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May 26, 1989 - Image 37

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-05-26

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

V

Bring in up to three pieces of jewelry
for a free appraisal when you visit
our newest location in the
Novi Town Center.

the Member for Houghton
was campaigning for prison
reform.
If Helen Suzman has never
been afraid of offending the
pro- apartheid Right, she has
also not shrunk from treading
on the designer toes of the
anti-apartheid Left (see box).
Her liberal credentials are
unimpeachable, but the Suz-
man brand of liberalism is as
much cerebral as it is cardiac;

p.

01°

Helen Suzman is
symbolic of an era
of passionately
committed Jewish
activists who
threw themselves
into the anti-
apartheid struggle
to the exclusion of
almost everything
else.

a liberalism that is informed
by the head as much as by the
heart.
She has, for example, won
few friends among the New
Left for her trenchant opposi-
tion to disinvestment and
economic boycotts against
South Africa — for the simple
reason that blacks would be
devastated by such action.
Heaped with honors and
awards by governments and
organizations throughout the
world, Helen Suzman now
sits in her daughter's comfor-
table London apartment (a se-
cond daughter lives in
Boston) and contemplates a
future that could involve
writing her memoirs and liv-
ing a quiet life out of the
public spotlight.
No one, however, doubts
that her first, overriding
priority — indeed, the over-
riding priority of her disap-
pearing breed of old-style
liberals — will be to continue
helping those in distress.
It would be wrong, however,
to imagine that Helen Suz-
man is about to assume the
mantle of a Sister Theresa.
Notwithstanding the passion
with which she battles for
the underprivileged and the
gilded cage which has sur-
rounded and protected her,
she has a sharp eye and an
earthy, self-deprecating
humor tinged with an un-
mistakable edge.
During her long political
career she invested much
time and energy in preparing
speeches, so she was justifi-
ably miffed when, not more

than a few minutes into a
speech during one election
campaign in Johannesburg,
she noticed a man in the front
row who was apparently
sound asleep.
"Actually, he was dead — a
coronary," she says, a note of
mock irritation in her voice.
"Now that wasn't fair — he
didn't even give me a chance."
The body was removed and,
undaunted, the consummate
politician continued her
crusade.
Helen Suzman is symbolic
of an era of passionately com-
mitted Jewish activists who
threw themselves into the
anti-apartheid struggle to the
exclusion of almost
everything else.
Her departure from the
political scene is a reflexion of
a wider retreat by Jewish
liberals from the anti-
apartheid cause. In many
cases, the old liberals have be-
ing eclipsed by the New Jews
— the particularists who have
withdrawn into their own
spiritual and communal con-
cerns and those who frankly
do not feel uncomfortable in
apartheid's ideological camp.
Helen Suzman laments the
fact that there are now two
Jewish Members of Parlia-
ment representing the Na-
tional Party. She is also
troubled by the fact that it is
by no means uncommon for
Jews to vote for the
government.
Jews are, to be sure, still ac-
tive in the struggle against
apartheid, and South Africa's
120,000 strong Jewish com-
munity continues to provide
much of the support for the
Helen Suzman's old party
(which, after its most recent
transformation, is now known
as the Democratic Party).
But the community as a
whole is more ambivalent.
Growing numbers of South
African Jews, like Helen Suz-
man's own daughters, have
turned their backs on the
country and emigrated. Still
others are dismayed by the
growing anti-Israel, anti-
Semitic sentiment among
blacks, particularly on
university campuses, where
Islamic fundamentalism is_a
growing phenomenon.
Helen Suzman, for so long
a passionate voice of cons-
cience, has done more than
anyone — or anything — else
to keep alive the flame of
humanity and hope in a deep-
ly troubled land. She will
surely be counted as a woman
of valor.

Meet our knowledgeable and helpful staff,
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. THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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