Wow. Here I was expecting to be reading nasty post-mortems on the despicable Harry Reid before his corpse was cold, and instead a wave of negative punditry appeared about, of all people, revered Desmond Tutu, whose body is only slightly cooler. The controversy? Nobody doubts that he played a major role in ridding South Africa of apartheid. In 1984, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (whatever that’s worth). However, as the Times of Israel sees it, “underneath the godlike humble appearance was an insidious anti-Semite and anti-Israel vein that throbbed and surfaced in writings, public speaking, and conversation.”
In the U.S., the opposition to honoring Tutu was joined by lawyer and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who told Fox News that by the standards the U.S. was now holding its metallic and rock honorees to, Tutu is unworthy. He said on the air,
The world is mourning Bishop Tutu, who just died the other day. Can I remind the world that although he did some good things, a lot of good things on apartheid, the man was a rampant anti-Semite and bigot?…When we’re tearing down statues of Jefferson and Lincoln and Washington, let’s not build statues to a deeply, deeply flawed man like Bishop Tutu. Let’s make sure that history remembers both the goods he did and the awful, awful bads that he did as well….He didn’t talk about the Israel lobby, he talked about the Jewish lobby. He minimized the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. He said that getting killed in gas chambers was an easy death compared to apartheid. He said that Jews claimed a monopoly on the Holocaust. He demanded that Jews forgive the Nazis for killing them…[Tutu] encouraged others to have similar views and because he was so influential, he became the most influential anti-Semite of our time…The bottom line is that at a time when people are reckoning with the careers, of people with mixed legacies, whether it be Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and others, we have to include in a reckoning of Tutu his evil, bigotry against Jews, which has existed for many, many, many years.
I don’t care to dispute the fairness or accuracy of the case that Tutu was an anti-Semite. His worshipers are already doing that; I note that Wikipedia, which, like every other information source today, just can’t play it straight, shaded its article about Tutu this week to note his support for the Palestinians while adding that he professed a “simultaneous belief in Israel’s right to exist.” (The two positions are impossible to hold “simultaneously.”) It doesn’t matter; for the purposes of the ethical analysis, I will accept that Tutu was as much of an anti-Semite as Dershowitz says. Continue reading