In a strongly worded address recently given at a conference held in Boston, Massachusetts, the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, the Rt Revd Desmond Tutu, expressed his grave concern for the current state of affairs in the Holy Land. Having had first-hand experience of injustice and oppression under the apartheid regime in South Africa he recalls how the great supporters of abolishing the system were Jewish people. "They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones," he said.
As a patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa Archbishop Tutu believes that Israel has a right to secure borders but feels that what it did to another people to guarantee its existence is unjustified.
"I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land," he said. "It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?"
Archbishop Tutu's overwhelming concern for the devastation that the Israeli and Palestinian people are facing day in, day out is met with optimism and faith. "The military action of recent days, I predict with certainty, will not provide the security and peace Israelis want; it will only intensify the hatred." He added, "We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If our madness could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land?"
The Archbishop maintains the confidence to strive for peace based on justice and he feels that this can only be achieved through withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.
"Injustice and oppression will never prevail," he said. "Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful: what is your treatment of the poor, the hungry, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes judgement.
"We should put out a clarion call to the government of the people of Israel, to the Palestinian people and say: peace is possible, peace based on justice is possible. We will do all we can to assist you to achieve this peace, because it is God's dream, and you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and brothers."
Desmond Tutu is the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and chairman of South Africa's truth and reconciliation commission.