Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Full Letter to Marrickville Council

The full text of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s letter sent to Mayor Fiona Byrne and the Marrickville Council is reproduced here from the Green Left Weekly:

Dear Mayor Fiona Byrne,

We in South Africa, who both suffered Apartheid and defeated it, have the moral right and responsibility to name and shame institutionalized separation, exclusion, and domination by one ethnic group over others. In my own eyes I have seen how the Palestinians are oppressed, dispossessed and exiled.

We call on all our Jewish and Israeli sisters and brothers to oppose the occupation and work for equality, justice and peace, between the River and the Sea, in the same way that so many South African Whites took risks to oppose the crime of Apartheid.

I want to pay my respects to you and your fellow Councilors in Marrickville for taking a stand to isolate the Israeli state, and before that for offering practical solidarity to our sisters and brothers under occupation in the Holy City of Bethlehem.

International Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Apartheid regime, combined with the mass struggle inside South Africa, led to our victory. I recall that after the very strong actions to prevent Apartheid sportsman competing with Australians, that Councils, starting with Wollongong, declared their cities “Apartheid free” areas, and this was a great contribution.

Sometimes taking a public stand for what is ethical and right brings costs, but social justice on a local or global scale requires faith and courage.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (Cape Town — South Africa)

In the customary imperial fashion which it adopts to deal with criticism of apartheid Israel, The Australian editorial today attempts to minimise Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s letter with lies, distortions and smears.

The most serious lie is its disgraceful claim that the Palestinian minority in Israel has equal rights with Israeli Jews – in fact more than 30 laws discriminate against non-jewish people. A new law was passed just three weeks ago to legalise migrant slavery. Non-jews do not have nationality in Israel, merely citizenship – there is only Jewish nationality, not Israeli nationality.

A group of Jews and Arabs are fighting in the Israeli courts to be recognized as “Israelis,” a nationality currently denied them, in a case that officials fear may threaten the country’s self-declared status as a Jewish state.

Israel refused to recognize an Israeli nationality at the country’s establishment in 1948, making an unusual distinction between “citizenship” and “nationality.” Although all Israelis qualify as “citizens of Israel,” the state is defined as belonging to the “Jewish nation,” meaning not only the 5.6 million Israeli Jews but also more than seven million Jews in the diaspora.

Critics say the special status of Jewish nationality has been a way to undermine the citizenship rights of non-Jews in Israel, especially the fifth of the population who are Arab. Some 30 laws in Israel specifically privilege Jews, including in the areas of immigration rights, naturalization, access to land and employment.

Arab leaders have also long complained that indications of “Arab” nationality on ID cards make it easy for police and government officials to target Arab citizens for harsher treatment.

The interior ministry has adopted more than 130 possible nationalities for Israeli citizens, most of them defined in religious or ethnic terms, with “Jewish” and “Arab” being the main categories.

The group’s legal case is being heard by the high court after a district judge rejected their petition two years ago, backing the state’s position that there is no Israeli nation.

The head of the campaign for Israeli nationality, Uzi Ornan, a retired linguistics professor, said: “It is absurd that Israel, which recognizes dozens of different nationalities, refuses to recognize the one nationality it is supposed to represent.”

The government opposes the case, claiming that the campaign’s real goal is to “undermine the state’s infrastructure” — a presumed reference to laws and official institutions that ensure Jewish citizens enjoy a privileged status in Israel.

The Australian ignores the fact that Palestinians in the territories militarily occupied by Israel – the bantustans of the West Bank and Gaza – have no rights at all.

Regardless of the clear evidence revealed in the Palestine Papers that Palestinians have offered more than generous concessions to Israel in order to achieve peace, The Australian deceitfuly puts the onus on Palestinians for avoiding ‘peace’, posturing that the ‘right’ for Israel to insist on being recognised as the ‘Jewish’ (aka ethnosupremacist and apartheid) State is paramount. Further, it shamelessly misrepresents the Barak and Olmert offers.

Yet recognising Israel as a ‘jewish’ state would entrench and legitimise the existing undemocratic discrimination suffered by non-Jews. Equal rights are not guaranteed in Israeli law. It should be understood however, that even Hamas agreed in principle to recognise Israel within 1967 borders in 2006.

Hamas, though, is not leading current negotiations, this is the role of the PLO.

Israel’s brutal military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is illegal under international law. Israel disregards more than two score UN Security Council resolutions against it.

The proper onus is on Israel to obey international law, end its illegal occupation and heinous system of apartheid and colonialism which has been thoroughly researched and identified, install equal rights guaranteed by law for all its inhabitants and recognise Palestinians’ right to return to their lands.

Since governments have failed to act to enforce international law and protect the guaranteed rights of Palestinian people, boycott, divestment and sanctions are a legitimate, non-violent means of achieving justice. Australians of conscience must stand in solidarity with oppressed Palestinians as they did with black South Africans to resist apartheid.

Related Links

The rich tapestry of Israeli apartheid
Israeli Apartheid is Worse Than Apartheid Practised by White South Africa
Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) study : Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
Israel/Palestine and the Apartheid Analogy: Critics, Apologists and Strategic lessons (Part 1) by Ran Greenstein
Israel/Palestine and the Apartheid Analogy: Critics, Apologists and Strategic Lessons (Part 2) by Ran Greenstein
BDS Movement
Our South Africa Moment Has Arrived : Omar Barghouti [03/18/2009]
Israel knows apartheid has no future by Mustafa Barghouti
“Boycotts work”: An interview with Omar Barghouti
Why Is BDS a Moral Duty Today? A Response to Bernard-Henri Levy
Reap what you have sown by Nawal El-Saadawi

Women’s emancipation in the Arab region is closely linked to the regimes under which we live, regimes which are supported by the US in most cases, and the struggle between Israel and Palestine has an important impact on the political situation. Besides, how can we speak of liberation for Palestinian women without speaking of their right to have a land on which to live? How can we speak about Arab women’s rights in Palestine and Israel without opposing the racial discrimination exercised against them by the Israeli regime?

Israel/Palestine: Apartheid of a special type? by Ran Greenstein
Israel 2007: worse than apartheid by Ronnie Kasrils, SA Minister of Intelligence
Israel should be given the South African treatment : Antony Loewenstein and Moammar Mashni
Adalah, ‘The Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel’ (pdf) – important document
Full report of the South African Human Sciences Research Council
South African scholar Na’eem Jeenah trapped at Istanbul airport after Israeli interrogation, confiscation of passport
I mean, what would Desmond Tutu know about apartheid anyway?
BDS scares La Devine who smears Archbishop Desmond Tutu with recycled Dershowitz misquotesDouchowitless piece is here.

Palestine / Israel Links

Israeli fascism: MK Levin: Stop Zouabi from Leaving Israel
Saeb Erekat denies Washington Post claim Palestinians dropped settlement freeze demand
Obama: Palestinians should avoid seeking UN recognition for statehood
Stop Scabbing for Apartheid — Withdraw From Israel Bonds “Celebration”
Videos in Support of the Canadian Boat to Gaza

Australia Links

Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in action
Bio-prospectors probe Australian Aboriginal lore

Other Links

The capitalist roots of sexualised society
After 40 Years, the Complete Pentagon Papers
Lupe Fiasco: Obama ‘The Biggest Terrorist’