Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has been called bigoted and anti-Semitic by David Hersch, vice-chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, in an attempt to remove Tutu from his position as patron of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre.
In recent years Tutu has been on the receiving end of a number of defamatory attacks. The eminent human rights advocate has become a target because of his uncompromising position on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. However these attacks ignore his principled commitment to the safety and dignity of all people in Israel and Palestine.
Sign the petition in defense of Tutu here and read Open Shuhada Street’s press statement below.
PRESS RELEASE – ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS DESMOND TUTU SLANDERED, CONCERNED SOUTH AFRICANS CIRCULATING PETITION IN DEFENCE OF TUTU
12 Jan, 2011
A new petition initiated by concerned South Africans is quickly gathering widespread support nationally and internationally. This petition can be viewed at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/defend-tutu/. The petition is a pledge of support for Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who has recently been the target of slanderous attacks by those who reject his principled and fair-minded stance on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
In the first 48 hours, over 1000 people added their names to petition. The current count is over 1,600. Some of the prominent signatories include Arthur Chaskalson, Lord Joel Joffe, Omar Barghoutti, Adam Hochschild, Andrew Feinstein, Annie Lennox and Zackie Achmat. Open Shuhada Street endorses and fully supports the petition started by concerned South Africans in defence of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
The petition was initiated by members of Open Shuhada Street in their personal capacities. It opposed a call from David Hersch, vice-chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, demanding that Archbishop Emeritus Tutu be removed or resign from his position as patron of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre. In a circulated letter Hersch called the Archbishop Emeritus anti-Semitic and bigoted. These sentiments were echoed by well-known Israel-booster Professor Alan Dershowitz, who called Tutu a “bigot” and an “anti-semite”.
In recent years the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has been on the receiving end of a number of defamatory attacks. The eminent human rights advocate has become a target because of his uncompromising position on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. However these attacks ignore his principled commitment to the safety and dignity of all people in Israel and Palestine. He has personally met with Palestinian leaders to express solidarity with their suffering under Israeli occupation, and to strongly urge them to refrain from violent attacks on Israeli targets and civilians.
Last October, the Archbishop Emeritus asked the Cape Town Opera not to travel to Israel. His argument was based on his firm belief in human rights and equality. He wrote, “Only the thickest-skinned South Africans would be comfortable performing before an audience that excluded residents living, for example, in an occupied West Bank village 30 minutes from Tel Aviv, who would not be allowed to travel to Tel Aviv, while including his Jewish neighbours from an illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian territory.”
In retaliation against the Cape Town Opera statement, Rhoda Kadalie called the Archbishop Emeritus a “bigot” and the Israeli Ambassador accused him of “bias” and of “deliberate populist incitement” (Cape Times, 28 Oct 2010). By slandering the name of the heroic champion for human rights, Kadalie, Hersch and the Israeli Ambassador have joined the ranks of the Archbishop Emeritus’ past critics: Thabo Mbeki, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Chinese occupiers of Tibet and Ugandans denying the rights of gays and lesbians.
Lungisa Mndende, the Khayelitsha Coordinator of Open Shuhada Street and a signatory of the petition, led a delegation of members on a visit of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre last December. In support of the petition he remarked, “Visiting the Holocaust Centre was very painful, but it was an important reminder of past injustice. Whether it is the struggle against Nazi genocide or against Apartheid, it is important for us to remember the history of oppression. For his advocacy of non-violence and human rights Archbishop Tutu is an ideal patron for the Holocaust Centre because he reminds us that we have the strength and the duty to struggle against racism and violations of human rights at home and in every country around the world.”
The full text of the petition is appended below. The petition can be accessed electronically at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/defend-tutu/
PETITION IN DEFENCE OF ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS DESMOND TUTU
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has publicly criticised Israeli policy towards Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. He has also criticised Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. These criticisms are well-known.
Recently, his criticisms of Israeli policy have elicited bitter personal attacks. Amidst calls for him to be removed as Patron of the Cape Town and Johannesburg Holocaust Centres of the South African Holocaust Foundation, Tutu has been attacked and labelled an anti-Semite and a bigot
Disagreements should be debated openly, but these personal attacks are totally unacceptable.
During the Second World War, which killed 60 million people, Nazi Germany killed socialists, gay men and lesbians, Roma people, and resistance fighters, but its most systematic destruction was of the Jewish people. Six million Jews were transferred to ghettos and concentration camps before being murdered.
This grotesque crime against humanity must never be forgotten. Its legacy and lessons belong to and must be guarded by all of humanity. Racism including anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and inhumanity must be resisted wherever they occur. As stated in the Mission Statement of the South African Holocaust Foundation, we must build “a more caring and just society in which human rights and diversity are respected and valued.”
This is precisely the cause to which Tutu has dedicated his life. He represents the finest tradition of resistance to all forms of oppression. He has taught us that understanding the Holocaust begins with appreciating that the only way for each of us to be safe is for all of us to be safe. He embodies the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document born of the horrors of the Second World War, the rights contained in which pertain equally to Israelis and Palestinians.
To use the Holocaust in an attempt to delegitimise Tutu is to undermine its legacy and insult the memory of its victims. To call him an anti-Semite, because he has attacked the policies of the Israeli government, is outrageous, renders the term meaningless, and enfeebles the necessary efforts to defeat real anti-Semites and racists.