At first blush, the suggestion that a Nobel Peace Prize winner would have anything in common with a pack of unabashed, poison-tongued Jew-haters seems preposterous. But Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, who in 1984 won the coveted Nobel award for his campaign against apartheid in that country, is today one of the most celebrated supporters of the “Divest from Israel” movement. Particularly widespread on university campuses across America, this movement routinely offers a high-visibility propaganda forum for some of the most rabid, combative anti-Semites of our time.
At its heart, the campus divestment movement aims to cripple Israel’s economy by compelling universities to withdraw whatever funds they may have invested in Israeli-based or -affiliated corporations. These efforts are founded on the premise that Israel is guilty of practicing apartheid and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. According to the divestment movement’s leaders, the human rights violations perpetrated by Israel are on par with those of the former apartheid regime in Desmond Tutu’s South Africa; many critics go so far as to liken modern Israel to Nazi Germany. When the Associated Students of UC Berkeley recently expressed their wish to have the university divest its money from Israel, Tutu praised their “principled stand” against the “injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violation of Palestinian human rights.” “[I]t is always an inspiration when young people lead the way and speak truth to power,” said Tutu.
The philosophy underlying the divestment movement has been displayed in stark relief recently at a number of University of California campuses, where Muslim student groups sponsored events under the banner of “Israeli Apartheid Week: A Call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel.” At a Muslim Students Association (MSA) event at UC San Diego, for instance, one MSA member explicitly affirmed that she supported Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah‘s assertion that “if Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us [jihadists] the trouble of going after them worldwide.” Meanwhile, UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union promoted its own “Israeli Apartheid Week” festivities by featuring, as guest speakers, such luminaries as Norman Finkelstein (who asserts that the Holocaust has been exaggerated and exploited by Jews to justify Israeli human-rights violations and crimes against humanity); Hedy Epstein (who contends that the only “lesson” Jews “learned from the Holocaust” was how to “become the persecutors” of vulnerable people like the Palestinians); Hatem Bazian (who, at an American Muslim Alliance conference promoting the creation of an Islamic State of Palestine, approvingly quoted a hadith calling on Muslims to “come and kill” the Jews); Alison Weir (who characterizes the Israeli-Arab conflict as nothing more complex than a battle between “the brutalizer and the brutalized”); and Amir Abdel Malik-Ali (an open supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah who has warned that he and his fellow Muslims “will fight” the Jews “until we are either martyred or until we are victorious”). (Note: the Alison Weir referred to here is not to be confused with the British historian and author Alison Weir)
Such are the worldviews and sentiments of the leading lights in today’s “Divest from Israel” movement. By no means, however, is it surprising that Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu would support such bellicose rhetoric, given his own long history of condemning and smearing Israel and the Jews. Noting that divestment campaigns helped bring about the end of apartheid in South Africa, a development he calls “one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century,” Tutu is delighted that a “similar movement” now aims to put “an end to the Israeli occupation” in the Middle East. Notably, Tutu makes no call for divestment from any other Middle Eastern nation – though the political oppression, human rights abuses, and barbaric atrocities characterizing life throughout much of that region dwarf anything that the Palestinians have ever suffered in Israel, to which Tutu refers as America’s “client state.”
Tutu informs us that his heart breaks whenever he sees “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks,” and he explains that their evident “suffering” evokes memories of what South African blacks once experienced “when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.” Asserting that “Israel is like Hitler and apartheid,” Tutu has urged Americans to oppose Israeli “injustices” as fervently as they once opposed Nazism and South Africa’s system of racial separation. Putting his contempt for the Jewish state in still fuller context, he once said: “The [South African] apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.”
In an October 2007 op-ed piece, Tutu lamented that because of unnecessarily restrictive Israeli policies, the Palestinian people “cannot move freely from one place to another”; that “a wall separates them from their families and from their incomes”; and that “they are arbitrarily demeaned at checkpoints and unnecessarily beleaguered by capricious applications of bureaucratic red tape.” These things, said Tutu, were reminiscent of “the yoke of oppression that was once our burden in South Africa.” Absent from his lamentations was any recognition that Israel’s checkpoints and security barrier had been established in direct response to the Palestinians’ relentless campaign of genocidal terrorism. Instead, Tutu reminded his readers that “God’s dream begins with this mutual recognition – we are not strangers, we are kin.” But there again, he had nothing to say about the wholesale rejection of so-called “kinship” by Hamas, the terrorist group whose founding charter explicitly calls jihad “an individual duty [that is] binding on every Muslim man and woman,” while it condemns “the Nazism of the Jews” and calls for their extermination.
Tutu’s morally inverted worldview is not confined solely to matters involving Israel. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, for instance, he described America’s retaliatory military campaign (against the Taliban and al-Qaeda) as an “utterly reprehensible” exercise in “vengeance” rather than justice. He explained that the hijackers had been “willing to pilot a plane and go to their deaths” because they were making a desperate plea for relief from the “poverty, hunger, and disease” that plagued the people of their homelands. Condemning America’s greed and self-absorption, Tutu suggested that “a minute fraction of [U.S.] defense budgets would ensure that God’s children everywhere would have clean water, enough to eat, a decent home, a proper education, and accessible and affordable health care.” The terrorists, in other words, were trying to strike a blow for charity and social justice, not Islamic jihad.
While Tutu has been relentless in ridiculing Israel and the United States, he has been far more forgiving of Winnie Mandela, South Africa’s so-called “Mother of the Nation,” whom the former archbishop professes to love “very deeply.” Prominent in the Soviet-sponsored African National Congress (ANC), which was closely aligned with the South African Communist Party, Mrs. Mandela used her notorious bodyguards in a protracted reign of terror, torture, and murder during the 1980s. The ANC committed innumerable atrocities in the name of liberation, prompting a 1988 Pentagon Report to list it as one of the world’s “more notorious terrorist groups.” Many ANC victims were physically pummeled and brutalized to death – some of them on the direct orders of Mrs. Mandela. Among the ANC’s preferred methods of torturing suspected political opponents was “necklacing” – a barbaric practice where automobile tires were tied around the necks of victims, filled with gasoline and lit on fire. It is estimated that some 1,000 people were set ablaze in this manner. “With tires and matches we will liberate this country,” crowed the celebrated “Mother” of Tutu’s nation.
To recap: Desmond Tutu “loves” Winnie Mandela “deeply”; he blames the United States for provoking the 9/11 attacks; and he supports worldwide divestment from a purportedly “Nazi”-like nation that gives its Arab citizens more rights and freedoms than they would be able to enjoy anywhere in the Arab world. These views prove conclusively that honorific titles and prestigious awards do not necessarily correlate with sound moral judgment in their recipients.