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October 19, 2007

Archbishop Tutu’s Words Speak for Themselves

An October 12 editorial argues that an examination of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s actual remarks shows that he said nothing about Israel being racist, that he did not compare Israel to Hitler and that he is not even remotely antisemitic (“The Tutu Heave-Ho”).

But in fact, the full transcript of Tutu’s speech shows he said the following: “Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and the apartheid government were powerful. But, this is God’s world. A lie, injustice, oppression, those will never prevail in the world of this God… those ones, they have already lost, they are going to bite the dust one day… an unjust Israeli government, however powerful, will fall in the world of this kind of God.”

How can the Forward claim that Tutu was not comparing Israel to Hitler and the other evil powers that have bitten the dust and whose fate, Tutu states, Israel will share one day? Tutu compared Israel to apartheid by stating, “I’ve been deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.”

And why, for that matter, has Tutu only attacked Israel for having traded with South Africa, while essentially ignoring the 20 countries whose trade with Pretoria surpassed Israel’s? Is it because Israel is full of Jews?

Morton Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America
New York, N.Y.

I cannot agree more that the denial of a speaking engagement to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on the basis of rumors of antisemitism, stains the Jewish community with the prejudices of a few loud, overly sensitive individuals. Moreover, such crying wolf makes it all the more difficult to mount legitimate claims against real Jew-bashers — like Ann Coulter.

Ben Burrows
Elkins Park, Pa.

While it is true that one or more Jewish advocacy groups played an early role in influencing the decision of the president of the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis to cancel an engagement with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Forward fails to mention the actions taken by the Anti-Defamation League in having the invitation reinstated.

The ADL was among those urging the president of St. Thomas to reconsider. We said that while Tutu is no friend of Israel, we do not believe he is an antisemite. We felt the university made the wrong decision. Upon hearing this, the university reversed course and admitted it had erred.

This episode was hardly symptomatic of “the shrinking credibility and good name of American Jewish organizations,” as the Forward editorializes. If anything, our defense of Tutu’s right to have his views heard on campus enhanced our credibility as guardians of America’s freedom of speech.

Abraham Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League
New York, N.Y.

Memories of Fayetteville

I was thrilled to read a September 28 article about the Jewish community in Fayetteville, Ark. (“A Symbol of Religious Unity Rises in the Shadow of Wal-Mart”) My wife and I were in graduate school there between 1956 and 1961.

Though we did not have a congregation, we did have a Jewish community — 20 of us. There were a handful of professors — Sachs, Siegel, Kramer, Himmelstein and Stern — and their families. Indeed, my wife ran a “religious school” for six children in the Himmelsteins’ finished basement. We still have a watercolor that another professor, Reif, painted for the school for Passover.

Our group would get together every month to discuss an article from the then-liberal Commentary magazine. Little did I realize the impact that these discussions would have on us. We trace our subsequent very active involvement in synagogue life and social action to those stimulating evenings.

Sixty miles south of Fayetteville was a synagogue in Fort Smith. We attended High Holy Day services there, thanks to the warmth and generosity of that community.

My wife Myrna and I listened to our daughter read Torah on Yom Kippur last month in the small town of Brattleboro, Vt. We owe a debt to those professors in Fayetteville who helped make possible the pride we felt listening to our daughter.

Neal Goldenberg
Bethesda, Md.

Peace in Darfur Cannot Wait

Opinion writer Jerry Weaver correctly underscores the complexity regarding Darfur’s history and the mistrust that is fueling this devastating tragedy (“Without Trust, There Will Be No Peace in Darfur,” October 12). But serious flaws cloud his discussion, not the least of which is his assertion that “cries of genocide” are “historically inaccurate.”

United Nations Resolution 260 states that, in addition to mass killings, the crime of genocide also includes causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

The case for genocide at the hands of Sudan’s leaders and their militias could not be clearer. More than 400,000 civilians, including hundreds of thousands of women and children, are believed to have been murdered. Between April and June of this year, 90,000 people — in addition to the 2.2 million who were previously displaced — were driven from their homes.

Khartoum continues to shut international peacekeepers out of Darfur, which prevents refugees from feeling safe in returning to the villages they fled. As a result, they are forced to live in camps where widespread hunger, disease, filth, malnutrition and fear are causing genocide by attrition. Women cannot even go beyond the perimeters of their camps to collect firewood without facing the real possibility of rape.

Weaver asserts that an end to the conflict cannot come from economic pressure; direct appeals to 2008 Olympic host China, Sudan’s biggest supporter; or deployment of a U.N. force. An end will only come, he writes, through careful diplomacy, and it won’t happen until there is a new administration in the White House.

But we cannot afford to wait until January 2009, while tens of thousands more men, women and children die from violence, disease and starvation. Moreover, how can we trust that Khartoum, which has enabled the militias carrying out this genocide, will suddenly become an honest broker?

We are calling for the international community to deploy a well-equipped and trained peacekeeping force to protect civilians. We also support the use of economic pressure on Khartoum to disarm its militias. These steps are not mutually exclusive to a carefully negotiated and fair settlement. And, finally, describing Darfur as genocide is not only accurate but it reminds us, as Jews, what happens when the world stands by and passively observes.

Ruth Messinger
American Jewish World Service
New York, N.Y.

Holocaust Survivors and The Armenian Genocide

Have we entered a time warp or an alternative universe? Do my eyes deceive me? The August 24 issue featured two bold headlines: “Holocaust Survivors March on Israel’s Streets,” and “Armenian Genocide Exposes Rifts at ADL.”

Holocaust survivors marching against their own State of Israel? Armenians telling the Anti-Defamation League what Holocaust denial is all about? There must something in the water, and both Ehud Olmert and Abraham Foxman must be drinking it.

Jack Nusan Porter
International Association of Genocide Scholars
Newtonville, Mass.

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