Petition to oust Tutu unlocks anti-Semitism debate in S Africa

Last Updated: Friday, January 14, 2011 - 21:22

Johannesburg: A petition to oust Nobel
Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a patron of South Africa`s
Holocaust Centres has sparked a debate over allegations that
he has repeatedly made anti-Semitic remarks.

Even the South African Zionist Federation is divided
on the issue after its vice-president Joselle Reuben supported
the petition initiated by David Hersh, who caused a stir when
he said that Tutu "ventures where angels fear to tread, not
because he is brave, but because he is ignorant."

Federation Chairman Avrom Krengel distanced his
organisation from the petition, saying that Hersch had done
this in his personal capacity.

Hersch started the petition in response to a call by
Tutu late last year for the Cape Town Opera Company to
withdraw from performances in Israel because Palestinians
would not have equal access to the shows.

Hersch accused the Nobel Peace laureate of being
"bigoted" trying to "hijack" the language of apartheid.

The petition read in part: "We, the undersigned, with
deep regret, do respectfully demand the resignation or
termination of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as a patron of
the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the Johannesburg Holocaust
and Genocide Centre."

"Archbishop Emeritus Tutu`s most recent endeavours at
coercing world academic institutions to cut ties with those in
Israel, as well as his most recent attempt to stop the Cape
Town Opera Company from performing in Israel, are only the
most recent examples of Archbishop Tutu`s anti-Israel
behaviour."

With 397 signatories to that petition, a counter
petition launched by "Group of Concerned People" in support of
Tutu had already secured 2,486 signatures by this morning.

Former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson, human rights
lawyer Joel Joffe and singer Annie Lennox are among the
prominent people who have signed the counter-petition in
support of Tutu, which was started by members of Open Shuhada
Street, an activist organisation campaigning for rights in
Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The counter petition said: "For his advocacy of non-
violence and human rights, Archbishop Tutu is an ideal patron
for the Holocaust Centre because he reminds us that we have
the strength and the duty to struggle against racism and
violations of human rights at home and in every country.

"To call him an anti-Semite, because he has attacked
the policies of the Israeli government, is outrageous, renders
the term meaningless and enfeebles the necessary efforts to
defeat real anti-Semites and racists."

Tutu also found support from the Muslim Judicial
Council.

"An attack against Desmond Tutu is an attack against
the struggle against Apartheid as his legacy symbolises the
strength of good men who led this nation towards the
liberation of the people of South Africa," said Moulana Ihsaan
Hendricks of the council.

PTI



First Published: Friday, January 14, 2011 - 21:22

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