Nelson Mandela’ s closest friend, who stood trial alongside him and spent 22 years in prison, this week launched a scathing attack on South Africa’s Jewish leaders in the wake of the former President’s funeral, writes Sharon Feinstein.
Denis Goldberg, who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Mandela at the infamous Rivonia trials in the 1960s, attacked the South African Jewish Board of Deputies for its failure to apologise until recently over abandoning him and his colleagues during their years of incarceration.
And in a stunning broadside, he accused the Jewish community of being more aligned to Israel than their home country.
Speaking this week from Nigeria, where he has been since he first heard the news of his close friend’s death, Goldberg said: “The JBD suddenly discovered it was against apartheid all along when people like [my colleague] Joe Slovo showed the heroism of Jewish South Africans in the fight for justice.”
He added: “The current JBD president has apologised to me and my fellow Jewish activists for not supporting us when we were imprisoned. But there has been no apology made to the historically oppressed for tolerating the injustices and benefiting from them.”
Speaking about the memorial service in Johannesburg, attended by more than 90 world leaders, but not Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Goldberg added: “His absence was due to the ANC and Mandela’s support for the Palestinian people and their right to a life of freedom and self-determination.”
Goldberg, 80, was arrested on 11 July 1963 and one year later was sentenced at the end of the Rivonia trial to four terms of life imprisonment. He is one of the last men still alive from the trials.
He says: “With Nelson now gone, there are only three of us left alive from the trials – me, Andrew Mlangeni and Ahmed Kathrada. And I’m the baby.”
He added: “Jewish South Africans still need to actively help achieve the transformation of society. It is good that the JBD made an apology to Jewish activists for their lack of support at the time. But it needs to show commitment to our country. Jewish South Africans tend to see them- selves as citizens, yet have primary loyalty to Israel, while clinging to privileges inherited from apartheid.”