Archbishop Tutu, a defender of Palestine
Archbishop Desmond Tutu who passed away today, was a veteran of South Africa's struggle against the apartheid regime in his country was a fearless advocate of Palestinian rights.
Tutu who was also a Nobel Peace prize laureate, died on Sunday aged 90 and is remembered in South Africa and around the world.
A contemporary of Nelson Mandela, Tutu was known not just for his role in ending a dark chapter of racial discrimination in his country but also for speaking out against injustices around the world, including in Palestine.
Human rights organization #Africa4Palestine joined “fellow South Africans, Africans and peace-loving people across the world” in mourning the death of Tutu.
An ally of Palestine
“Archbishop Tutu was a close confidant of #Africa4Palestine – someone whom we consulted with, asked for advice and sought support from. Tutu was an ally of all oppressed peoples across the globe, and specifically of the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli apartheid,” said #Africa4Palestine spokesperson, Tisetso Magama.
#Africa4Palestine board member, Professor Farid Esack, a personal friend of Tutu said the Archbishop’s boundless love, his wit and humor and his unflinching and principled commitment to a better world will inspire generations.
“We and the Palestinians have lost an indomitable fighter, a courageous leader and a moral icon, without equal. We are bereft of a prophet who consistently warned against ideas of cheap peace which may come without justice,” said Esack.
“I am immensely grateful for having travelled and worked with the Archbishop in the Struggle against apartheid in South Africa, in solidarity with the Palestinians against Israeli occupation, and in supporting various other causes. His boundless love, his wit and humor and his unflinching and principled commitment to a better world will always inspire us.”
#Africa4Palestine paid homage to the life and struggle of “our comrade and father, Archbishop Tutu” and offered deep condolences to Mama Leah and their children – Trevor Thamsanqa, Naomi Nontombi, Theresa Thandeka, and Reverend Mpho.
“We, in a profound and deeply painful way, say ‘Hamba Kahle’ (go well) our leader, inspirer and energiser of the oppressed,” said Esack.
Earlier on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Tutu passed had away in Cape Town.
Outspoken critic of the apartheid Israeli regime
Archbishop Tutu was an outspoken critic of Israeli regime’s occupation in Palestine and the regime’s inhuman siege on Gaza.
"I wish I could keep quiet about the plight of the Palestinians. I can't! The God who was there and showed that we should become free is the God described in the Scriptures as the same yesterday, today and forever," he told the Washington Post in 2013.
He drew parallels between Israeli occupation and apartheid in South Africa.
"What's being done to the Palestinians at checkpoints, for us, it's the kind of thing we experienced in South Africa."
Gaza war probe
Tutu was to lead a UN fact-finding mission with Professor Christine Chinkin to investigate a November 2006 Israeli regime’s attack on Gaza's Beit Hanoun district that led to the deaths of 19 Palestinians, including seven children.
The apartheid Israel regime refused to grant Archbishop Tutu and Professor Chinkin authorization to enter Gaza, but they were eventually able to travel to the besieged territory via Egypt. They met with survivors and eye-witnesses and produced a report to the Human Rights Council.
In a May 2008 statement about his mission, the archbishop decried the Israeli regime’s siege on Gaza, in place since 2007, as "a gross violation of human rights". He also said the Israeli siege contradicted the Jewish and Christian scriptures.
Those scriptures speak about a God: a God of the Exodus, a God notoriously biased in favour of the weak, of the oppressed, of the suffering, of the orphan, of the widow, of the alien," he said.
"We are in a state of shock, exacerbated by what we subsequently heard from the victims and survivors of the Beit Hanoun massacre. For us, the entire situation is abominable," the joint statement by Desmond Tutu and Professor Chinkin said.
"We believe that ordinary Israeli citizens would not support this blockade, this siege if they knew what it meant for ordinary people like themselves. No, they would not support a policy which limits fuel supplies or automatically cuts off the electricity supply.
"They would not support a policy which jeopardizes the lives of ordinary men and women in hospital, that cuts off water and food from hospitals jeopardizing the lives of babies."
Support for boycott of Israel
Desmond Tutu also declared his support for the international movement of boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) as a peaceful means of opposing Israeli occupation.
"Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of 'normalcy' in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice. They are contributing to the perpetuation of a profoundly unjust status quo," said.
The archbishop voiced his opposition to acts of violence and described Israel's response to Palestinian missiles as "disproportionately brutal".
Palestine lost a patriot
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said: “Father Desmond Tutu was one of the biggest supporters of the Palestinian cause. He had always advocated the rights of the Palestinians to gain their freedom and rejected Israeli occupation and apartheid.”
Former member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, Hanan Ashrawi, has also mourned Tutu.
“Palestine mourns the passing of Desmond Tutu, whose humanity & compassion were equaled only by his courage & principled commitment in our shared struggle for justice & freedom,” tweeted Ashrawi.
She added, “His support for Palestine was an embrace of love & empathy. I’m honored to have had him as a friend.”
Tutu’s death was “a loss for justice, truth and peace in the world. ... He loved Palestine and Palestine loved him,” Mohammed Shtayyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority has said.
The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement-Hamas- has also expressed its condolences following the passing away of Archbishop Tutu,
Hamas said in a statement. “Like South Africa, Palestine has lost a true patriot, a great human rights defender, an opponent of racism, and a staunch defender of the Palestinian cause in many international forums and arenas.”
“His career will remain a beacon for his supporters, his fans, and the friendly people of South Africa until his hopes for an end to the Israeli occupation are fulfilled and our Palestinian people live in freedom,” it emphasized.
The cause of death was cancer, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said, adding that Archbishop Tutu had died in a care facility. He was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997, and was hospitalized several times in the years since, amid recurring fears that the disease had spread.