JOHANNESBURG (Nov. 23)
Premier Hendrik Verwoerd declared last night that his stand on Israel’s United Nations position on South Africa’s Apartheid policy, as it related to the status of South African Jewry, had been distorted.
Speaking at the Witwatersrand annual conference of his National party, he strongly deplored what he called “exploitation” by his political foes of the contents of a private letter he had written to a Cape Town Jew, in reply to a similarly private letter. He said his letter was being used to misrepresent his attitude on the question of Israel and South African Jews.
The Premier said it had never been his position that Jewish citizens of South Africa did not have the right to choose whatever political party they wished to support. This statement apparently referred to a remark in his letter to A.S. East, a former Cape Town city councillor. The Premier was reported stating in that letter that, in the recent Parliamentary elections, many South African Jews had favored the Progressive Party, while few Jews voted for his National Party, a fact which “did not go unnoticed.” Dr. Verwoerd insisted last night he would be the last person to deprive Jewish voters of that right.
He said he strongly deplored the action of newspapers like the Daily Mail and the Cape Times which, he declared, sought to infer that he wanted to threaten that Jewish citizens did not have the right of political free choice.
TAKES PRIDE IN ABSENCE OF ANTI-SEMITISM; HITS ISRAEL’S U.N. VOTE AGAIN
The Premier also told the conference that there were times when anti-Semitism could have been “talked about” but that, throughout the 13 years of office of the Nationalist Governments, there had not been a single action against South African Jews. He said he regretted that Jewish journals had been “misled by the malicious propaganda of political opponents into sharp comment on a private letter whose publication was a breach of confidence.” He urged that no one should be led by such reactions into stirring up “race hatred,” and he warned people not to let attitudes of Israel or “actions of some people here” to “conduce” to the emergence of anti-Semitism.
Discussing his criticism of Israel for its anti-South African stand at the UN, the Premier insisted this had nothing to do with his attitude toward the Jewish citizens of South Africa. He explained that his position was that, if Israel thought “separate development” was wrong for South Africa, then Israel had no justification for existing as a Jewish State because its existence was predicated on a similar policy of the right of the Jewish people to a “separate development.”
He said South Africa had supported and helped Israel because it believed in Israel’s right to existence and because it believed that the emergence of Israel was the fulfillment of a national ideal for the Jewish people. Israel’s UN vote against South Africa, he declared, was contrary to that context. He said Israel should have supported South Africa, particularly on the General Assembly motion, on grounds of the right of free speech, Israel’s attitude at the UN has increased South Africa’s difficulties, he said, but South Africa would continue to follow its principles nevertheless.