By: Morton A. Klein
October 31, 2007

Desmond Tutu Keynotes At Israel-Bashing Conference — Again Comparing Israel To Apartheid

ZOA: Will ADL’s Foxman stop
lobbying for podiums for Tutu?


New York — Former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has a long and ugly record of demonizing Israel and Jews, has made new comments in a speech comparing Israel to the evil of the apartheid regime that once ruled South Africa. In a speech delivered to a two-day conference titled, ‘The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel,’ Tutu was reported to have cited passages from the Bible to argue that the God worshiped by Jews would champion the cause of Palestinians, “Remembering what happened to you in Egypt and much more recently in Germany — remember, and act appropriately … If you reject your calling, you may survive for a long time, but you will find it is all corrosive inside, and one day you will implode” ( Boston Globe, October 28, 2007).


The conference, held at the Old Church, Boston, which included several extreme Israel-bashers like Noam Chomsky, was addressed by Tutu was organized by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization whose head, Father Naim Ateek, regularly demonizes Jews and Israel. Ateek has been on record saying, “It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him.” Ateek has also written, envisioning “hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge Golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.” In his 2000 Christmas message, Ateek portrayed Israeli officials as Herod, who, according to the Christian gospel, murdered all the infants of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus. In his 2001 Easter message, Ateek wrote, “The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily” and that “Palestine has become the place of the skull.” And in February 2001, Ateek compared the Israeli occupation to the stone blocking Christ’s tomb. Columnist Jeff Jacoby has described Ateek’s words thus: “With these three images, Ateek has figuratively blamed Israel for the attempted murder of the infant Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus the prophet, and for blocking the resurrection of Christ the Savior” (Jacoby column , Boston Globe, October 21, 2007).


Ateek told the crowd that “the racism of the Israeli government has become more obviously clear” and said that conditions in the Israeli-occupied territories may be worse than conditions for blacks during apartheid in South Africa. “The occupation, my friends, is evil, and it must end.” The executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council denounced the Sabeel conference as “an effort to demonize the state of Israel” ( Boston Globe, October 27).


At the conference, Tutu said the Israeli government is in some respects worse than the South African apartheid government, citing what he described as the Israeli government’s use of “collective punishment” of Palestinians. At a press conference before his speech, Tutu criticized the Israeli government for brutality and what he described as “gross violations of human rights.”


Tutu also wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe the day before his appearance at the conference in which he stated:



  • “What do I see and hear in the Holy Land? Some people cannot move freely from one place to another. A wall separates them from their families and from their incomes. They cannot tend to their gardens at home or to their lessons at school. They are arbitrarily demeaned at checkpoints and unnecessarily beleaguered by capricious applications of bureaucratic red tape. I grieve for the damage being done daily to people’s souls and bodies. I have to tell the truth: I am reminded of the yoke of oppression that was once our burden in South Africa.”

  • “I see and hear that ancient olive trees are uprooted. Flocks are cut off from their pastures and shepherds. The homes of some people are bulldozed even as new homes for others are illegally constructed on other people’s land. I grieve for the land that suffers such violence, the marring of its beauty, the loss of its comforts, the despoiling of its yield. I have to tell the truth: I am reminded of the bitter days of uprooting and despoiling in my own country.”

  • “I see and hear that young people believe that it is heroic and pious to kill others by killing themselves. They strap bombs to their torsos to achieve liberation. They do not know that liberation achieved by brutality will defraud in the end. I grieve the waste of their lives and of the lives they take, the loss of personal and communal security they cause, and the lust for revenge that follows their crimes, crowding out all reason and restraint. I have to tell the truth: I am reminded of the explosive anger that inflamed South Africa, too.”

  • “Some people are enraged by comparisons between the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and what happened in South Africa. There are differences between the two situations, but a comparison need not be exact in every feature to yield clarity about what is going on. Moreover, for those of us who lived through the dehumanizing horrors of the apartheid era, the comparison seems not only apt, it is also necessary. It is necessary if we are to persevere in our hope that things can change. Indeed, because of what I experienced in South Africa, I harbor a vast, unreasoning hope for Israel and the Palestinian territories. South Africans, after all, had no reason to suppose that the evil system and the cycles of violence that were sapping the soul of our nation would ever change.”

  • “God’s dream begins with this mutual recognition — we are not strangers, we are kin. It culminates in the defeat of oppression perpetrated in the name of security, and of violence inflicted in the name of liberation … God’s dream comes to flower when everyone who claims to be wholly innocent relinquishes that illusion, when everyone who places absolute blame on another renounces that lie.”


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “Once again, Desmond Tutu has defamed Israel in the harshest terms, while throwing a screen of fraudulent morality around his words. As he did on earlier occasions, including in a 2002 speech at the same venue at another Sabeel gathering , Tutu very clearly compared Israel to the evil of apartheid. Sabeel, the anti-Semitic organization that invited him, spends much of its time doing the same. Tutu’s latest speech simply exposes the emptiness of those who criticized ZOA’s efforts to alert people to the vicious remarks of Tutu.


“Consider Tutu’s words in 2002: ‘I have been very deeply distressed in all my visits to the Holy Land, how so much of what was taking place there reminded me so much of what used to happen to us Blacks in Apartheid South Africa … The Apartheid government was very powerful, but we said to them: Watch it! If you flout the laws of this universe, you’re going to bite the dust! (applause) Hitler was powerful. Mussolini was powerful. Stalin was powerful. Idi Amin was powerful. Pinochet was powerful. The Apartheid government were powerful. Milosevic was powerful. But, this is God’s world. A lie, injustice, oppression, those will never prevail in the world of this God. That is what we told our people. And we used to say: those ones, they have already lost, they are going to bite the dust one day. We may not be around. An unjust Israeli government, however powerful, will fall in the world of this kind of God.’


“This latest Tutu speech makes it even more puzzling and troubling to try to understand why the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman, a man who should be denouncing enemies of Israel, recently urged a Minnesota university to give a platform to Tutu, a man who gives visibility to, and participates in, Israel-bashing conferences. Foxman urged this course of action after Jewish activists had convinced the university to rescind an invitation to Tutu. At the time, Foxman, in his letter to the president of the university, acknowledged that Tutu’s ‘words have often stung the Jewish community’ and ‘at times has crossed the line’ — which really means that Tutu did in fact cross into anti-Semitism and venal hatred. We at ZOA hope that Foxman will retract his open support and public lobbying to give a defamer of Israel and Jews podiums to spew his venom.


“It is noteworthy that in his opinion piece that preceded his appearance at the anti-Israel conference in Boston, Tutu had nothing to say about the conditions of terrorist assault from PA-controlled areas that make necessary Israel’s security measures, like closures and checkpoints. Even his one reference to Palestinian suicide bombing included the offensive idea that what Israel does in response to such acts is “lust for revenge” — an age-old anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews — rather than amply justified security measures aimed at preventing any further loss of life to terrorism. Moreover, Tutu seems to regard the life of a terrorist murderer as equally to be mourned along with the innocent men, women and children that he killed. This is simply moral equivalence and perversion which permits Tutu to continue neglecting the difference between a murderer and his victim.”


“It was also indecent and offensive of Tutu to suggest that Israel needs to relinquish its legitimate right and duty to protect its citizens from Palestinian terrorists by reference to past acts of genuine oppression and murder of Jews in biblical Egypt and Nazi Germany.


“Desmond Tutu’s latest comparison of Israel with the evils of apartheid exemplifies his moral and theological confusion and as well as his well-documented hostility towards Jews and Israel.”