If the SA Jewish Board of Deputies had its way, this country would not be able to criticize Israel at all. The same can be said about the SA Zionist Federation.

Since the story broke about the censorship imposed upon Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils, by the editor of the weekly Jewish Report, lots of debate on the concept of free speech has emerged. Of course, expectedly, lots of muck has also appeared on Zionist web blogs parading as “intelligent” attacks upon the person of Kasrils and others associated with their solidarity activism for Palestine.

The essence of the arguments in defence of Israel by these Zionist lobbies is that the Jewish state is unfairly and disproportionately singled out for attack. They claim that Israel is the “only democracy” in the Middle East; has non-Jews represented in the Knesset; is entitled to provide security for its citizens even if measures such as the “Wall” fly in the face of international law!

They also claim that critics of Israel are guilty of turning a blind eye to human rights violations by countries professing to be Muslim. In particular, Kasrils has been accused of ignoring issues in Africa. Zimbabwe and Sudan are regularly invoked as examples.

The debate also extends to Nazism and the Holocaust. Several angry letter writers in the Jewish Report for instance, have alleged that Kasrils’ comparison of Israeli policies to that of the Nazis is not on. Indeed, the editor himself has used this comparison as one of the reasons why he decided to deny Kasrils his right of reply – despite an earlier undertaking.

As the debate rages on, with reports that the Israeli media has devoted huge spaces in papers such as the Jerusalem Post and Maariv, providing coverage to this debacle, it appears that the Zionist lobbies are spoiling for a bigger fight. They have now turned their guns on the Freedom of Expression Institute [FXI] by addressing emails to leading editors in which they accuse the FXI of being a “propaganda platform” for “radical anti-Israel, anti-American and pro-Islamist viewpoints”.

They complain about FXI “pursuing a very definite political agenda”, and are upset that the FXI “took the part of the Muslim community radio station Radio 786” in its dispute with the Board of Deputies over whether or not denial of the Holocaust constituted hate speech.

The latest move by David Saks of the Board of Deputies goes further in singling out Salim Vally for special attack. Vally, a member of the FXI and highly respected leader of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement is unfairly profiled as a violent person. The context of so-called “threats” is, not surprisingly, deliberately fashioned to evoke horror and disgust at Vally, whose legitimate right to campaign and demonstrate against one of Israel’s most notorious leaders, Shimon Peres, is disparagingly attacked as being at odds with the FXI.

The racial undertone in Saks’ lengthy missive is barely concealed. Constant unwarranted references to Muslims and Islam and “the Mohamed cartoon” reveals a disturbing bias, which in the context of Kasrils being slapped with a ban by a Jewish paper, is hopelessly vindictive.

Media freedom in South Africa came at a great cost. So did all of the freedoms enshrined in the constitution after decades of struggle. It, therefore, will be a sad day if these freedoms are sacrificed at the altar of Zionist lobbies.