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Tutu Praises Contribution of Some South African Jews to Anti-apartheid Struggle but Condemns Israeli

March 11, 1987
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Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Cape Town, in a speech to a packed assembly of British Jews, Monday night praised the contribution of some South African Jews to the struggle against apartheid but roundly condemned Israeli links with the South African government.

“Israel’s integrity and existence must be guaranteed. But I cannot understand how a people with your history would have a state that would collaborate in military matters with South Africa and carry out policies that are a mirror image of some of the things from which your people suffered,” he said.

“I am very firmly opposed to apartheid and will oppose anything that helps it, from whatever sources,” he said. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was speaking at the Yakar Jewish Educational Foundation in Northwest London at the beginning of a three-day visit to Britain. The audience included former South African political prisoner Denis Goldberg.

In a 90-minute address, punctuated with frequent quotations from the Bible and warm references to the Jewish people, Tutu drew repeated comparisons between the suffering of his fellow Blacks at the hands of the apartheid regime and of Jews under the Nazis.

“Your people know what one’s talking about, having suffered because you belonged to a particular racial group. You were forced to wear arm bands. We don’t carry arm bands… they just have to look at us,” Tutu said.


Claiming that apartheid was as evil as Nazism or Communism ever were, he said some of the most terrible things Jews had experienced were happening to his own people. “You don’t need gas chambers: when you put children where there’s no food, gas chambers would make a neater death.” he stated.

“The South African government had destroyed stable communities, three-and-a-half million people had been dumped like rubbish into arid Bantustans. God’s children were made to starve by deliberate government policy. Through forcing Black workmen to live 11 months a year away from their families, family life was being deliberately destroyed by a government which had dedicated a special day to the sanctity of family life.”


After briefly questioning Israel’s Middle East policies, he spoke approvingly of the massive popular demonstrations in Tel Aviv against the Phalangist massacres in the Palestine refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Beirut.

He also said Israel’s integrity and security as a State must be guaranteed and, when questioned about anti-Jewish terrorism, said he had no difficulty in condemning evil from wherever it comes. “I’d long desperately to see Shalom in that part of the world . . . but I’d hope you would not be responsible and help to make other people refugees,” Tutu said.

Earlier, the Archbishop lambasted suggestions that he was anti-Semitic because of his criticism of Israeli policies. “These charges are without foundation and part of an orchestrated campaign of vilification against me by the proponents of apartheid,” he declared.

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