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Kasrils Affair, The

Kasrils Affair, The

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In 2007, Minister Ronnie Kasrils, the highest-ranking Jew in South Africa’s post-apartheid government, launched a campaign against Israeli policy in the occupied territories. In so doing, he ignited a public debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that challenged the identity of South African Jews in the new South Africa. Kasrils offered Jews a choice–oppose Israel and Zionism, and be welcomed into the post-apartheid order, or else remain stuck in the apartheid past, on the fringes of South Africa’s changing society, ostracised by the African National Congress (ANC) government.

Kasrils’s ‘declaration of conscience’ marked the first time in recent world history that a prominent Jewish politician outside Israel had attacked the Israeli government and its policies so vehemently—and done so, publicly and self-consciously, as a Jew. Though Kasrils failed to win Jewish support, he succeeded in pulling the community into the orbit of the ANC.

The Kasrils Affair: Jews and Minority Politics in post-apartheid South Africa is a contemporary analysis, based largely on published commentary and interviews conducted with the members and staff of the Jewish Board of Deputies. The book also draws heavily on the insights and experiences of the author who, as a speechwriter for Parliament at the time, was personally involved in the debates and discussions surrounding the issue. The book investigates broader patterns of Jewish political behaviour prior to the normalisation and democratisation of South African society and compares the experience of the South African Jewish community in the Kasrils Affair with the recent experiences of Jewish communities in Britain, France and the United States.

There are few books on minority politics in South Africa in the post-apartheid era. This book illuminates an interesting but under-explored area of current affairs scholarship.

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