South Africa’s moral leader frequently clashed with Israel and the American Jewish establishment.
By Alex Kane | Jewish Currents | Dec 29, 2021
…Tutu’s repeated denunciations of Israel’s rule over Palestinians and his comparisons between the South African and Israeli versions of apartheid earned him the ire of Jewish leaders in both countries, as well as the United States.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who crusaded against apartheid and helped lead South Africa into a new democratic era, died at the age of 90. Leaders around the world, from the Dalai Lama to the mayor of New York, issued tributes to Tutu after news of his death broke.
By contrast, Israeli officials and the American Jewish establishment generally stayed silent. But they weren’t so quiet over the past two decades, as Tutu’s repeated denunciations of Israel’s rule over Palestinians and his comparisons between the South African and Israeli versions of apartheid earned him the ire of Jewish leaders in both countries, as well as the United States. Tutu’s pronouncements sparked a particularly intense reaction; criticism hurts more when it comes from someone widely lionized as a moral beacon.
Israel was one of South Africa’s closest allies during apartheid, even offering to sell the apartheid regime nuclear warheads in 1975. As early as the 1980s, the Anti-Defamation League kept a watchful eye on the US anti-apartheid movement as activists criticized Israel’s close relationship with Pretoria. In 1960, the ADL hired a private spy named Roy Bullock to collect information on Arab American activists and the broader left, which he did for the next 30 years. As Sasha Polakow-Suransky notes in his book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship With Apartheid South Africa, the ADL dispatched Bullock “to attend the meetings of U.S.-based anti-apartheid groups, collect their publications, and take down the license plate numbers of leaders’ cars—including visitors such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani.”