Harvard Law Record writer publishes book on South Africa’s Kasrils Affair


Record Editor-in-Chief Andrew L. Kalloch corresponded with Record writer Joel Pollak ’09 during his recent book launch in South Africa. Pollak’s book, titled The Kasrils Affair: Jews and Minority Politics in Post-Apartheid South Africa, will be available on Amazon.com shortly.

ALK: What is the Kasrils Affair?

JP: The Kasrils affair was a controversy in 2001-02 in which the sole Jewish member of South Africa’s post-apartheid Cabinet, Ronnie Kasrils, challenged the South African Jewish community to oppose Israel. Gradually the affair became a lens through which I came to understand politics among minority groups and interest groups in South Africa in general in the post-apartheid era.

How did you get interested in the subject?

I was living in South Africa at the time and working as a freelance journalist.You have been described as one of the foremost critics of the “South African Jewish Board of Deputies”-what role does that body play in South African politics?The Board is the central umbrella organization of the South African Jewish community, and it is the community’s official voice. It has no formal political role but has, at various times, played an “advocacy” or “lobbying” role. In fact, my book is about how the Board shifted from tactics of open “advocacy” to methods of back-room “lobbying” after the government applied pressure to the community’s leadership.

Do you see any potential alliances between South Africa and the State of Israel in coming years? What areas of common ground do the two nations have that could lead to a symbiotic relationship?

There are potential alliances in certain economic and environmental endeavors, such as water management and minerals development. However, the most important area of cooperation-an area in which, sadly, the two countries are currently at odds-is the fight against nuclear proliferation, and of Iran in particular.

What are your post-grad plans?

At the moment I’m planning to open my own practice, specializing in political law.

Can we expect any more books from you in the years to come?

Yes – I’m working on a second book, this time about the 2008 elections. It’s still in the early stages, though.

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