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South African Jews Angered by Police-interior Minister’s Admonition to Parents

South Africa’s Jewish community, strongly supported by many non-Jews, is up in arms over remarks by Police and Interior Minister S. L. Muller who reportedly singled out Jewish parents in a warning to keep their offspring from participating in student protests against Government policies. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies rebuffed an appeal from Mr. Muller that it act to restrain Jewish youth. The South African Government meanwhile said it was all a misunderstanding and accused the opposition leaders of trying to create a false impression that the Nationalist Party was anti-Semitic.

That charge was leveled against opposition leaders by Prime Minister Balthazar J. Vorster who said that Mr. Muller’s speech and subsequent clarifications spoke for themselves and that he believed responsible members of the Jewish community would take them in the spirit intended. Mr. Muller said his remarks were misunderstood and wrongly interpreted. His appeal, he insisted, was directed to all groups. “I deplore the part played by Afrikaan students in university disturbances as much as Jewish students,” said Mr. Muller, who is an Afrikaaner. He reaffirmed what he said was his high regard for the Jewish community.

But non-Jewish and Jewish students donned yellow stars at Witwatersrand University to protest Mr. Muller’s speech. Editorials in leading newspapers criticized it and it was deplored by Chief Rabbi Bernard Casper for injecting a Jewish element into the issue of student protests. Reform Rabbi Arthur Super joined with an Anglican chaplain, Father John Davies, in denouncing the minister at a campus meeting. Rabbi Super added that “as a rabbi it is my duty to affirm the right of conscientious protest.” The statement of the South African Board of Jewish Deputies declared that “to fasten responsibility on the Jewish community for actions of individual members inevitably furthers anti-Semitism, even if unwittingly.” The statement added that “neither the Jewish community nor any other section can be held responsible for any action which individuals take in political fields.”

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