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Why we have removed the op-ed comparing Tutu to Hitler

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HOWARD FELDMAN
I refer to an op-ed piece in the SAJR Online where Leon Reich, representative of Likud SA, writes a scathing, angry and heartfelt attack on (Archbishop Emeritus Desmond) Tutu’s approach to Israel, to Jews and to the rest of the world. In the article he compares Tutu to Hitler and to Stalin.

Whereas I am not sure that many Jews would ever mistake Tutu as being a friend of our people, or a fair and objective commentator on the subject, the article concerned me for the following reasons: Tutu is simply not Hitler and he is not Stalin. He might be many things, including anti-Semitic, but he is not responsible for the deaths of six million of our people. And comparing him as such is to denigrate the Holocaust and the brutality of the time.

We cannot allow others to do that and we certainly cannot do it ourselves. That period will always remain bitter and painful for us, and which loss will stay with us for generations to come. And whereas Reich might not have stated it as such, and might have had no intention of doing this, the article does allow for this broad comparison, which is not acceptable.

The fact that Tutu might have used the Nazi theme along with the comparison of Israel to an apartheid South Africa on multiple occasions himself, is not a reason for us to do so. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard than Tutu does. It is what we stand for, it is what we strive for and it is who we are as a people.

At the same time I am uncomfortable by the swift and immediate criticism of the article by the Mail and Guardian and others. The question is if they are as quick to condemn Jessie Duarte (ANC deputy secretary-general) for her Nazi comparisons along with other who have done so.

At the same time the Jewish community was accused of curtailing freedom of speech when a schoolboy chose the wrong accessory. At that time we were blamed for stifling the very notion of a concept that is dear to the South African Constitution. They screamed for “freedom of speech and expression”, even if we disagreed with the gesture and message, whereas in this case there seems to be no discussion of this concept at all.

Freedom of speech it seems, belongs to everyone but us and we need to be aware and cautious that we don’t accept this as a given. And so, even though I believe that it is the correct decision, it is not an easy or comfortable one. 

I believe that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves either. We are living in difficult and emotional times. The community is under threat and we have been let down by the likes of Tutu and so many others. It is no wonder that articles like the Reich one will be written with anger that he feels. In many respect it is frustration that we all feel.

As the SAJR, we have the responsibility to present all views in line with our broad editorial policy, but these views need to be expressed with respect and with dignity. That is what we strive for and that is who we are, as a paper, as a community and as a people.

 

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. siegi cahn

    Sep 12, 2014 at 11:37 am

    ‘Dear Mr.Howard Feldman..I am in agreement with you that many postings in the social media by members of the Jewish community have gone a bit overboard with regard to various well known public figures in South  Africa as well as abroad…reading the statements of these public figures one can only come to the conclusion that they are openly anti-semitic …the fact that they make these anti-semitic statements while holding high office makes one believe that they are voicing Goverment  policy…should all anti-semites be labeled as such or should those who hold high office be labeled differently…

  2. Ernest Dumont

    Sep 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    ‘Too little too late. An article of that nature should never have ever been published and considering the photograph wasn’t supplied by the author that gives rise to the question of who decided that THAT would be a touching picture. Psst the Palestinians he is defending are Semitic by birth so I would think the right honourable Archbishop is extremely pro-semitic. Don’t forget to collect your Godwin’s Law award for this week.’

  3. Edward Wilson

    Sep 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    ‘Believing in and protesting for the Palestinian cause and suffering (as Tutu does), does NOT, ipso facto, make a person anti-Semitic. 

  4. J Sack

    Sep 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    ‘This piece would’ve been a more effective apology without the petulant tone, the finger-pointing at others’ faults, and the absurd assertion that when others criticize your opinions it’s because of anti-semitism. The \”anger\” and \”frustration\” of the community is no excuse for irrational and racist commentary, so don’t imply that it is.

    If you want your paper to be respected as a rational voice in these kinds of debates, then own up to your miss-steps without pouting about being criticized for them.’

  5. Neo

    Sep 12, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    ‘Your so-called apology and retraction is an insult because it is insincere and was done as an after-thought to an honourable man.

    Though I understand the plight of your people, your lives are NOT worth more than anyone else’s; and to hold this position does not make me anti-Semitic; it makes me rational and humane.

    Some members of the Jewish community fail to realise just how much they alienate potential sympathisers in their unrepentant prejudice. The world is not getting any smaller. You’re trying so hard to maintain your exclusive lines. Last I checked, we called that apartheid.’

  6. Travis

    Sep 12, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    ‘If this is an \”apology\”, then the Pope is Jewish.’

  7. asher

    Sep 12, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    ‘Great article.’

