Sunday, July 3, 2011

Arthur Goldreich 1929 – 2011 An appreciation by Denis Goldberg

I have read many obituaries on the internet about Arthur Goldreich. Some of what follows is well known, but I have added details that others have not talked about, mostly from personal contact with him.

When I met Arthur in May 1963 he appeared to be a well off, handsome, strongly built 40 year old with a certain self confident swagger. He liked to wear jodhpurs and riding boots with a well fitting tweed jacket and open weave riding gloves with leather palms and fingers, all colour coordinated in shades of brown and tan. He drove what was then a seemingly exotic Citroen DS19 car with an avant garde shape. He was a designer for one of the large department chain stores. He was also a prize winning artist and dressed the part. He had designed and constructed the sets of the hit South African musical King Kong. That was in itself an indicator of his character for it was a theatre piece with story, music and lyrics written by black South Africans about black South Africans at a time of ever deepening apartheid repression. His social contacts were with musicians, artists and performers. He was consciously opposed to the apartheid policies of the time.
In part, I believe his opposition was shaped by growing up in Pietersburg (Now Polokwane) in the then Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province) near to an asbestos mine and his family being of Jewish origin faced open anti-Semitism from the predominantly Afrikaner mining and farming community. Experience of discrimination can make one oppose the dominant forms of discrimination even though the majority of whites simply went along with apartheid racism and benefited from it.
Arthur told me he had been a soldier in the Palmach and fought against Arabs and Palestinians for the independence of the State of Israel, newly formed by UN resolution as a way to compensate European Jews for the decimation of the holocaust. He learnt soldiering during that time but like so many Jews of left wing political persuasion came to oppose the militaristic oppression of the Arab and Palestinian people by the Zionist state. All of this helped to shape his active opposition to apartheid.

In later life, while living in Israel he became a vocal founder member of the anti apartheid movement opposed to Israel’s pro-apartheid South Africa policy. He also became vocal in his opposition to the Israeli repression of the Palestinian people. He insisted that architecture, the design and building of illegal fortress-like Jewish settlements on Palestinian land was itself not abstract design, but fundamentally political. He railed against this trying to get his students at the Bezalel Design Institute to understand their role in the oppression.
My personal connection to Arthur started in May 1963 when Joe Slovo, Central Committee Member of the South African Communist Party as I then (correctly) assumed, and a co-founder with Nelson Mandela of Umkhonto we Sizwe introduced me to Arthur who lived with his wife Hazel and two sons Nicholas and Paul on a large small holding called Liliesleaf Farm on the outskirts of Johannesburg in the semirural area of Rivonia. The house and 25 Acres (12 hectares) of grounds were for their time palatial, or at least like a country manor. Though the outbuildings were somewhat dilapidated, the lawns around the manor house were beautifully manicured. The rooms were large with hardwood parquet floors and the Goldreich family maintained the façade beautifully. They appeared to be part of the huntin’, ridin’, and shootin’ set. Clearly nothing untoward appeared to be happening there. Behind the façade however, everything was not as it seemed to be. The property was in fact owned by the SACP through a front company and was used as the underground headquarters of the SACP. One of the outbuildings had been the home of one ‘David Matsumayi’ in reality Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who posed as a farm worker and ‘house boy.’ The whole family was at risk for sheltering the Black Pimpernel as he was known in the media at that time. To the Security Police he was the ‘most wanted person’, and like Alexander Dumas’ Scarlet Pimpernel’ it was said: “they seek him here, they seek him there, they seek him everywhere.”

When I realised that Liliesleaf was also the underground headquarters of the African National Congress and UmKhonto we Sizwe, the Spear of the Nation, the growing armed wing of the liberation movement, I admired the courage and commitment of Arthur and Hazel even more for they were sitting on a barrel of dynamite that could destroy their lives and those of their children if the security police should discover where we were hiding out - Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Wilton Mquayi, and me too. But in addition Bram Fischer, the famous advocate, Joe Slovo also an advocate, Bob Hepple an academic lawyer, Rusty Bernstein and others would arrive there for meetings of their various organisational committees.
Arthur was the convenor of our Logistics Committee of the High Command and he passed to me the designs for home made military weapons such as hand grenades and landmines he had brought back from China where he had been sent by the MK leadership.
Arthur designed and executed my disguise which turned me into a rather rabbinical looking character with small wire rimmed glasses and a full beard. He disguised Ahmed Kathrada rather well using his swarthy skin and hair bleached to make him look quite different on casual inspection. Arthur revelled in the clandestine activity. Indeed we all did, feeling we were on the verge of momentous events when we would overthrow the apartheid state.

