The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has distanced itself from an op-ed piece published in the South African Jewish Report that likens Archbishop Desmond Tutu to tyrants Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
The piece titled “Arch no better than Hitler or Stalin” was written by Likud SA chairperson, Leon Reich, and accuses Tutu of inciting populace against the Jews. Reich claims: “[Tutu] would kill the Jews before protecting Christians”, and accuses Tutu – together with Hamas – of wanting to destroy the Israeli state and the seven million Jews living in Israel.
The South African Jewish Report online and social media editor Ant Katz dismissed the piece as free speech. He told the Mail & Guardian: “We try not to censor people’s views. The Jewish community [in South Africa] is quite angry about the situation in South Africa with only one side being heard.” He added: “There isn’t too much for me to say other than we offer a broad platform from the most left-wing to the most right-wing. “It’s a platform for Jewish people to communicate. We obviously have a wide range of different views.”
‘Misuse’ of Holocaust analogy
However, SAJBD condemned the op-ed. Chairperson Mary Kluk said it was “particularly upsetting” to see the misuse of the Holocaust/Nazi analogy coming from the Jewish community. “The offensiveness of the piece was compounded by an accompanying image of Tutu with a Hitler-style moustache and the Nazi officers’ cap.
“Does anyone really believe that Tutu is at bottom not better than Hitler or Stalin – two of the worst mass murders in history? It is a misuse of our history,” she said. Katz said Reich wrote the op-ed piece because “[Reich] was very angry. He felt we are supporting a cause that could ultimately destroy the [state of Israel]”.
- Read Chairperson Mary Kluk’s full response to the Jewish Report here
‘Not opposed to Jews’
The piece was written in response to a demonstration led by Tutu in August in Cape Town aimed to isolate Israel to force its leaders to turn away from policies that humiliate and undermine Palestinians. During the march, Tutu asked the crowd to chant: “We are opposed to the injustice of the illegal occupation of Palestine. We are opposed to the indiscriminate killings of Gaza. We are opposed to the indignity meted out to Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks. We are opposed to violence perpetrated by all parties.”
“But we are not opposed to Jews,” said Tutu at the protest. Tutu’s office said they will not comment on the matter because “every time he [Tutu] leads a protest of this matter, these sort of articles come up.”
The piece has been removed from the South African Jewish Report website.
The publication apologised to Tutu late on Friday for the piece.
“The unfortunate and mistaken placement on the website of the South African Jewish Report of an op-ed piece by Leon Reich that compares Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to Hitler and Stalin has caused serious upset among its readers and others,” the publication said on its website.
“It is not the policy of the paper to carry material which makes these kind of statements and the paper apologises unconditionally to the archbishop.”