our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people.
They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised,
of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have
continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust
centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders.
What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another
people to guarantee its existence. I've been very deeply distressed in
my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so
much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen
the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks,
suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from
On one of my visits to the Holy Land I drove to a church with the
Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. I could hear tears in his voice as he
pointed to Jewish settlements. I thought of the desire of Israelis for
security. But what of the Palestinians who have lost their land and
I have experienced Palestinians pointing to what were their homes, now
occupied by Jewish Israelis. I was walking with Canon Naim Ateek (the
head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Centre) in Jerusalem. He pointed and said:
"Our home was over there. We were driven out of our home; it is now
occupied by Israeli Jews."
My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish
sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten
the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so
soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious
traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the
Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing
another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We
condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption
of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of
military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won't
let ambulances reach the injured.
The military action of recent days, I predict with certainty, will not
provide the security and peace Israelis want; it will only intensify the
Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation;
exterminate all Palestinians; or - I hope - to strive for peace based on
justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the
establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by
side with Israel, both with secure borders.
We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If our madness
could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else
in the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to
the Holy Land?
My brother Naim Ateek has said what we used to say: "I am not
pro-this people or that. I am pro-justice, pro-freedom. I am anti-
But you know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is
placed on a pedestal [in the US], and to criticise it is to be
immediately dubbed anti-semitic, as if the Palestinians were not semitic.
I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group. And how did
it come about that Israel was collaborating with the apartheid
government on security measures?
People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong
because the Jewish lobby is powerful - very powerful. Well, so what? For
goodness sake, this is God's world! We live in a moral universe. The
apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.
Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all
powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.
Injustice and oppression will never prevail. Those who are powerful have
to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful: what is your
treatment of the poor, the hungry, the voiceless? And on the basis of
that, God passes judgment.
We should put out a clarion call to the government of the people of
Israel, to the Palestinian people and say: peace is possible, peace
based on justice is possible. We will do all we can to assist you to
achieve this peace, because it is God's dream, and you will be able to
live amicably together as sisters and brothers.
Desmond Tutu is the former Archbishop of Cape Town and chairman of South
Africa's truth and reconciliation commission. This address was given at
a conference on Ending the Occupation held in Boston, Massachusetts,
earlier this month. A longer version appears in the current edition of