JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (JTA) — Several hundred people have signed on to a petition seeking the removal of Richard Goldstone and Desmond Tutu as patrons of two Holocaust centers in South Africa.
Along with Goldstone, an ex-judge who headed the United Nations’ commission of inquiry into the Gaza war, and Tutu, a human rights activist and the archbishop emeritus of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, the online petition called on former South African Education Minister Kader Asmal, a frequent public critic of Israel, to step down as a patron of the Cape Town Holocaust Center and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Center.
The report by Goldstone’s panel was deemed unfair to Israel and raised the hackles of many Israel supporters around the world, as it said Israel, along with Hamas, committed human rights offenses and perhaps crimes against humanity.
The petition was drawn up by three prominent Cape Town Jews: David Hersch, a vice chairman of the South African Zionist Federation and former chairman of its Cape Town branch; Joselle Reuben, the father of the current Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Meron Reuben; and retired businessman Howard Joffe.
While most of the petition reportedly is devoted to Tutu, a paragraph at the end calls for the trustees of the Holocaust centers to terminate the appointments of Asmal and Goldstone and says they should resign as patrons.
The petition questions how Tutu can remain a patron of the Holocaust centers in view of what the document terms his “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements” dating back more than 20 years. It includes a lengthy list of his “harsh statements against Israel and Judaism.”
Hersch told JTA that he had encountered “nothing but the utmost support” from South African Jews for the petition.
Local media reports quoted Tutu as saying he would not resign and was proud of his association with the two Holocaust centers.
"These centers make an enormous contribution to our collective memory and understanding of the hateful and hurtful effects of prejudice and discrimination,” he is quoted as saying.
Mervyn Smith, chairman of the South African Holocaust Foundation, which oversees both Holocaust centers, said the foundation was in touch with Tutu, who is out of the country, and had arranged to meet with him early in the new year. The foundation then would respond, he said.
Smith told JTA that the issue of the petition had to “be treated responsibly, sensitively and respectfully.”
Mercia Andrews, convener of the Palestine Solidarity Group, was quoted in reports as saying that the petitioners were “an extremist voice” and the petition did not reflect the views of the Jewish community as a whole.