60% of white treason trialists were Jewish
ANC stalwart Ben Turok has disclosed in an exclusive interview with Jewish Report that recent media reports (SEE LINKS BELOW) that he had laid a disciplinary charge against fellow senior ANC member Marius Fransman were incorrect.
“I did not lay a charge in formal terms,” Turok said. He confirmed that he had, indeed, raised the issue of Fransman’s anti-Semitic statements to the Cape Town Press Club. “I wrote to Fransman and said I believe this requires disciplinary treatment and I copied the secretary-general (Gwede Mantashe).”
Turok would not disclose what he had written but did tell Jewish Report that his letter had raised his concern that “the ANC must not get involved in ethnic finger-pointing. It is a very dangerous trend and an undesirable tendency given the huge challenges we still face as a result of our apartheid legacy,” he said.
“I have done a count just this morning of the 1956 treason trialists,” Turok told Jewish Report. Of the 23 who were white, he said, “14 of us were of Jewish origin.”
“More importantly ethnicity on the whole in SA is a problem.”
“Today you talk about Jewish ownership, tomorrow it can be Greek ownership – or any other ethnic group for that matter.”
Turok told Jewish Report that what Fransman said had motivated him to react for two reasons: his personal experience of anti-Semitism in the past on one hand; and a general distaste for any form of ethnic discrimination and labelling of people on the other.
Fransman hit a nerve in Turok
Fransman’s statements hit a nerve in Turok, who has long since given up religion and makes clear that he is not a Zionist. “Primarily it was because I detest anti-Semitism,” Turok said of why he had faced off with Fransman.
“My position is that I certainly have sensibilities to my anti-Semitic past.” Turok said that his parents had fled anti-Semitic pogroms in Ukraine only to find themselves in Latvia (where he and his two older brothers were born) when it became the first became the first fascist country in Europe.
“We were subject to (anti-Semitic) violence in Latvia,” says Turok, and later from Afrikaner nationalists when they came to South Africa.
Benjamin’s parents, Harry and Rachel Turok, came from the Ukraine Belgorod. “They were persecuted in Cossack and ‘Whatnot’ pogroms,” he says and fled to Latvia where his older siblings Hillel and Solomon and he were born.
Soon Latvia, too, was overtaken by violent anti-Semitism and the then-Union of SA was looking to bolster its white population, explains Turok. “South Africa was looking for any white immigration – even Jewish riffraff from Eastern Europe,” he told Jewish Report.
Home language was Yiddish
So it was that Harry arrived in SA in 1930, and managed to bring Rachel and the three boys over in 1934. “Our home language was Yiddish,” explains Turok. The only other language the family spoke was Russian.
Their home was very Jewish but not religious or Zionist, says Turok. His father was a skilled leather craftsman but there was no work for him in his field – so he had started as a barrow-boy, selling oranges in the streets of Cape Town. Later, harry opened a chip shop and subsequently got a job at a leather factory. Before his working life was over, Harry Turok would become the owner of the factory.
“My parents rarely went to Shul, Turok told Jewish Report, adding that he had been a choir boy at the local Shul. None of the family was religious back then, he says. Later, Hillel occasionally attended Shul and “as my parents got older they started to become pro-Zionist and going to Shul.”
Rachel Turok was a very cultured woman, says Ben. She became one of the premiere actresses in Cape Town where Yiddish was a third language. “Our house was a hotbed of Yiddish.” He remembers his childhood home as the centre of communal life – very Yiddish, never Zionist but very much Jewish.
But Ben, the only survivor of the original five Turok’s who settled in cape Town, says that he grew up feeling “rather suffocated” and that he began to distance myself from this background. “I wanted to become a South African,” he says.
But the South Africa of the time was home to Afrikaner nationalism “that had a right wing Nazi sympathies,” which led to the Turok family once again experiencing anti-Semitism in their lives.
As the National Party grew, Ben’s father became active the Cape Town anti-Fascist movement, taking part in demonstrations in Cape Town and Paarl.
And so, when Marius Fransman passed the anti-Semitic comments last week, Ben Turok – party stalwart and keeper-of-the-peace – was personally offended. “I acted in memory to my parents and to my own heritage,” he says. “At a personal level, as one who has myself lived under oppressive regimes, I acted on my heritage.”
Related reads on this website:
ANTI-SEMITISM CAUSES CLASH OF ANC BIG-WIGS
By ANT KATZ published on 15 October, 2013: ANC veteran MP Ben Turok this week lodged a complaint with his party against W/Cape chair for making anti-Semitic comments about the Jewish community
ANC TAKES MORE HEAT ON ANTI-SEMITISM
By ANT KATZ posted on 26 October 2013: DA joins ANC criticism of Marius Fransman’s anti-Semitism which the minister denies in a veiled apology that appeases nobody.
“I oppose any ethnic discrimination and labelling – I joined the struggle (I am one of a substantial band of SA Jews who identified with people fighting against racism in any form) and we identified with the liberation struggle for that reason,” Turok told Jewish Report.
He says that he does not believe that “referring to (any) ethnic characterisations is helpful.”