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Shimoni’s analysis overlooks Jews who weren’t ANC supporters

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Gideon Shimoni questions whether Jewish values motivated the disproportionate involvement of Jews in the struggle against apartheid, but this is because he mainly looks at those who joined the African National Congress (SA Jewish Report, 16 October).
by Jack Bloom, Johannesburg | Oct 22, 2020

There was a far broader scale of action by individual Jews that was highly significant in averting a race war, and enabling a successful post-apartheid transition.

In Shimoni’s book, Community and Conscience: The Jews in Apartheid South Africa, he leaves out Lazer Sidelsky, who hired Nelson Mandela when no-one else would, prompting Walter Sisulu’s remark that Mandela would otherwise have gone back to the Transkei and become at best a paramount chief.

A myriad of small acts of kindness like this arguably made a huge contribution to toppling apartheid.

Jews were prominent in organisations like the Torch Commando, Springbok Legion, Black Sash, Operation Hunger, and the South African Institute of Race Relations. Many Jewish businessmen also pushed against racially discriminatory laws.

And, why overlook those Jews in the parliamentary opposition, and the fact that Helen Suzman wouldn’t have been the sole Progressive Party member of parliament for many years without Jewish support in her Houghton seat?

I know from my own extensive political canvassing that other immigrant groups like Greeks, Italians, and Portuguese were largely National Party supporters, unlike most Jews.

It’s a mistake to accord exclusive anti-apartheid virtue to Jews like Joe Slovo and Ronnie Kasrils, who would gladly have engaged in communist repression if it weren’t for the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where were their voices when their beloved Soviet Union persecuted Jews and crushed revolts in Eastern Europe? 

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