April 3, 2014

Word: Desmond Tutu on boycotting Israel

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

I am writing today to express grave concern about a wave of legislative measures in the United States aimed at punishing and intimidating those who speak their conscience and challenge the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. In legislatures in Maryland, New York, Illinois, Florida, and even the United States Congress, bills have been proposed that would either bar funding to academic associations or seek to malign those who have taken a stand against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

These legislative efforts are in response to a growing international initiative, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, of which I have long been a supporter. The BDS movement emanates from a call for justice put out by the Palestinian people themselves. It is a Palestinian-led, international non-violent movement that seeks to force theIsraeli government to comply with international law in respect to its treatment of the Palestinian people.

I have supported this movement because it exerts pressure without violence on the State of Israel to create lasting peace for the citizens of Israel and Palestine, peace which most citizens crave. I have witnessed the systematic violence against and humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation and pain is all too familiar to us South Africans.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. My conscience compels me to stand with the Palestinians as they seek to use the same tactics of non-violence to further their efforts to end the oppression associated with the Israeli Occupation.

The legislations being proposed in the United States would have made participation in a movement like the one that ended Apartheid in South Africa extremely difficult.

I am also deeply troubled by the rhetoric associated with the promulgation of these bills which I understand, in the instance of Maryland, included testimony comparing the boycott to the actions of the Nazis in Germany. The Nazi Holocaust which resulted in the extermination of millions of Jews is a crime of monstrous proportions. To imply that it is in any way comparable to a nonviolent initiative diminishes the horrific nature of that genocidal and tragic era in our world history.

Whether used in South Africa, the US South, or India, boycotts have resulted in a transformative change that not only brought freedom and justice to the victims but also peace and reconciliation for the oppressors. I strongly oppose any piece of legislation meant to punish or deter individuals from pursuing this transformative aspiration. And I remain forever hopeful that, like the nonviolent efforts that have preceded it, the BDS movement will ultimately become a catalyst for honest peace and reconciliation for all our brothers and sisters, both Palestinian and Israeli, in the Holy Land.


Anonymous said...

There is nothing honest in this article. The "Palestinian People" are not an ethnic group, they are Arabs who have been raised with the hope and expectation of driving all the Jews into the sea. If this happens, they think that they will gain from it, but that's not the way it works. They will remain clients and subjects of the Saudis, but they will be of no further use as tools, so their suffering will have no end.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

So Palestinians are "people"? How telling.

Anonymous said...

Palestinians aren't "people". They are people.

Anonymous said...

The examples cited, at least in the case of the US, are more in the realm of PR, which is what non-violence engages at least since Socrates. The US was paying too high of a price in colonialist propaganda because of Jim Crow, and Warren was prevailed upon.

The moral boycott has been a Christian weapon since abolition, derived from Puritan culture. As Carter said today in an interview, no one since his administration has had much interest in peace in the middle east. No one in office since him has mastered Christianity. When people think about world peace, the holy land comes to mind. As Sumner taught, war is the product of peacetime military buildup. Because the earth is about used up, the continued militarization of the planet is probable. Peace is a vision embedded since Saint Louis and deriving obviously from the original teachings. Tutu resonates with what MLK said at Riverside church, that from a species perspective militarization, extreme materialism and racism are an impediment to survival, if not of human fulfillment.

Anonymous said...

The Israelis need to learn that their special relationship to God is private and is not universally accepted as natural law by the rest of the world. The Palestinians have been grossly disenfranchised and abused by the Israelis. Pure and simple. That must end and the Israelis will have to pony up reparations. Eventually, this is what the world will demand. The Israelis might as well resign themselves to this and make the best of it while they can still recapture at least a little dignity and virtue. Otherwise they run the risk of having what they fear happen anyway, but also be forever vilified. Israelis, some advice; choose wisely.

Anonymous said...

I find it amazing that some people who read The Progressive Review hold views that the Palestinians are non-people. by this same logic, why are Jews people? Egregious behaviors have happened by both sides and it does not help to say who started it.

The current approach by both parties does not bode well for the future of mankind.

Anonymous said...

Egregious behaviors have happened by both sides and it does not help to say who started it.

Yeah, it does. The Zionist takeover of Palestine was analogous to a home invasion in which the invaders were backed up by the cops and the courts told the victims "tough luck, their religious myth says they get to keep your house, so they own both it and you now."

The Palestinians are still trying to get the invaders out of their home. Or at least get the keys and deed back.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree that "Egregious behaviors happened by both sides." There is a huge difference between Palestinian violence and Israeli violence. Yes, both are bad, in that innocents are usually the victims. But there is also a great difference. That is, Israeli violence is openly sponsored by the Israeli government. Palestinian violence is the product of the actions of ragtag independent actors who happen to be Palestinian. Plus, let's not forget, it is their land. That's not a minor point. There are solutions to this problem. But it will cost the Israelis something and they are used to taking, not giving.