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October 27, 2010

Tutu urges S African opera to boycott Tel Aviv


October 27, 2010

ATLIT, Israel/ JOHANNESBURG: Israel’s leader praised on Tuesday the naval commandos who participated in a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last May that drew international condemnation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a special visit to a military base, told the men they acted “heroically” and “ethically” in an attempt to stop “people who sought to kill you.”
The commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists from Turkey in the May 31 raid, which worsened already strained ties with Turkey and ultimately forced Israel to ease its land blockade of Gaza imposed after Hamas took control of the Palestinian territory in 2007.
The May raid turned deadly when commandos rappelled onto the lead ship of the flotilla and were allegedly attacked by unarmed activists as they came down from helicopters. The commandos armed with paint guns and pistols opened fire at the aid activists.
“Gaza has become an Iranian terror base — very close and very dangerous,” Netanyahu told the fighters at their base in this seaside northern town. The raid was “vital, imperative, important and legal,” he added.
Facing a deadly threat, “you responded professionally, heroically, with restraint and ethically.”
Israel has rebuffed demands from Turkey to apologise, and it refused to cooperate with an investigation into the flotilla raid conducted by the UN Human Rights Council, saying the panel is biased. Israel is cooperating with a separate investigation commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Israel is also conducting its own investigations. A preliminary review by a former Israeli general concluded that from a military standpoint, intelligence gathering and planning were faulty.
A separate civilian commission is taking testimony from political and military leaders, as well as activists who had been on board the flotilla, to assess whether the raid conformed to international law.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Desmond Tutu on

Tuesday urged the Cape Town Opera to abandon a trip to Israel next month, saying Palestinians would not have equal access to the performance.
“Cape Town Opera should postpone its proposed tour next month until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances,” he said in a statement.
Tutu, who served as archbishop of the Anglican Church in Cape Town during apartheid, compared the situation of Palestinians to that of South Africans under white minority rule.
“Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel,” he said.
“Only the thickest-skinned South Africans would be comfortable performing before an audience that excluded residents living, for example, in an occupied West Bank village... while including his Jewish neighbours from an illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian territory.”
Tutu retired from public life this month on his 79th birthday, bringing down the curtain on a celebrated career spent advocating non-violent protest in the pursuit of social change.

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