Geneva, 11 December (ENI)–South African Nobel Peace Prize
Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu says it is distressing that
Israel blocked a planned mission by him and British professor
Christine Chinkin to investigate the killing of 19 Palestinian
civilians by Israeli shells.
The former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town was due on 10
December to lead a team with law professor Chinkin on behalf of
the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the
incident at Beit Hanoun in Gaza on 8 November.
Tutu and Chinkin said in a joint statement that the fact-finding
mission, which some Israelis asserted had already made up its
mind before leaving, had been cancelled because there would no
longer be enough time to carry it out properly.
At a media conference in Geneva on 11 December, Tutu was asked by
a journalist why he was attempting to do something that had
seemed destined to fail, like other attempts before it.
"I am a man of faith," he replied. "I come from a country where
for many years the situation had seemed intractable," he said in
reference to his fight against apartheid during the 1970s and
1980s in South Africa. "Many had predicted our country would go
up in flames . and end up in a bloodbath. It did not. That one
example has reinforced for me a belief based on my Christian
belief that no situation should ever be regarded as hopeless and
this is one of the reasons why we agreed [to take part in the
Tutu noted in a statement he read to journalists: "Our mandate
was to ‘travel to Beit Hanoun’ and ‘to assess the situation of
victims, address the needs of survivors and make recommendations
on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against any
further Israeli assaults’."
He added, "In our opinion the third objective of our mission gave
us an opportunity of bringing some useful contribution by way of
recommendations that could bring some relief in the present
The archbishop, who won the Nobel Peace Prise in 1984, was asked
if when he took on the mission of behalf of the United Nations,
he knew that Israel had never accepted a UN-mandated mission.
Tutu replied: "No."
Another journalist pressed Tutu why he was smiling while he was
talking and he replied:
"Laughter and tears are close to each other. Sometimes we laugh
because if we did not laugh, we would cry."
Photo : Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu