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South African Jews and Apartheid

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Jews were overwhelmingly over-represented among Whites in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. At the same time, the Jewish community remained inwardly focused on narrowly Jewish concerns; Jewish communal institutions, until relatively late, remained distant from the struggle against racial injustice, if not wholly complicit with the apartheid regime. In this essay, Adler attempts to account for both responses, activism and compliance, by examining the dilemmas faced by South African Jewry as a relatively small group of suspect Others living at the sufferance of the dominant and traditionally antisemitic Afrikaners. Anti-apartheid activism, he argues, was deeply rooted in Jewish culture and values, regardless of how secular the forms that it took were, and how disturbing it might have seemed to a fearful Jewish community pre-occupied with its own interests.

Keywords: Jews; South Africa; antisemitism; apartheid; racism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Macalester College, Minnesota, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2000

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