Subscribe to our Newsletter

click to dowload our latest edition



Masses turn out for Karabus book launch




Photographs by MICHAEL BELLING

Read Sue’s full speech below story

The response to the launch of the book, “Blood Money, The Cyril Karabus Story” in Cape Town on Monday was so great that the venue had to be moved from the Jewish campus auditorium to the Gardens Synagogue. Over 350 people attended the launch organised by the SA Jewish Museum, in association with the Gitlin Library.

Gavin Morris, director of the Museum, who is married to Karabus’s daughter, Dr Sarah Karabus, introduced the three speakers – Suzanne Belling, author of the book, retired paediatric oncologist Professor Cyril Karabus, who was detained in the United Arab Emirates for nine months, and Michael Bagraim, MP, who drove the world-wide campaign for his release.

Karabus book launch Gavin Morris
RIGHT: Gavin Morris, director of the SA Jewish Museum in Cape Town and Prof Karabus’ son-in-law

Author Suzanne Belling gave a captivating speech (SEE COMPLETE TEXT BELOW) in which she told her own story about writing the story. “As the story unfolded, it became clear that the sterling efforts of Dr Iqbal Survé, who is overseas and sent apologies for not being with us today, paid off,” said Sue. “Iqbal, the Struggle doctor, who was a personal physician to Nelson Mandela before he became president and attended to the prisoners on Robben Island, used the connections he made in the international business sphere to make the final, successful effort,” said Belling.

Michael Bagraim, who effectively gave up his law practice to devote virtually all his time to the Free Cyril Karabus Campaign for nine months, gave details of all the role-players and sponsors throughout the world, which ultimately led to the professor’s release. He said the combined efforts of all concerned resulted in immense pressure on the Abu Dhabi authorities and finally in the professor’s release.

Bagraim was sworn in as a DA Member of Parliament today (Wednesday).

Karabus Book launch
LEFT: At the launch of “Blood Money, The Cyril Karabus Story”, Michael Bagraim, MP, Professor Cyril Karabus, and author Suzanne Belling.

Karabus gave a detailed explanation of his arrest and detention, elaborating on his experiences and the people he encountered. He paid tribute to the South African embassy in Abu Dhabi, whose staff members provided unstinting support.

Dr David Scher, chairman of the Gitlin Library, closed the launch, which was followed by book signings.

Among the guests were Dr Mark Sonderup, vice-chairman of the SA Medical Association, retired Appeal Court Jstice Douglas Scott, members of the medical profession and Cantor Ivor Joffe and Zola Piatka Shuman, who spearheaded a fundraising concert for Karabus, “Bring Him Home”. Publishers Jacana Media were represented by Russell Martin and Wilma O’ Sullivan.

Sue Belling – speech at ‘Blood Money’ launch

The Mishnah – a definite Jewish text – tells us that a single man was created in the world, to teach that if any man has caused a single soul to perish, it is as though he had caused the whole world to perish. And if any man saves a single soul, it is as though he has saved the whole world.

Professor Cyril Karabus, renowned paediatric oncologist saved many souls – young souls who had not yet fulfilled their mission on this earth. And, by an act of Divine Providence, with the help of our new DA Member of Parliament, Michael Bagraim, he himself was saved by the people of Cape Town, South Africa and the world.

Blood Money – the Cyril Karabus Story was one which elicited the indignation at this travesty of justice from so many, in so many walks of life. First the family, then the lawyers, then the patients, the doctors from the South African Medical Association, the World Medical Association and medical associations around the world, politicians, businessmen, members of the South African community and expat South Africans in other countries.

Cyril’s predicament captured my imagination and I offered my services to write the book, encouraged by Michael Bagraim, with whom I have had a close association for many years.

I had moved back to Johannesburg from my native Cape Town and knew the Karabus family by name and reputation only. I also was horrified when reading the newspapers and followed the story of Cyril’s arrest, incarceration and confinement to the Emirates. The unfairness of it all hit me like a blow to the head. I simply HAD to write the book.

It had to be done in just 5 months

This was easier said than done, given the 1 500 kilometre distance between Cyril and me and the fact that Jacana, the publishers, gave me only five months to hand in the complete manuscript.

But the story literally told itself. I am not adept at needlework of any sort, However, I began to draw an analogy between an intricately woven tapestry; and that I would have to approach weaving each person’s role, each player’s personal story, into an entity to comprise the whole picture.

It struck me that, while all the role-players were working independently of each other, collectively they made a contribution towards a common goal – to get Cyril Karabus out of the Emirates.

Ant Katz, of MyShtetl (and now the SA Jewish Report), carried the story akin to a dramatic soapie on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. Laurence Seeff and Michael Fisher drew the attention of the compulsive Facebook followers, bringing the story to the man in the street. News reporters in the media entered into the fray almost bordering on journalistic bias considering Cyril’s plight.

Even former patients came on board

Cantor Ivor Joffe rallied his musical team to produce a fundraising concert. Former patients showed their support both practically and materially, while generous donors and sponsors came forward to meet legal fees and bail money, including the sacrifices made by Cyril’s own children.

Michael Bagraim was as tenacious as a bulldog with a bone – he never lost an opportunity to publicise the event. In fact, it has been said that, if Michael ever gave up his law practice – and now his seat in Parliament – he would probably become one of the best marketing agents in the world.

Fearlessly, he took on the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, resulting in a visit to Abu Dhabi by Deputy Minister Marius Fransman.

There were street protests with placards – too polite in the opinion of Dr Mark Sonderup, who stirred up the crowd by shouting into a loud hailer, “Viva Cyril Karabus Viva!” But the sedate members of the Cape Town community never managed to get the hang of toyi-toying!

There was Dr Theo Kopenhager, who instigated a boycott of a Dubai-based conference in Johannesburg, resulting in every South African doctor – bar one, who has remained nameless (even to me) – pulling out of the conference, which was eventually cancelled.

Prof’s old student Survé to the rescue

But as the story unfolded, it became clear that the sterling efforts of Dr Iqbal Survé, who is overseas and sent apologies for not being with us today, paid off. Iqbal, the Struggle doctor, who was a personal physician to Nelson Mandela before he became president and attended to the prisoners on Robben Island, used the connections he made in the international business sphere to make the final, successful effort.

At one stage he was asked by a member of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family: “Why are you, a person of Muslim descent, making such an effort in helping a Jewish man?”

Iqbal, a former student of Cyril, a leading figure at UCT – as was Cyril – a fellow South African and a medical colleague, told them in no uncertain terms that religion had nothing to do with it.  He said his intervention was on humanitarian terms. But he had the extra ammunition of understanding the medical reports and knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Cyril was innocent. His approach paid off in the end.

There were other role-players – too numerous to mention. There are files reaching almost to the ceiling of people who played a part. And each thread, each colour, became woven into a tapestry of such dimension that the end result could only be framed work of survival.

Although it is trite, it is a truism that what goes around, comes around. Cyril saved so many little people and, in the end, the big people saved him.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *