At the Congress of South African Board of Deputies, held at Pretoria, Mr. S. Raphaely and Mr. Hersch, (Johannensberg), moved four resolutions, protesting against the Government’s application to European Jews of that section of the Immigration Act that was intended for Asiatics, only promising support to the Government in keeping out undesirables, and giving the incoming Executive of the Board of Deputies directions in case the Government introduced alternative legislation.
In moving the resolutions, Mr. Hersch said he could not discuss the immigration impasse without first re-affirming his most solemn protest against and expressing his deepest regret at the Government’s deliberate application of a certain sub-section of the law to Europeans which it had previously pledged itself not to apply to immigrants of the European race.
Mr. Hersch referred to General Smuts, the South African Premier as one of the most illustrious apostles of idealism in the world, and said it was extraordinary that his Government should have broken a solemn pledge.
Immigration, in so far as the Jews were concerned, had practically been stopped. During the three months of January to March 1923, only ten Jewish immigrants arrived in South Africa, in consequence, of course, of the Government’s policy. Up to June 1 for the five months only twenty-one male Jews of over sixteen years were admitted out of a total of 1,248 Europeans.
“I am satisfied”, continued Mr. Hersch, “that there is no question of anti-Semitism whatsoever in the Government’s otherwise very unfortunate attitude. Certainly no Jew would ever cast a slur of anti-Semitism on our Prime Minister, who has proved himself one of the greatest friends the Jewish people ever had the privilege of possessing.
“Having thus paid the Government its due tribute in this respect, “Mr. Hersch proceeded, “I can only express my firm belief that in introducing more definite legislation the Jews in South Africa need not be afraid lest it should be so drastic as to exclude the ten or so Jews at present coming into the country every three months of the year.”
He want on to say that the precarious position of Jews in certain other parts of the world had to a great extent aggravated the immigration problem, in that the authorities were under the impression that should immigration to South Africa become easier, large numbers of unfortunate Jews would drift towards the country.
It was a great mistake. The mass of Jews did look for a new home, but for that they looked to their national home in Palestine. The moral and material aid rendered to the Jewish national cause by South African Jewry was clear proof that they would rather have the larger number of their people go there and develop their national home than encourage their immigration to South Africa.
No Jewish immigrants were a public charge. The large majority proved thmselves a credit to the country.
After a lengthy discussion all the resolutions were carried unanimously.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.