RIP Desmond Tutu

In 2014, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu wrote an exclusive article for Haaretz in which he called for a global boycott of Israel and urged Israelis and Palestinians to look beyond their leaders for a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land. The following is an excerpt:

The past weeks have witnessed unprecedented action by members of civil society across the world against the injustice of Israels disproportionately brutal response to the firing of missiles from Palestine.

If you add together all the people who gathered over the past weekend to demand justice in Israel and Palestine – in Cape Town, Washington, D.C., New York, New Delhi, London, Dublin and Sydney, and all the other cities – this was arguably the largest active outcry by citizens around a single cause ever in the history of the world.

A quarter of a century ago, I participated in some well-attended demonstrations against apartheid. I never imagined wed see demonstrations of that size again, but last Saturdays turnout in Cape Town was as big if not bigger. Participants included young and old, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, blacks, whites, reds and greens ... as one would expect from a vibrant, tolerant, multicultural nation.

I asked the crowd to chant with me: We are opposed to against the injustice of the illegal occupation of Palestine. We are opposed to the indiscriminate killing in Gaza. We are opposed to the indignity meted out to Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks. We are opposed to violence perpetrated by all parties. But we are not opposed to Jews.

Unlike the majority — if not all — of his fellow Christian bishops and archbishops, Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu was not a cowardly hypocrite who shied away from his Christian duty to condemn Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people because as was declared by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), “To stand with Palestine is to stand with Humanity.” Christian religious and political leaders, however — the same despicable breed who with hypocritical moral indignation condemned Apartheid in South Africa — have continued to subserviently go along with Israel’s asinine assertion that its terrifying transgressions against Palestinians represents “a right to defend itself.”

Furthermore, it would appear that as they exercise that “right,” “God’s Chosen People” will not be satisfied until every drop of drinkable water which it has not already stolen, becomes too contaminated for Palestinians to drink; will not be satisfied until its air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip — that prevents the import of vital food and medical supplies — has induced malnutrition, disease, and death amongst the imprisoned and persecuted population; will not be satisfied until all Palestinian children have been traumatised by the experience of seeing their parents being hounded, humiliated, imprisoned without due process, and in many cases simply murdered; will not be satisfied until those same children are further traumatised by being arbitrarily arrested, interrogated without adult or legal council support, beaten, terrorised, and forced into signing confessions (written in a language they do not understand) that incriminate parents and relatives who are then held indefinitely under the misused Administrative Detention Order ; will not be satisfied until every Palestinian home, hospital, and school has been reduced to rubble with bombs supplied by courtesy of US taxpayers; and will not be satisfied until every drop of Palestinian blood has soaked into the stolen Palestinian lands on which more illegal Jewish settlements will be built. And no, this is not an anti-Semitic rant, it is a fact that has been endlessly reiterated by racist Israeli leaders who want Palestine and not peace.

It was that stark reality against which Desmond Tutu was courageously and unconditionally opposed. When US President Donald Trump — a man whose mental health was and still is in “serious decline” — declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel in 2017, Desmond Tutu’s response was that: “God is weeping over President Donald Trump’s inflammatory and discriminatory recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is our responsibility to tell Mr. Trump that he is wrong.” That assertion confirmed Tutu’s lifelong identification with the Palestinian cause, and reaffirmed his opposition to what he regarded as Israel’s Apartheid policies. Tutu was a founding member of The Elders, an organisation of former world leaders, including Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela, dedicated to promoting human rights and world peace.

In October 2010, Tutu was attached for condemning Israel’s occupation while requesting that the Cape Town Opera cancels its intended visit to Israel because he firmly believed that:

Only the thickest-skinned South Africans would be comfortable performing before an audience that excluded residents living, for example, in an occupied West Bank village 30 minutes from Tel Aviv, who would not be allowed to travel to Tel Aviv, while including his Jewish neighbours from an illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian territory.

