WASHINGTON (JTA) – Desmond Tutu won this year’s Fulbright Prize for International Understanding.
The U.S. State Department announced Wednesday that it would co-host Friday’s ceremony awarding the $50,000 prize to Tutu, the Anglican Archbishop Emeritus in South Africa.
Tutu, a leading figure in the struggle that ultimately dismantled apartheid, is controversial among Jewish groups for what is seen as one-sided criticism of Israel and for likening ancient Jewish temple practices to apartheid.
Most recently, Tutu said Israel was probably guilty of war crimes in its retaliatory attack in 2006 that killed 18 people in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel had expressed regret for the killings, saying they were the result of a rare artillery error.
Tutu was assigned the investigation by the U.N. Human Rights Council, a body that Israel and the United States say favors human rights abusers and focuses disproportionately on Israel.
The prize, underwritten by Coca Cola and administered by the Fulbright Association, "recognizes and rewards outstanding contributions toward bringing peoples, cultures, or nations to greater understanding of others" according to the association’s Web site.
William Fulbright was the late Arkansas senator who chaired the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee from 1959-1974. Legislation he authored in 1946 launched what has become known as the Fulbright Program, which funds U.S. students studying abroad and overseas students who study in the United States. The Fulbright Association is made up of the program’s alumni.
Previous winners of its prize include former President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former South African President Nelson Mandela.