October 3, 2007
The utterly charming thing about the Zionist Thought Police is their apparent inability to restrain themselves, even from the very excesses that will prove to be their own undoing. Having asked sane and rational people to believe that Jimmy Carter is a Holocaust denier simply for pointing out the obvious about the apartheid regime Israel maintains in the occupied territories, the same crew now want us to believe that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an anti-Semite. No jokes! That was the reason cited for Tutu being banned from speaking at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis. "We had heard some things he said that some people judged to be anti-Semitic and against Israeli policy," explained university official Doug Hennes.
The "anti-Semitic" views Tutu had expressed were in his April 2002 speech "Occupation is Oppression" in which he likened the occupation regime in the West Bank, based on his personal experience of it, to what he had experienced as a black person in South Africa. He recalled the role of Jews in South Africa in the struggle to end apartheid, and expressed his solidarity with us through our centuries of suffering. But then turning to the suffering inflicted on the Palestinians, he issued an important challenge, one that might just as well have been uttered by a Jewish biblical prophet:
"My heart aches. 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? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?
"Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured.
"The military action of recent days, I predict with certainty, will not provide the security and peace Israelis want; it will only intensify the hatred.
"Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians; or – and I hope this will be the road taken – to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.
"We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If our madness could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. South Africa is a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land."
Tutu is absolutely right, of course, nor would those Israelis who embody the same tradition of indivisible human rights that Tutu personifies disagree with him.
Frankly, this case I think this case underlines precisely how absurd the policing of discussion about Israel in the U.S. has become. As a South African veteran of the liberation struggle, I can testify that there are few, if any, more decent, humane, courageous and morally unimpeachable individuals in the world than Bishop Tutu. Speaking truth to power is what he’s always done, both to the old regime in South Africa as much as to the new, when the latter has failed to live up to the standards it professes on AIDS, crime and other issues.
He has spoken forcefully on human rights struggles around the world, and his statements about the West Bank are based on what he has seen there. The diminutive Bish is a moral giant of our times, and the fact that he is condemning Israel for maintaining an apartheid system on the West Bank should serve as a wake-up call to liberal Americans who prefer not to think about these things. Yes, of course Bishop Tutu makes people uncomfortable; that’s what he’s always done, like a good cleric, challenging his flock to consider their own actions and omissions against the morality they profess to embrace. Instead, thanks to the atmosphere created by the right-wing nationalists of AIPAC and the ADL etc., many mainstream institutions would now prefer to shoot the messenger, if only to avoid incurring the wrath of those who have stripped the very term "anti-Semitic" of its meaning (by using it as a bludgeon in defense of behavior utterly abhorrent in the Jewish tradition as much as anything else), and as such, commit a great crime against Jews and Judaism.
Not that Tutu would have been surprised by this clumsy attack on him. As he said in that Boston speech,
"But you know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the U.S.], and to criticize it is to be immediately dubbed anti-Semitic, as if the Palestinians were not Semitic. I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group. And how did it come about that Israel was collaborating with the apartheid government on security measures?
"People are scared in this country [the U.S.] to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful. Well, so what? This is God’s world. For goodness sake, this is God’s world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosovic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.
"Injustice and oppression will never prevail. Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful: What is your treatment of the poor, the hungry, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes judgment.
"We should put out a clarion call to the government of the people of Israel, to the Palestinian people and say: peace is possible, peace based on justice is possible. We will do all we can to assist you to achieve this peace, because it is God’s dream, and you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and brothers."
Tutu is challenging American institutions to put morality above the power of a lobby. (Yes, I know he called it "the Jewish lobby" and I don’t think of it as that; I think of it as a rightwing Likudnik lobby open to right-wing jingoists of every religious and ethnic stripe who share the Likudnik vision, but then again, I can understand Tutu’s confusion here, because it’s not as if any mainstream Jewish institutions have stepped forward and said no, these people who would suppress honest discussion of Israel speak only for themselves, not for the Jews…)
More power to him.