By far the best-known figure and also the “spiritual leader” of the forthcoming Global March on Jerusalem to protest the city’s “Judaization” is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He is the perfect representative of this collection of Israel-haters (Iranian agents, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas “activists,” and their leftist acolytes) because for him anti-Semitism is not merely a religious prejudice or an untidy passion; it is a way of life.
This is an open secret, visible to everybody yet constantly ignored by Tutu’s admirers, including President Obama, who in 2009 awarded him the Medal of Freedom. In October 2010, on the occasion of the Anglican clergyman’s 79th birthday, Obama lauded him as “a moral titan — a voice of principle, an unrelenting champion of justice, and a dedicated peacemaker.” Yet in that very year Tutu had demonstrated his dedication to peace, justice, and principle in the Middle East by speaking up for Hamas and supporting the “Freedom Flotilla” of Islamist jihadists and “internationalist” do-gooders (people who confuse doing good with feeling good about what they are doing) who in the spring tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Tutu has also repeatedly endorsed the activities of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) movement. This reincarnation of the Nazis’ “Kauf nicht beim Juden” campaign of the 1930s constantly invokes Tutu’s “authoritative” condemnation of Israel (where Arabs and Jews use the same buses, beaches, clinics, cafes, and soccer fields, and attend the same universities) as an “apartheid state.” It goes without saying that Tutu is neither impressed by nor interested in the fact that Israel is the only country in the world to have sought out and brought to its shores, all on its own initiative, tens of thousands of black Africans for citizenship, not enslavement.
His fulminations against Jews have a long history, so well-documented that one wonders how President Obama (or our perennially “surprised” Jewish leaders) can possibly be ignorant of it.
On the day after Christmas, 1989, Tutu, standing before the memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to the millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis, prayed for the murderers and scolded the descendants of their victims. “We pray for those who made it happen, help us to forgive them and help us so that we in our turn will not make others suffer.” This, he said, was his “message” to the Israeli children and grandchildren of the dead.
Moral obtuseness, mean spite, and monstrous arrogance do not make for sound ethics and theology. Neither Tutu nor the Israelis he lectured can “forgive” the Nazi murderers. Representatives of an injured group are not licensed (even by the most sanctimonious of preachers) to forgive on behalf of the whole group; in fact, forgiveness issues from God alone. The forgiveness Tutu offers the Nazis is truly pitiless because, as Cynthia Ozick once observed, it forgets the victims, blurs over suffering, and obliterates the past.
Tutu’s insistence on applying a double standard to Jews may explain an otherwise mysterious feature of his anti-Israel rhetoric. On one occasion, he expressed dismay “that Israel, with the kind of history … her people have experienced, should make refugees [actually she didn’t] of others.” In other words, Jews, according to Tutu, have a duty to behave particularly well because Jews have suffered so much persecution. The mad corollary of this proposition is that the descendants of those who have not been persecuted do not have a special duty to behave well, and the descendants of the persecutors can be excused altogether for behavior it would be hard to excuse in other people.
Rabbinical tradition, however, provides a simple explanation of Tutu’s eagerness to “forgive” the Nazis while excoriating the descendants of their victims: “Whoever is merciful to the cruel,” the rabbis warn, “will end by being indifferent to the innocent.”