Labour would have expelled Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Image via Skwawkbox

JVL Introduction

After Keir Starmer tweeted his admiration for Archbishop Tutu (“a tower of a man, and a leader of moral activism“), Skwawkbox rushed to condemn his jumping on the bandwagon in an article entitled Starmer shredded for Tutu hypocrisy: ‘You’d have expelled him from Labour’.

All well deserved as Starmer fails to notice Tutu’s consistent use of the word apartheid to describe the situation in Israel-Palestine, and his equally consistent support for BDS.

Were Tutu in the Labour Party he would no doubt long ago have received any permutation of a Notice of Investigation, a Suspension, a Reminder of Conduct, or an outright Expulsion “for undermining the Party’s ability to fight racism”.

As a reminder of the real Desmond Tutu, not the plastic saint Starmer chooses to bow down to, here is Tutu in the Guardian in 2002 (when that paper still attempted to host an honest debate on the injustices of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians).

This article was originally published by the Guardian on Sun 29 Dec 2002. Read the original here.

Apartheid in the Holy Land

In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people. They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders.

What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.

On one of my visits to the Holy Land I drove to a church with the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. I could hear tears in his voice as he pointed to Jewish settlements. I thought of the desire of Israelis for security. But what of the Palestinians who have lost their land and homes?

I have experienced Palestinians pointing to what were their homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis. I was walking with Canon Naim Ateek (the head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Centre) in Jerusalem. He pointed and said: “Our home was over there. We were driven out of our home; it is now occupied by Israeli Jews.”

My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?

Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice.We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured.

The military action of recent days, I predict with certainty, will not provide the security and peace Israelis want; it will only intensify the hatred.

Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians; or – I hope – to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.

We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If our madness could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land?

My brother Naim Ateek has said what we used to say: “I am not pro- this people or that. I am pro-justice, pro-freedom. I am anti- injustice, anti-oppression.”

But you know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the US], and to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed anti-semitic, as if the Palestinians were not semitic. I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group. And how did it come about that Israel was collaborating with the apartheid government on security measures?

People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God’s world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.

Injustice and oppression will never prevail. 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, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes judgment.

We should put out a clarion call to the government of the people of Israel, to the Palestinian people and say: peace is possible, peace based on justice is possible. We will do all we can to assist you to achieve this peace, because it is God’s dream, and you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and brothers.


Desmond Tutu is the former Archbishop of Cape Town and chairman of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission. This address was given at a conference on Ending the Occupation held in Boston, Massachusetts, earlier this month. A longer version appears in the current edition of Church Times.


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Comments (9)

  • Unfortunately 20 years is a long time in politics. I have sent them a ritual letter of protest at their deletion of comments pointing out the failure to mention Tutu’s support of Palestine in their obituary but I hold out no hopes that it will be printed.
    https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2021/12/the-dishonesty-of-guardian-knows-no.html

  • Joseph Hannigan says:

    The LP dog is wagging the Starmer tail I suspect. He is not a stupid man but may be misled …I hope so.

  • Kuhnberg says:

    The hypocrisy of the Guardian, like that of the Labour Party under Starmer, knows no bounds. It used to publish fair-minded criticism of Israel. It has previously published Assange and Snowden. Now it deletes any reference to Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights below the line, and any positive reference to the pre-eminent journalistic whistleblowers of our time. Who is calling the tune?

  • John Bowley says:

    ‘Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of normalcy in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice. They are contributing to a profoundly unjust status-quo.’

    ‘The Israeli government is placed on a pedestal and to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed anti-semitic, as if the Palestinians were not semitic.’

    Starmer does not get it. Starmer upholds many profound injustices.

  • George Peel says:

    The last book, written by The Observer journalist, Nick Cohen, I bought, and read, was – irony of ironies – ‘You Can’t Read This Book.’ – published in 2012

    A tome – meant to be funny – on the UK’s Libel laws and Censorship, with a dedication to the contrarian, Christopher Hitchens, who had died, the previous December.

    “In – ‘You Can’t Read This Book’ – one of the wittiest and most excoriating journalists at work today passionately and persuasively describes how we, in the liberated west, find ourselves in a situation in which you can write a novel, criticise an alternative therapy, or ‘offend’ a religion by drawing a cartoon and risk ending up financially ruined or even dead.”

    As we all know, Nick has been on a journey, in the intervening ten years. He may view his journey as beneficial, in some way.

    This one time reader and ‘fanboy’ does not. Not in any way shape or form, Nick.

    Where did it all go wrong?

    Have a word with your editorial staff – and your Moderators. They’re bringing shame to the words of C P Snow, making them a nonsense.

  • Ndaizivei Scholastica Esnathy Paul says:

    I am a Labour Party woman of colour member. I was born in an African Reservation created under British colonial rule and the war of liberation in my country of birth forced me to come here. I have been a supporter and a member of the Labour Party because I felt that the party was willing to seriously address issues raised in this article. These in my view, are painful and extremely uncomfortable issues to discuss in any meeting. I therefore cannot see how the party can ask that anti-racist issues be discussed in a comfortable manner. This in my opinion limits all anti racist and discriminatory discussions in the party because members will be afraid of disciplinary measures being taken against them.

  • John Noble says:

    “They are cheering Tutu, let me jump on the bandwagon and they will cheer me.” Starmer.

  • Doug says:

    Criticism of Israel can never be anti semitic because Jews are always with the oppressed never the oppressor
    The Jewish State does not exist it is a figment of imagination

  • Graeme Atkinson says:

    John, I think you meant “jeer”.

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