Archbishop Tutu Joins Anti-Israel Campaign

The seemingly relentless campaign against the legitimacy of the State of Israel as exemplified by the harshly anti-Israel books Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter and The Israel Lobby by Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen J. Walt of Harvard University has been joined by none other than Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from South Africa. The JTA wire service reported last week that Archbishop Tutu “issued an impassioned plea to the Jewish people to end Israeli oppression of the Palestinians,” and did so while speaking in Boston during a two-day conference titled “Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel,” joining Carter, Walt, Mearsheimer and other Israel-bashers in a totally unbalanced, biased and one-sided attack on the very legitimacy of the Jewish State. The conference was sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization, and the event sparked protests by 45 Boston-area Jewish community institutions and synagogues, according to the JTA.

Andrew Tarsy, executive director of the New England Region of the Anti-Defamation League, rejected the apartheid analogy, telling the JTA he was disappointed that a man of Tutu’s moral stature would use his credibility to bolster Sabeel, which Tarsy and others “say use Christian imagery and language to villify Israel.” Archbishop Tutu, along with former prisoner and later South African President Nelson Mandela, bravely opposed the odious South Africa racial segregation policy of the Afrikaner governments before Mandela which was called “Apartheid.” For his courage and principled stand against that evil system, Tutu received a Nobel Peace Prize. But as illustrated by the highly controversial and inaccurate book by former President Jimmy Carter, also a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, being honored for work in one area does not confer credibility on an individual in all areas.

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Carter deliberately chose a misleading title for his book, prominently featuring the word “apartheid.” He has lamely attempted to shrug off its usage, saying it was “only the fourth word” in the title, and admitting that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is not fairly comparable to the South African system of Apartheid.

Both Carter and Tutu choose to ignore several important facts which clearly refute their harsh criticisms of Israel. First of all, from the very Declaration of Independence issued by David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948, Israel, while established as a Jewish State, offered and continues to provide full citizenship to its non-Jewish citizens, and specifically has reached out to its Palestinian Arab population. Israeli Arab Palestinians who are born and reside within Israel’s borders are full citizens of the state. Arabs can vote in elections, run for office, form political parties and live peaceful and normal lives in Israel. In order to spare the Arabs of having to fight against their fellow Arabs in conflict, they are exempt from military service, although Arabs in the Druze and Bedouin communities have been accepted into service as volunteers because of their belief in loyalty to their host states. There have been and still are Arab and Muslim members of every Knesset since Israel’s Parliament came into being in 1948. There have been Arab and Muslim members of the Cabinet and Israel’s Foreign Ministry diplomatic corps, including those serving at the level of ambassador.

The “Apartheid barrier” which Carter, Tutu and other Israel-bashers assail, is in reality a security barrier placed on Israel’s border with Gaza and the West Bank, which has drastically reduced the number of successful terrorist attacks from Gaza into Israel. Israel’s High Court has ruled several times to require modifications in order to reduce hardships on the Palestinians. To be sure, the security barrier is regrettable and indeed causes inconvenience and disruptions in the Gaza Strip, which has been under the control of the terrorist group Hamas since last summer. If the Palestinian Authority would fulfill its commitment to stop the terrorist attacks against Israel, the fence would come down.

As Abraham H. Foxman, national ADL director, so forcefully stressed here last week, we should not hestitate to refute inaccurate, damaging and one-sided screeds against Israel from any source, be they the British Academic Union, fuzzy-minded Peace Prize winners or misguided professors. President Thomas Jefferson once said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” So it is with defending Israel as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, as a safe haven for Jews everywhere and as a light unto the nations. It is a daunting task, but as stated in the Talmud, “We cannot complete the work, but neither can we desist from it.”