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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has responded to a Capetonian who stated publicly that she will turn her back on her Jewish roots because of the policies of the Israeli government.
In a letter to the Cape Times earlier this week, journalist Moira Levy
said because of Israel’s recent “violent racial repression”, she had cut ties with her past, legacy and family roots “and, painful as it is, turn my back on being a Jew”.
Levy questioned Israel’s actions against African refugees who were being “rounded up and held in detention camps in the Negev desert, although they posed no threat to Israel”.
“Israel has openly declared that the threat they allegedly pose is to the racial purity of the Jewish state.
“As a Jew and a white South African I have learned to recognise the danger of that kind of thinking,” Levy wrote.
“I have to ask myself if I can, in any conscience, continue to be associated with people who have learnt from history only the ability to repeat the same horrific mistakes.”
In response, Tutu wrote that he had been moved by the “anguish so courageously expressed by Moira Levy… However I would like to appeal to Moira: Please do not blame your faith for the policies of the people who have political power in the State of Israel.
“When members of our family behaved wrongly, we did not turn our backs on them, but tried to convince them to steer a fairer course,” Tutu wrote. It was no coincidence that some of the most outspoken critics of apartheid, and of Israel, were Jewish.
“These compatriots have a unique understanding of discrimination,” he said.
Li Boiskin, chair of the Jewish Board of Deputies, declined to comment on the content and substance of Levy’s letter except to express its principled disagreement that someone would choose to alienate themselves from a 3 000-year-old tradition because of their dissatisfaction with a specific issue.
“The Board supports the fundamental constitutional right of any person to express him or herself,” Boiskin said.