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Economic pressure is all that will end apartheid, Tutu says in calling on Presbyterians to divest

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Desmond Tutu speaking at the German Evangelical Church in 2007. (Photo: Elke Wetzig/Wikimedia Commons)

Desmond Tutu speaking at the German Evangelical Church in 2007. (Photo: Elke Wetzig/Wikimedia Commons)

The Presbyterian church’s biennial general assembly is taking place this week in Detroit. Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican bishop who was active in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, has released this letter calling on the Presbyterians to pass measures supportive of Palestinian human rights, including divestment from three companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.

As the Presbyterian General Assembly gathers for its biennial meeting I reach out in prayer and solidarity that the Assembly will make a strong witness for reconciliation, justice and peace.  I am aware that the Assembly will consider eight overtures on the confounding and intractable conflict in Israel and Palestine, however I am especially urging the Assembly to adopt the overture naming Israel as an apartheid state through its domestic policies and maintenance of the occupation, and the overture calling for divestment of certain companies that contribute to the occupation of the Palestinian people.  Both are worthy of adoption, by speaking truth in the first instance, and owning up to the Church’s complicity in maintaining the occupation through its investments in the second.

The sustainability of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people has always been dependent on its ability to deliver justice to the Palestinians.  I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation.  The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed.  Realistic Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Israel will either end its occupation through a one or two state solution, or live in an apartheid state in perpetuity.  The latter option is unsustainable and an offense to justice.  We learned in South Africa that the only way to end apartheid peacefully was to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure.

The overtures proposed at the General Assembly are not about delegitimizing the State of Israel, but about ending its suppression of 4,000,000 Palestinian sisters and brothers. It’s about naming an unjust system and refusing to participate in it.  The stubbornness of Israel’s leaders in wanting to hold onto and settling land that is not theirs can only lead to tragedy for both peoples.  For the sake of them both as God’s cherished, the strong witness of the two overtures is the only peaceful route left in the cause of justice and ultimate reconciliation.  My prayers today are with the members of the General Assembly and with all the peoples of the Holy Land in Israel and Palestine.

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11 Responses

  1. just
    just on June 15, 2014, 11:31 am

    Desmond Tutu is right on the money! Many thanks for this welcome bright spot on this day.

    Happy Father’s Day to all.

  2. seafoid
    seafoid on June 15, 2014, 11:34 am

    He is dead right. The occupation is driven by money. Too many Israelis profit from its misery. Israel runs an open economy. It wants the good life and apartheid. Bring the discussion around to living standards and see who really loves YESHA.

  3. Kay24
    Kay24 on June 15, 2014, 11:55 am

    The good Reverend is a brave man. He was attacked and denigrated for referring to an apartheid nation as an apartheid nation, and he still keeps speaking out, making sense about a situation he only knows too well. I do hope the Presbyterian Church, will follow in the footsteps of the Methodist Church.
    Only BDS seems to be working right now. The occupiers are terrified it will spread and destroy their economy.

  4. lysias
    lysias on June 15, 2014, 2:05 pm

    Dave Brat grew up as a Presbyterian, and that is apparently still the Protestant denomination to which he is closest. I wonder how he would react to this.

  5. W.Jones
    W.Jones on June 15, 2014, 3:10 pm

    Dear Phil,

    This is a good time to build up moment. Phil, with your years of experience working on this issue, you have the knowledge to out-argue anyone on the topic. Hostage knows the legal arguments in and out. The other side lacks critical thinking, and by now you know their arguments very well. Anytime you have doubts you can easily ask questions to anyone here in your articles. And it’s a slam dunk argument all the way, as I have learned over the years: you are dealing with peaceful villages, including Christian ones, that are being brutalized needlessly. When it comes to fighting, the casualties are overwhelmingly asymmetrical.

    Don’t lack confidence, don’t be intimidated, or worry about anything when it comes to your involvement. Go to the weight room, eat steak and eggs for lunch, and jog in the morning. You are a rock star. They got nothing on you.

    • Citizen
      Citizen on June 15, 2014, 6:53 pm

      @ W.Jones
      Just so you know, the hasbara agents who attack every book that comes out critical of Israel and is listed on Amazon, Phil Weiss is depicted by those attacking such books as a hopeless blogger without a real job.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones on June 15, 2014, 9:13 pm


        If Israeli supporters have 500 million dollars to set up “pro-Israeli” think tanks with staff, and 10 Solidarity activists someplace put in 20 hours a week, living off their retirement and bare bones donations writing reports, who has a “real job” – the staff or the retired Solidarity activists? I suppose either they both do or they don’t, or perhaps working pro-bono shows even more dedication.

  6. German Lefty
    German Lefty on June 15, 2014, 3:52 pm

    There’s a new talk by Shir Hever (in English) titled “Colonies excluded: Israel and the new EU guidelines”.

  7. on June 15, 2014, 5:52 pm

    Desmond Tutu writes “Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation”. This is a powerful indictment of Israel. I hope that the US media will report this letter so that more citizens will understand what is taking place in Palestine.

  8. Talkback
    Talkback on June 16, 2014, 8:14 am

    Incoming hasbara idiocies, brace for impact!

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