ZOA Protests Campus Speaking Engagements by Tutu

By Max Gross

Published April 11, 2003, issue of April 11, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The Zionist Organization of America has denounced two universities for inviting Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak on their campuses.

Citing at least half a dozen instances in which the anti-apartheid activist spoke out against Israel, ZOA president Morton Klein criticized Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law for hosting Tutu last week and the University of Pennsylvania for inviting Tutu to be its commencement speaker in May.

Tutu, said Klein, “is viciously anti-Israel. To give a podium [to a] man who hates Israel, who compared Israel to Hitler, is shameful.”

In a speech last year in Boston, Tutu was quoted by the Israeli daily Ha’aretz as saying the Palestinian experience “reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa…. I say why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation?”

Tutu has also voiced support for efforts to convince American universities and municipalities to divest from Israel.

The ZOA is not alone in objecting to Tutu. “Many students would have preferred that Tutu not be chosen as commencement speaker,” said Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia. “That being said, since he is coming, most students are hoping that their commencement, that their one graduation, will go on unimpeded.”

Tutu could not be reached for comment by press time, but other Jews have defended Tutu against charges of antisemitism.

“He’s the chief patron of the Holocaust museum” in South Africa, said Yehuda Kay, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies “In no way is… Archbishop Tutu an antisemite.”

Kay said that accusing Tutu of antisemitism and anti-Zionism was unfair. “He is critical of [certain aspects of Israel] that are similar to apartheid,” he said. “But in the same breath he has said he believes in a safe and secure Israel.”

Former South African president Nelson Mandela has also criticized Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Michael Schneider, executive vice president for special operations of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, who worked in the African Resistance Movement, a companion movement to the ANC dedicated to ending apartheid, said that some of the Tutu’s and Mandela’s anti-Israel sentiment was to be expected.

“Mandela and Tutu remember the liaisons between Israel and the South African regime,” Schneider said. “The former history rankles in [Tutu’s] mind and Mandela’s mind.”

“The problem is [Tutu and Mandela] have never, in their formative years, had connections with Jews,” Schneider said. “Their only associates who were Jews were Jews who were divorced from their Judaism.”

Klein dismissed these defenses. “That’s rubbish,” Klein said. “There were 20 countries trading with [apartheid-era] South Africa. A number [were] Arab countries.” Klein added that other trading partners of apartheid South Africa never received the same criticism as Israel. He also pointed out that a disproportionately large number of South African Jews were active in the struggle against apartheid.

Kay, however, said that whatever their disagreements with Tutu, Jews should try reaching out to him.

“I do believe [Tutu’s] understanding [of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] is one-sided,” Kay said, “and he takes a more pro-Palestinian stand… but [the Jewish community] should engage a man on the stature of Tutu rather than sanction him.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.