Palestinians pay tribute to 'heroic' supporter Desmond Tutu

Palestinians pay tribute to 'heroic' supporter Desmond Tutu
Palestinians from across the political spectrum have paid tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian cause and critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and siege on Gaza.
3 min read
28 December, 2021
Archbishop Desmond Tutu led a fact-finding mission into a 2006 massacre in the Gaza Strip [Getty]

Palestinians have paid tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the iconic anti-apartheid leader described as "the moral compass of South Africa" who passed away on Sunday, aged 90.

Archbishop Tutu, remembered around the world for his warmth, sense of humour, and tireless fight against injustice, was an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian cause, often comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories to apartheid.

 "I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces," he told the South African news outlet News 24 in 2014.

"Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government."

In an interview with Sir David Frost on the Al Jazeera English channel in 2012, Tutu said that the situation in the occupied West Bank was "in many instances worse" than in apartheid South Africa, referring to Israel's construction of the West Bank separation wall and its systematic demolition of Palestinian homes.

"Israeli politicians are aware that they can get away with almost anything because the West feels guilty about what they didn't do when the Holocaust happened," he said.

Tutu visited the Palestinian territories several times, leading a UN fact-finding mission to investigate an Israeli attack on the Beit Hanoun area of the Gaza Strip which killed 19 civilians in November 2006.

He also endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, once saying: "I wish I could keep quiet about the plight of Palestinians, I can't!"

While outspoken in his criticism of Israeli violence against Palestinians, Tutu also condemned Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, but noted that the Israeli response to these incidents was "disproportionately brutal".


Following the Archbishop's death, Palestinians from across the political spectrum praised him for his long-standing advocacy of their cause.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Tutu "a hero for serving humanity and its causes, a fighter against apartheid, a global human rights activist, and a defender of the oppressed".

"The Palestinian people will remember with loyalty and gratitude his positions in support of our people's legitimate struggle against the occupation and its racist policy," he said.

The Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, issued a statement saying: "Like South Africa, Palestine has lost a true patriot, a great human rights defender, an opponent of racism, and a staunch defender of the Palestinian cause in many international forums and arenas."

Hanan Ashrawi, an independent Palestinian politician and former minister who was closely involved in early peace negotiations with Israel said on Twitter that Tutu's "humanity and compassion were equalled only by his courage and principled commitment in our shared struggle for justice and freedom".

"His support for Palestine was an embrace of love and empathy," she added.