In his book, After Auschwitz, Richard Rubinstein warns that “recalling Jewish virtues and contributions to humanity’s spiritual treasury … is inevitable in a time of reconciliation, but it may have about it more than a little fattening of the sacrificial lamb for another round of slaughter. In any event, philo-Semitism is as unrealistic and pernicious as anti-Semitism, for it destroys our most precious attribute, our simple humanity. Jews are not, nor are they obliged to be, paragons of virtue or models of holiness. To expect us to be more than other men, to pay us the unwanted and unasked-for complement that we are, is an unintended cruelty but a cruelty nonetheless.”
Such cruelty, unintended or not, was evident during Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s speech at the Sabeel conference at Old South Church in Boston. During his speech, the Archbishop from South Africa said the Jewish people are indispensable for “a just and caring world” but failed to condemn those who would murder Jews because they are Jews. He also invoked Hebrew Scripture against Israel in a patently discriminatory manner, directing his theological and scriptural cri de coeur exclusively at Jews, and not the Palestinians.
The following CAMERA-authored piece briefly analyzing Archbishop Tutu’s speech was published in the Jewish Journal on Nov. 1.
Tutu’s Words of Philo-Semitism Ring Hollow
(Dexter Van Zile is Christian media analyst for CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) in Boston.
Judging from his October 27 address at the Old South Church in Boston, Archbishop Desmond Tutu loves the Jewish people. “Spiritually, I am of Hebrew descent. That legacy has been of crucial importance to me in our struggle against Apartheid.”
The Archbishop picked an odd place to express his philo-Semitism, however. Tutu was speaking at a conference organized by Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, an organization led by Anglican Canon Naim Ateek, who has written, among other things, of an “Israeli government crucifixion system operating daily” in the disputed territories. Rev. Ateek’s portrayal of the Palestinians as innocent sufferers at the hands of Israeli crucifiers prompted Rabbi Ronne Friedman from Temple Israel in Boston to write recently that Ateek uses “explicit and implicit images that echo the New Testament polemic against the Jews, one that we’ve been forced to defend against for two millennia.”
While Archbishop Tutu offered no rebuke for Ateek’s hateful writings, he himself spoke of the Jewish people in loving terms. “The world needs the Jews, Jews who are faithful to the vocation that has meant so much for the world’s morality, of its sense of what is right and wrong, what is good an d bad, what is just and unjust, what is oppressive and what sets people free. Jews are indispensable for a good compassionate, just and caring world. And so are Palestinians.”
Sadly, Archbishop Tutu’s insistence that Jews struggle with their conscience over Israeli policies is coupled with a failure to acknowledge that they are also fighting for their lives in the Middle East. For all his philo-Semitism, Archbishop Tutu could not bring himself to condemn by name those who would murder Jews because they are Jews. At no point in his speech did he mention groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, or other groups in the Middle East that deny Israel’s right to exist and which espouse vicious attitudes toward Jews. (Hamas, for example, has posted video on the Internet of a suicide bomber expressing a desire to drink Jewish blood.) Archbishop Tutu remained silent about this hate but instead focused exclusively on Israeli checkpoints and the security barrier.
But instead of acknowledging Palestinian misdeeds that might explain why Israel instituted the checkpoints or built the security barrier, he directed a cri de coeur exclusively toward the Jewish people to “be on the side of the God who revealed a soft spot in his heart for the widow, the orphan and the alien.” He cautioned Jews to not fight against the God, their God who hears the cry of the oppressed, who sees their anguish and who will always come down to deliver them.”
This is the Jewish calling, Archbishop Tutu said. “If you disobey that calling, if you do not heed it, then as sure as anything, one day you will come a cropper.” At no point in his speech, however, does the archbishop direct any such theological demands or warning toward the Palestinians to exhibit mercy toward Jews. Yes, Archbishop Tutu does condemn “acts of terrorism by whoever they are committed,” but when it comes to naming the perpetrators of misdeeds, he names only the Jewish people and their institutions.
If Archbishop Tutu truly loves both the Palestinians and the Jewish people, he must direct his cri de coeur at both Israelis and Palestinians. To target Israel, and only Israel, with theological condemnations rooted in Hebrew scripture, and to remain silent about Arab hostility toward Jews, is using the Bible as a club against the Jewish people. That’s not love. It’s abuse of both scripture and of people.