Our security was seriously compromised by the number of openly politically active comrades who visited Liliesleaf Farm. I was instructed to buy a new small holding at Travallyn Agricultural Holdings in Krugersdorp and we moved there leaving Arthur and his family and Ahmed Kathrada behind. Because a new alternative secure venue had not yet been found, one last meeting of the MK High Command was to take place on 11 July 1963 in the afternoon. The meeting started and then the Security Police raided the farm arresting all of us, including Arthur and Hazel when they returned home from work. Under 90 days detention the police interrogators sought to turn Hazel against Arthur and the movement by showing her love letters to him from a lover. He had kept them in his desk at work. She resisted the police. Arthur and Harold Wolpe were detained in police cells where Mosie Moolla and Abdulhay (Charlie) Jassat were also detained. They successfully bribed a young policeman to allow the four of them to escape. As it happens, Hazel was also detained there and so was my wife.
My story is of Arthur, and he and Harold having left the prison in the evening and found that their getaway car was not awaiting them. They walked towards Hillbrow in the dark and by chance the famous theatre director Barney Simon happened to stop at a traffic light near them. Arthur persuaded him to drive them to safety. He took them to his own flat and at their suggestion went off to Denis and Hillary Kuny, waking them up at two in the morning to ask for help. Denis asked their neighbour Ivan Schermbrucker, a leading communist activist, to ask for help to hide them. In the meantime Hillary made a packet of sandwiches for Barney to take back home for the escapees instructing Barney to make coffee for them. Hillary told me that Ivan took over and Arthur and Barney were taken into hiding. They spent a short time in the garden cottage of Leon and Maureen Kreel in Mountain View where they were disguised as priests in long cassocks and driven to Swaziland where they crossed the border on foot. I believe they were given asylum by the Rev Hooper until a chartered flight took them to Botswana where, for their safety, the British colonial authorities locked them up in a prison. Charlie Jassat and Mosie Moolla also successfully escaped but because of the nature of our media with its biases, their key role in the escape has always been neglected.
In Botswana, a plane sent from Tanzania by President Nyerere to fetch them was blown up on the runway by South African agents. The threat to Arthur and Harold was very real. A second plane was chartered and they were flown to Dar es Salaam with other South African political refugees.

Arthur and Hazel were divorced and Arthur moved to Israel where he became a Professor of Design and Architecture. I referred earlier to Arthur’s stand against the Israeli oppression and domination of the Middle East in alliance mainly with the USA but the Western powers in general. At the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 in which the notorious massacres took place in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, Arthur led a mutiny by several reserve officers of the Israeli Defence Force who refused to participate in the invasion. They could have been tried by a military court but in the authorities did not prosecute them. The additional publicity would have done the military even more harm. Arthur was consistent in his opposition to racism and oppression whether in South Africa or Israel or elsewhere.
My personal contact with Arthur was renewed when I was released from prison in 1985 and went to Israel to visit my daughter who lived on a kibbutz at that time. On arriving in Israel I was driven away from the airport and found myself at Arthur’s home in Herzliya, near Tel aviv. On arrival he remarked with pride that the last house I had been in when we were arrested was his home, and the first house I was entering after my release was also his home. I responded with a question: Is it safe this time?

I had sporadic contact with Arthur thereafter. One notable event was in Helsinki at a meeting of anti apartheid movements organised by the Cairo based Afro Asian Peoples Solidarity Organisation. Arthur represented the Israeli AAM and I spoke for the ANC and also as an independent expert. He made a brilliant speech and most delegates said that he and I made the politics of oppression easy to understand and set out logical steps to destroy it. Of course, we had the solid policies of our liberation movement to rely upon and our own years of experience.
Other contacts followed through the mutual support we gave to the antiapartheid movements. My last real contact with Arthur was at Liliesleaf Farm in December 2001, when then President Mbeki launched the Liliesleaf Trust which was given the task of turning the farm into a museum to the determination of committed freedom fighters to achieve the end of apartheid and the building of a democratic, non racist, non-sexist state. The Trust and its Liliesleaf Museum has a distinguished board to back up the dedicated and highly successful work of Nicholas Wolpe, the son of the late Harold Wolpe, Arthur’s comrade in politics and in arms.

