‘Moral icon’ Tutu aims missiles at Israel

In the Tampa Bay Times (1 May 2012) Desmond Tutu lobbied the United Methodist Church to punish Israel:

The harsh reality endured by millions of Palestinians requires people and organizations of conscience to divest from those companies… profiting from the occupation and subjugation of Palestinians.

That makes four anti-Israel events in eight months where Tutu threw his moral halo into the ring: The Russell Tribunal on Palestine in Cape Town, Israel Apartheid Week, the Global March to Jerusalem, and now the divestment campaign. That each event flopped, and the radiance of the halo dimmed with each flop, deserves more than a passing nod. But it skirts the overriding and larger riddle: why would an octogenarian guru expend his rare fervor fighting the Jews and their country?

Classics like Animal Farm or Moby Dick are easy books, when read on a story level. In that way Tutu’s an open book, which I’ll shortly go through. But when we catch, in those works, a prophetic resonance, they grow difficult, and more important. Spiritual themes come out – battles against evil, warping revenge, subjugation – lending them an aura beyond the components of the story.

The battles of Tutu are like that: symbolic of other things, or a human condition. And even when they flop, and Tutu throws that spoiling halo into the next battle, a prophetic voice may be caught. It’s not the voice of a cleric, or of a liberationist. It seems to call for endurance, without hope of reward; like Hilter and his rolling stock trundling Jews to the gas chambers, even while he knows it’s at the cost of supporting his army and defeating the foe.

The story of Tutu, of all pro-Palestinian clergymen, is quickly told. The story begins long before Israel was born, when missionaries developed close ties with Arab communities. Some even ‘went native,’ joining forces with Arabs to embrace the anti-Zionist narrative.


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