Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a letter to the United Church of Canada urges the denomination to take peaceful, economic action against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. He calls for the United Church at its General Council meeting in August to, “join with other denominations around the globe who have decided to boycott and divest from companies that benefit from the occupation.”
Desmond Tutu first rose to prominence in the struggle against apartheid. He was one of the initial and strongest advocates for boycotts, divestment and sanctions in South Africa. In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Tutu has been a frequent visitor to the Holy Land. In the letter he draws strong parallels between apartheid in South Africa and the treatment of Palestinians. “I saw the marks of apartheid in the policies of the Israeli government continued to the present day. The Palestinians are forced to live in segregated areas, often relocated to less desirable land so Jewish settlers can live in fine red ceramic-roofed houses with paved roads while most Palestinians live in squalor in villages and refugee camps. Water is diverted to settlers so that they can have nice green lawns, irrigated fields and community swimming pools while Palestinians endure shortages and dusty roads. I have looked at this and seen the ugly face of apartheid and the racism within it.”
Tutu’s letter to the United Church is timely as it arrives before the triennial meeting of the denomination in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland and Labrador scheduled for Aug. 8-15. At its last meeting, the United Church voted in favour of boycotting goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements. Since then, SodaStream one of three targeted companies, have moved their facilities out of the occupied area. Ahava cosmetics, another targeted company, is reported to be ready to leave Palestinian territory also.
Tutu’s letter also calls attention to Canada’s, “complicity in Palestinian suffering under occupation.”
Rev. Steve Berube, co-chair of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI), sees this letter as being important. “Archbishop Tutu, is one of the few people who can speak with authority when comparing his life in South Africa to what he has actually seen in Palestine.”
Berube spoke of his own experience in the West Bank, “Like virtually every other human rights observer in Palestine, I witnessed Israeli violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws as well as the Geneva Conventions on a daily basis. With last year’s war in Gaza more people are beginning to wake up to the horrors of the occupation. The only way the illegal occupation will end is through civil society putting economic pressure on Israel and forcing them to negotiate seriously.”
For more information, please contact: Rev. Steve Berube / Telephone: (506) 381-7869