Johannesburg (Sep. 10)
The grim prediction that increasing rightwing and neo-Nazi activities will drive South Africa’s 120,000 Jews out of this country by the turn of the century drew conflicting reactions in the Jewish community.
Archie Shandling, outgoing chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies in Cape Town, said he did not intend to be an alarmist in voicing that view. He observed, however, “Many South Africans are concerned about the sluggishness of the government’s attempts at reform and would like to see more done to allay their fears.”
Shandling, 58, a lawyer, is widely respected in the Jewish community. Many who disagreed with his prognostication nevertheless shared his concern. Frank Bradlow, national vice president of the Jewish Board of Deputies and a noted historian, said he was disturbed by the situation but added:
“I don’t believe the Jews will leave in any greater numbers than any other section of the community. However, I do agree that South Africans should take note of the growing signs of fascism.”
Shandling, who said he has no intention of leaving the country, said, “The question for us, as always, is … how long? My own private feeling is that there will not be a Jew left in South Africa by the year 2000. I am driven to this conclusion because of the increasing growth of the right wing in this country. Jews have always been a target for this sort of thing for centuries. The strength of these people cannot be ignored especially in times of political uncertainty.” He urged the government to look to the future carefully and to be wary of creating an irreversible situation.
CONTRARY VIEWS EXPRESSED
Harry Schwartz, a member of Parliament of the Progressive Federal Party disagreed with Shandling. “I believe there will be lots of Jews living here in the year 2000,” he said. “I recognnize the threat from the right but I do not overestimate it.”
Rabbi Lawrence Sandler, the chief Jewish chaplain of South Africa’s armed forces, observed that Jews have put down strong roots and are unlikely to quit the country. He said that although he found the rise of rightwing sentiments disturbing, he felt they were not particularly anti-Semitic. “The South African government has always had a positive attitude towards Jews and I feel sure the government would take steps to stamp out the victimization of any section of the community,” Sandler said.
The pro-government newspaper Die Transvaler labeled Shandling’s remarks “unnecessary fear-mongering.” An editorial in the daily said, “The Jews are a valued group in our population and have made wide contributions in all spheres of community life. They live and belong here and we believe they know South Africa and its people better than does Mr. Shandling.”
In the past few weeks, a neo-Nazi group known as the Afrikaanse Weerstand Beweging has been making headlines, especially abroad. The group, led by Eugene Terreblanche, maintains that only whites should be citizens of South Africa and that the Jews, British, Indians and Chinese must not be allowed to get political power. Its members dress in Nazi-type uniforms and display Nazi emblems. Their main immediate target are prominent industrialists and financiers in this country who, the group claims, are working “hand in hand with the international money power.”