I enjoyed knowing Arthur, a larger than life character who was a marvellous raconteur. Sometimes one wondered if there was a touch of poetic licence in his telling of essentially true stories of the life and times of a political activist. His passing leaves an emptiness in our lives.
My deepest sympathies go to his sons, Nichols, Paul, Amos and Eden, and to Hazel who played such an important part in his life and our struggle for freedom in South Africa.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Israeli-Arab Actor Juliano Mer-Khamis Shot Dead in Jenin

Israeli-Arab Actor Juliano Mer-Khamis Shot Dead in Jenin

Israeli-Arab Peace activist, actor, director and filmmaker Juliano Mer-Khamis, was assassinated this week in Jenin by masked militants. Mer-Khamis was born in Nazareth to a Jewish mother and Christian-Palestinian father. After serving in the Israeli army, Mer-Khamis decided to devote his life to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. In a later stage in his life he moved to Jenin, where he established the Freedom Theatre, a theatre intended to provide the children of Jenin with entertainment and recreational activity. Juliano Mer-Khamis was well known in the region and received many international awards for his work. Mer-Khamis and his assistant were targeted in a drive – by shooting after leaving his theatre in Jenin,. President Abbas condemned the “hideous attack” saying that “this hateful crime cannot be overlooked and constitutes a dangerous violation of all our rules and human principles and it contradicts all our customs and morals of coexistence.” Different reports state that either a Hamas member, or an al-Aqsa Brigades militant called Qunayri, are suspects and have been held in custody since the event. Juliano has been threatened in the past by Hamas militants who object to his work. Thousands of Palestinians and Israelis participated in his funeral march. Friends of Juliano declared that the perpetrator was participating in an internecine feud, and the murderers were “insiders” who are here to harm their fellow Palestinians.

Goldstone’s retraction

Goldstone’s retraction should be a watershed for the world and Israel

By Ronald S. Lauder

Better late than never, but not much better. How else can one respond to the belated retraction by Judge Richard Goldstone of the key allegations in the outrageous report he authored into Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas terrorists in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009? Blatantly dishonest and biased, what became known as the Goldstone Report served as the most vicious instrument of defamation and de-legitimization against the Jewish state for decades. It gave heart to terrorists; it gave hope to anti-Semites; and it gave every twisted calumny against the State of Israel a new lease of life.

So now we find that even its author can no longer stomach it. Writing in the Washington Post last week, we learn that he now knows that its central allegation was a lie: “…civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy,” he says. Referring to evidence provided by Israel, he adds: “I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes”.

Well, this is better late than never. But a mere statement of regret is surely not enough. Let us recall that the Goldstone Report has served as a pretext for “war crimes” charges leveled against Israeli officials across the world. The least Goldstone can now do is issue a public statement calling on his report to be withdrawn from the United Nations, through whose institutions it is still making its passage. He should do it at the UN itself, and he should encourage the head of the UN Human Rights Council – where the report originated – to do likewise.

But there are even bigger issues to consider, and they go far wider than the pangs of conscience of a partially repentant judge. After all, Goldstone’s retraction tells us nothing that decent, honest and objective observers didn’t know already. That “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy”? But Israel never targets civilians as a matter of policy. It is not that kind of country. It is a humane, liberal-democracy. It is governed by the rule of law. It is a normal western country whose people, and soldiers, abide by normal western values.

So, why were so many governments around the world so willing to jump on board the anti-Israeli bandwagon that the Goldstone Report represented? Why did so many countries in Europe, countries that call themselves allies of Israel and friends of the Jewish people, give it credence at the United Nations, many in the last ballot at the General Assembly voting in favor of its continued passage?

Why were so many of Israel’s nominal friends so willing to believe the worst about her? Why were transparently obvious lies and libels not instantly dismissed with the contempt that they so richly deserved? Why was Israel put on the same footing, perhaps even a lower footing, as Hamas, an organization committed to the obliteration of the Jewish state, an organization for which the notorious anti-Semitic forgery, the Protocols of Zion, functions as the inspiration for its founding charter?

Surely, it is not just Goldstone who should be apologizing, but every government and international body that gave his report the time of day.

