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The Archbishop, whose death at the age of 90 was announced on Sunday, was instrumental in the fight against Apartheid, and is often regarded as South Africa’s “moral compass” Labour leader Sir Keir added his tribute to countless others, describing Tutu as “a tower of a man, and a leader of moral activism”.
He added: “He dedicated his life to tackling injustice and standing up for the oppressed.”
However Mr Galloway, who represented Respect, the party he founded in 2004, as an MP in both Bethnal Green and Bow and Bradford West, was swift to point the finger.
He tweeted: “The anti-Apartheid champion of #BDS the late Archbishop #DesmondTutu would already have been expelled if he had been a member of the #keirstarmer Labour Party.
“So would #NelsonMandela Just think about that…”
George Galloway and Sir Keir Starmer
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in 1994
The BDS movement, which stands for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, works to end international support for what it terms “Israel’s oppression of Palestinians”.
Tutu, who remained outspoken on a range of issues after Apartheid was dismantled in 1994, voiced concern about the plight of the Palestinians on numerous occasions, drawing parallels to the treatment of black people in South Africa he campaigned against.
In 2013, he told the Washington Times: “I wish I could keep quiet about the plight of the Palestinians. I can’t!
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“What’s being done to the Palestinians at checkpoints, for us, it’s the kind of thing we experienced in South Africa.”
He led a UN fact-finding mission with Professor Christine Chinkin to investigate an Israeli attack on Gaza’s Beit Hanoun district which resulted in the deaths of 19 Palestinians, including seven children, in November 2006.
Israel refused to grant them authorisation to enter the territory, but they were eventually able to do so via Egypt.
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Sir Keir Starmer’s tweet
George Galloway’s tweet
In a May 2008 statement about his mission, he described the Israeli occupation of Gaza as “a gross violation of human rights”.
Mr Galloway’s criticism of Sir Keir is likely a reference to the former Director of Public Prosecutions’ handling of the inquiry into alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party under the leadership of predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.
A probe by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published in November 2020 concluded: ”The equality body’s analysis points to a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it.”
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In his subsequent statement, Mr Corbyn said anti-Semitism was “absolutely abhorrent” and that “one antisemite in the Labour Party is one too many”.
However he also claimed “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media”.
Sir Keir responded by saying anyone believing the problems to be “exaggerated” or a “factional attack” was “part of the problem and should be nowhere near the Labour Party”.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu meets Meghan Markle, