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The disclosure, during the 2008 presidential campaign, that Barack Obama had for two decades sat contentedly (perhaps with his cerebral hearing aid turned off) listening to the tirades of his pastor Rev. Jeremiah (“God Damn America”) Wright against “them Jews” caused him some brief embarrassment but no harm at the polls, certainly not among Jewish voters. No attention whatever was paid to the possible link between Obama’s moral tone-deafness in the presence of clergyman Wright and his intense admiration of another, more unctuous, political clergyman with even less charity toward Jews than Wright: namely, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Obama and Tutu have long admired each other. They first met in 2006 when then-Senator Obama visited Tutu in South Africa. In August 2009, Obama awarded Tutu the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Earlier this month, on the occasion of the Anglican clergyman’s 79th birthday, the president lauded him as “a moral titan—a voice of principle, an unrelenting champion of justice, and a dedicated peacemaker.”
In recent months, Tutu has demonstrated his dedication to peace, justice, and principle in the Middle East, in particular, by speaking up for Hamas and supporting the “Freedom Flotilla” of Islamist jihadists and “internationalist” do-gooders (people who confuse doing good with feeling good about what they are doing) who, in the spring, tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. He has also repeatedly endorsed the activities of the BDS (Boycott/Divest/Sanction) movement. This reincarnation of the Nazis’ “Kauf nicht beim Juden” campaign of the 1930s constantly invokes Tutu’s “authoritative” condemnation of Israel (where Arabs and Jews use the same buses, beaches, clinics, cafes, and soccer fields, and attend the same universities) as an “apartheid” state.
But his fulminations against Jews have a long history. They are so well-documented that one wonders if President Obama can possibly be ignorant of them, especially now that he has a “Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism” named Hannah Rosenthal, who has shown herself adept at spotting that evanescent phenomenon called “Islamophobia” at a distance of ten miles away. Here are just a few examples of Tutu’s “moral titanism” on the Jewish question, chosen from the same period in which Obama was attending the sermons of Jeremiah Wright.
On the day after Christmas, 1989, Tutu, standing before the memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for the millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis, prayed for the murderers and scolded the descendants of their victims. “We pray for those who made it happen, help us to forgive them and help us so that we in our turn will not make others suffer.”1 This, he said, was his “message” to the Israeli children and grandchildren of the dead.
Moral obtuseness, mean spite, and monstrous arrogance do not make for sound ethics and theology. Neither Tutu nor the Israelis he lectured can “forgive” the Nazi murderers. Representatives of an injured group are not licensed (even by the most sanctimonious of preachers) to forgive on behalf of the whole group. In fact, forgiveness issues from God alone. The forgiveness Tutu offers the Nazis is truly pitiless because it forgets the victims, blurs over suffering, and obliterates the past.
Tutu is always far less moved by the actuality of what the Nazis did (“the gas chambers,” he once said, “made for a neater death” than apartheid resettlement policies 2) than by the hypothetical potentiality of what, in his jaundiced view, Israelis might do. His speeches against apartheid returned obsessively to gross, licentious equations between the former South African system and Jewish practices, biblical and modern. “The Jews,” Tutu declared in 1984, “thought they had a monopoly on God” and “Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.”3
Tutu has been an avid supporter of the Goebbels-like equation of Zionism with racism. He has alleged that “Jews…think they have cornered the market on suffering”4 and that Jews are “quick to yell ‘Anti-Semitism’” because of “an arrogance of power—because Jews have such a strong lobby in the United States.” 5 Jewish power in America is, in fact, a favorite Tutu theme. In late April 2002, he praised his own courage in resisting it. “People are scared in [America] to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful, very powerful. Well, so what? Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.” 6
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