02 April 2007

03 April 2007 - The Kasrils Affair

In February 2006, I submitted a thesis to the University of Cape Town for my Master of Arts in Jewish Studies. The thesis is entitled, “The Kasrils Affair: Jews and Minority Politics in the New South Africa.” It was awarded a distinction and was reviewed by David Saks in the South African Jewish Report. It has also featured on one of South Africa’s best political blogs, It’s Almost Supernatural.

I am hoping to publish the thesis in the near future, either as a separate web page or as a book. I have simply been too busy to attend to the task. However, I continue to receive requests for the thesis from interested readers. So, for the moment, I have converted the thesis into a set of eight PDF files (seven chapters, plus the appendix and bibliography), which are available via the links below:

Chapter 1 – Introduction
Chapter 2 – Politics and South African Jewry Before 1994
Chapter 3 – The Post-Apartheid Jewish Community
Chapter 4 – The Kasrils Affair
Chapter 5 – The Aftermath
Chapter 6 – Challenging the Board’s Strategy
Chapter 7 – Conclusions and Comparisons
Appendix and Bibliography

The thesis is as much about the South African Jewish community as it is about Kasrils. I use the debate over Kasrils’s campaign against Israel to explore the changing way in which South Africa’s Jewish leaders understand their relationship with the government. I argue that the community is unsure whether to assert its independence or to resume the familiar, submissive approach of former years.

Since I finished the thesis, Kasrils has been rather busy. He attacked Israel during the war in Lebanon, and compared Israel to the Nazis, resulting in the withdrawal of an invitation to speak at the Goethe Institut in Johannesburg. He also wrote an article for the South African Jewish Report defending his use of the Nazi analogy, which was pulled by the editor, leading to renewed public controversy.

There have also been interesting developments in minority politics. For the first time in South Africa’s post-apartheid history, the ANC was ousted at the ballot box by a coalition of minority parties in Cape Town. And Afrikaner alienation found a voice in a new folk song by Bok van Blerk called “De La Rey," which celebrates the heroism of a Boer War general. The song was soon condemned by the ruling party.

I am hoping to update the thesis when I get a chance. I realize that it is only tangentially related to the subject of this blog, and all of these issues are worth exploring in greater detail elsewhere. However, since readers of this blog have been among those most interested in seeing the thesis, I have decided to post it here first. I hope people find it interesting and useful, and I wish everyone happy holidays!

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