web analytics
March 4, 2015 / 13 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post


Mandela: Close Ties With South African Jews But Also With Arafat

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – In the early 1940s, at a time when it was virtually impossible for a South African of color to secure a professional apprenticeship, the Jewish law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Eidelman gave a young black man a job as a clerk.

It was among the first encounters in what would become a lifelong relationship between Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s tiny Jewish community, impacting the statesman’s life at several defining moments, from his arrival in Johannesburg from the rural Transkei region as a young man to his years of struggle, imprisonment and ascension to the presidency.

Mandela, who died last Thursday at 95, wrote of the early job in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and acknowledged the disproportionate role that Jews played in the struggle against apartheid.

“I have found Jews to be more broad-minded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice,” Mandela wrote. South Africa’s Jews remembered Mandela, the country’s first democratically elected president, as a close friend, one with deep ties to prominent community figures and a partner in the decades-long effort to end apartheid.

“I was extremely privileged to lead the community during his presidency,” said Mervyn Smith, who was chairman and later president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the community’s representative body. “We met with him on many occasions and the talk was direct and open.”

For Mandela, who rose to prominence as a leading opponent of the discriminatory racial regime known as apartheid, Jews were vital allies. Jewish lawyers represented him in multiple trials, and Jewish activists and political figures played leading roles in the fight.

But Mandela’s ties to prominent South African Jews were personal as well as political. The former president’s second marriage, to Winnie Madikizela in 1958, took place at the home of Ray Harmel, a Jewish anti-apartheid activist. When Mandela married again, in 1998, he invited Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris to offer a private blessing on the nuptials.

On Israel, Mandela’s relationship with the Jewish community was not free of controversy. His African National Congress cultivated close ties with the Palestine Liberation Organization and Mandela warmly embraced its leader, Yasir Arafat.

Confronted with Jewish protests, Mandela was dismissive, insisting that his relations with other countries would be determined by their attitudes toward the liberation movement.

“If the truth alienates the powerful Jewish community in South Africa, that’s too bad,” Mandela was reported to have said, according to Gideon Shimoni, author of Community and Conscience: The Jews in Apartheid South Africa.

David Saks, author of Jewish Memories of Mandela, noted that Mandela stressed his respect for Israel’s right to exist even as he defended his relationships with Palestinian leaders. It was perhaps illustrative of his policy of inclusivity that Mandela accepted an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 1997 when many in his party remained opposed to any ties with Israel.

Mandela was born in 1918 in the village of Mvezo, in the southeastern part of the country. As a young lawyer he was active in the African National Congress, which was beginning to challenge laws it considered unjust and discriminatory.

In the 1950s, Mandela was tried for treason. He was acquitted with the help of a defense team led by Israel Maisels. Several years later, when he was accused of attempting to overthrow the apartheid regime during the Rivonia Trial, Mandela was defended by several Jewish lawyers.

Mandela was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 1964. He served most of his sentence on Robben Island, a former leper colony off the coast of Cape Town. The legendary, feisty Jewish parliamentarian Helen Suzman visited him there. Another prison visitor was the journalist Benjamin Pogrund, who worked frequently with Mandela in the 1960s.

Mandela was released after 27 years, in February 1990. Four years later he was elected president. On the first Shabbat after his election, he visited the Marais Road synagogue in Sea Point.

In 1994, at the opening of an exhibition on Anne Frank, Mandela recounted how a handwritten version of her diary had inspired him and fellow prisoners on Robben Island.
(JTA)

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Mandela: Close Ties With South African Jews But Also With Arafat”

  1. Yechiel Baum says:

    Mandela close with Arafat and they both burn in hell!
    The alleged radiation from Arafat is help and not radiation poison

  2. Yechiel Baum says:

    close with South African Jewish money which he extoled from them to keep the blacks from squatting in their homes. Look how many Jews left when he came out. Even his wife Winnie divorced him. What does that tell you about the man?

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Pelosi turns her back on Netanyahu and Congress.
Netanyahu Says Israel Can Stand Alone – and Pelosi Turns her Back [video]
Latest News Stories
The best Herzog and Livni can hope for, as of now, is a Pyrrhic victory.

The anti-Bibi barrage last week cost him a grand total of two seats, which went to other parties but not to Bujie and Tzipi.

Rav Ovadia's Robes

Rav Ovadia Yosef’s hat and robes made an appearance at a Shas political rally on Tuesday.

A photograph posted by Mashregh News, an Iranian outlet affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps, that shows top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani (R) embracing the leader of Iraq’s Shiite Badr militia Hadi al-Amiri. This picture is not dated, but is thought to have been taken in 2014.

Don’t listen just to Bibi, President Obama, but to your own experts, right there in Washington DC.

Pelosi turns her back on Netanyahu and Congress.

She was brought to tears and “saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II warns the battle against Daesh, known as ISIS, has launched World War III, although the U.S.-led coalition fighting the terror group may not yet know it.

Pres. Barack Obama says Israel’s prime minister offered “no viable alternative” to the current deal with Iran. Here’s how it lines up.

Dozens of Democrats gathered to spew a stream of venom before the cameras Tuesday at Israel’s prime minister after his speech to Congress.

Eli Beer stunned the 16,500 AIPAC conference participants by arriving on stage with lights and sirens blaring on an ambucycle, a specially equipped motorcycle ambulance designed by United Hatzalah to speed up emergency response times.

Israel’s PM Netanyahu was interrupted 40 times with standing ovations in his 40 minute historic speech to the US Congress on Tuesday. Transcript here.

The transcript of PM Netanyahu’s speech is available here. The speech begins at 6pm Israel Time / 11AM NY Time.

Former US Secy of State Hillary Clinton is found to have exclusively used private email while at State Dept.

Bottles of wine accompany the Pesach storytelling – each glass of wine represents the four expressions used by G-d in describing the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt.

“Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate…” to wipe out Israel, PM Netanyahu told Congress.

The Prime Minister showed AIPAC a map of Iranian-backed Hezbollah attacks in five different continents.

If Iran is serious, Netanyahu can skip his speech and tell the Air Force to rev up its engines.

Names and contact information of House Democrats who have confirmed attendance at Bibi’s speech.

More Articles from Meira Schneider
Nelson Mandela

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – In the early 1940s, at a time when it was virtually impossible for a South African of color to secure a professional apprenticeship, the Jewish law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Eidelman gave a young black man a job as a clerk.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/global/mandela-close-ties-with-south-african-jews-but-also-with-arafat/2013/12/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: