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May 3, 2012 Off

Desmond Tutu: Endorsement of BDS Veers into Religious Anti-Semitism

In an open let­ter to mem­bers of the United Methodist Church, retired South African Arch­bishop Desmond Tutu endorsed a pro­posed res­o­lu­tion call­ing for Church divest­ment from com­pa­nies “that sus­tain Israel’s occupation.”

Although the res­o­lu­tion was rejected at the United Methodist Con­fer­ence cur­rently under­way in Tampa, Florida, Tutu’s last ditch attempt to avert defeat veered into clas­si­cal religion-based anti-Semitism when he speaks of the pun­ish­ment of the Jews in the past who “dis­obeyed G-d:”

Hebrews…were oppressed as slaves in another land. As time moved on, this peo­ple dis­obeyed God and time and time again the prophets had to call them back to their deep­est values.

Tutu then calls on activists to take action to pun­ish Israel for their poli­cies today:

But God, who is the same yes­ter­day, today and for­ever, nei­ther slum­bers nor sleeps. Prophetic voices have been call­ing this empow­ered peo­ple who were once oppressed and killed, to their deep­est val­ues of jus­tice and com­pas­sion, but they have refused to lis­ten even to the most rea­son­able voices. The human com­mu­nity can­not be silent in the face of the gross injus­tice being meted out to the peo­ple of Pales­tine. If inter­na­tional courts and gov­ern­ments refuse to deal with this mat­ter, we in the churches and in the rest of civil soci­ety really have no choice but to act in small ways and big ways.

Tutu also uses shock­ing lan­guage about the Holo­caust, includ­ing an appar­ent con­dem­na­tion of the very found­ing and exis­tence of the State of Israel:

The Jew­ish Holo­caust, engi­neered and imple­mented pri­mar­ily by Euro­peans, gave some ide­o­logues within the Jew­ish and Chris­t­ian com­mu­nity an excuse to imple­ment plans that were in the mak­ing for at least 50 years, under the rubric of excep­tional Jew­ish secu­rity. In this way began the immense oppres­sion of the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple, who were not at all involved in the Holo­caust. Not only is this group of peo­ple being oppressed more than the apartheid ide­o­logues could ever dream about in South Africa, their very iden­tity and his­tory are being denied and obfus­cated. What is worse, is that Europe and the USA are refus­ing to take respon­si­bil­ity for their actions with regard to both the Holo­caust and the over-empowering of the Israelis, their dis­re­gard for the inter­na­tional con­ven­tions and reg­u­la­tory frame­work of the nuclear indus­try and their con­tin­ued oppres­sion of the Pales­tin­ian people.

Tutu is a promi­nent sup­porter of the BDS (boy­cott, divest­ment, sanc­tion) cam­paign against Israel and a gen­er­ally harsh critic of Israel. He has declared time and again that Israeli poli­cies towards Pales­tini­ans are the same or worse than those imposed against black South Africans under apartheid.

Tutu’s April 26 let­ter, posted on the web­site of “United Methodist Kairos Response” (Kairos is a highly prob­lem­atic anti-Israel doc­u­ment pre­pared by Pales­tin­ian Chris­tians), is a retread of many of his old accu­sa­tions and assertions.

Tutu appears to be engag­ing in an all-out cam­paign to fur­ther his anti-Israel agenda. In a May 1 op-ed in The Tampa Bay Times he endorsed action by the Methodist Church, called the 1,200 Amer­i­can rab­bis who had signed an open let­ter to “our Chris­t­ian neigh­bors” oppos­ing Church divest­ment ini­tia­tives, “sadly mis­guided” and said “it is long past time for them to remove the blind­ers from their eyes and grap­ple with the real­ity that Israel becom­ing an apartheid state or like South Africa in its denial of equal rights…”

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April 26, 2012 3

Divestment Effort at the Methodist General Conference in Tampa

Should the United Methodist Church divest from its invest­ments in “com­pa­nies that sus­tain the Israeli occu­pa­tion?”

The answer to that ques­tion will be decided in Tampa, Florida, at this year’s Gen­eral Con­fer­ence of the United Methodist Church (UMC). The con­fer­ence began on Tues­day and is sched­uled to take place through May 5, 2012.

The UMC includes on its agenda a list of “major issues” that will be addressed at the con­fer­ence, includ­ing the church’s stance and efforts regard­ing abor­tion, gay rights, bul­ly­ing and immi­gra­tion. Also included in the agenda is a res­o­lu­tion on divest­ment from three Amer­i­can com­pa­nies – Cater­pil­lar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard – until they “end their involve­ment in the Israeli occu­pa­tion of the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries.” The res­o­lu­tion fur­ther calls on “the United Methodist Church boards and agen­cies, annual con­fer­ences, local churches and indi­vid­u­als to prayer­fully con­sider cor­po­rate involve­ment in Israel’s occu­pa­tion when mak­ing invest­ment decisions.”

The res­o­lu­tion is being pre­sented to the Gen­eral Con­fer­ence by the United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR), an anti-Israel con­tin­gent that was formed in 2010 fol­low­ing the release of the “Kairos Pales­tine Doc­u­ment.” That doc­u­ment, which calls for a global BDS cam­paign, denies Jew­ish con­nec­tion to the Holy Land and jus­ti­fies terrorism.

If the res­o­lu­tion is passed, UMC gen­eral boards will be required to present reports on their respec­tive progress at the church’s 2016 conference.

UMKR has a doc­u­ment on its web­site list­ing indi­vid­u­als and groups that sup­port the res­o­lu­tion and it takes care to specif­i­cally high­light the Jew­ish anti-Zionists who sup­port BDS. This is likely an attempt to obvi­ate alle­ga­tions of anti-Semitism. The res­o­lu­tion has received sup­port from Jew­ish Voice for Peace, a vari­ety of Israeli anti-occupation activists and two anti-Zionist Holo­caust sur­vivors, Hedy Epstein and Hajo Meyer. In his state­ment, Meyer claims that, as a sur­vivor of Auschwitz, he “[refuses] to belong to a group which is a per­pe­trator, and there­fore I do not agree to allow the state of Israel to com­mit its crimes in the name of Judaism.”

In addi­tion to the divest­ment res­o­lu­tion, par­tic­i­pants at the con­fer­ence may be asked to vote on other vir­u­lently anti-Israel res­o­lu­tions, includ­ing one regard­ing endors­ing the Kairos Pales­tine Document.

Efforts by Methodist anti-Israel activists to divest from Israel began in 2008. Then, the UMC voted to con­tinue to allow its agency staff to make com­par­isons of Israel to the apartheid regime that existed in South Africa and par­tic­i­pate in the US Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occu­pa­tion. The Gen­eral Coun­cil did not, how­ever, vote in favor of divest­ing from Israeli companies.

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