I’m aware of how charming Archbishop Desmond Tutu can be. I once took tea with him. (I mention it briefly in my forthcoming book, “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa”.) I was accompanying my father, Rabbi B. Isaacson, who was friendly with Tutu. (Dad was a well-known anti-apartheid activist.) With my father I also attended the inauguration of Archbishop Tutu in Cape Town.
Speaking about his New York Post article (“Why the Jews?”) to FoxNew’s Geraldo Rivera, Alan Dershowitz seemed to be struggling to reconcile the same Tutu’s so-called anti- Semitism with his heroics during the apartheid era.
I’m aware of the things Tutu has said since he no longer has to make nice with anyone. But, frankly, from the occasion I met with him, I took away that he was fond of my father and respectful of his Jewish faith and scholarship. Still, I have no problem reconciling the smart, suave Tutu I once met, with the man Dershowitz incredulously describes as follows:
Consider widely publicized remarks made by Bishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the American Medal of Freedom, and a man openly admired and praised by President Obama. He has called the Jews “a peculiar people” and has accused “the Jews” of causing many of the world’s problems. He has railed against “the Jewish Lobby,” comparing its power to that of Hitler and Stalin.
He has said that “the Jews thought they had a monopoly of God: Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.” He has said that Jews have been “fighting against” and being “opposed to” his God. He has “compared the features of the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the features of the apartheid system in South Africa.” He has complained that “the Jewish people with their traditions, religion and long history of persecution sometimes appear to have caused a refugee problem among others.” Tutu has minimized the suffering of those murdered in the Holocaust by asserting that “the gas chambers” made for “a neater death” than did apartheid. He has demanded that its victims must “forgive the Nazis for the Holocaust,” while refusing to forgive the “Jewish people” for “persecute[ing] others.”
He has has accused Jews — not Israelis — of exhibiting “an arrogance — the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support.”
Tutu has acknowledged having been frequently accused of being anti-Semitic, to which he has offered two responses: “Tough luck” and “my dentist’s name is Dr. Cohen.”
For one, it took Tutu no time at all to forget about my elderly father in the New South Africa, where the Archbishop is now supreme. The impious Tutu has also never piped up about the ethnic cleansing of rural whites, Afrikaners mostly, from the land in ways that beggar belief. Saint Mandela has also remained mum about these Shaka-Zulu worthy murders.
Tutu’s turnabout makes less sense to prominent liberals like Dershowitz, for whom a moral indifference to the horrible fate of South Africa’s much-maligned ethnic minority is not considered a litmus test for a man’s moral mettle.
UPDATE (Mar. 8): Robert below makes an interesting observation: “Israel was old South Africa’s only friend in the past, now that Tutu’s side has won, why not show his true feelings!”
By extension, this would mean that Tutu conflates Israel and Jews, which lends support to the contention that “the new anti-Semitism consists in the demonization of Israelis (often described as Nazis vis-à-vis the Palestinians) and the delegitimization of the Jewish State. Blaming Israel or the Israeli lobby for America’s foreign policy blunders, and alleging that Israel was founded through systematic ethnic cleansing and land theft are the centerpieces of their campaign.”