(JTA) — South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein has slammed a petition seeking the removal of Desmond Tutu as patron of two Holocaust centers in South Africa.
"I believe it is wrong to call for the resignation of Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a patron of the Holocaust Centre," Goldstein said in a statement released late last week.
“In deference to Archbishop Tutu’s widely recognized leadership role in the struggle against apartheid and to his revered position in South Africa, it would be an act of disrespect to remove him as a patron.”
The statement said, however, that Goldstein considered Tutu’s criticisms of Israel “unfair." Goldstein also is a patron of the Holocaust Centre.
The petition was drawn up in mid-December by three prominent Cape Town Jews: David Hersch, a vice chairman of the South African Zionist Federation and former chairman of its Cape Town branch; Joselle Reuben, the father of the current Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Meron Reuben; and retired businessman Howard Joffe.
It calls for Tutu, a human rights activist and the archbishop emeritus of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, to be removed as patron of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre because of his “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements.”
While most of the petition is devoted to Tutu, a paragraph at the end calls for the trustees of the Holocaust centers to terminate the appointments of South African Education Minister Kader Asmal, and Richard Goldstone, an ex-judge who headed the United Nations’ commission of inquiry into the Gaza war, and says they should resign as patrons.
A counter-petition in defense of Tutu was also launched.