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August 22, 1986 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-08-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE JEWISH NEWS

Is It Too Late
For South Africa?

Hate destroys miracles
and it is hate that is
spreading through the country

ELIE WIESEL

Contributing Editor

Can
South Africans
save their
country?

ate. Naked, brutal, ugly: it
'destroys those it embraces
and those who embrace it.
What can be done to stop
hate? In South Africa it
spreads from day to day, from city to
city, from heart to heart. Soon its
reign will be absolute.
Let the free, civilized world pro-
test, that's to be expected. Mass ar-
rests, daily killings, the maliciolis
desire to imprison tribes, entire
peoples, because of their color: the
scandal appears intolerable. We
must act, do something — that we
know. But what? The field of action
for individuals is indeed limited.
Demonstrating in front of South Af-
rican consulates, signing letters, pet-
itions, what's the point? To calm our
frustrations? In fact, only large-scale
efforts have meaning, only govern-
ments are capable of having an ef-
fect on the stupid and immoral poli-
tics of apartheid. We must therefore
make our influence felt at home, on
our own government. Perhaps if our
action is sufficiently broad, the
South African racists will see them-
selves forced to treat their victims as
equals.
For the time being, the situation
appears to me almost hopeless. The
white Afrikaaners stubbornly refuse
to listen to the voices of reason and
compassion. Do they sincerely be-
lieve that oppression by violence is
the answer to their problems?
Blinded by their hate, they don't un-
ravel the meaning of history. They

are already punished, but they don't
know it.
Indeed, I'm afraid. I'm afraid for
South Africa. I am afraid for the
blacks, I am afraid . for the whites,
and I am also afraid for the Jews.
Caught between two powerful forces,
the Jews are -watched, menaced, re-
gardless of their stance. They are too
liberal for the Afrikaaners, not lib-
eral enough for the blacks. A well
known black leader told me recently
that the South African Jewish com-
munity is timorous, passive, and
timid, too timid; in other words,
frightened, frightened to inaction.
I do believe it. I have visited
this country. True, a long time ago.
But I was able to sound out and
judge the Jewish mentality. The
young are courageous and engaged;
the old, less so. Without sanctioning
their behavior, I, tried to understand
them: the old live in their memories,
they remember pogroms, murders;
they know that when two groups
fight — to paraphrase Kafka — "It
is the Jews who fall to the ground."
Many have emigrated to Israel, to
the United States, to Australia.
Those who are still there, and their
number decreases constantly, have
no recourse but to believe in mira-
cles.
Unfortunately, in South Africa,
miracles don't flourish. Hate de-
stroys miracles and it is hate that is
spreading through the country. Per-
haps that is the basic crime of apar-
theid: to have legitimized hate, in

the name of racial superiority. Once
set loose, hate cannot be contained.
Turned against blacks it shoots
poisoned arrows against those who
espouse the cause of the blacks,
those who defend their right to dig-
nity, those who weep over their suf-
ferings and their deaths. In the end,
hate breeds hate. Pushed to its limit,
hate undermines and destroys not
only its chosen adversary, but those
who practice it. Hate kills humanity
in man before it kills man.
We hear announcements of
political and racial "progress." The
government has finally suppressed
the "passbooks," those identity cards
without which blacks didn't have the
right to move about in certain
towns. Ten years ago, this measure
would have been greeted everywhere
as an encouraging sign. Not any
more. Too late, one says. Too little
and too late.
Too late: these two words scare
me. They evoke the essence of
tragedy. When everything is con-
sumed. When humans have abdi-
cated. When there is no longer any
hope. When to move a step forward
means only to await death.
Too late?
Perhaps we are too optimistic;
we must remain so. It is not too late.
Let the. South African government
decide to humanize its politics by
suppressing apartheid, let it agree to
recognize that racism is an abomina-
tion, and fear will give way to
hope.



Translated from the French by Ann Stiller.

25

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