One of the members of our Media Team Israel, Monessa Shapiro, replied as follows:
Dear Mr Kathrada
I read with interest your letter to Morgan Freeman urging him not to accept an award from the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem awarded to him for his fight against racism.
You see I too have just returned from a trip to Israel. And like you, the experience is still fresh in my mind. You obviously missed the marvels that I witnessed and that made me feel so very proud to be a Jew.
I’m sure that the road signs in both Arabic and Hebrew (Arabic is an official language) passed you by, as did the lovely Arab couple sitting at the table alongside me in a restaurant in Jerusalem. You must have missed out on the delicious falafel we ate in a Druze village. But for me the true thrill was visiting a relative in hospital and meeting the patient in the next bed – a Palestinian woman from the West Bank, receiving her expert medical treatment in a hospital in Israel from both Jewish and Arab doctors. Had you, Mr Kathrada, bothered to see these things, you could honestly not have returned with your same mind-set. But then you went knowing that you would only see that that would confirm your pre-existing views, did you not?
You write that in South Africa there were no roads reserved strictly for whites, nor were there check-points or a fence. Of course there were not. Why would such measures have been necessary? In the worst days of Apartheid, the black population was not hell-bent on annihilating the whites or murdering as many of them as possible. The ANC charter was one of reconciliation, unlike the Hamas Charter that calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of all Jews everywhere. You do know that until the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 and the concomitant upsurge in terrorism there were no checkpoints, no fence and no separate roads. Palestinians and Israelis traveled freely between the various areas. They shopped together and worked together. Only when life became intolerable for the Israelis with men, women and children being murdered in pizza parlours, on buses, at Pesach Seders and on street corners that these measures were introduced.
You go on to say that you are unable to comprehend how the Israelis have forgotten the Holocaust. Believe me, Mr Kathrada, neither the Israelis nor the Jews of the Diaspora , have forgotten or ever will forget the Holocaust. And it is precisely because of that memory that we will never allow another people to annihilate us or attempt to annihilate us again. It is precisely because of that memory that we know today that when a people speak of destroying Jews, their words are not idle – they mean them.
Mr Kathrada, my plea to you is the following: rather than persuading Morgan Freeman to refuse an award from a group supporting an Israeli university open to Jews, Arabs, Christians, blacks and whites; try persuading the Palestinian Arabs to merely accept the existence of Israel. Everything would then change, you know. It’s as simple as that.