His late brother, Bishop Desmond Tutu, was a great anti-apartheid activist. However, he was also a very harsh critic of Israel. Anti-Israel activists took advantage of his passing to highlight his anti-Israel views. They mainly highlighted his assertion that Israeli policies towards the Palestinians amounts to apartheid. The links above only represent two examples.
A person like Tutu, with his anti-apartheid record, would appear to possess a certain moral authority. A person can take a courageous stance on one aspect of racial injustice, but it is possible to be terrible on the other. Let’s take as an illustration, Justice John Marshall Harlan of the United States Constitution stood for African Americans during a string of famous dissents. The most notable was Plessy V. Ferguson. He was also one of the most hostile Justices on the Court for the rights Chinese Americans. His opposition to them was expressed in overtly racist language, such as in Plessy-v. Ferguson. Woodrow Wilson was easily the racistst president in the 20th century with regard to African Americans. He appointed Louis Brandeis, a Jewish justice, and attempted to negotiate with Russian authorities for the oppressed Jewish people.
Many other historical examples show people who were not only heroically supportive of their fellow citizens, but also hostile toward others. Ghandi is perhaps most notable as a racist.
This brings us to Tutu. It seems that his hostility towards Israel was not only expressed but also to Jews. This may have been rooted theologically in Christian traditional antisemitism. Edward Alexander provides a brief summary.
He returned to gross, sinister equations between South Africa’s former system and Jewish modern and biblical practices in his speech against apartheid. Tutu stated in 1984 that the Jews believed they were the only ones who could have G-d’s blessings and Jesus was furious at their ability to shut down other humans.
Tutu is a strong supporter of the Goebbels-like combination of Zionism and racism [Bernstein: In fact, this calumny has its roots in Soviet antisemitic propaganda.] He has alleged that “Jews … think they have cornered the market on suffering” and that Jews are “quick to yell ‘anti-Semitism,'” because of “an arrogance of power – because Jews have such a strong lobby in the United States.”
In fact, Jewish power in America has been a Tutu favorite theme. Late April 2002, he spoke out in praise of his bravery and resistance to it. “People fear in [America]It is not right to state wrong because the Jewish lobby has power, and is extremely powerful. So what? Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin all had great power, but they were ultimately defeated.”
Tutu has repeatedly stated that, as he told the Jewish Theological Seminary audience once, “whether Jews love it or not they are a strange people.” They cannot hope to ever be judged according to the same criteria as other people.
Tutu certainly has not judged Jews according to the same standards that he applies for others. Although South African Jews and Americans were less critical than most of their fellow citizens, Tutu threatened in 1987 that South African Jews would be punished if Israel continued to trade with South Africa. Israel’s trade volume with South Africa was 7 percent that of America, and less than 10th of Japans’, Germanys’, or Englands. Tutu didn’t threaten South Africans of Japanese or German extraction with punishment.
Recent Times of Israel essay: I observed that anti-Israeli hostility often stems from hostility to the notion of Jews possessing sovereignty and military force. This repugnance stems from the belief that Jews have a role in the world, which is to be exemplars Christian ideologies.
Liberal Christian theologies remain steadfastly attached to the idea that Jesus’ suffering, through martyrdom, is the ultimate form of virtue. Liberals are open to the fact that Jews have suffered unjustly in Christian history for many centuries. They see the suffering of the Jews as an opportunity to lift them, as the Jews are the martyrs for Christian sin, just like Jesus Christ was for all the sins in the world.
After the Holocaust’s horrors, the role of Jews was to make their sacrifices a voice for peace and pacifism. Their role was not to create a strong state that could inflict military terrors. Ironically, Jews who refuse to become victims are seen as betraying Christian ideals. The reason why Israel’s Christian critics are so critical of Jews is because they claim that Jews don’t learn anything from the Holocaust. They believe the Holocaust is about Christian sin, redemption through the actions of victims and the fate of Jews as individuals.
Alexander is again shown in this light.
Tutu’s insistent on applying a double standard for Jews might explain an unmistakable feature in his anti-Israel rhetoric. Eliahu Langkin, Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa was once asked by Tutu “how is it possible for the Jews who have suffered such persecution could oppress other people?”
On another occasion, he expressed dismay “that Israel, with the kind of history … her people have experienced, should make refugees [actually, she didn’t]”
Tutu says that Jews are obligated to be good because they have been subject to so much persecution. This is the mad side effect of this statement. The descendants of people who were not persecuted don’t have any special obligation to be good, while the descendants can be exonerated.
The idea that Jews in Israel must behave in a certain manner because totally different Jews have been persecuted in the past is bizarre enough that it cannot be extended to other people who suffered from the same fate. Is it possible to recall hearing that the Irish should be leading the fight against hunger, as a large percentage of Irish were killed in the potato famine. Antisemitism is inherent in a standard which applies only to Jews.
The case against Bishop Tutu is not ambiguous; singling out Israel, a minor player, for preserving South African apartheid, suggesting that Jews are all-powerful and arrogant, arguing in favor of applying double standards to Jews, repeating traditional Christian antisemitic (and false, given actual Jewish theology) notions that Jews did not want anyone else to have a relationship with God, analogizing the “Jewish lobby” in the U.S. to Hitler and Stalin…Tutu was publicly and unabashedly antisemitic.
His heroic anti-apartheid activism is not diminished by this. He is still an antisemite despite his heroic actions. And as for those who hold up Tutu as a moral exemplar for his hostility to Israel… rather than bolstering their case against Israel, are instead reinforcing the fact that fanatical hostility to Israel is generally rooted in antisemitism.