Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Tutu is wrong on Israel boycott
THE Jewish state is far removed in every way from Soweto.
Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu played an outstanding role in opposing apartheid in South Africa and helping reconcile the nation after majority rule.
But such experience in his own country does not qualify him to meddle in other complex conflicts. In praising the Greens-controlled Marrickville Council in Sydney's inner west for its boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, the Nobel laureate has lent unwarranted credibility to an absurd, unjust policy. His interference promotes the falsehood that life in Israel is akin to South Africa under apartheid. In reality, the 20 per cent of non-Jewish Israeli citizens, including 1.1 million Muslims, enjoy the same voting, property and employment rights as the Jewish majority, with whom they live side by side. Such equality was unheard of for the black majority under apartheid in South Africa and few Muslim women enjoy the same freedoms elsewhere in the Middle East.
The Australian opposes construction of settlements on the West Bank that take further Palestinian land. But until the Palestinians, including the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hamas that controls Gaza, recognise Israel's right to exist and stop seeking its destruction, it is unreasonable to expect concessions. In recent decades, serious attempts by Israel to find a peaceful two-state solution have been rebuffed, often with hostility. In 2000, then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat, unwilling to be seen to give up the fight with Israel, foolishly rejected an offer by Ehud Barak to set up an independent state in Gaza and 95 per cent of the West Bank, and territory from Israel proper to compensate for the remaining 5 per cent. An even more generous offer, including much of East Jerusalem, was made by Ehud Olmert in 2008 and rejected by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Recently, Mr Abbas claimed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's promise of "a far-reaching compromise" if the Palestinians recognised Israel's right to exist was a "declaration of war".
The Marrickville campaign, which was opposed by all political leaders including senator Bob Brown and which would have cost ratepayers dearly, was thankfully dumped. On the ABC's Q&Aon Monday, Greens senator-elect Lee Rhiannon made a fool of herself talking up the boycotts and claiming Palestinians were subject to apartheid. Archbishop Tutu should be wise to such nonsense.