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January 8: Jews and the ANC

January 8, 2014
6a0120a69a468c970c0191044a96c6970c-800wiThe African National Congress was founded as the South African Native National Congress on this date in 1912, shortly before the 1913 Land Act deprived non-white South Africans of the right to own land in 87 percent of the country and forced many to leave their farms and seek work in cities and towns. Jews who were active in the ANC, or active supporters of it, mostly during and after the 1940s, included Rusty and Hilda Bernstein (he was acquitted in the 1963 Rivonia Trial that sent Nelson Mandela to Robben Island); Harry Bloom, a novelist who was forced into exile in 1963; Arthur Chaskalson, the Chief Justice of South Africa from 2001 to 2005, who was a member of the defense team in the Rivonia Trial; Ruth First (pictured with Nelson Mandela, at right), a founder of the South African Communist Party and a member of the ANC who was acquitted in the Treason Trial of 1956-61 and arrested and banned repeatedly; Bernard Friedman, a surgeon and businessman who founded the anti-apartheid Progressive Party; Denis Goldberg, a technical officer in Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC, who was imprisoned for 22 years; Arthur Goldreich, a painter whose farm was the site of the “conspiracy” prosecuted in the Rivonia Trial; Richard Goldstone, who as a judge made the legislation that banned non-whites from living in “whites only” areas almost unworkable by restricting evictions; Joel Goodman Joffe, who represented Mandela at the Rivonia Trial; James Kantor, another attorney and defendant in the Rivonia Trial; Ron Kasrils, who joined the ANC in 1960, after the Sharpeville Massacre, and was a cabinet member in the post-apartheid government from 2004 to 2008; Harry Schwarz, another attorney in the Rivonia Trial and the South African ambassador to the U.S. both before and after the abolition of apartheid; Joe Slovo, Ruth First’s husband, who co-led Umkhonto we Sizwe and was Minister for Housing in Mandela’s government until he died in 1995; Helen Suzman, the most outspoken and longest-serving white legislator opposed to apartheid; Harold Hanson, whose speech on the last day of the Rivonia Trial helped convince the presiding judge to commute death sentences to life imprisonment; Helen Zille, who as a journalist exposed the cover-up in the murder of Steven Biko and became mayor of Capetown; and Albie Sachs, an anti-apartheid attorney who became a judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa under Mandela. “One feature of apartheid has always been physical violence. . . . I shall not say that the great majority of white South Africans even support it. . . . I think they find it abhorrent, and they have even enough decency left to condemn it, if they have the courage, which is another question in a totalitarian state.” —Ruth First, to the United Nations, 1964