A man of remarkable humilty and integrity
This submission was sent in response to AN OPEN LETTER by Ariel Ziv to Ahmed Kathrada published on 30 April. Nine users posted comments to the letter.
Amidst the confused and contradictory thinking lies an appalling attack on one of South Africa’s most courageous individuals, with lots of integrity.
Kathrada has dedicated his life to the cause of freedom, justice and equality and the struggle against racism, ethnocentrism and any other form of discrimination.
He has done so with enormous courage, honesty and commitment, alongside his comrades Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo, Walter Sisulu and Denis Goldberg, among many others.
Personally, I have known Kathrada for many years, both professionally and personally. I have always been struck by his remarkable humility, his lack of anger or antagonism towards those who imprisoned him and his colleagues for so many years and his deep and unwavering sense of fairness.
He has called out injustice wherever he has seen it, regardless of the might and power of those committing it.
And this is the key to his criticism of Israel: For it is not just possible, but perfectly logical and, I would argue, principled, to expose, criticise and oppose in the strongest possible terms, human rights abuses committed by the Israeli state, particularly in relation to the unacceptable occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
No person of conscience who has fought against the racist evils of apartheid and Nazism, could be anything but highly critical of the Israeli occupation of these territories.
In fact, this point was best made by Irena Klepfisz, a child survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, who wrote: “I have concluded that one way to pay tribute to those we loved, who struggled, resisted and died, is to hold onto their fierce outrage at the destruction of the ordinary life of their people.
It is this outrage we need to keep alive in our daily life and apply it to all situations whether they involve Jews or non-Jews.
“It is this outrage we must use to fuel our actions and vision whenever we see signs of the disruptions of common life: the hysteria of a mother grieving for the teenager who has been shot; a family stunned in front of a vandalised or demolished home; a family, separated, displaced; arbitrary and unjust laws that demand the closing and opening of shops and schools; humiliation of a people whose culture is alien and deemed inferior; a people left homeless without citizenship; a people living under military rule.
“Because of our experience, we recognise these evils as obstacles to peace. At these moments of recognition, we remember the past, feel the outrage that inspired the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto and allow it to guide us in present struggles.”
It is in this spirit that I praise and honour the integrity and commitment of Ahmed Kathrada’s continuing life’s work.