Although I wrote last week that the late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was ‘a remarkable soul, overflowing with decency and humanity’, there’s a dark side to him of which I had only peripherally been aware.

Last week, while writing my tribute to the late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, I wrote: ‘I agreed with Tutu on some issues, and differed with him on a number of others.’

In an earlier draft, I had included examples in parentheses. One of the points on which I disagreed with the Arch was his position on Israel. I didn’t think it went much beyond stereotypical solidarity with the Palestinian cause that might be expected of veterans of the liberation movement.

I wrote that Tutu ‘did not exclude or judge those who did not believe as he did’.

It now appears that I may have been wrong.

On the day that my tribute to the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu was published, someone sent me the text of a 2010 article by veteran US lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz. I wasn’t able to find an original copy of the article, but it is reproduced in full here. Dershowitz repeats some of the same claims in this 2011 article.

It must be acknowledged that Dershowitz is a committed supporter of Zionism. However, the way he quotes Tutu’s own words against him makes for disturbing reading. It suggests that Tutu was not just biased against Israel, but expressed some crudely anti-Semitic views.

For several of the quotes in his article, Dershowitz credits a poorly supported but well-sourced petition to remove Tutu as a patron of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre.

A neater death

Statements such as that ‘the gas chambers’ made for ‘a neater death’ than did Apartheid resettlement, are startling in their dismissal of the horror of the Holocaust. Apartheid was indeed an awful form of oppression, and it was indeed a crime against humanity, but it was always a policy of subjugation and exclusion, and not of industrial-scale genocide.

Tutu essentially equated Israelis with Nazis during his one and only visit to Israel in 1989, when he said: ‘We pray for those who made it [the Holocaust] happen. Help us [the Jews] to forgive them and help us so that we in our turn will not make others suffer.’

Holocaust survivor and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel retorted: ‘No one has the right to forgive except the dead themselves, and the dead were killed and silenced by their murderers. For anyone in Jerusalem, at Yad Vashem, to speak about forgiveness would be, in my view, a disturbing lack of sensitivity to the Jewish victims and their survivors.’

Rabbi Marvin Hier, then dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the largest Holocaust study organisation in the United States, was less diplomatic, calling Tutu’s words ‘a gratuitous insult to the Jews and victims of Nazism everywhere’.

‘Bishop Tutu showed the arrogance of an ancient crusader who had come to Yad Vashem with a bag full of Christian morality,’ Hier reportedly said. ‘The bishop surely knows where that Christian conscience was when millions of Jews and others suffered at the hands of the Nazis.’

Tutu was firmly convinced that Israel is an Apartheid state. I recently had occasion to dispute that view: Israel does not discriminate against anyone. An Arab party is part of its ruling coalition. Arab Israelis have the same rights as Jewish Israelis do. Israel does, however, keep violent enemies who are sworn to its destruction outside its borders.

What Tutu never recognised was that, far from Israelis discriminating against Arabs, it has been the other way around. Arab countries have, without exception, expelled Jews from their territory. Arab countries have, repeatedly, gone to war in attempts to wipe Israel off the map and push the Jews into the sea. It is they who want the Levant to be Judenrein (clean of Jews), as the Nazis would have said.

Peculiar people

‘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,’ Tutu once said. He also believed ‘the Jews’ were responsible for many of the world’s problems.

Imagine saying that about black people, or about Muslims. Whatever happened to equality and human rights for all?

These, and many other statements documented and attributed to Tutu, serve not as constructive criticism of Israel, but as part of a racist campaign to delegitimise the state of Israel.

In doing so, Tutu did not stop at repeating hateful anti-semitic tropes about Jews. He actively supported the terrorist organisation Hamas, and likened its leaders to Nelson Mandela. Leaders who said things like: ‘Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them.’

As recently as 2016, Tutu nominated a convicted terrorist for the Nobel Peace Prize, in the person of Marwan Barghouti. But Barghouti is not a nonviolent peace-maker who seeks harmonious co-existence between independent Israeli and Palestinian states. He commited violence, openly advocates violence, and supports the destruction of the state of Israel.

Before his conviction and imprisonment for multiple murders, Barghouti was the leader of the military wing of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a terrorist organisation which conducted thousands of attacks against Israeli civilians. He was also implicated in other terrorist activities, and less than two years before Tutu nominated him had called for a Third Intifada against Israel.

Bigotry and hypocrisy

Hugh Fitzgerald, writing this week in Frontpage Magazine, describes Tutu’s prejudice against Israel as ‘willful ignorance’.

Nil nisi bonum – the Latin tag instructs us to say nothing but good of the dead,’ he writes. ‘But for Archbishop Tutu, who had the most extravagant and ludicrous praise heaped upon him both in life, and now, too, in death, we’ll just have to make an exception.’

Tutu is often likened to the US civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1986 received the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize.

He would have done well to heed the words of the late Dr. King, when he said: ‘When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!’

If there is a lesson here, it is to not lionise people, and not gloss over their failures. Even those who appear to be ‘overflowing with decency and humanity’, as I wrote of Tutu, can turn out upon closer examination to harbour a mean streak of bigotry and hypocrisy.

[Image: Libris Förlag, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36964977]

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