Toronto Star | December 30, 2002 | Orest Slepokura
Letters to the Editor |

Hatred becomes glossed over

RE: The good news is Canadians were shocked, Dec. 22, 2002

When the South African Prime Minister John Vorster made a state visit to Israel in April 1976, it began with a tour of Yad Vashem, Israel's great Holocaust memorial, where the late Yitzhak Rabin invited the one-time Nazi collaborator, unabashed racist and white supremacist to pay homage to Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

As an old Nazi collaborator, Vorster should, of course, have been arrested and tried the minute he set foot on Israeli soil; instead, he was graciously welcomed by his Jewish hosts.

Compared, say, to routine outcries from organized Jewry over often even mild whiffs of Holocaust controversy, no less remarkable was the bland equanimity both Israeli and diaspora Jews also displayed toward the Vorster visit.

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi recalls in The Israeli Connection: "For most Israelis, the Vorster visit was just another state visit by a foreign leader. It did not draw much attention. Most Israelis did not even remember his name, and did not see anything unusual, much less surreal in the scene (a Nazi diehard invited to debauch the memory of the victims at a Holocaust memorial); Vorster was just another visiting dignitary being treated to the usual routine."

The South African leader left Israel four days later; after signing a number of friendship treaties between the Jewish state and South Africa's racist apartheid regime.

You wrote: "Too often, the intolerable is tolerated in the name of understanding, hatred becomes glossed over or explained away, and the traditional victims of discrimination and prejudice are given a licence to hate, discriminate and prejudge."

Tell me about it.

Orest Slepokura,
Strathmore, Alta.