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  KD MAGAZINE! 
Posted: Friday, November 25, 2005 - כ"ג בחשון, תשס"ו
 
 

Jews against apartheid
Letter from Maurice Ostroff 
Published in Haaretz November 25, 2005. About the Author

South African ambassador Gqiba deserves great credit for his achievements in improving relations between Israel and South Africa. However some of his remarks during a recent address to students deserve comment. (' S.A. ambassador talks tough with TAU students'  Haaretz November 18).

SA Jews and apartheid

The ambassador's
statement that the majority of South African Jews supported the governing National Party is open to debate. It was because of their very rarity, that those few Jews who did support the National Party received substantial publicity. They were considered aberrations and were roundly condemned by mainstream Jews.

In the predominantly Jewish area of Houghton, Helen Suzman, founder of the anti-apartheid Progressive Party was supported overwhelmingly and in districts where no Progressive Party was available, Jews routinely voted against the National Party.
 
Considering that Jews comprised only 0.6% of the total population, South African Jewry, far from being shy about its history during the apartheid era, can take pride in the very high proportion that opposed apartheid in one way or another. In fact, Afrikaans newspapers frequently referred to the high percentage of Jews detained by the security police accusing them of subverting the apartheid regime.

Of the 23 whites charged in the famous 1955 Treason Trial more than half were Jews. Advocate Isie Maisels won acclaim for his leadership of the defense team which achieved acquittal of all the accused in that trial. As a committed Jew, he had served as President of the Federation of Synagogues, as well as on the Executives of the Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation.

Jews were active in providing humanitarian assistance for Black communities. Typical were "Operation Hunger", founded by Ina Perlman and reaching two million blacks and the South African Union of Jewish Women's outreach programs in black townships focusing on teacher training and pre-school development as well as sponsoring Black teacher visits to Israel. Jews for Justice, and Jews for Social Justice were organizations, which worked to build bridges between the white and black communities. Johannesburg's Oxford Synagogue and Cape Town's Temple Israel established nurseries, medical clinics and adult education programs in the townships and provided legal aid for victims of apartheid laws. There was a heavy Jewish membership in anti-apartheid student movements, the Black Sash and anti-apartheid ex-service organizations such as the Springbok Legion and the Torch Commando.

Prominent industrialists like Tony Bloom and Mendel Kaplan, as well as many, smaller Jewish owned industries made important contributions in enlightened employment practices. There were also many who, while not adopting high profile stances, opposed apartheid in a variety of ways.

Military Cooperation

Ambassador Gqiba
was also quoted as stating that the military establishments of Israel and the apartheid regime had worked "hand in glove".  While resentment of Israel's supplying arms to the apartheid government is fully justified, it is puzzling that the resentment continues only against Israel, while the main suppliers of weaponry, France, Britain, Canada, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Taiwan and the United States are forgiven. The apartheid regime could have been brought to its knees much earlier, had its $2 billion annual oil import from Arab states been cut off.

In 1986, South Africa's main trading partners were, USA - $3.4 billion, Japan - $2.9 billion, Germany- $2.8 billion, U.K. - $2.6 billion. Compare, Israels puny $0.2 billion total trade with South Africa, with for example, the support given by Fluor Corporation's $4.2 billion oil from coal project and ARMSCOR's multi-million dollar contracts with IBM, Shell, Daimler-Benz and many others. 

Despite the Security Council's embargo, Germany supplied vehicles and other equipment to the South African police and army, including approximately 6,000 multi-tasking Mercedes Benz Unimog vehicles and Mercedes Benz undertook responsibility for repairing military vehicles used for control of black townships.

Essential computers for storing fingerprints and personal details for the government's system of controlling the Black population were supplied by Fujitsu and IBM.

So too, the apartheid regime could have been crippled by withdrawal of major banking facilities. While John Voster was prime minister, he said 'each bank loan is another brick in the wall of our continued existence' and in 1979 the Deutsche Bank was awarded the Order of Good Hope, the highest civilian award for promoting the interests of the country. Even after the dreadful Sharpeville massacre, Chase Manhattan led a consortium of 10 banks providing $40 million in loans to South Africa.  According to a UN report, UBS participated in more loans to South Africa than any other bank between 1979 and 1982. UBS, Commerzbank,  Swiss Bank Corporation and Credit Suisse were among the most active lead managers of syndicated loans to the apartheid government. All in all, the loans totaled several billion US dollars.

Is it not inequitable that no other countries are judged by the yardstick applied to Israel and that Israel receives no recognition of its ongoing program of training Black South Africans in leadership, agriculture and organization, which continued during the apartheid era?


Read more articles by Maurice Ostroff

 
     
 
 
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