What Is the Namibian Jews’ Attitude towards the Herero Reparations Debate?

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Money and followers (members) make for two very important elements in politics. If you are blessed with one or the other – or better, even both – and you know how to deploy them to whatever advantage you may seek, your task is more than half done, long before you have commenced. Jews in Namibia may not have a big following – pretty much like everywhere else in the world, except maybe in Israel – but what they lack in members or followers, they have a lot in wealth. What Jews say or do in Namibia – again like everywhere else in this world – arries a lot of economic weight and political clout. (We do not want to make this a long piece of writing and we therefore will not waste time citing evidence to substantiate gospel truth such as stated immediately above). Now, any person who has read modern history to any level slightly above the elementary will tell you that, of all the peoples of the world who have been visited by the misfortune of meeting and suffering the full wrath of German brutality, no other has suffered worse than the Hereros and Jews. To wit, these are two groups of people who, as nations, were singled out and specifically targeted for total eradication. Their fate was signed and sealed. The one group (Hereros) was to die of starvation and thirst in an unforgiving and harsh desert, while any survivors were sought out and, if caught, shot on sight. The other group (Jews) was hunted down from all over the world that fell under the spell of the German Reich of Herr Hitler. Some were even gratuitously shipped over to Germany by countries fearful of Hitler and who wished to ingratiate themselves to him. Once in Germany, and other places such as Poland, these Jews were routinely herded into extermination camps and gassed to death – the final solution. The German designs did not fully succeed, however, because remnants of these two groups survived their respective cruel ordeals. The Germans, for their part, lost their wars and with that their quest to conquer and become world overlords, and they (the Germans) were eventually made to pay reparations to, among others, the Jews. Defeated Germany was rehabilitated through the combined action of International cooperation and tacit coercion. It is neither the place nor the time to delve into an examination of why and how certain peoples, like the Hereros for example, were totally excluded from benefiting from any reparation payments made by the Germans to their victims. Comparatively spoken, however, the Hereros came out of all these trials and tribulations more badly off than the Jews. Maybe they are just outright “bad-luck” people after all. Imagine – they emerged from this horrendous German brutality only to enter into yet another grip of brutally, this time subjugation under Apartheid South Africa – mercifully it was less bloody by comparison. If they are “bad luck”, the Hereros are also rather a resilient lot – and quite cantankerous to boot. The grandchildren of the remnants of those who were so brutalized only a century ago, are at it again, poking the Germans for reparations and other things. Yes, if they paid the Jews and Gypsies, why can’t they pay them too? Just Demand. To revert to our resident Jews for purposes of our present discussion, these are people who have been at the head of our social ladder. They have, as such, enjoyed all the best that comes with occupying so high a status in society. They represent the soul of the enlightened society in Namibia – the refined social class, the standard. By virtue of this very lofty social standing in our rather small and largely unsophisticated and docile society, it is safe to say that nothing worthy of note happens here outside of their knowledge. It is thus most unlikely that the “pogings” by the Paramount Chief of the Hereros, Dr Kuaima Riruako, to extract reparations from the Germans, have not been picked up by the local Jewry. It stands to reason that two persons who share so much grief emanating from painful physical and psychological abuse, should be inclined to assist each other in finding rehabilitative and other forms of support systems, including retribution, especially if their misery stems from the same source. Look at what the venerable Nelson Mandela did to Namibia after he took independence from our erstwhile common enemy, the Afrikaners. He summarily wrote off all “debts” then owing and payable by Namibia to South Africa and, for good measure, gave us back our Walvis Bay and the Offshore Islands. Is it that this was done in the spirit of Ubuntu, which is alien to Judaism/Zionism maybe? Or to what exactly must we ascribe the enigmatic silence from otherwise shrewd politicians and men of astute moral rectitude in the mould of the Harold Pupkewitz and Sons and many other worthy and gentle Jews? Or shall we take it that this silence is a well-calculated and deliberate move – let sleeping dogs lie! They sure know the Germans very well to come and tamper with them on account of some upstart Africans. Besides, they may just jeopardize their cozy relationship with Germany and, with that, their reparations. The Hereros will never give them anything should they lose theirs now because they dared to poke their nose into matters that did not concern them – strictly speaking! Or maybe, they just could not be bothered with claims involving Africans. You know that attitude – let them fight their own battles – we fought our own through Mosad, etc. It is not true. Somehow they received a whole lot of goodwill and material support from other peoples of the world – including, indeed, the Hereros. Gallant Herero warriors joined in the war effort with the Allied Forces that eventually blew Nazism to smithereens and freed Jews and Gentiles alike. The Jews should therefore think again about their sullen silence when matters of reparations for the Hereros are discussed at a national level in Namibia. Or they must give the Namibian nation, and the Hereros in particular, a very shrewd answer why they cannot support – morally, materially or otherwise, even clandestinely – the Herero reparation effort. By Jatate Shirongo Windhoek