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Njcrac Decides to Continue Backing U.S. Sanctions Against South Africa

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The major policy-planning arm of American Jewry has decided to continue supporting U.S. sanctions against South Africa for the time being.

The decision was made Monday at a meeting in Chicago of the executive committee of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. NJCRAC represents 13 national Jewish agencies and 117 local community councils.

Although the umbrella group acknowledged there has been a “clear change” in South Africa, it decided to reaffirm its existing position in favor of U.S. sanctions because it believes Pretoria has not done enough to dismantle the apartheid system, said Diana Aviv, NJCRAC’s associate executive vice chair.

Aviv said NJCRAC agreed that South African President F.W. De Klerk “has made a serious and sincere effort to move the process forward,” but more changes need to be in place before sanctions can be lifted.

De Klerk has been campaigning actively for an end to international sanctions, which have cut off his nation’s economic and other ties to much of the rest of the world.

The European Community recently voted to relax its sanctions against the apartheid regime, but the United States has not yet moved to dismantle sanctions imposed five years ago.

The U.S. Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 specifies conditions South Africa must comply with before sanctions can be lifted.

According to Aviv, the South African government has complied in part by releasing political prisoners, rescinding the state of emergency, legalizing formerly banned political parties and revoking the Group Areas Act, under which blacks were banned from moving into certain areas.

COMPLIANCE BY END OF JUNE?

But Aviv and other monitors of human rights in South Africa point out that an estimated 3,000 people are still in prison on political charges, and blacks cannot participate in the political process.

And while the South African government is in the process of repealing the Population Registration Act, under which people’s races are registered at birth, lists of people already classified may be maintained, Aviv said.

The South African vice consul in New York, Peter Rousseau, said the act’s repeal was expected by the end of June, though some provisions will still apply until a new constitution is in place.

South Africa’s new ambassador to the United States, Harry Schwarz, has told Jewish groups that South Africa will have met the terms for the lifting of sanctions by June 30.

But Aviv said “there is no evidence” it will do so by that date, when the South African parliament is expected to recess for the summer.

Asked about the chances of the United States ending its sanctions policy, Aviv said, “I don’t think there’s the political will right now for the lifting of sanctions.”

During the executive meeting in Chicago, NJCRAC also adopted a statement in support of higher education scholarships for minority students. And it called for Congress to adopt legislation overturning the federal “gag rules” that prohibit family planning clinics receiving federal funds from providing information about abortion.

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