Peace centre defends Tutu's criticism of Israel

The Desmond Tutu Peace Centre on Tuesday defended the archbishop’s recent criticism of Israel, saying it was part of his quest for world peace and justice.

“His stand is characteristic of a lifelong activist’s quest for peace and justice in the world,” the centre’s chairperson, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza said in a statement on Tuesday.

His recent call for a cultural boycott of Israel was a peaceful way to focus the world’s attention on Palestine’s plight.

A recent online petition—drawn by three Cape Town locals with nearly 350 supporters—accuses the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of being a bigot, dishonest and a “defamer of Israel and the Jewish people”.

Last year he urged the Cape Town Opera to cancel a trip to Israel as Palestinians would not have equal access to the performance, drawing parallels with the international boycott during apartheid South Africa.

“That is what sparked the petition,” its author David Hersch told Agence France-Presse.

“That’s not the main issue, it just was the last straw,” he said.

The petitioners further demanded that Tutu resign or be sacked as patron of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre.

Ntsebeza said Tutu had an understanding for the anxieties of his detractors, but “his conviction remains firm and so is the strength of his support for the South African Holocaust Centre as patron”.

“He has received support from many members of the Jewish faith who have signed petitions, written letters and issued statements of support.”—Sapa

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