Twelve Prominent Jewish Anti-Apartheid Activists

Twelve Prominent Jewish Anti-Apartheid Activists

The role of jews in the anti-Apartheid and pro-Communist movements, particularly the African National Congress (better known as the ANC), in South Africa has largely been ignored by those who seek to challenge the present genocidal ‘government’ of South Africa. To write a longer exposition of the significant jewish overrepresentation in anti-Boer South Africa politics, as well as comparing and reconciling this with jewish participation in pro-Boer South African politics, would take more time than I can currently devote to this subject, but to provide a stop gap resource on this important subject I provide a short list of prominent jews in the anti-Apartheid and pro-Communist movements in South Africa with a short summary biography of each jew’s involvement.

Before we start we should explain why even so few examples are very important in illustrating the connection between jews and anti-Boer politics. Compared to Europe where jewish involvement in radical ‘left wing’ political movements has often been noted and reasonably large jewish populations, which are, proportional to the rest of the population, often quite small. South Africa has a far smaller proportional population (less than one percent of the total and predictably circa eighty percent of South Africa’s jewish population are clustered in and around to the urban centres: Cape Town and Johannesburg) of jews and so a significant overrepresentation of jews in a given political movement is both more obvious and significant (i.e. it suggests that there is something that attracts jews to radical ‘left wing’ political movements as opposed to it just being a reaction against anti-jewish attitudes in the population as has been argued by my authors on this subject). It is also significant to note that South Africa under Apartheid treated the jews as ‘Whites’ and they were not discriminated against because they were jews.

Therefore, we cannot - as I have said above - dismiss this significant involvement as being a ‘reaction’ to something, but rather we must suggest something unique to jews which makes them get involved in this kind of politics.

So without further a-do let us introduce our proverbial rogues:

1. Harry Schwarz: Was co-founder of the ‘Torch Commando’ fighting against the ‘disenfranchisement of the colored people’. In the 1960’s he became leader of the opposition party in the Transvaal: The United Party. Harry Schwarz also signed the ‘Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith’. A declaration committed to opposing Apartheid in a ‘non-violent’ manner. In the 1970's Schwarz acted as Chairman of the Committee on International Relations of the Jewish Board of Deputies. In 1991 he was appointed as South African Ambassador to the United States. He was also a close friend and associate of Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo (see below) and Jimmy Kantor. Both Slovo and Kantor were jewish and were in the first instance a communist and in the second case a socialist.

2. Helen Suzman: Born Helen Gavronsky to jewish parents and later married a jewish man named Dr. Moses Suzman. Elected to the South African House of Assembly in 1953 for the opposition United Party. Abandoned the United Party in 1959 and joined the Liberal Progressive Party. Liberalism in South Africa was the key ideology that obtained jewish support: Suzman was a representative of the Houghton Constituency with Houghton being a primarily jewish wealthy suburb. Suzman's Progressive Party merged with that of Harry Schwarz (the Reform Party) [see above] to become the Progressive Reform Party.

3. Nadine Gordimer: A jewish writer primarily known for her literary activism against Apartheid, as well as her testimony on behalf of 22 individuals deemed to have committed treason against the South African state. Nadine Gordimer was a member of the African National Congress (better known as the ANC) and partially wrote Nelson Mandela's speech at the famous Rivonia Trial.

4. Arthur Chaskalson: A jewish defense attorney who defended Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia trial. It is amusing to note that Nelson Mandela was being prosecuted at Rivonia by the Attorney General Percy Yutar who was also jewish. Chaskalson's activism was primarily as a human rights lawyer and in challenging the implementation of numerous Apartheid laws. Chaskalson was also appointed President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa in 1994 and Chief Justice of South Africa in 2001.

5. Denis Goldberg: Originally a jewish member of the South African Communist Party, Goldberg later joined the Congress of Democrats, which allied itself with the African National Congress. With the establishment of the armed wing of the African National Congress ‘Umkhonto We Sizwe’ in 1961: Goldberg became one of its technical officers. In 1963 he; along with several members of the armed wing including Nelson Mandela, were arrested and faced justice in the famous Rivonia treason trial of 1964. Goldberg was sentenced to four life terms. In 1985 - some twenty-two years later - Goldberg was released from prison and went into exile in the United Kingdom. He resumed his anti-Apartheid activism from the African National Congress headquarters in London and acted as its spokesperson at the Anti-Apartheid Committee of the United Nations. Goldberg was appointed as Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry in 2004.

6. Ruth First: The jewish wife of the jewish communist Joe Slovo. First assisted in founding the Congress of Democrats: the ‘white wing’ of the Congress Alliance. She assumed control of ‘Fighting Talk’: a propaganda journal supporting the Congress Alliance. In 1956 First and her jewish husband were arrested for treason with the trial lasting four years and resulting in the acquittal of all the one and fifty-six accused. She fled to Swaziland after a state of emergency was declared after the Sharpville incident returning to South Africa six months later when the state of emergency had been lifted to continue as the editor of ‘New Age’ (successor to ‘The Guardian’).

