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Mr. Masuku’s Hate Speech

In The High Court, Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa

February 6- 10, 2017

In my analysis of the processes that lead to genocide, I have developed a model of the genocidal process I call “The Ten Stages of Genocide.” (Stanton, GH, 2013)

Genocide is not an accident. It develops in a predictable process. I have analyzed most of the genocides in recent history and have discovered a predictable pattern. Historians have established that governmental incitement and use of hate language is a recognized predictor, initiator, promoter and catalyst of genocide.

Genocide begins with words. Words have consequences. Hate speech, repeated hundreds and thousands of times, becomes incitement to commit genocide. It creates a culture of genocide. Barbara Coloroso, in her book Extraordinary Evil, (Coloroso, B., 2007) likens such repetition of hatred to the bullying that is rampant in some schools, and that drives teenagers to suicide.

For two thousand years, Jews have been the victims of a culture of genocide, which has motivated mass murder and finally the Holocaust. Jews are still targeted around the world.

The stages at which hate speech is most prominent are “dehumanization” and “polarization.” They begin before actual killing and unless they are checked by law, they may lead all the way to genocide.

The process of dehumanization has the effect and function of decommissioning normal human moral sentiments. Dehumanization is the systematic and organized process by leaders to remove the inherent natural inhibitions and human restraints of people not to murder, rape, and torture other human beings. Taking the life of a dehumanized person becomes of no greater consequence than crushing an insect, slaughtering an animal or killing a pest. After the process of dehumanization reaches its apex, members of the perpetrator group believe they can kill, torture, rape and exterminate the victims with government - sanctioned impunity.

Some perpetrators even believe they are heroes because they have killed and exterminated a threat to the nation, a cancer in the body politic, a pest, or in communist terms an “enemy of the people.” Dehumanization has the effect of creating a hierarchy of humanity where the perpetrator group is considered human and normal and the victim group is considered abnormal or sub-normal and inhuman.

Polarization mobilizes the “us vs. them” mentality. In South Africa this polarization is defined as the “White Settler Colonialist” group versus the indigenous Black peoples group. “Blame the victims” is one of the most effective tactics of denial of genocide. “They had it coming because they supported Apartheid,” is the South African version of this denial. (Stanton, GH, 2005) In fact, many Jews did not support Apartheid, but communist leaders of the ANC, EFF, and Cosatu nevertheless blame Apartheid on all whites, including Afrikaners and Jews. The communist party line is that Israel is responsible for the thousands of missiles used by

Palestinians to bombard it, the wars of Arab countries to destroy it, and the hundreds of terrorist murders against Israelis.

ANC, EFF, and COSATU leaders publicly incite followers using racial code words. Mr. Masuku exhorted South Africans who serve in the Israel Defence Force to permanently leave South Africa. Both Masuku and his audience knew that he was referring to Jews, who are the only South Africans who also hold automatic Israeli citizenship.

By dehumanizing Jews as foreigners in South Africa, he excluded Jews from the circle of moral obligation of his audience. It is the same tactic used against Jews for many hundreds of years. Masuku accused Jews of being loyal only to their own homeland, Israel, and disloyal to South Africa. Hitler used this same tactic, and literally stripped Jews of their citizenship in Germany.

Masuku threatened supporters of Israel with physical harm. He cleverly masked his threats to avoid legal prohibitions on direct incitement of violence. But his audience knew his meaning. Anthropologists call this contextual communication, reference to “subtext.” Masuku warned “any South African family that send its son or daughter to be part of the Israeli defence force must not blame us when something happens to them with immediate effect.” “Anyone who goes to Israel and from Israel will face the consequences.”

Masuku made it clear that his threats were for physical violence. At a rally at the University of Witwatersrand, he said openly, “No one must entertain the assumption he possesses monopoly for violence. So we don't want to warn anyone. We are just talking now because we can talk but when it comes to physical fighting no one must entertain the illusion, we have been there in the trenches against apartheid and we can still do it. So don't entertain the assumption that if someone has a different view let’s talk, but if someone wants to fight we will do that. Cosatu has got members here, even in this plenary….”

It is not difficult to recognize and condemn the public dehumanization perpetrated by EFF racists like Julius Malema. Mr. Masuku’s threats are more subtle, but may be even more dangerous. The reason is that they have as subtext the long narrative of anti-Jewish rhetoric that has dominated world history for two thousand years and that culminated in the Holocaust.

That rhetoric has now turned into “anti-Zionist” and anti-Israel propaganda. It is old poisoned wine in new wine skins. The current campaign is Boycott, Divest, Sanction, championed by Mr. Masuku at the rally at the University of the Witwatersrand.

How do we overcome our own indifference to hate speech, one of the surest early warning signs of genocidal ideology? We must understand the psychology of dehumanization and polarization. We must enforce South Africa’s laws against hate speech. We must never again be bystanders to early stages of genocide.


Coloroso, B, 2007, Extraordinary Evil, A Brief History of Genocide, Viking Canada. Stanton. GH, 2013, “The Ten Stages of Genocide,”

Stanton, GH, 2005, “Twelve Ways to Deny Genocide,” in Apsel, ed. Darfur, Genocide Before Our Eyes,

Summary of the case:

In March 2009, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) lodged a complaint of antisemitic hate speech against one Bongani Masuku, International Relations spokesperson for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). The complaint was subsequently upheld by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which ruled that Masuku’s remarks against the Jewish community were indeed inflammatory and antisemitic and directed him to apologise. After Masuku, with the full backing of COSATU, refused to apologise, the SAHRC launched proceedings against him in the Equality Court with a view to getting its ruling enforced. The case will be heard in the second week of February.

Masuku’s offending statements were made in response to and in the immediate wake of the three-week war that took place between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in late 2008-early 2009. Of particular relevance were those made in the course of speaking at an anti-Israel rally to students at the University of the Witwatersrand on 5 March 2009, which were held by the SAJBD tohave incited violence and anti-Jewish hatred amongst the students who were present. They included explicit threats to cause harm to Jews who continued to support Israel, with specific reference to families who had sons or daughters serving in the Israeli Defence Force. Masuku was also adjudged to be guilty of making various insulting and inflammatory comments in written correspondence with various Jewish community members around that time.

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