Editorial: Tutu in Gaza

Editorial: Tutu in Gaza
31 May 2008
When someone of the international moral standing of South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu speaks his mind on an issue — and speaks it forcibly, as he has just done on Gaza — the world has to sit up and listen. Arguably more so than any other living person, apart possibly from his compatriot, friend and fellow struggler against apartheid Nelson Mandela, the former archbishop of Cape Town has come to personify and voice the authority of morality in international politics. From his pioneering work to ensure reconciliation between black and white in South Africa during and after the end of apartheid to his outspoken opposition to human rights abuses in Africa and elsewhere, he is a pillar in the struggle for justice and peace in the world.

His assessment of the situation in Gaza where he has been on a two-day fact-finding mission for the UN into the killing of 19 Palestinians by the Israelis in November 2006 is not merely stark and uncompromising; it is damning. It is not so much his ringing denunciation of the Israeli blockade and comparison of the Israelis with the Burmese junta that draws attention. It was to be expected; almost everyone else who has been to Gaza says much the same. What impresses is his accusation against the international community for its silence and complicity in the blockade and the “guilty” verdict he pronounces.

Who in this part of the world can disagree with a word the archbishop says? The Israelis and their supporters will certainly try to present him as a friend of terrorists and morally inconsistent. Indeed, they already have done so. He is, however, just as critical of Hamas. In his meeting with Gaza’s “prime minister” Ismail Haniyeh, he did not mince his words that Hamas’ firing of rockets into Israel is also a violation of human rights. Hamas cannot ignore that.

His condemnation should certainly shame the international community into action. Whether it will depends on the moral fiber of politicians not just in the West. Do they have the guts to respond? Probably not. The betting has to be that they will pretend not to have heard his words.

That is where the peace process becomes so obviously a sham. There can be no peace without Gaza. It cannot be left on the back burner, as the Israelis, the Americans, Fatah and others imagine. The Palestinians in the West Bank will not accept a peace process that leaves Gaza in limbo and their fellow countrymen and women there in misery.

Tutu’s bitter condemnation of the international community for ignoring Gaza recognizes that fact, uncomfortably though it may be for those who imagine they can cobble together a settlement in the next few months before President Bush leaves office. They imagine in vain, for they, unlike the good archbishop, are truly eyeless in Gaza, blind to the obvious fact that it cannot be left aside. The equation is simple: No Gaza, no settlement.

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