Archbishop Tutu
Archbishop Tutu. Source: Avaaz
South African Archbishop Tutu
Archbishop Tutu. Source: Avaaz

South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu made history today on Avaaz, the campaign network that boasts a  global following of 38-million people.

In an email  sent to all its members Ricken Patel, founder of Avaaz, said “this is the first time an opinion piece has gone out to our community, but this one’s historic.”

The letter from Avaaz- entitled “Tutu to Israelis: Free yourselves” – urges members to read an article penned by Tutu which was recently published in an Israeli newspaper.

The article was headed “My plea to the people of Israel: Liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine”.

In the article, the Archbishop warns that violence only leads to more violence and hatred, and explains that we South Africans know about this and understand it.

He points out the benefits that South Africa gained by engaging in dialogue, releasing leaders like the late Nelson Mandela and removing labels like ‘terrorist’; and he argues that the joy of voting together and the ensuing peace and feeling of liberation with a new constitution was felt by everyone, not only black South Africans.

Tutu then explains that none of this would have been possible without a mixture of boycotts, sanctions and divestment from in and outside the country that isolated South Africa on various levels – economically, culturally, psychologically and academically.

He writes that one of the key factors that led to the non-violent toppling of apartheid in South Africa during the ’80s was the withdrawal of trade by multinational companies who realised that by contributing to SA’s economy they were helping to retain an unjust system. The same is now happening to Israel.

Tutu then calls on the people of Israel to see beyond this angry moment in time and find a way in which they can coexist peacefully with Palestine.

Avaaz describes the article as a “powerful call to conscience” and says that “the Nobel Laureate and anti-apartheid legend stands with 1.7 million of us in calling on companies to boycott and divest from the Israeli occupation and repression of Palestine. His love shines through, as he urges Israelis (87% of whom supported the Gaza bombing) to liberate *themselves* from this terrible status quo.

“The piece is exclusively published in an Israeli newspaper, but it’s a powerful legitimizer of what some governments still see as a controversial position, and the rest of the world needs to see it. The only way that will happen is through people sharing it. Let’s share it with everyone!”

Avaaz encourages its members to sign a petition and notes that “it’s a tremendous thing for us to once again stand alongside Archbishop Tutu – one of our truly great non-violent leaders.

“Because in a world torn apart by extremists who successfully demonise the ‘other’, non-violent strength is transformative – the strength to be firm, even tough, in standing up for justice, but out of a love for all people that refuses to fall victim to the fear and ignorance that is our universal enemy.

“A love that recognises that all our fates, and freedom, are intertwined. That’s the precious spirit that our greatest leaders, from Gandhi to Tutu, have taught us, and that our community strives to live up to with each and every campaign.”

As a PS to their letter, the Avaaz team state that “this campaign is about creating the conditions for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, and safe homes for Jews and Palestinians alike. Both anti-semitism and racism against Palestinians, like all hatred, are grotesque and should be fought. At the end of day, it is extremists on both sides that work together to threaten a peaceful future, and our work is to bring reasonable people together from all sides to take the action needed to save both Israel and Palestine. If anyone feels this campaign is one-sided, please check the Avaaz team’s response and explanation here.”

Read Archbishop Tutu’s full article here:


  1. I read this article with great interest. Here is the sweet and sensible voice of a fair and moral man, a voice of reason, who has said to the Israelis, and to the arrogant and stubborn Israeli leaders, and also to the servile American leaders kneeling down to the Israeli lobbies: Liberate Israel by liberating the Palestinians. This is a powerful pronouncement. These words are powerful because they are heart felt words. I hope the Nobel Peace Laureate Obama would read the letter written by the Nobel Peace Laureate, the Rev Bishop Desmond Tutu, and published in Haaretz. There is clarity and precision to Bishop Desmond Tutu’s words that Obama, the writer, would certainly appreciate. But the question is: Would merely reading these powerful words, words that flowed from the heart of a moral man, succeed in infusing life into Obama’s petrified heart, and open his morally blind eyes? Obama’s love for Israel is so strong, unquestioning, and complete that his mind blocks all of Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians, atrocities that his eyes have seen on live TV: The mutilated, burnt and charred bodies of Palestinian toddlers and suckling infants, more than four hundred fifty of them, and counting, all slaughtered using Israeli precision missiles supplied to Netanyahu by Obama himself. The BDS movement will stress Israel’s treasury, shrink Israel’s economy and put pressure on Netanyahu to end Israel’s abominable occupation of Palestine, of course. But the sad truth is that Palestinians will continue to be subjugated, humiliated at checkpoints, and terrorized until Obama ends his unquestioning support of Israel and cuts off all military and economic support of Israel. I hope the almost total devastation of Gaza caused by Israel’s rain of terror will cause wisdom and sanity to sprout in the White House, just as mushrooms sprout from the quivering Earth and thrive after a terrifying thunderstorm.
    Yesh Prabhu, Bushkill, Pennsylvania

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