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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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