South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace prize laureate, died on Sunday aged 90.
A contemporary of Nelson Mandela, Tutu was known not just for his role in ending a dark chapter of institutionalized racial segregation and disenfranchisement in his country but also for speaking out against injustices around the world, including those in the Middle East.
He visited Israel/Palestine several times and did not hesitate to draw parallels between Israeli occupation and apartheid in South Africa.
“I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. he said, “Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”
Tutu was named to lead a UN fact-finding mission into a November 2006 Israeli attack on Gaza’s Beit Hanoun district that led to the deaths of 19 Palestinians, including seven children.
Israel refused to grant Archbishop Tutu authorisation to enter Gaza, but he was eventually able to travel to the besieged territory via Egypt. He met with survivors and eye-witnesses and produced a report to the Human Rights Council. Tutu admonished world leaders to engage with the plight of the Palestinians: “My message to the international community is that our silence and complicity, especially on the situation in Gaza, shames us all.”
Tutu was one of the rare international leaders willing to openly endorse BDS, the non violent movement to boycott Israel because of its violation of Palestinian Human rights.
Effusive praise for some of his legacy, while ignoring the awkward parts
Tutu said many times “I wish I could keep quiet about the plight of the Palestinians. I can’t.“
Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Canadian media and several Canadian politicians who heaped praise on Tutu’s historic South African legacy, while turning a blind eye to the parts of his legacy they find inconvenient.
Somewhat disapppointingly, the CBC obituary for Tutu mentioned Tutus support for LBGT rights but not those of the Palestinians.
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “the world has lost one of the strongest moral voices with the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.” Be that as it may, Tutu’s strong “moral voice”, does not seem to have influenced Mr. Trudeau or his Liberal government which continues to ignore his call for equality for Palestinians or to criticize Israel’s human rights abuses.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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