Archbishop Desmond Tutu issued an impassioned plea to the Jewish people to end Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
Speaking Saturday in Boston during a two-day conference titled the “Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel,” the Nobel laureate urged Jews to heed the call of their God and act appropriately.
The conference sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization, sparked protests by 45 Boston-area Jewish community institutions and synagogues. They held a rally Friday before the conference began.
Jewish leaders, including Andrew Tarsy, executive director of the New England region of the Anti-Defamation League, rejected the apartheid analogy. Tarsy told JTA he was disappointed that a man of Tutu’s moral stature would use his credibility to bolster Sabeel, which he and others say use Christian imagery and language to vilify Israel.
Tutu, speaking at a church before a crowd of more than 850, also accepted the “handsome apology” from the president of a Minnesota university who had withdrawn an invitation to speak there in the spring. In August, the Rev. Dennis Dease of St. Thomas University in Minneapolis said he took back the offer after hearing complaints from some local Jewish leaders about anti-Israel remarks made by Tutu. The move was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League.
The South African archbishop conditioned his acceptance to speak on his schedule and the university’s restoring a faculty member to her position as director of a peace and justice program. Professor Cris Toffolo and her supporters say she was dismissed from that post because she insisted that Tutu be invited to campus, a charge the university denies.
Tutu also affirmed his belief in a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, and condemned all acts of terrorism.
On Saturday, a small pro-Israel rally and a separate pro-Palestinian rally organized by Jewish Voice for the Peace, a supporter of the conference, blended for a time with a march by 10,000 protesters where a small contingent chanted “Occupation is a crime from Iraq to Palestine.”