Archbishop Tutu, revisit Israel!

A plea to apply truth and reconciliation to Israel and Israelis in the name of Judeo-Christian values.

By
April 11, 2013 13:40
Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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What is it about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, apartheid and Israel? Why is it that Israel, and only Israel, is the one country that drives this clergyman to apoplexy? Not Syria, not Sudan, not Nigeria, not Mali, where thousands of fellow Christians are slaughtered as you read my words. Not even Mauritania, where the minority Arab Muslims apply ethnic cleansing, torture and even slavery against his fellow black religionists. No. It’s only Israel that gets his goat.

Now we read that Tutu has added his endorsement to a billboard campaign on the New York subway castigating Israel as being the one and only apartheid state in a wicked world.

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Amazingly this Anglican bishop has joined with the American Muslims for Palestine, keen to add yet another Shari’a state to the region in place of the one and only Jewish one, depriving the Middle East of the exclusively liberal democratic nation where apartheid is the last thing being practiced.

In the scrawl of his message, he says how distressed he was during his last visit to the Holy Land: “It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.”

I have no idea where he visited in Israel that reminded him of the shameful townships I saw during my trip to South Africa last year. There I witnessed the crime of the apartheid of poverty his political party is inflicting on millions of Africans who live in tin shacks with no electricity or sanitary system.

Decades after the removal of the white regime, Tutu’s South Africa has done little to relieve the poverty or reduce the murderous crime statistics. What is it they say about people who live in glass houses? The same applies to those who tolerate tin shacks.

THE LAST time Tutu visited Israel was way back in 1989. At the time, he offended many by insensitively saying about the Holocaust during a visit to the Yad Vashem memorial, “We pray for those who made it happen, help us to forgive them and help us so that we in our turn will not make others suffer.”

To say these words at that place in the heart of the Jewish state was deeply hurtful. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center called it “a gratuitous insult to Jews and victims of Nazism everywhere.”

In 2002, the archbishop revealed an inherent anti-Semitism when, with a slip of the tongue at a public lecture on divestment from Israel, he said, “People are scared in this country [the US] to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful.”

His remarks were met with outrage. In 2005, in a reprinted version of his speech, he diverted his anti-Semitic reference to reflect an anti-Israel bias by replacing the expression “Jewish lobby” with “pro-Israel lobby,” but the anti- Semitic cat was already out of the bag.

Famed US attorney Alan Dershowitz called Tutu “a racist and a bigot” during the controversial Durban II conference in 2009.

Tutu is closely linked to a black liberation theology. This may have its place against the backdrop of the painful South African experience of blacks against whites. Where it loses its value and warps into a misguided racism is when people like him try to apply black liberation theology to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nothing can be further from the truth, and truth is what Tutu purports to promote, if one recalls his notable Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Tutu, as a man of truth, must reassess his opinion of Israel.

He wrote an op-ed piece in the Tampa Bay Times, in which he thanked the Jewish people for being on the side of the “disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones” during the dark days of Apartheid South Africa.


Jews and Israelis have always stood on the side of the suffering, while defending ourselves against those who come to harm us. Israel, more than most countries – including South Africa – has reached out to relieve the suffering of others with humanitarian aid and practical assistance, especially in times of grave distress. Universally millions have benefited from Israeli innovation, scientific, medical and agricultural achievements.

But Tutu turned his article into an anti-Semitic screed by adding, “Whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can’t ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people.”

Clearly he is among those who have never judged Israel by any decent standard.

This can be seen in his refusal to condemn, with the same passion and standard that he applies against Israel, the people who are persecuting his coreligionists in Africa and in the Arab world. Neither will we hear any condemnation from him for the blatant apartheid policies carried out against the Palestinians he purports to support in the Arab regimes where they find themselves without status, without work, without education, without freedom of movement, without representation, without a vote, solely because they are Palestinian in Arab and Muslim lands. Isn’t that pure apartheid? Instead, Tutu claims Israel has “oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever dream about in South Africa.”

In Tutu’s words, Israel outdoes the white regime in South Africa as an apartheid regime.

IT’S ABSOLUTELY time for truth, Archbishop Tutu! I ask this clergyman to look carefully at whose side he is supporting.

We in Israel find his bias against us strangely troubling. Tutu and Israel should be joined by Judeo-Christian values and bonded in a unified fight against the same enemy that is persecuting and killing us both. Instead we find Tutu in the camp of our mutual enemy.

I call upon him at least to be a champion and protector of black Christians being victimized by the same cultural and religious hatred that is being waged against us both, even if he doesn’t care to defend our Jewish sense of survival, or support our dire need for Jewish self-determination in our Holy Land based on a historic injustice that has been perpetrated against Jews by both Christians and Muslims.

I implore him to search his soul, look to his core responsibility as a Christian leader, and reassess his position on these vital issues. Our decadesold conflict with the Arabs is not a black-and-white issue. They are not the blacks, and we are not the whites.

If he looks closely at Israel, he will find us to be a Rainbow Nation. We are made up of refugees and people of many tongues and colors who have returned home from all over the globe, including Africa.

Our conflict is not one of black oppression. Neither is it one of apartheid. Rather, it is one of a tiny nation resisting a cultural and religious hatred as we struggle still to establish our Jewish liberation and self-determination.

Surely the archbishop is familiar with that concept? In supporting the Palestinians, he supports Mahmoud Abbas, who has declared, “I will never accept the Jewish State of Israel, not in a thousand years!” That, to us, is like someone saying, “I will never accept black rule in South Africa, not in a thousand years!” Such is the racist meaning at the heart of both statements. How can any learned person tolerate such a position? I ask him to reassess his attitude for the sake of truth and reconciliation among him, his country and Israel. Let me address him this way: Please come again to Israel. Let us introduce you to the true face of our nation. Open your heart and discover for yourself the people of our amazing land. Open your mind to the new experience of an Israel you do not know, and let us work, hand in hand, for truth and reconciliation between our two peoples. ■

The writer is the special consultant on delegitimization issues to the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College. He is also the author of Israel Reclaiming the Narrative. www.israelnarrative.com.

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