Friday, November 9, 2007

Dancing with Desmond Tutu - Can words lead to terror?

In an insightful article in the November 8, 2007 edition of The Jewish Exponent, executive editor Jonathan S. Tobin examines the invitation extended to Archbishop Desmond Tutu by the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. After protests by local Jewish organizations, Tutu was uninvited and then re-invited when other Jewish groups weighed into fray.

Tobin's thesis is "Who cares about a South African cleric's false charges?" His answer, "Maybe we all should!"

In the face of the soon to be held peace summit at Annapolis, Md. Tobin notes, "Given the fact that the history of Mideast "peace" summits shows that such conclaves are as likely to increase violence as they are to engender reconciliation, the stakes for Israel's future at Annapolis are enormous. Placed in this dramatic context, can there be anything more inconsequential than arguments among American Jewish groups over the rights and wrongs of responding to Israel's foes?"

"On first glance, the answer to that question is a definite 'no.'"

But Tobin then proceeds to examine remarks recently made by Tutu at a Boston conference sponsored by "the Friends of Sabeel, a virulently anti-Zionist, left-wing, Christian Palestinian group, held at Boston's historic Old South Church. Those who don't want to trust accounts of the speech can go straight to the transcript at: www. "

Tobin writes, "As in the past, Tutu claimed to speak as a friend of the Jews and a "spiritual descendant" of Judaism. But his rhetoric was aimed at de-legimitizing the Jewish state. He falsely asserted that its efforts to defend itself against Palestinian terror and an ongoing war of annihilation on the part of the Arab and Muslim worlds (subjects he thinks unworthy of mention) are the same or worse than the apartheid he fought against in South Africa.

But going further, Tutu invoked the Bible and Jewish history against the Jews: "Remembering what happened to you in Egypt and much more recently in Germany -- remember, and act appropriately." Invoking the Exodus from Egypt, as well the Holocaust, the South African preached that the God of Israel would judge and punish the Jews for their alleged offenses against the Palestinians.

"One day you will implode," thundered Tutu."

"Hairsplitters are invited to debate whether this is anti-Semitism or merely a lesser variety of hate speech. The fact that he spoke about the supposed sins of the "Jews" rather than the State of Israel was interesting. Considering also that his Sabeel hosts have repeatedly invoked the deicide myth about the killers of Christ in their rhetoric against Israel, it's hard to give Tutu the benefit of the doubt. But however you wish to label this talk, and others like it he has made before, in which he has said that, like Hitler and other tyrants, Israel and "the Jewish lobby" would be brought down, the implications are ominous."

The debate about him and Tutu's remarks left Tobin "wondering whether we shouldn't be paying even closer attention to what people like Tutu are saying."

"Compared to the events that will soon unfold at Annapolis, the tedious flaps over Tutu may be unimportant and counterattacks from pro-Israel forces focused solely on him are a waste of time and effort. But those wondering about whether the administration's obsession with Palestinian statehood will blow up in Olmert's face need to think long and hard about the way the chattering classes in this country are talking about the conflict.

"The growing acceptance of anti-Israel invective which, at the least, seems to border on indictments of Jewry as a whole, aren't merely deplorable. They are the context in which the post-Annapolis debate on Israel and the Palestinians will be played out.

"The battles waged by American Jewish groups against each other may not be worth more than a yawn. But Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and books like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's The Israel Lobby will surely play a crucial role in determining how the Jewish state is viewed in the coming crisis and those that follow. The influence of these figures and the falsehoods they have championed will aid those intellectual forces deployed to blame everything on Israel -- no matter how much it concedes -- and to hold the Palestinians innocent -- no matter what atrocities they commit.

"And that is something about which friends of Israel should be very worried indeed."

For the full article, go to

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