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Judge Dennis Davis
The Case of Levy vs. Von Molkte

Thursday 21.05.2020


This talk explores the defamation case of Levy v Von Moltke (1934), a remarkable piece of South African legal history in which the anti-Semitic propaganda tool, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was proved to be a lie after many years.

Judge Dennis Davis


Dennis Davis is a judge of the High Court of South Africa and judge president of the Competition Appeals Court of South Africa. He has held professorial appointments at the University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand, as well as numerous visiting appointments at Cambridge, Harvard, New York University, and others. He has authored eleven books, including Lawfare: Judging Politics in South Africa.

Well, the protocols of course have never died. I mean, that’s a tragedy about it, I mean, when Anita spoke about the lie that never dies, that’s true. And you noticed this, I think in some of the propaganda that comes up, the very kind, sadly, even in my own town, some of the kind of really most irresponsible sort of propaganda coming out, I’m sad to say it, out of certain sections of the Muslim community who essentially don’t seem to be able to distinguish between legitimate criticism and vicious antisemitism.

It does come out, but not to the extent, thank God, that perhaps otherwise it would. Antisemitism has always been around than about in South Africa, and it’s there and it’s there in a different kind in South Africa, there are different guys partly because of so much as it were conflation between, if you wish, what I think may be criticism of the state of Israel on one hand, but unfortunately, which in so many cases is much more than that, which is a vicious form of antisemitism, which from time to time is buttressed by the protocols.

But the protocols are less seem to be a problem than, if I may say, a broader sense of vicious kinds of antisemitism that I think goes back into far greater explanations of the kind that Yehuda Barr in engaged with about, from when it comes and how does it develop. And the protocols are merely a means to that end now, much less so in South Africa than perhaps this is the case then. At that time, and they were absolutely crucial.