May 06, 2013

Morgan Freeman to Cross the BDS line?

That's my guess at this late hour anyway.

It's very sad but it looks the veteran US actor, Morgan Freeman, is going to be crossing the BDS line tonight by accepting an "honour" at an event hosted by Canadian Friends of Hebrew University.

Here's what the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel had to say to Morgan Freeman last month:
The intention of the award is to honor your work in ‘combating racism and promoting knowledge and education worldwide.’ Given that Israel practices forms of racism through its system of colonialism, occupation and apartheid, and violates the rights of Palestinians to education and life, it is cynical, and nothing short of a dishonor to your lifelong achievements to be accepting an award from a group that is in deep support of an Israeli University complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of human rights and international law.

The Hebrew University is specifically implicated in serious violations in a number of ways. The University illegally acquired a significant portion of the land on which its Mount Scopus campus and dormitories are built. On 1 September 1968, about one year after Israel’s military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities confiscated 3345 dunums of Palestinian land. Part of this land was then used to build the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University.
More recently one of Nelson Mandela's comrades, Ahmad Kathrada, who spent 26 years in an apartheid era prison wrote the following letter to Freeman published on the BDS South Africa site:
Dear Morgan - Friend of Democratic South Africa,

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Ahmed Kathrada.

I first met you in person when I had the privilege of guiding you on your visit to Robben Island some years ago. I was sentenced to life imprisonment together with Madiba and others in the Rivonia Trial, 1963/1964. After 18 years, together with Madiba and 3 others, I was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town where I spent the rest of my 26 years imprisonment.

On Robben Island I reminded you of the film of your prison escape “Shawshank Redemption” which made a huge impact on many of us.

I also met you in Los Angeles when Samuel Jackson bestowed on me an award on behalf of Artists for a New South Africa. At the same event, La Tanya presented an Award on my partner (and former prisoner) Ms. Barbara Hogan. In my mind, your presence once again confirmed you as a great friend of the new South Africa.

And this was followed later by Invictus.

What has prompted my letter to you has been the surprise that you are being given the “Key of Knowledge Award” by the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University Jerusalem!

What immediately came to mind were the words of Madiba: “…But we know too well that our freedom isn't complete without the freedom of the Palestinians…” 

I would have hoped that before you accept the award, you would have paid a visit to Palestine. I had heard and read a lot about the plight of the Palestinian people. The Russell Tribunal of imminent persons from different parts of the world have condemned Israel as an “Apartheid State.”

Last Friday, I returned from Palestine after spending a week there. To me, it was confirmation of a people living under worse forms of colonial rule, under Israel as a Colonial power, ruling under permanent conditions of Martial Law.

I was born in a South Africa that regarded people who were not white as lesser human beings. I have seen sign boards outside elevators and buildings that read “Non Europeans and dogs not allowed,” thus reducing those of us who were not white to the level of animals.

I have now personally witnessed the plight of the Palestinian people. They are living under conditions of permanent Martial law. I came back convinced that Israel is indeed an apartheid state. And in certain respects it is worse that apartheid.

Under the worst of apartheid times there were no roads strictly reserved for whites! There were no checkpoints manned by armed soldiers to ensure that Palestinians don’t break the restrictions. There wasn’t a 750 kilometer-wall, encroaching on Palestinian land, to separate Israel from Palestinians. There were no settlements springing up with impunity on Palestinian land. I can go on and on about an experience that will forever remain in my mind.

Finally, I am unable to comprehend how quickly Israel has forgotten the Holocaust, during which millions of Jews and thousands of Communists, gypsies, homosexuals, Russians perished. In 1951 I visited Auschwitz Concentration Camp, and saw what atrocities one set of human beings could perpetrate on another.

Forgive me for this lengthy email. It’s because my experience of Palestine is still fresh in my mind.

Warm regards, 


A.M.Kathrada 
There have been many other attempts at persuading Morgan Freeman not to lend his personal prestige to the racist war criminals of the State of Israel but the clock is ticking and we might have to chalk this up as a BDS fail.  Still with support from someone like Ahmed Kathrada we must be doing something right.

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