JOHANNESBURG, So. Africa (Jul. 21)
“The present government, since it came into power in 1948, has expressly repudiated anti-Semitism and has indeed exercised a welcome restraining influence against those of its followers who, from time to time, have sought to air or exploit their anti-Semitic sentiments,” it was emphasized here in a report by Arthur Suzman, chairman of the public relations committee of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, and vice-president of the organization.
“At the same time,” Mr. Suzman added, “we would welcome a more positive attitude by the Government in excluding from this country, as it has the right to do, notorious and avowed anti-Semites who can serve only to stir up racial bitterness in the country.”
Mr. Suzman reviewed salient events affecting the Jewish community since the last Congress of the Board, held in 1962. These included the differences between Israel and South Africa on South Africa’s racial policies, at the United Nations. Mr. Suzman indicated how the first reactions of criticism of South African Jewry were superceded by the realization — pinpointed in a statement by the Prime Minister, Dr. Verwoerd — that South African Jews could not be held responsible for the policies of Israel, which were matters for Israel’s citizens alone to decide. Mr. Suzman said it was now generally realized that South African Jewry’s ties with Israel were ties of history, culture, religion and humanitarian endeavor, and had nothing to do with the foreign policy of Israel’s government.
Similarly, the Jewish Board of Deputies had been instrumental in making it clear that the South African Jewish community could in no way be held accountable for acts of subversion and sabotage in South Africa, committed by certain Jewish individuals. “We established that no section of the community can or should be held accountable for the conduct of its individual members — more especially when their ties with the community are of the most tenuous nature,” the report noted.
Reporting on the demands made especially from overseas that the Jewish community should take a specific standpoint on the racial policies of the country, Mr. Suzman said: “Our response to these pressures has been to reaffirm the principle that the Board is not a political body, that it cannot speak with one political voice, and that it is neither its right nor its duty to enter the political arena, save on matters directly and specifically affecting the Jewish community. Though we may rightly be expected to speak with one moral voice, to do so without entering the political arena appears to be a well-nigh insuperable task.”