Among the world's most respected figures is South Africa's Bishop Desmond. His recognizable face—with its ever present grin—has become a symbol of reconciliation and goodness. But it masks a long history of ugly hatred toward the Jewish people, the Jewish religion and the Jewish state. Bishop Desmond Tutu is no mere anti-Zionist (though Martin Luther King long ago recognized that anti- Zionism often serves as a cover for deeper anti-Jewish bigotry). He has minimized the suffering of those killed in the Holocaust. He has attacked the "Jewish"--not Israeli--"lobby" as too "powerful" and "scar[y]." He has invoked classic anti-Semitic stereotypes and tropes about Jewish "arrogance", "power" and money. He has characterized Jews a "peculiar people," and has accused "the Jews" of causing many of the world's problems. He once even accused the Jewish state of acting in an "unChristian" way.
Were he not a Nobel laureate, his long history of bigotry against the Jewish people would have landed him in the dustbin of history, along with a dishonor roll of otherwise successful people, whose reputations have been tainted by their anti-Semitism such as Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Patrick Buchanan and Mel Gibson. But his Nobel Prize should not shield him from accountability for his long history of anti-Jewish bigotry, any more than it should for Yassir Arafat, Jimmy Carter and Jose Saramago.
Let the record speak for itself, so that history may judge Tutu on the basis of his own words—words that he has often repeated and that others repeat, because Tutu is a role model for so many people around the world. Here are some of Tutu's hateful words, most of them carefully documented in a recent petition by prominent South Africans to terminate him as a "patron" of the two South African Holocaust Centers, because he uses his status with these fine institutions as legitimization for his anti-Jewish rhetoric.
He has minimized the suffering of those murdered in the Holocaust by asserting that "the gas chambers" made for "a neater death" than did Apartheid. In other words, the Palestinians, who in his view are the victims of "Israeli Apartheid," have suffered more than the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. He has complained of "the Jewish Monopoly of the Holocaust," and has demanded that its victims must "forgive the Nazis for the Holocaust," while refusing to forgive the "Jewish people" for "persecute[ing] others."
Tutu has asserted that Zionism has "very many parallels with racism," thus echoing the notorious and discredited "Zionism equals racism" resolution passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations and subsequently rescinded. He has accused the Jews of Israel of doing "things that even Apartheid South Africa had not done." He has said that "the Jews thought they had a monopoly of God: Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings." He has said that Jews have been "fighting against" and being "opposed to" his God. He has "compared the features of the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the features of the apartheid system in South Africa." He has complained that "the Jewish people with their traditions, religion and long history of persecution sometimes appear to have caused a refugee problem among others." He has implied that Israel might someday consider as an option "to perpetrate genocide and exterminate all Palestinians."
He has complained that Americans "are scared…to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful—very powerful." He has accused Jews—not Israelis—of exhibiting "an arrogance—the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support."
"You know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the U.S.] and to criticize it is to be immediately dubbed anti-Semitic, as if Palestinians were not Semitic."
He has compared Israel to Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union and Apartheid South Africa, saying that they too were once "very powerful" but they "bit the dust," as will "unjust" Israel.
He has denied that Israel is a "civilized democracy" and has singled out Israel—one of the world's most open democracies—as a nation guilty of "censorship of their media." He has urged the Capetown Opera to refuse to perform Porgy and Bess in Tel Aviv and has called for a total cultural boycott of Jewish Israel, while encouraging performers to visit the most repressive regimes in the world.
He has claimed that his God sides with Palestinians, whom he compares to the Israelites under bondage in Egypt, and has sought to explain, if not justify, how Israeli actions lead directly to suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism.
He has been far more vocal about Israel's imperfections than about the genocides in Rwanda, Darfur and Cambodia. He repeatedly condemns Israel's occupation of the West Bank without mentioning the many other occupations in the world today. While attacking Israel for its "collective punishment" of Palestinians—which he claims is worse than what Apartheid South Africa did—he himself has called for the collective punishment of Jewish academics and businesses in Israel by demanding boycotts of all Jewish (but not Muslim or Christian) Israelis. (This call for an anti-Jewish boycott finds its roots in the Nazi "Kauft Nicht beim Juden" campaign of the 1930's.) When confronted with his double standard against Jews, he has justified it on phony theological grounds: "Whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can't ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people." There is a name for non-Jews who hold Jews to a double standard: It is called anti-Semitism.
Tutu has acknowledged having been frequently accused of being anti-Semitic," to which he has offered two responses: "Tough luck;" and "my dentist's name is Dr. Cohen."
I am confident that President Obama was not aware of Tutu's sordid history of anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions when he awarded him the Medal of Freedom in the White House in 2009. The sad reality is that Bishop Tutu's beneficent look is the new face of the oldest of bigotries.
The decent people of South Africa have become aware of Tutu's bigotry, because they have seen and heard it up close. It is time for the rest of the world to recognize that the Bishop is no saint. When it comes to Jews, he is an unrepentant sinner.
Though he is now retired, he still has the opportunity to repent and to end the sordid history of applying an unacceptable double standard to the Jewish state, the Jewish people and the Jewish religion.