TUTU TO THE RUSSELL TRIBUNAL ON PALESTINE ON 5 NOVEMBER 2011 IN
I feel very honoured to
have been invited to address such an eminent gathering in my home town. Thank you. Please allow me to who’s-who here.
If you will indulge me
I’d like to single out just one of your extraordinary number. Not just because
he is my elder – a rare find these days – but because of his contribution to humanity. What a privilege to welcome Ambassador Stephane Hessel to Cape Town, concentration camp survivor, soldier of
the French resistance, member of the team that drafted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
1 The Holy Land: My sadness and the two-state solution
I am very sad.
This piece if land we
are here to talk about is not just some arbitrary tract of real estate. For quite a
number of people – Jews, Muslims and Christians – it is the promised land, the land God in some way has been personally
involved with more significantly, as it were, than in other parts of the world.
It is also linked with
the Holocaust, and what the west did and did not do at the time of that particular abominable occurrence in human history.
And, for the past 60 years
this land has been a strategically important location for the Western world.
Very few people therefore
approach the Holy Land indifferently. And, as a result,
what has been happening there is placed under a magnifying glass.
Unfortunately, for many
of us in South Africa, what we see in the Holy Land
has a sense of replay of things we experienced in our part of the world. Thus you get
people speaking about the wall that has been built as the “apartheid wall” and people invoke the struggle against
apartheid when they speak about the importance of boycotting Israel,
and when they witness the security checkpoints.
My deepest sense of sadness
is over what the Israeli Jews are doing to themselves. I have watched these young soldiers
and how they treat the Palestinians and I see a replay of what used to happen in South Africa when a slip of a white boy in uniform would stop us and ask for our
pass. We know, as South Africans, that such actions cause deep and long-term pain and
anxiety to victims as well as those who do the victimizing.
Israel has the right to an independent
sovereign existence with borders that are recognized and guaranteed by the international community. So equally must the Palestinians have the right to a contiguous state that is viable, not a Bantustan kind of
thing, but one that can exist peacefully, side by side with Israel.
2 God favours the underdog
What I am here to say
today is coming from my heart and my heart is heavy because there is a great deal of suffering. A people one loves very deeply from a faith perspective, whose scriptures have influenced who and what one has
become, that they could whether directly or indirectly be the cause of so much pain and anguish to others.
There is a great deal
of preventable human suffering caused by people who themselves have suffered so deeply.
They have forgotten what
their prophets have said about our God who is notoriously biased in favour of the one who is suffering, however that suffering
may come about.
Do you remember the story
of Naboth’s little vineyard that was so desired by the King of Israel, Ahab? This
modest plot was all Naboth had, but Ahab’s wife, Jezebel plotted to king Naboth by mock trial so that her husband could
grab it. Apparently the King wanted to plant herbs – not houses, as they do on
the West Bank. As punishment for this action, the
prophet Elijah visited Ahab, pronouncing doom on him.
When God sent the prophet
Nathan to hold King David to account over his killing of Batsheeba’s husband, Nathan related a parable about a rich
man with many sheep and a poor man with just one little lamb. When a traveler came
by and asked the rich man to feed him, the rich man instead took the poor man’s lamb and prepared a meal. King David responded that the rich man deserved to die. But you are that
man, Nathan said.
The prophet Isaiah said, “If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking
of wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and
satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones. You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose
waters do not fail. Those from among you shall build the old waste places. You shall raise up the foundations of many Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”
Consider God’s choice
of a rabble of slaves – aliens – to be the chosen people when He could have chosen a powerful Pharaoh.
We invoked this bias of
God’s when we struggled against apartheid. We said that the Jews were vindicated
after the Holocaust through the triumph of goodness in the establishment of Israel. Always, in the end, the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized will be vindicated because
God is on their side. Always. We are seeing
this principle working now in the so-called Arab Spring.
In the Holy
Land it is the Palestinians who are suffering t
A woman, seriously injured
in a hand -grenade attack by members of one of the liberation movements, appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A number of her friends died in the attack and she had to undergo open-heart surgery. For a long period her children had to bathe, clothe and feed her and until today the shrapnel
she carries in her body sets off every alarm in sight a airport checkpoints.
Did I mention the woman
happens to be white? So, she comes to the commission and what does she say? She says of the experience, “It has enriched my life.” She
says “I’d like to meet the perpetrator, I’d like to meet him in a spirit of forgiveness. I would like to forgive him.” Which is extraordinary. And then she goes on to say, “I hope he forgives me.”
If our experience in South Africa contains lessons for other regions experiencing
seemingly intractable conflicts, lesson number one must be our collective willingness to reconcile – our willingness
to say sorry, to accept the apology, to forgive.
Now imagine if all the
people of Libya could follow our example, and the people of Egypt and Zimbabwe. How different would the world be today if Al Qaeda aplogised for 9/11 and America accepted the apology?
Or if instead of responding militarily, America
had responded to 9/11 with introspection and humility?
Forgiveness is much more
than attributing blame or winning arguments.
This is not just spiritual
gobbledygook: it is realpolitik. Think of what
happens when you quarrel with your spouse. It doesn’t matter what language you
speak, or your culture. The most difficult words you have to say are “I’m
sorry. Forgive me.” Otherwise there is
no future in the relationship.
There can be no future
without forgiveness, whether in your domestic relationships or in the Holy Land.
My charge to the Russell
Tribunal is thus: Please ensure that your deliberations contribute to peace and reconciliation
in Israel and Palestine. Please be careful to leave the door open for forgiveness, for a better future for Israelis
and Palestinians. Please remember you are dealing with your brothers and sisters here. For no matter where you come from or what you wear on your head – even if you wear
no headdress at all – we are members of one family, the human family, God’s family.