The airbrushed feet of clay

Desmond Tutu did some great things. But he had a monstrous side too


The revelations that have surfaced in a small number of outlets about the profound antisemitism of Archbishop Desmond Tutu have come as an unpleasant shock for a number of people who have read them. For many have had absolutely no knowledge of this whatsoever.

Since his death two days ago, Tutu has been almost universally eulogised as one of the greatest men of the age. And indeed, there is no denying the vital part he played with Nelson Mandela in helping rid South Africa of the obscenity of apartheid and liberate black South Africans to take control of their own destiny in their own land. 

There was, however, another side to Tutu — a shocking side. And just as one should respect the dead and pay tribute to their achievements, it is also incumbent upon us to tell the truth about that person if that truth is important enough, however distasteful this may be. And it undoubtedly is that important. 

It’s not merely that Tutu demonised Israel with libellous falsehoods. Worse still, he explicitly and repeatedly demonised the Jewish people. His occasional claims that he identified with the Jews and his acknowledgement that they had been allies in the great fight against South African apartheid generally morphed into his grotesque and incomprehensible accusation that the Jews of Israel had done to the Palestinian Arabs what the apartheid regime had done to the black population of South Africa. 

On the Gatestone site, Alan Dershowitz has reprised the condemnation of Tutu that he wrote back in January 2011. He writes:

“He minimised the suffering of those murdered in the Holocaust, asserting that “the gas chambers” made for “a neater death” than did Apartheid. In other words, the Palestinians, who in his incorrect view are the victims of “Israeli Apartheid,” have suffered more than the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. He complained of “the Jewish Monopoly of the Holocaust,” and demanded that its victims must “forgive the Nazis for the Holocaust,” while refusing to forgive the “Jewish people” for “persecute[ing] others”.  

“Tutu asserted that Zionism has “very many parallels with racism,” thus echoing the notorious and discredited “Zionism equals racism” resolution passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations and subsequently rescinded. He accused the Jews of Israel of doing “things that even Apartheid South Africa had not done”. He said that “the Jews thought they had a monopoly of God: Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings”. He 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 complained that “the Jewish people with their traditions, religion and long history of persecution sometimes appear to have caused a refugee problem among others”. He implied that Israel might someday consider as an option “to perpetrate genocide and exterminate all Palestinians”.   

“He complained that Americans “are scared…to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful—very powerful”. He 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”.  While attacking Israel for its “collective punishment”of Palestinians — which he claims is worse than what Apartheid South Africa did — he himself called for the collective punishment of Jewish academics and businesses in Israel by demanding boycotts of all Jewish (but not Muslim or Christian) Israelis. (This call for an anti-Jewish boycott finds its roots in the Nazi “Kauft Nicht beim Juden” campaign of the 1930s.) 

“When confronted with his double standard against Jews, he justified it on phoney theological grounds: “Whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can’t ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people”. There is a name for non-Jews who hold Jews to a double standard: It is called antisemitism.

“Tutu acknowledged having been frequently accused of being antisemitic, to which he has offered two responses: ‘Tough luck;’ and ‘my dentist’s name is Dr. Cohen’.”

I have quoted this at length for a reason. First, there is the extraordinary extent and depth of Tutu’s hatred, lies and demonisation directed at Israel and the Jewish people. How does this square with the good that he did in fighting South African apartheid? 

Read it all at Melanie Phillips website.