voices' of the parties concerned were heard 'adequately' through the various correspondences. So for the purposes of forming the view reflected in the press statement, all sides were taken into account, and therefore we did 'hear, and then decide'.

What you really seem to be complaining about is that we did not ask you/ Jewish Report for our opinion. But there again, we did not contact Ronnie Kasrils and ask him for our opinion either. We will not do that; such behaviour would undermine our independence (and yes, we are independent, but we also have views. We are not mindless bubble-heads).

(4) Are the minutes of any internal FXI meeting with regard to The Jewish Report open to public scrutiny?

It should be evident from the above that there were no internal meetings on this particular case, so there are no minutes to scrutinise. But, once again, the basis for your question seems to flow from your misapprehension of what we are as an organisation. There was no need to have an internal meeting, as the policy on hate speech that guides our work is set, and all the relevant issues are contained in the correspondence/ articles. The Executive Committee policy position on hate speech is reflected above.

(5) Is there a right of appeal after the FXI reaches a decision?

Again, it is difficult to fathom this question as we are not a quasi-judicial body. Again, we are an advocacy organisation; we advocate particular views (and in this case, a particular view on hate speech).

Be that as it may, you are welcome to write to the Executive Committee, Mabalane Mfundisi, if you feel aggrieved by the FXI statement. But, you would need to prove that the statement violated the Executive Committee's policy on hate speech for there to be a real case for the Committee to consider; so you would need to prove that the policy has been mis-applied. I am confident that this is not the case, but in the interests of fairness, transparency and accountability, your are welcome to make the argument to the Executive Committee via the Chairperson.

I don' think you will get very far if you wish to change the FXI's view on hate speech, but it is your good democratic right to try. We believe in protecting the space for argument and counter-argument, unlike the Jewish Report.

If the newspaper feels that the comparison of aspects of Zionism with aspects of Nazism is reprehensible, then the way to deal with these grievances is to fight them out in the public space, not prevent the fight from happening in the first place. The South African Constitutional Court supports this approach and has found that it is not enough to protect 'good speech', but downright offensive speech must be protected too, in the interests of reaching the truth.

If you feel that the Jewish Report has been given a rough ride in the media on this issue, then you are also welcome to contact the relevant complaints mechanisms (the Press Ombudsman in the case of the print media and the Broadcast Complaints Commission in the case of the broadcast media). I see the internal ombudsman of the Mail and Guardian has been contacted already. All these mechanisms are available to you if you feel that the Jewish Report has not been given the opportunity to state its case properly. Please let me know if you need any contact details of the above mentioned individuals or bodies.

By the way, I have been reading all the comments on the supernatural blog with great interest. In time, I may even become a fan! Unfortunately, at the moment time does not permit me to respond to many of the issues raised, but we would strongly encourage the Goethe Institute to write the article to put its view across, even if it is a repetition of what has already been said. Not to do so may create the impression that they have become shy of commenting on the issue for fear of further criticism: a form of self-censorship. So who wins the bet?

Please feel free to post this message on the blog. When we correspond on such matters, we consider all correspondence to be in the public domain.

Best regards,

Jane Duncan

PS. With respect to the cartoons you wanted me to send to Ronnie Kasrils. Please send them yourself. I am not your secretary.

-----Original Message-----
From: ANTHONY POSNER [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, November 17, 2006 8:58 PM
To: [email protected]

Dear Ms Duncan,

I read your comments in The Mail and Guardian with regard to The Jewish
Report and Ronnie Kasrils.

Please could you kindly give me answers to the following:

(1) Did the FXI meet or contact Geoff Sifrin before reaching a
decision in the case?

(2) How much time was Geoff Sifrin given to make his submission on
behalf of The Jewish Report to the FXI?

(3) What internal process was taken at the FXI before a decision was
reached in the case?

(4) Are the minutes of any internal FXI meeting with regard to The
Jewish Report open to public scrutiny?

(5) Is there a right of appeal after the FXI reaches a decision?

yours sincerely


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