(photo credit: AP [file])
In view of his record as chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Committee, Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu's appointment as head of the UN fact-finding mission into the deaths of Palestinians at Beit Hanun is a logical choice, despite widely expressed opposition.
The manner in which he sometimes broke down and wept with the victims of apartheid atrocities during the hearings stamps him as a man of compassion.
Many fear that because of his publicly expressed anti-Israel views the archbishop's investigation will inevitably be biased. However, as a religious man of intellect and integrity he will, I hope, consider all relevant facts and circumstances even when they run counter to prior impressions about Israel.
Since the African National Congress and the Palestine Liberation Organization were one-time comrades in arms, his empathy with the PLO is understandable. Unfortunately, what many in South Africa do not realize is that there is no similarity between the ANC's struggle on the one hand, and the struggle of the PLO and Hamas on the other.
While the lofty aims of the ANC Freedom Charter state that "South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war," article 9 of the PLO Charter declares the opposite. It states bluntly that the armed struggle is not merely tactical, it is the overall strategy. Article 19 rejects the 1947 UN partition of Palestine, clearly implying that liberating Palestine means the destruction of the pre-1967 Jewish state.
The Hamas charter makes it even clearer that it leaves no room for peaceful negotiation. Article 13 unambiguously declares "initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad."
ARCHBISHOP TUTU has been quoted as saying, "My dream is that one day my children will wake up and realize that they are members of one family." Very sadly, there is a force at work in the Middle East determined to prevent the realization of that noble dream.
I refer to incitement to violence as preached in mosques, schools and state-sponsored media. If the archbishop would spare a few minutes to visit the Web site he will no doubt be grieved to learn how Palestinian children are indoctrinated from infancy to hate viciously, and he will realize that there can be no hope of a peaceful settlement as long as people grow up on a diet of hate.
Dare one hope that during his investigation the archbishop will lend his immense prestige to demanding an end to this destructive incitement as vigorously as he has criticized Israel in the past?
If he took the opportunity during his forthcoming visit to impartially examine all the facts, he would discover - to his pleasant surprise - that accusations of Israeli apartheid are mean-spirited and wrong-headed.
He would find that whereas the apartheid of the old South Africa was entrenched in law, Israel's Declaration of Independence absolutely ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race, or gender.
He would discover that in regard to discrimination, Israel compares favorably even with the new South Africa, where "Black Economic Empowerment" is a form of reverse apartheid, albeit justifiably introduced to redress past evils.
He would find that Arabs and Jews are entitled to equal medical treatment under our health insurance law. An unblinkered visit to an Israeli hospital would convince the severest critic about the complete absence of any form of racial discrimination there. Arab and Jewish doctors collaborate easily. Arab and Israeli patients share the same wards. In some hospitals Arabs far outnumber Jewish patients. Especially noticeable after terrorist bombing incidents is the equal treatment given to victims and perpetrators.
WITH REGARD to the Beit Hanun tragedy, perhaps the archbishop would at least recognize Israel's difficulty in totally minimizing collateral damage, in contrast to the cynical and grossly illegal practice of Palestinian terrorists deliberately aiming at civilian populations while sheltering behind civilians.
Perhaps he would consider the reaction of IDF soldiers to their unwelcome duties, as described in an "A gunner's nightmare" by Steve Linde (Post, November 8). Linde wrote: "Can you imagine how terrible the artillery troops who fired the shells at Beit Hanun yesterday must be feeling now? After serving in IDF Artillery, I can only say that this is every gunner's nightmare scenario: killing innocent men, women and children."
Linde points out that in response to Kassam rocket attacks gunners were ordered to "fire at the source" - which they did, firing a dozen or so shells. He adds that whereas the Kassams are intentionally fired at civilian targets, hoping for maximum casualties and damage, the troops who fired at Beit Hanun weren't aiming to hit civilians. They were targeting terrorists firing rockets.
PERHAPS the archbishop would concede that it is incomprehensible that, in passing judgment on Israel's response at Hanun, the world rejects equipment malfunction as a probable cause of the tragedy, knowing technical faults and human errors occur even in such highly disciplined fields as space exploration.
Archbishop Tutu is not only a man of compassion. He is a man of courage, as evidenced by his outspoken criticism of the present South African government.
Dare we hope that he will exhibit similar courage by challenging the knee-jerk anti-Israel actions of the UN body which appointed him and offer constructive conclusions after conducting a thoroughly impartial investigation into the all the circumstances leading up to the Beit Hanun disaster?
The writer is a South African living in Israel.
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