The South African Zionist Federation has distanced itself from a petition to remove Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as patron of the Holocaust centres in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
“The petition was launched by certain individuals without prior consultation or approval of the South African Zionist Federation and represents their personal views alone,” said Avrom Krengel, chairperson of the federation, in a statement on Thursday.
He was referring to a petition posted on petitionsite.com by Capetonians David Hersch, vice-chairperson of the federation, Joselle Reuben and Howard Joffe calling for his removal as patron of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre.
The furore began after Hersch started a petition in protest over Tutu’s call last year that the Cape Town Opera Company withdraw from performances planned in Israel because Palestinians would not have equal access to the shows.
It branded the Nobel Peace Prize laureate “bigoted” and accused him of trying to “hijack” the language of apartheid.
The petition reads in part: “We the undersigned, with deep regret, do respectfully demand the resignation or termination of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as a Patron of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre.”
‘Disagreements should be debated openly’
They claim Tutu has made anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements for over two decades.
“Archbishop Emeritus Tutu’s most recent endeavours at coercing world academic institutions to cut ties with those in Israel as well as his most recent attempt to stop the Cape Town Opera Company from performing in Israel are only the most recent examples of Archbishop Tutu’s anti-Israel behaviour. Archbishop Tutu’s support for the sanctions campaign against Israel is morally repugnant because it is based on horrific and grotesquely false accusations against the Jewish people.”
With 398 signatories to that petition by 3pm on Thursday, a counter-petition launched by members of Open Shuhada Street — an activist organisation campaigning for rights in Israel and the Palestinian territories — in support of Tutu, had garnered online support from 2 501 signatories.
The counter-petition stated: “Disagreements should be debated openly, but these personal attacks are totally unacceptable.”
The federation said the centre in Cape Town had been an “outstanding success” in its 10 years of existence. – Sapa