Op-Ed: Tutu’s Attacks on Jews Should Disqualify Him as a Speaker by Morton A. Klein, National President of the ZOA
April 28, 2003

The decision of a number of American universities to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a featured speaker is deeply troubling, in view of Tutu’s long record of statements comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and complaining about what he called “Jewish arrogance.”

Tutu is scheduled to speak at the University of Pennsylvania in May.

Tutu’s record includes not merely attacks on Israel, but attacks on Jews in general. For example, at a conference in Boston last year, Tutu said: “People are scared in this country [the U.S.], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful—very powerful.” (Ha’aretz, April 29, 2002) Similarly, at a speech in New York in 1984, Tutu accused Jews of exhibiting “an arrogance—the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support.” (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Nov. 29, 1984)

Speaking in a Connecticut church, Tutu said that “the Jews thought they had a monopoly on God; Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.” In the same speech, he compared the features of the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the features of the apartheid system in South Africa. (Hartford Courant, Oct. 29, 1984) Tutu has also asserted that “the Jewish people with their traditions, religion and long history of persecution sometimes appear to have caused a refugee problem among others.” (South African Zionist Record, July 26, 1985)

When asked about his record of statements denouncing Jews, Tutu has offered strikingly disingenuous responses. In one case, he declared: “If I’m accused of being antisemitic, tough luck…My dentist’s name is Dr. Cohen.” (Response magazine, January 1990) On another occasion, he defended himself by proclaiming that “to criticize [Israel] is to be immediately dubbed anti-Semitic, as if Palestinians were not Semitic.”

Tutu’s statements about the Holocaust have been equally troubling. He has publicly complained about what he calls “the Jewish monopoly of the Holocaust.” (Jerusalem Post, July 26, 1985) During his 1989 visit to Israel, Tutu “urged Israelis to forgive the Nazis for the Holocaust,” a statement which the Simon Wiesenthal Center correctly called “a gratuitous insult to Jews and victims of Nazism everywhere.” (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31, 1989)

As for Israel, Tutu is not merely a critic of Israeli government policies. His statements have repeatedly crossed from the boundary dividing reasonable discourse from harsh and hate-filled attacks that challenge Israel’s very existence. In conversations during the 1980s with the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Eliahu Lankin, Tutu “refused to call Israel by its name, he kept referring to it as Palestine.” (Response magazine, January 1990) The American Jewish Committee’s American Jewish Year Book reported in 1988 that Tutu has claimed that Zionism has “very many parallels with racism.”

Tutu has also openly compared Israel to Hitler and apartheid: “I’ve been deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa … I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about … “I say why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? … The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust. Injustice and oppression will never prevail.” (Ha’aretz, April 29, 2002)

If a white bishop from South Africa made statements about blacks comparable to the statements Archbishop Tutu has made about Jews, Israel, and the Holocaust, no college campus would even think of inviting him as a speaker. Educational institutions and other community organizations would consider him a pariah, and rightly so. Why, then, the double standard? Why should Desmond Tutu, with his record of attacks on Jews, be considered deserving of the honor and prestige of a university platform?

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