GLOBAL ECONOMIC VIEWPOINT
TUTU: JUST BECAUSE U.S. STANDS BEHIND IT, ISRAEL CAN'T THUMB ITS NOSE AT GOD
Archbishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Prize in 1984 for his role in ending apartheid. He spoke with Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels on April 17 from the Harvard Divinity School where he is visiting.
GLOBAL VIEWPOINT: The devastation of West Bank towns by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's incursion has led even moral leaders who support a secure and safe Israel, such as yourself, to wonder whether history's persecuted -- the Jews-- have become the persecutors. What is your view?
DESMOND TUTU: Everyone must be deeply distressed by the carnage on both sides. Nothing is more important now than for both Jews and Arabs to know that peace is possible, just as it was possible in the also seemingly intractable racial conflict in South Africa.
But we have to remember that this is a moral universe. Power, from this moral perspective, is meant to be used ultimately for the benefit of the most vulnerable. The Bible speaks of the imperative of helping the poor, the hungry and the powerless. When power is used to oppress and intimidate others, in the long run that power will get its comeuppance.
One thus wants to call upon the Israeli government today to reflect carefully on how it is behaving, to recall the history of the Jews and their own oppression. In this case the Palestinians are the vulnerable, the underdogs. And the Israelis are doing to them what used to be done to the Jews.
GV: You have said that the situation in the occupied territories reminds you of apartheid in South Africa. Can you explain what you mean?
TUTU: What I see brings back memories of our own experiences in South Africa -- the arrogance of the authorities, the humiliating body searches, the roadblocks and checkpoints, the wanton demolition of homes, the stopping of ambulances from reaching victims solely because they are Palestinian, the suspicion of everyone in a community for the crimes of a few, the collective punishment.
And then there is the casting out of people from their homes and lands and settlers taking over. For us South Africans, this is all ''deja vu.''
GV: Won't this kind of excessive humiliation and collective punishment, in turn, only breed a new generation of terrorists?
TUTU: That ought to be obvious. The kind of security Israelis want -- to take a bus or sit in a cafe without fear of being blown up -- cannot come from the barrel of a gun. The carnage taking place only deepens hatred. To see what they are creating, the Israelis need only ask themselves what they would do if they had to trade places and suffer what they are doing to the Palestinians.
What does the wanton destruction of the water supply and electric infrastructure of the West Bank have to do with catching terrorists? The world must condemn this kind of collective punishment in the same breath in which it condemns the suicide bombings. Just because the U.S. Congress stands behind the Israeli Jews, just because they have so much power, it doesn't mean they can thumb their nose at God.
Peace and security for either side can never come from force. It can only come from sitting down and talking, by compromise based upon the ability to see how the other is also a victim.
GV: You've been in the United States over the past few months. Do you think the American media distorts that conflict with a pro-Israeli bias?
TUTU: I am shocked. My mouth is agape. From afar, we have always had a high regard for the objectivity of the American media that came from freedom of the press. They certainly told our side of the story in South Africa. But what I have seen from the media here in America makes me very sad.
They are not telling the Palestinian story. In the American media, you can see the full pain of the victims of the suicide bombings, the carnage and the mourning, but through them it is very hard to get any feel at all for the Palestinian suffering. I'm not only talking about people being smashed under buildings or cars being pulverized on the street. From our churches we've heard of Israeli soldiers rampaging through houses defacing pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary and damaging statues of Our Lord in villages. Where are these images?
And where is the outcry in the American media that they have been effectively censored by the Israelis who have excluded them from the war zone? One prays this will change.
(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services
For immediate release (Distributed 4/17/02)