During this period, she also organized broadcasts of ‘Radio Freedom’ from mobile transmitters in Johannesburg. Detained in 1963 along with several members of the African National Congress’ underground armed wing: ‘Umkhonto We Sizwe’. First was never tried for treason but detained instead for ninety days. Following her release, she and her children fled for the African National Congress headquarters in London after her jewish husband Joe Slovo - humorously enough being the obviously caring husband and father he was - abandoned his jewish wife and children in South Africa without telling them.

Both First and Slovo subsequently resumed their anti-Apartheid activism in the United Kingdom. First then emigrated to Mozambique after being appointed Professor and Research Director of the Center for African Studies. She was subsequently killed by letter bomb. Coincidentally First's jewish father Julius First was the treasurer of the South African Communist Party.

7. Albert Louis ‘Albie’ Sachs: Sachs’ anti-Apartheid activism was mainly in the capacity of a human rights attorney defending jewish and negro clients against what he deemed to be ‘oppressive and unjust laws’. Sachs went into exile in 1966 in the United Kingdom but emigrated to Mozambique in 1977. During his stay in Mozambique, he was in close contact with Oliver Thambo who was then the leader of the African National Congress. On April 7th, 1988 Sachs lost an arm and an eye when his car - which had been rigged with a bomb - exploded. Sachs was the principal architect of the post-Apartheid South African Constitution and was appointed in 1994 as a judge in the South African Constitutional Court by Nelson Mandela.

8. Rowley Israel Arenstein: Joined the South African Communist Party in 1938, becoming the organizer of the Durban district branch. In 1947 he withdrew from active politics, but remained a participant in the Durban branch of the Congress of Democrats during the 1950's. The extent of his subsequent anti-Apartheid activism is similar to that of Albert Louis Sachs (see above) as a human rights attorney. In the 70's Rowley Israel Arenstein was banned from practicing law and placed under house arrest for his subversive activities and support of terrorism.

9. Arthur Goldreich: Although a transient fixture in anti-Apartheid circles; the short time that Goldreich spent in these circles was highly influential and thus important. Goldreich - a former member of the ‘Palmach’ (the elite arm of the jewish Zionist terrorist group: the 'Haganah') - rented a farm near Rivonia, which he then transformed into the headquarters of the armed wing of the African National Congress: ‘Umkhonto We Sizwe’. Goldreich was among those arrested in the Rivonia incident, but unlike the others Goldreich along with a fellow terrorist; Moosa Moolla, managed to bribe a young guard on 11th August 1963 and fled to Swaziland. Goldreich eventually made his way back to live in Israel.

10. Joe Slovo: An active jewish member of the South African Communist Party in the 1940's who became a defense attorney for his politically active jewish and negro clients. In 1953 Slovo along with his jewish wife Ruth First became one of the founding members of the Congress of Democrats. Following the Sharpville incident: Slovo was detained for a four-month period on the basis of being a communist agent under the ‘Suppression of Communism Act’.

Slovo was also one of the earliest members of the armed wing of the African National Congress: ‘Umkhonto We Sizwe’. In June 1963 Slovo left for an ‘external mission’ and a month later the police arrested the leadership of ‘Umkhonto We Sizwe’. Slovo resumed working for the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party abroad in the United Kingdom and acted as its Chief of Staff and General Secretary until 1987.

In 1977 Slovo moved to Mozambique where he established an operational centre for the African National Congress. He was forced to leave the country following an agreement between Mozambique and South Africa, which entailed economic aid in exchange for a tough position against terrorist groups.

11. Raymond Sorrel Suttner: A jewish anti-Apartheid activist who in 1975 was charged with two counts of criminal behaviour to which Suttner pleaded guilty (on both counts). The specific charges were taking part in the activities of an unlawful organization (the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party) as well as undergoing training, inciting or encouraging other persons to undergo training or to obtain information that would be useful in furthering the communist aims or the aims of any unlawful organization. Suttner was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for his crimes.

12. Ronald Kasrils: A jewish communist who; prompted by the Sharpville incident, decided to join the African National Congress and who acted as secretary of the African National Congress aligned Congress of Democrats in Natal till it was banned as a subversive organisation in 1962. Kasrils was a founding member of the armed wing of the African National Congress ‘Umkontho We Sizwe’and was involved in its first ever operation. In 1963 Kasrils became the leader of its Natal Regional Command. Kasrils - like many of the other jews involved in the anti-Apartheid movement - fled into exile in the United Kingdom and continued operating on behalf of the African National Congress in some of its international branches (such as those in Swaziland, Luanda and Rhodesia).

Kasrils also received extensive training in the Soviet Union during the 1960s. Kasrils was given courses focusing on general military training and intelligence operations. He was even trained to be a brigadier in the Red Army! This earned him the position of Chief of Intelligence for ‘Umkontho We Sizwe’. Ronald Kasrils held many other important positions in both the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party such as being a member of the African National Congress’ Politico-Military Council in Lusaka from 1985, a member of African National Congress’ National Executive Committee from 1987 and a member of the South African Communist Party's Central Committee from 1985. Kasrils’ wife Eleanor was also a member of the African National Congress and ‘Umkontho We Sizwe’. Kasrils was also related to Jacqueline Arenstein: a member of the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress who was also the wife of Rowley Israel Arenstein (see above).