In short, if anything good at all can come out of this affair, despite all the damage that has been done, despite all the pain and humiliation that has been suffered, then let it be this. Let this be a watershed moment in the way the world deals with the Jewish state. Let Israel now be treated by a common standard, and not by a double standard. Let it be a moment of true catharsis. Let it be a new beginning where truth, honor and decency reassert themselves and where reflexive hostility to the State of Israel is finally put to rest.

The Jewish people do not ask for much from the world, but we do ask for this: Treat us as you would like to be treated yourselves. Is that really too much to ask?

Ronald S. Lauder is President of the World Jewish Congress

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pesach another meaningless Jewish ritual or a time to reignite our sense of social conscience

I love Pesach it’s my favourite Festival, I enjoy everything about it I think it just oozes

coolness. I mean you get to spend time with friends and family in an intimate setting around

the Seder table, I know in my house we often invite people we don’t see to often so its really

a special time. Look I think the whole preparation for the festival isn’t always that great i.e.

all the cleaning out and change over stuff but it all adds to the sanctity of the festival I guess.

Rabbi’s have an absolute field day at this time of the year. Pesach is filled with symbolisms.

Take for instance the dry and unleavened bread we eat i.e. matzah. I’m sure we all know the

teaching which says that Chometz (normal risen bread and bread based products) is a symbol

of arrogance because it’s risen and filled out like the Yetzer Harah (Or Evil Inclination)

which is bloated through its arrogance of joy when people do wrong. On the other hand

Matzah is lowly bread which symbolizes piety and simpleness. This lowly bread symbolizes

the Jewish people when they left Egypt according to our Sages, and is called a bread of our

affliction. The broader understanding of this period is a time of national introspection and

remembrance. We go into depth about our suffering and the miraculous redemption from

bondage in Egypt. However as Jews we do not just kvetch about our suffering and pain, we

also give praise for our redemption and also look forward to a final future redemption.

This being said I think that a fundamental part of this festival and especially the Seder part

have become drowned in petty worrying about measurements and sizes of this thing or that.

Many Haggadah’s have pages on the fluid ounce requirements for the cups of wines, the

amount of inches of matzah and maror that one requires. I am in no way saying these should

be ignored or dismissed but I feel that the emphasis is being misplaced with ritual over


The Seder has the potential to be the most spiritually and emotionally up lifting experience

not only for the little kids who get to sing the Manishitana section of the Seder but for the

adults as well. I know in certain sects they dress up and put on plays to live up the Seder

experience. This is fantastic but again it’s all symbolic for me the essence of Pesach is the

concept of justice and dignity. The Hebrew people’s who originally fled to Egypt due to

the drought in Canaan and the difficult living conditions, were refugees seeking a better life

for themselves and their families. They were in later generations oppressed and turned into

slaves. Their dignity was undermined in many ways as the Haggadah says.

The essential message which I think we should gain from Pesach – besides the pounds from

some of those measurements especially those of the Chazon Ish – is the central importance

of human dignity and the fact that the Jewish people should be ultra-sensitive to the plight of

others especially those who have become refugees due to circumstances in their own country.

South African Jews have an obligation to highlight the suffering of the oppressed people of

Zimbabwe, Swaziland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the like who have fled

despotic tyrannical regimes in some cases and others who have just fled to find a better life

for themselves and their families.

It is no co-incidence that soon after Pesach we will be Commemorating Yom HaShoah –

Holocaust Memorial Day – we see that in the not too distant past the Jewish people suffered

the most egregious systematic mass murdering in recorded history. We rightly ask where

the world was. We are rightly given no definitive answer. We however need to ask where

our voices today when thousands of African Refugees are fleeing Darfur, Zimbabwe, Libya,

Ivory Coast , Libya, and so on. It is not our task alone to raise these issues but I feel that

South African Jews should be highlighting the plight of fellow Africans in any way we can.

I feel that Moroccan Jews although small should be highlighting the plight of the people of

the Occupied Western Sahara which is illegally and brutally Occupied by the Moroccans

for more than 30 years, Jews in Europe should be arguing strenuously for the rights of

refugees that have fled to Europe especially those fleeing the crisis now that has engulfed

large swathes of North Africa. We the children of the freed slaves of ancient Egypt and the

children of those survived years of discrimination, anti-Semitism, pogroms and the Holocaust

of Nazi Europe should be aware and vocal on ensuring the rights and dignities of others.

