This is probably the least surprising news I know: Desmond Tutu has won the Templeton Prize (worth $1.7 million). Tutu may well be the most honored person in the world, next to his fellow South African Nelson Mandela. Mandela is definitely No. 1. The anti-apartheid cause is one that everyone can get behind. If you do something like oppose the Cuban dictatorship — not so much . . .
A couple of years ago, I undertook a little study of Tutu, because I was writing a history of the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won (in 1984). There are some things to admire about Tutu: In opposing apartheid, he favored a nonviolent course. (At the same time, he semi-excused those who took up the gun and the bomb.) He performed well in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He is willing to speak out against the Chinese government. He is willing to speak out against the Zimbabwean government — something few African leaders do.
Unfortunately, Tutu is a defamer of the United States and a defamer of Israel. In these things, he resembles many of his fellow Nobel laureates. (In speaking out against the Chinese and Zimbabwean governments, he does not.) Let me quote from the aforementioned book:
. . . he is a persistent, harsh critic of Israel. You are not likely to find him criticizing other Middle Eastern governments or groups. Tutu has promoted divestment from Israel, and has accused this country of being an apartheid state — no light accusation from a South African such as Tutu. . . .
In 2010, the Cape Town Opera was planning to include Israel on an international tour of Porgy and Bess. The company had changed the setting of this American opera to apartheid-era
Soweto. . . . Tutu demanded that the company boycott Israel. He wanted the Jewish state to have the same stigma as apartheid South Africa. The company told the archbishop no. It went ahead to Israel.
I don’t believe Tutu has ever betrayed any understanding of American actions in the War on Terror (as we used to call it).
No avoider of the limelight, he even participated in an off-Broadway play dedicated to portraying Guantánamo Bay as a house of horrors — the “Gulag of our times” that Amnesty International’s Irene Khan claimed it was. He of course opposed the Iraq War, seeing no good in it whatsoever. He said that it was not only “illegal” but “immoral.” And he said, “God is weeping. God is weeping. God is weeping because — one of the incredible things, I mean, is that Saddam Hussein, bin Laden, George Bush are all God’s children. And as God says, ‘What ever got into Me to create that lot?’” Some of us think that Tutu’s moral sense can go badly off the rails; his grouping of George W. Bush with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is the type of thing that prevents a number of people from taking Tutu seriously as a moral thinker or leader.
I’ll leave the final word (for now) to Ronald Reagan: “Tutu? So-so.”
I greatly admire a man named Wang Quanzhang, whom I learned about from HRIC (Human Rights in China). Writes HRIC,
On April 4, 2013, a judge at the Jingjiang City People’s Court, Jiangsu Province, put a Beijing rights defense lawyer, Wang Quanzhang, under a 10-day judicial detention for “serious violations of court procedure.”
What did he do?
Sources told Human Rights in China that on April 3, the court — where Wang was representing a Falun Gong practitioner, Zhu Yanian, in a hearing — confiscated Wang’s mobile phone when he attempted to use it to photocopy a set of original documents that he was submitting to the court. The presiding judge, Wang Pin, ordered court security officers to take Wang into custody at the end of the hearing.