148059740.jpgThis is getting absurd:

Banning Desmond Tutu

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[I]n a move that still has faculty members shaking their heads in disbelief, St. Thomas administrators—concerned that Tutu’s appearance might offend local Jews—told organizers that a visit from the archbishop was out of the question.

“We had heard some things he said that some people judged to be anti-Semitic and against Israeli policy,” says Doug Hennes, St. Thomas’s vice president for university and government relations. “We’re not saying he’s anti-Semitic. But he’s compared the state of Israel to Hitler and our feeling was that making moral equivalencies like that are hurtful to some members of the Jewish community.”

St. Thomas officials made this inference after Hennes talked to Julie Swiler, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.

“I told him that I’d run across some statements that were of concern to me,” says Swiler. “In a 2002 speech in Boston, he made some comments that were especially hurtful.”

During that speech, titled “Occupation Is Oppression,” Tutu lambasted the Israeli government for its treatment of Palestinians in occupied territories. While a transcription clearly suggests his criticism was aimed at the Israeli government (“We don’t criticize the Jewish people,” he said during the speech. “We criticize, we will criticize when they need to be criticized, the government of Israel”), pro-Israeli organizations such as the Zionist Organization of America went on the offensive and protested campus appearances by Tutu, accusing him of anti-Semitism.

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That was news to Marv Davidov, an adjunct professor within the Justice and Peace Studies program.

“As a Jew who experienced real anti-Semitism as a child, I’m deeply disturbed that a man like Tutu could be labeled anti-Semitic and silenced like this,” he says. “I deeply resent the Israeli lobby trying to silence any criticism of its policy. It does a great disservice to Israel and to all Jews.”

The controversy didn’t end there. Incensed at the administration’s decision, Professor Cris Toffolo—chair of the Justice and Peace Studies program at the time—sent Tutu a letter on May 24 informing him of the administration’s decision. She also indicated her disagreement with the move and warned Tutu that he might be in for a smear campaign.

You know, Bill O’Reilly sits there and compares anybody with a liberal opinion to Nazis every night and none of these organizations ever says a damn thing. I guess this has been another episode of IOKIYAR.

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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