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October 16, 2009

Desmond Tutu Was Not Right About Israel

Desmond Tutu was wrong about Israel, and so is letter-writer Martin Hird (“Desmond Tutu Was Not Wrong About Israel,” October 2).

Hird wrote: “I don’t believe anyone can argue that if not for the Holocaust the State of Israel would exist today.” A more accurate statement about the Holocaust would be that were it not for the Holocaust, 6 million Jews would not have been slaughtered. Israel is the birthplace of our people, and its rebirth was inevitable.

Hird also needs a history lesson about South Africa. The Afrikaners, the white colonial minority, had a distinctly racist philosophy. They believed that black Africans were inferior, and that precluded mixing of black and white populations.

Apartheid was enforced with a lot more than checkpoints. Police, the military and paramilitary groups used the most heinous methods, with governmental approval, to control the black majority. The South African regime created black “homelands,” black-only ghettos. They used every device, including murder. Tutu should know better than to compare that to Israel.

Unfortunately for the Palestinians, their “leadership” has long been infected with hatred for Jews that began long before Israel became a state. Until that changes, there can be no real peace.

Alexander Diamond
Wiscasset, Maine

Divestment Déjà Vu

Gal Beckerman’s September 25 article “Palestinian-Led Movement To Boycott Israel Is Gaining Support” sent me back five years when “Divestment-Is-on-the-March” stories were appearing in papers as frequently as divestment petitions were cropping up on American college campuses. The Presbyterian Church-USA had just voted to explore “phased selective divestment” in the Jewish state, and it seemed just a matter of time before other churches would join the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) bandwagon.

What a difference five years makes! In 2009, the number of American schools that have divested their endowments in protest of Israeli policies stands at zero. And two years after choosing to explore divestment, the Presbyterians rejected that course by a margin of 95% to 5%, a decision that led the Mainline Protestant community to distance itself from BDS.

That may be why attempts to resurrect BDS in 2009 have seemed so desperate and bizarre. Throughout the years when divestment activists were protesting companies like Africa-Israel, international investors took no notice. But once Africa-Israel’s financial difficulties caused investors to flee, there was the BDS crew claiming that investors like TIAA-CREF had responded to their boycott calls (something the allegedly divesting organization then publicly and vehemently denied).

Earlier this year, a similar hoax took place at Hampshire College, which featured the bizarre spectacle of Hampshire students sending out press releases claiming the college had divested from Israel and the administration sending out competing (accurate) statements saying that Hampshire had done nothing of the kind.

While inflating small victories to help build momentum for a political project is a reasonable practice, building a movement on fraud is not.

Jon Haber
Lexington, Mass.

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