He has said that “the Jews thought they had a monopoly of God: Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.” He has said that Jews have been “fighting against” and being “opposed to” his God. He has “compared the features of the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the features of the apartheid system in South Africa.” He has complained that “the Jewish people with their traditions, religion and long history of persecution sometimes appear to have caused a refugee problem among others.” Tutu has minimized the suffering of those murdered in the Holocaust by asserting that “the gas chambers” made for “a neater death” than did Apartheid. He has complained of “the Jewish Monopoly of the Holocaust,” and has demanded that its victims must “forgive the Nazis for the Holocaust,” while refusing to forgive the “Jewish people” for “persecute[ing] others.”
He has complained that Americans “are scared…to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful—very powerful.” He has accused Jews—not Israelis—of exhibiting “an arrogance—the arrogance of power because Jews are a powerful lobby in this land and all kinds of people woo their support.”
Tutu has acknowledged having been frequently accused of being anti-Semitic,” to which he has offered two responses: “Tough luck;” and “my dentist’s name is Dr. Cohen.” Former President Jimmy Carter too has contributed to this new legitimization of Jew-bashing, by echoing Tutu’s derisive talk about the Jewish domination of America (“powerful political, economic and religious forces…that dominate our media”) and his use of the term “Apartheid” in his book about Israel.
By thus blurring the line between legitimate political criticism and illegitimate bigotry, widely admired people like Tutu and Carter tend to legitimate the kind of anti-Semitic attitudes that manifest themselves in the rants of celebrities like Galliano, Sheen, Gibson and others. (Among other prominent people who have legitimated anti Semitism by blurring the line between legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and attacks against the Jewish people have been Helen Thomas, Patrick Buchanan, and former senator James Abourezk.)
This blurring has also affected the tone on university campuses around the world, where Tutu and Carter are particularly admired and imitated. I speak on campuses throughout the world and I had never, until recently, heard and seen the kind of language now being directed against Jewish students and faculty who support Israel.
So I was not as surprised as some by the recent celebrity rants. The oldest prejudice has never quite disappeared. It just went underground and has now resurfaced as a result of new technology and new legitimization by the likes of Bishop Tutu and Jimmy Carter.
Fortunately there are intelligent and principled young celebrities like Natalie Portman who are trying to offset this development by speaking out against bigotry.
Alan Dershowitz’s latest novel is The Trials of Zion.
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