Posted by: Lister | October 4, 2007

Desmond Tutu anti-Semitic?

The University of St. Thomas snubs a Nobel Laureate:

Back in April, when University of St. Thomas staffer Mike Klein informed his colleagues in the Justice and Peace Studies program that he’d succeeded in booking Archbishop Desmond Tutu for a campus appearance, the faculty buzzed in anticipation. For a program dedicated to fostering social change and nonviolence, there were few figures who embodied that vision more aptly than the world-renowned civil rights activist and Nobel Laureate.

[…] But in a move that still has faculty members shaking their heads in disbelief, St. Thomas administrators—concerned that Tutu’s appearance might offend local Jews—told organizers that a visit from the archbishop was out of the question.

[…] “We had heard some things he said that some people judged to be anti-Semitic and against Israeli policy,” says Doug Hennes, St. Thomas’s vice president for university and government relations. “We’re not saying he’s anti-Semitic. But he’s compared the state of Israel to Hitler and our feeling was that making moral equivalencies like that are hurtful to some members of the Jewish community.”

[…] Hennes says the input officials received from “the Jewish community” in this case was confined to Swiler and a few rabbis teaching within St. Thomas’s Center for Jewish-Christian Learning. “I think there’s a consensus in the Jewish community that his words were offensive,” Swiler reiterates.

That was news to Marv Davidov, an adjunct professor within the Justice and Peace Studies program.

“As a Jew who experienced real anti-Semitism as a child, I’m deeply disturbed that a man like Tutu could be labeled anti-Semitic and silenced like this,” he says. “I deeply resent the Israeli lobby trying to silence any criticism of its policy. It does a great disservice to Israel and to all Jews.”

The controversy didn’t end there. Incensed at the administration’s decision, Professor Cris Toffolo—chair of the Justice and Peace Studies program at the time—sent Tutu a letter on May 24 informing him of the administration’s decision. She also indicated her disagreement with the move and warned Tutu that he might be in for a smear campaign.

University brass caught wind of the letter, and on August 1, Tom Rochon, executive vice president of academic affairs, sent a letter of his own to Toffolo informing her that St. Thomas administrators had decided to revoke her position as chair of the Justice and Peace Studies program.

Tutu’s speech, Occupation is Oppression, Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts on April 13, 2002.

God does not dispatch lightning bolts to remove tyrants, as we might have hoped he would. God waits for you, for you to act. You are his partner. God is as weak as the weakest of his partners, or as strong as the morally strongest.

[…] In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were the Jews. Jews almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust center in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders.

What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visits to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us blacks 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. They seemed to derive so much joy from our humiliation.

[…] 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 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.

[…] My brother Naim Ateek has said what we used to say: “I am not pro- this people or that. I am pro-justice, pro-freedom. I am anti-injustice, anti-oppression.”

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.

No other reference to Nazis is made.
The only comparison is that the powerful (even the very powerful) can be defeated.

Via MuzzleWatch, Jewish Voice for Peace.

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Responses

  1. Muzzlewatch on the reverseal of St Thomas’ decision. Bishop Tutu will speak.


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