web analytics
July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 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
investing-in-gold_4548807_lrg
What Sanctions? Iran Receives 13 Tons of Gold From S. Africa
Latest News Stories
investing-in-gold_4548807_lrg

Iran has already been able to free up some 20% of its frozen assets, around $19 billion. At best, that’s without doing anything, and at worse, that’s while continuing to rush towards a nuclear bomb.

ISIS in Egypt, according to an image it posted on social media.

Egypt attacks jihadists with F-16 warplanes. Israel closes borders to Gaza and Egypt.

Donald Trump could end up as a third-party candidate, like George Wallace. in 1968.

“The Donald” is in the number two spot, shared with Ben Carson, in Iowa and Michigan after a survey that already placed him in the second spot in New Hampshire.

Then-Israeli ambassador Michael Oren with President Obama. A new book by Oren, now a member of Knesset, is sharply critical of the administration’s foreign policy and paints a far from rosy picture of the president’s relationship with Israeli leaders.

Oren, now a representative of the Kulanu party in the Knesset, has moved on from diplomacy to politics.

Shin Bet foils attempt by Hamas to overthrow Palestinian Authority government in Judea & Samaria.

A demonstration and call for action against terror are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday across from the official of residence of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Government officials got on the soap box after Monday’s night murder of Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld and spoke beautifully against Palestinian Authority incitement and terror. Action is something else. […]

Hamas claims the company, which just so happens to be headed by Abbas’ honchos, is dodging taxes.

Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld, 26, was buried in Kochav HaShachar in Samaria early Wednesday afternoon after he succumbed last night to bullet wounds from Palestinian Authority terrorists. Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) chairman and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett was among hundreds of people at the funeral. He called Rosenfeld “a symbol of the State of Israel, […]

Some 70 Egyptian soldiers have been killed simultaneously in a multi-prong attack in Sinai.

An ancient mikvah is discovered beneath a Jerusalem living room.

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court says the 10 Commandments cannot stay at the state capitol.

Neo-Nazis vandalized a Talmud Torah in Boro Park, Brooklyn this week.

US Pres. Barack Obama said Tuesday he’ll “walk away” from a bad deal with Iran. So far, he hasn’t.

ISIS proclaims its next goal is to conquer Gaza, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Yitzchak Shamir, born October 22, 1915, died June 30 2012. Shamir was Prime Minister of Israel from 1983 to 1984 and again from 1986 to 1992. He was a leader of the pre-State Lehi (Stern Gang) group. He also served in the Mossad fom 1955 to 1965. From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Yitzhak Shamir […]

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: