Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu spent several days in Gaza exploring conditions and seeking to find a way that would bring together Palestinians and Israelis. The South African cleric, heading a team of UN human rights observers, gathered stories from Gazans about Israel attacks that had killed civilians, including many children. Tutu said the purpose of the trip was to gather information for a report but he had to admit after listening to stories, “we are quite devastated.” A woman told him she had lost three brother-in-laws in one attack and her husband was killed two days prior to the air attack. Tutut commented “what we have seen confirms that what has happened(in Gaza) is totally unacceptble.”
The South African leader emphasized to Gazans that Israelis are also suffering due to Kassam rocket attacks on civilian targets. “The two people, Israeli and Plaestinian, can live peacefuly together but it cannot happen through acts of violence.” His comment did not meet with general approval from some Gazan officials. One mayor complained that rocket attacks are nothing comparable to Israel helicopters, but Tutu interrupted to say, “any attack against civilians, whatever their motivations, is a violation” against human rights. Israel refused visas to the UN group to investigate sites of rocket attacks.
Bishop Tutu’s even handed approach to dealing with attacks on civilians would make him an excellent mediator in working with Israelis and Palestinians.