This for me is the real message which we should take out of Pesach and one which too often

is overlooked or totally misunderstood by us and more so by many of our Rabbi’s!

I wish you all Chag Kasher VeSameich and meaningful Sedorim.

By Ilan Solomons

SAUJS National African Affairs Liaison Officer

Thursday, February 24, 2011

1 million Israelis are asking why?

Last night, Wednesday the 23rd of March, was the first time since Operation Cast Lead that an Iranian Grad missile exploded in Be'er Sheba, 40km from Gaza.

Arriving at the scene of the rocket strike Thursday morning, in the Northern neighborhoods of Be'er Sheba, brought me back to the terror scenes in Sderot of the past few years. For several years, rocket attacks were part of my daily routine living and working at the Sderot Media Center. When the Tzeva Adom sounded, I would go to the neighborhoods where the rocket exploded and film the scene. The next day, I would return, documenting the 'the day after, listening to the stories of residents on what occurred to them the day before.

Video: Noam Bedein, Sderot Media Center

In Be'er Sheba, I saw the same scenes I'd witnessed in Sderot: shattered car windshields; the shrapnel holes making "windows" on the homes; the radius of damage from where the missile exploded; the 'cover up' of the missile hole; like nothing happened and expecting the people to go back to normal; the holes in the iron doors; the Shabbat candles standing among shattered glasses; pictures of Rabbis hanging untouched on what remained of the walls; frightened and excited residents of the damaged or destroyed homes who just want to share their personal experience with the world; hearing story, counting the amount of times I heard the words; Luck, coincidence, and miracles.

Be'er Sheba resident Chen Saban, a Sapir College student in her early twenties whose house was hit, described how she and her family were lucky enough to reach the secured room on time, saying she never expected her home to be hit. She said it was ironic because she goes to Sapir College, which is only a few km away from Gaza. Chen, who is supposed to get married in the next 3 weeks, is no longer certain about her future in Be'er Sheba and how she ill be able to plan her life living there.

It was amazing to hear all this because it took me 45 minutes to drive from Sderot to Be'er Sheba, which is 40km from Gaza, with residents having 60 seconds to run for the shelter once the siren goes off. And still the same reaction and comments of the frightened and traumatized people.

Today, the more than 1 million Israelis who live in the range of 40km from Gaza are not feeling as secure as they did yesterday, asking themselves "who is next?"

Yitchak Akli a resident of the Be'er Sheba neighborhood said: "We should learn from the experience of 'cast lead'' that this would happen, they have (missiles) and hiding them, to launch and fire them at the right time, on any target in Be'er Sheba. It's a matter of time. They've learned our capabilities and they've learned us".

Since the last "cease fire" 530 rockets and missiles have been fired towards the SouthWestern, past of Israel.

The Iranian Grad missile exploding in Bair-Sheba is a reminder how that a few months ago the Shin-Bet reported that there's a stack of over 5,000 Iranian missiles in Gaza, all of them having a range of 40 KM.

This is especially troubling because, in November 2009, Hamas test-fired a missile test towards the Mediterranean, reaching 60 KM, which is the distance from Northern Gaza to Tel-Aviv.

In November 2010, the ITIC reported that Hamas has missiles with an 80km range.

Almost everyone in the Western Negev knows not it's not "if'" but "when"' the next missile escalation starts, leading to the next Gaza war.

After living in Sderot for the past 5 years, watching the construction of 5,000 new bomb shelters, you don’t have to be a prophet to understand that the highest authorities in Israel know there has not been a permanent end to the rocket fire. Being realistic, Israel has to be prepared for many more years of conflict on the Gaza border.

While Iran is certainly a threat for Israel, the biggest delegitimization threat for Israel, is with no doubt Gaza. Add to this the uprisings in Egypt and North Africa, bringing to power groups that have already declared they will end the "peace treaty" with Israel.

The harsh response that Israel received from the world media and many governments during and after Cast Lead, after the Flotilla incident, and right up to today is actually a modern-day version of a very old demonization of Jews and Israel. A tremendous effort is being made to delegitimize Israel, with the goal of eliminating the Jewish state. How Israel will deal with this threat?

Photos: Noam Bedein, Sderot Media Center

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Breaking News - New Media officer in town!


I am dani, just want to let all you good people out there, know that I am now queen of the blog. Look forward to awesome debate all round.

lots of love