Tutu was consequently attacked the by the “pro-Israel” community in South Africa and abroad and the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa accused him of “bias” while that snivelling lowlife Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz — in keeping with the prescribed Jewish response to criticism of Israel’s brutal criminality — called Tutu a “bigot’ and “Anti-Semite.” The South African Zionist Federation also chipped in with the demand that Tutu be removed or resign from his position as patron of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre because he supported the Open Shuhada Street (Friends of Hebron) organisation:

About Friends of Hebron (FOH)

We work in the United States and in Palestine and many other countries to support the community in Hebron who faces an onslaught of attacks by the state of Israel and by Israeli settlers. Both in the US and in Israel there are extreme right-wing political forces that are gaining more and more power. This has resulted in the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem and in an even more expedited growth of settlements on Palestinian land. In Hebron, recent years have seen the growth and reinforcing of checkpoints, the closing of more parts of the old city to Palestinians, the establishment of Hebron settlers' own municipality and the authorisation to build 31 new settlement units on Shuhada Street.

The almost immediate response to such attacks was that more than 1,600 people added their names to a petition that included prominent signatories such as Arthur Chaskalson, Lord Joel Joffe, Omar Barghoutti, Adam Hochschild, Andrew Feinstein, Annie Lennox and Zackie Achmat. Open Shuhada Street endorsed and fully supported the following petition that was started by concerned South Africans in support for Desmond Tutu:


Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has publicly criticised Israeli policy towards Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. He has also criticised Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. These criticisms are well-known. Recently, his criticisms of Israeli policy have elicited bitter personal attacks. Amidst calls for him to be removed as Patron of the Cape Town and Johannesburg Holocaust Centres of the South African Holocaust Foundation, Tutu has been attacked and labelled an anti-Semite and a bigot.

Disagreements should be debated openly, but these personal attacks are totally unacceptable.

During the Second World War, which killed 60 million people, Nazi Germany killed socialists, gay men and lesbians, Roma people, and resistance fighters, but its most systematic destruction was of the Jewish people. Six million Jews were transferred to ghettos and concentration camps before being murdered.

This grotesque crime against humanity must never be forgotten. Its legacy and lessons belong to and must be guarded by all of humanity. Racism including anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and inhumanity must be resisted wherever they occur. As stated in the Mission Statement of the South African Holocaust Foundation, we must build a more caring and just society in which human rights and diversity are respected and valued.”

This is precisely the cause to which Tutu has dedicated his life. He represents the finest tradition of resistance to all forms of oppression. He has taught us that understanding the Holocaust begins with appreciating that the only way for each of us to be safe is for all of us to be safe. He embodies the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document born of the horrors of the Second World War, the rights contained in which pertain equally to Israelis and Palestinians.

To use the Holocaust in an attempt to delegitimise Tutu is to undermine its legacy and insult the memory of its victims. To call him an anti-Semite, because he has attacked the policies of the Israeli government, is outrageous, renders the term meaningless, and enfeebles the necessary efforts to defeat real anti-Semites and racists.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Desmond Tutu was a giant for justice and his legacy will live on for a long time. He held a unique place in apartheid-era South Africa; he used his stature as an Anglican prelate to navigate violent crosscurrents; he wept at funerals for victims of apartheid; risked his life to stop violence by Black protesters; and defied death threats by white people for leading the international campaign to impose economic and cultural sanctions against the white minority regime.

Unfortunately there are no political or religious leaders with Tutu’s courage and humanity to continue leading the fight against oppression with even Catholicism’s Argentinian Pope — whose home country’s human rights record is at best dismal — has not only failed to honestly address the plight of the Palestinian People, but has also avoided criticising his country of origin:

Argentina faces long-standing human rights problems that include police abuse, poor prison conditions, endemic violence against women, threats to judicial independence, and obstacles that keep Indigenous people from enjoying rights afforded to them by Argentine and international law.

Human Rights Watch

At this time of year while Christianity has been celebrating Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, Israeli forces provided their own kosher version of “Peace on earth, goodwill to men . . .” by attacking Palestinian men, women, and children:

Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of 'normalcy' in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice. They are contributing to the perpetuation of a profoundly unjust status quo . . . — Desmond Tutu

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