  8. Clive Varejes

    Sep 12, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    ‘No matter what you think of Tutu and his anti Israel demeanour,  he is typical of the vast majority of Israel’s detractors in that he knows very little or nothing of the actual facts of the situation, has never lived with rockets being fired at him on a daily basis and simply chooses to voice his opinion, whether the Jewish Report considers them  idiotic or otherwise,  loudly and often.

    These people,  to misquote a very wise man \” Do not understand that just because you repeat an idiotic comment more and more loudly and more and more often,  does not make it true. \”

    Although I have no shrift with Tutu, Leon Reich’ s comments were not only unacceptable but contemptible.

    He should be treated with the contempt he deserves. ‘

  9. Anthony

    Sep 12, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    ‘At least Tutu believes in his opposition to what he regards as Israeli occupation. You do not believe at all in your apology. After such dishonesty it is disingenuous and embarrassing to claim that you hold yourself to a higher standard than Tutu. The apology should have been unconditional. You could have taken on the Archbishop in an entirely separate article. When you take him on and there is no reason not to, please remember to show respect.’

  10. jaf

    Sep 12, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    ‘one cant prevent the article from being written but the editor should now be fired for printing it. ‘

  11. Leonard Shapiro

    Sep 13, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    ‘This ‘explanation’ adds insult to injury. As a Jew, I am offended by both this article as well as the previous article comparing Tutu to Hitler in the Jewish Report. I suggest that the Jewish Report employ a media and PR agency.’

  12. David Abel

    Sep 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    ‘One can well understand Leon Reich’s anger, and it is probably fair to say that his opinion of Tutu reflects the feelings of the overwhelming majority of South African Jews (and, I dare say, many many Black and White SA Christian Zionists). And Tutu has only himself to blame. The real question is: if you are an \”icon\” like Tutu, are you immune from valid criticism? If Tutu’s remarks (like Zapiro’s cartoons) promote the idea of Israelis being tantamount to Nazis, what do you expect a proud and free South African Jew like Leon Reich to do? Must he be told that \”freedom of speech\” is only for the likes of Tutu, Zapiro and Jesse Duarte?
    \nAs another free and proud SA Jew, I totally reject the notion that only the politically correct are free to express their opinions without fear or favour. In fact, that satirical Tutu montage/photo, is comparable with the freedom of expression accorded Zapiro in his depiction of Sharon as a Nazi general. And if that standard is applied by the Sunday Times, it should be equally applicable to the SA Jewish Report. While I understand Howard Feldman’s delicate position as Chairman of the SAJR, I believe he errs in advising
    \nus Jews to respect those who show no respect for our feelings. Let it be known unequivocally and unapologetically, that there are many, many Jews and non-Jews in this country who will simply not tolerate and condone the utterances and actions of anti-Semites – whoever they are. In fact, within that context, and against the background of living in a free democracy, calling a spade a spade is the correct attitude honouring the memory of those who died in the Holocaust. ‘

  13. Choni Davidowitz

    Sep 14, 2014 at 7:50 am

    ‘This new saga further highlights the message that S.Africa is no place for our young generation to grow up in.

    Even if there were less anti-Semitism/ Anti Israel sentiment, as was the case in previous times, it would still have been better if more young Jews would have made Israel their home.

    It seems to me that these days the more debate their is about Israel, and anti-Semitism, the more our Jewish population become more \”proudly S.African Jews\”.

    Isn’t this a paradox, especially since we now have our national Homeland for which we have been praying to return to for nearly 2000 years?

    It just does not make any sense.

    It is time for our leaders, media, and especially our Torah leaders, to have the courage to urge our young people to \”Return to Zion\”

    Who wants to be a proud Jewish South African, when one can be a proud Israeli Zionist??????’

  14. Gary Selikow

    Sep 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    ‘So branding all Israeli Jews as Nazis is ‘acceptable’ but pointing a finger back at the bullies  demonizers, bullies and sociopaths and calling them out on their genoicdal hartred of Israeli jews is not?’

  15. Harry

    Sep 17, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    ‘The Most High will deal with those who is against His people and He will pour out His wrath on them. I believe HaShem Said: \” I will bless those who bless you , and I will curse those who curse you.\” No weapon formed against you shall prosper. stand fast in His promises and He will fight the battles for you.’

  16. Leonard Shapiro

    Sep 20, 2014 at 8:47 am

    ‘What Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu actually said at the march in Cape Town.

    “We will not become haters. We are lovers.

    “We are lovers of justice. We… are lovers of freedom… Tell the world: ‘I oppose injustice. I am not anti-Jewish’.”

    He added: “We were against injustice, oppression… everything that is evil. We did not become anti-white… I ask one thing: their struggle must be a just struggle. But it must not be that you say we are against Jews. We have Jews here who support our struggle.”

    \”Jews are not the enemy, they are God’s children but Zionism is a question that calls for justice\”.

    https://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/huge-march-for-gaza-in-cape-town-1.1733038#.VB07pI1xmY0

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