Sapa, Times South Africa, 26 January 2011
“They [the trustees] expressed the foundation’s appreciation for the Archbishop’s esteemed patronage over the years and confirmed that it was the unanimous wish of the trustees that he continue to hold this position,” it said in a statement.
SAHGF trustees met Tutu on Tuesday to discuss the matter.
Tutu said he was fully committed to the foundation’s mission and vision.
The trustees told Tutu the foundation respected his right to express his “deep concern for human rights issues in the Israel/Palestinian conflict.
“At the same time the trustees conveyed to the Archbishop the concern that certain of these views were being used to support a campaign to compromise the legitimacy of the state of Israel.”
Vice-chairman of the South African Zionist Federation David Hersch earlier this month decried Tutu’s criticism of Israeli policy and launched a petition demanding he be removed as patron of the holocaust centres.
The petition reportedly accused the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of being a bigot, dishonest and a “defamer of Israel and the Jewish people”.
“Over the years, Archbishop Tutu has been guilty of numerous anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements,” it read.
According to the petition Tutu’s call for the Cape Town Opera Company not to perform in Israel and for academic institutions to cut ties with those in Israel were “only the most recent examples of Archbishop Tutu’s anti-Israeli behaviour”.
It went on to describe his support for sanctions against Israel as “morally repugnant”.
A counter-petition was launched by members of Open Shuhada Street, an activist organisation campaigning for rights in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Tutu was “a most appropriate patron” of the Holocaust centres, it read.
The petition defended Tutu’s call to the opera company as “based on his firm belief in human rights and equality”.
Former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson, human rights lawyer Joel Joffe and singer Annie Lennox were among the prominent signatories of the petition in support of Tutu.
According to the petition, which had 5325 signatures by Wednesday, the criticism and calls for the Nobel Peace laureate to be removed as patron of the Holocaust centres in Cape Town and Johannesburg, were “totally unacceptable”.
The centres serve as a memorial to the six million victims of the holocaust and to all victims of Nazism. They teach “the consequences of racism, antisemitism and xenophobia and raise awareness of genocide, with a particular focus on Rwanda”.
Some noteworthy comments from petition signatories:
“As a former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and President of the UN General Assembly and as a Jew whose father’s family perished in the Holocaust I have always fought against racism, discrimination, persecution, apartheid and occupation. I fully share Archbishop Tutu’s values.”
#2601 Jan Kavan, Prague, Czech Republic
As a holocaust survivor, I cannot think of anyone better than Desmond Tutu to be a Patron of Holocaust Centers. He has shown himself to be a man of courage, clear vision, and broad compassion. Those who slander him for his criticisms of Israeli policies only show their moral mediocrity. They do not want to see what stares them in the face‚ Israel’s continued dispossession and oppression of another people.
#3198 Annette Herskovits, Berkeley, CA, USA