The world loses a passionate voice for human rights around the world- including the rights of Palestinians

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is best known for his principled stand for equality in South Africa, facing down the racist apartheid regime. In their rush to eulogise Tutu, many Canadian politicians, starting with Prime Minister Trudeau, remember his struggle against South Africa’s apartheid regime, while carefully avoiding mention of his vocal and repeated criticisms of Israel’s own apartheid regime. Read more…

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.

Archbishop Tutu was an outspoken critic of Israeli occupation in Palestine and the siege on Gaza. 

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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  1. Thanks Peter. Such cherry picking by both the Trudeau gov and the CBC is indeed a glaring blunder. It’s sad that the Trudeau government lets itself be influenced in this way by nefarious lobbies in spite of Canada’s legal acceptance of international law to the contrary.

    Justin Trudeau and his inner circle need to come clean about Palestinian human rights, and publicly accepting all of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s legacy would be a great start.

    It is a shallow irony that the persuasion of a new position from Canada could also ultimately benefit Israel. There will always be a golden rule that sets the bar for national and international behavior.

  2. It may interest some readers to know that not all of the published comments about Bishop Tutu were positive. On 28.12.2021 the Gatestone Institute, a terribly right-wing US publication, published a column by Harvard Professor Alan M. Dershowitz with the title, “Should the Late Bishop Tutu Get a Statue?” (

    Ignoring the fact that there is already at least one such statue, Dershowitz says that Tutu should not have a statue. Here are a few of his many reasons.

    “He not only believed in anti-Semitism, he actively promoted and legitimated Jew-hatred among his many followers and admirers around the world.”

    “He once even accused the Jewish state of acting in an “unChristian” manner.”

    “He was among the world’s most respected figures. His recognizable face—with its ever-present grin—has become a symbol of reconciliation and goodness. But it masks a long history of ugly hatred toward the Jewish people, the Jewish religion and the Jewish state. He not only believed in anti-Semitism, he actively promoted and legitimated Jew-hatred among his many followers and admirers around the world.”

    There is a lot more. Apparently, this Trump supporter considers telling the truth to be a sign of dishonour. The article tells us far more about Gatestone and Alan Dershowitz than it does about Bishop Tutu.

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