In The Holy Land
By Desmond Tutu
24 December, 2006
our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people.
They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised,
of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have
continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust
centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders.
What is not so understandable,
not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence.
I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded
me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have
seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks,
suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from
On one of my visits to the
Holy Land I drove to a church with the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem.
I could hear tears in his voice as he pointed to Jewish settlements.
I thought of the desire of Israelis for security. But what of the Palestinians
who have lost their land and homes?
I have experienced Palestinians
pointing to what were their homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis.
I was walking with Canon Naim Ateek (the head of the Sabeel Ecumenical
Centre) in Jerusalem. He pointed and said: "Our home was over there.
We were driven out of our home; it is now occupied by Israeli Jews."
My heart aches. I say why
are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten
their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the
home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their
backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten
that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?
Israel will never get true
security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace
can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of
suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught
hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the
occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won't let ambulances reach the
The military action of recent
days, I predict with certainty, will not provide the security and peace
Israelis want; it will only intensify the hatred.
Israel has three options:
revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians;
or - I hope - to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal
from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable
Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both
with secure borders.
We in South Africa had a
relatively peaceful transition. If our madness could end as it did,
it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. If
peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land?
My brother Naim Ateek has
said what we used to say: "I am not pro- this people or that. I
am pro-justice, pro-freedom. I am anti- injustice, anti-oppression."
But you know as well as I
do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in
the US], and to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed anti-semitic,
as if the Palestinians were not semitic. I am not even anti-white, despite
the madness of that group. And how did it come about that Israel was
collaborating with the apartheid government on security measures?
People are scared in this
country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is
powerful - very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is
God's world! We live in a moral universe. The 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.
Injustice and oppression
will never prevail. Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus
test that God gives to the powerful: what is your treatment of the poor,
the hungry, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes judgment.
We should put out a clarion
call to the government of the people of Israel, to the Palestinian people
and say: peace is possible, peace based on justice is possible. We will
do all we can to assist you to achieve this peace, because it is God's
dream, and you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and
Desmond Tutu is the former
Archbishop of Cape Town and chairman of South Africa's truth and reconciliation
commission. This address was given at a conference on Ending the Occupation
held in Boston, Massachusetts, earlier this month. A longer version
appears in the current edition of Church Times.
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