Posted by: University of Mississippi | April 25, 2009

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Speech on Peace in Israel/Palestine (2002):

The title here is “Occupation is Oppression.” Now, I would like for us to have changed that and said “give peace a chance,” for peace is possible. You see, we are bearers of hope for God’s children in the Holy Land. For God’s people the Israeli Jews, and God’s people the Palestinian Arabs. We want to say to them: our hearts go out to all who have suffered as a result of the violence of suicide bombers and the violence of military incursions and reprisals and express our deepest sympathies to all who have been injured and bereaved in the horrendous events of recent times. We want to say to all involved in the events of these past days: peace is possible. Israeli Jew, Palestinian Arab can live amicably side by side in a secure peace. And, as Cannon Ateek kept underscoring, a secure peace built on justice and equity. These two peoples are God’s chosen and beloved, looking in their face back to a common ancestor Abraham and confessing belief in the one creator God of salaam and shalom.

I give thanks for all that I have received as a Christian from the teachings of God’s people the Jews. When we were opposing the vicious system of apartheid, which claimed that what invested people with worth was a biological irrelevance–skin color–we turned to the Jewish Torah, which asserted that what gave people their infinite worth was the fact that they were created in the image of God. Thus, on this score, Apartheid was unbiblical, evil without remainder and therefore, unchristian. And when our people groaned by virtue of the burden of racist oppression, we invoked the God who addressed Moses in the burning bush, we told our people that our God had heard their cry, had seen their anguish, and knew their suffering, and would come down, this great God of exodus, this liberator God as in the past to deliver us as God had delivered Israel from bondage. We told them that God was notoriously biased in favor of those without clout; the poor, the weak, the hungry, the voiceless, as God had shown when God intervened through the Prophet Nathan against King David on behalf of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband…

I believe that Israel has a right to secure borders, internationally recognized, in a land assured of territorial integrity and with acknowledged sovereignty as an independent country. That the Arab nations made a bad mistake in refusing to recognize the existence of sovereign Israel and in pledging to work for her destruction. It was a short sighted policy that led to Israel’s nervousness, her high state of alert and military preparedness to guarantee her continued existence. This was understandable. What was no so understandable, what was not justifiable was what Israel did to another people to guarantee her existence. I have been very deeply distressed in all my visits to the Holy Land, how so much of what was taking place there reminded me so much of what used to happen to us Blacks in Apartheid South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at the road blocks and recall what used to happen to us in our motherland, when arrogant, young white police officers would hector, and bully us, and demean us when we ran the gauntlet of their unpredictable whims; whether they would let you through or not. When they seemed to derive so much fun out of our sullen humiliation. I have seen such scenes, or heard of them, being played out in the Holy Land. The rough and discourteous demands for IDs from the Palestinians were so uncannily reminiscent of the infamous pass law raids of the vicious Apartheid regime. We saw on those visits, or read about things that did not happen even in Apartheid South Africa. The demolition of homes because of a suspicion that one or other family member was a terrorist. And so, all paid a price in these acts of collective punishment. Seemingly being repeated more recently in the attacks on Arab refugee camps. We don’t know the exact truth because the Israelis won’t let the media in. What are they hiding? But perhaps, more seriously, why is their no outcry in this country at the censorship of their media. For you see, what now is going to happen is that you will frequently be being shown the harrowing images of what suicide bombers have done, which is something we all condemn unequivocally. But you see, you don’t see what those tanks are doing to the homes of just ordinary people…

People are scared in this country to say wrong is wrong. Because the Jewish lobby is powerful… very powerful. Ha, Ha, Ha ha! So what? So what! This is God’s world! For goodness sake this is God’s world! The Apartheid government was very powerful, but we said to them: Watch it! If you flout the laws of this universe, you’re going to bite the dust! Hitler was powerful. Mussolini was powerful. Stalin was powerful. Idi Amin was powerful. Pinochet was powerful. The Apartheid government were powerful. Milosevic was powerful. But, this is God’s world. A lie, injustice, oppression, those will never prevail in the world of this God. That is what we told our people. And we used to say: those ones, they have already lost, they are, they are going to bite the dust one day. We may not be around. An unjust Israeli government, however powerful, will fall in the world of this kind of God. Because we don’t want for that to happen but those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful–what is your treatment of the poor, the hungry? What is your treatment of the vulnerable, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes God’s judgment.

We should put out a clarion call. Let’s make a clarion call to the government of the people of Israel. A clarion call to the Palestinian people and say peace is possible! Peace based on justice is possible! And we are meeting today, and we will continue going on, calling for this, for your own sakes Israeli Jews, for your own sakes Palestinian Arabs. Peace is possible and we will do all we can to assist you in achieving this peace which is within your grasp, because it is God’s dream that you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and brothers, side by side because you belong in God’s family. Peace! Peace! Peace!

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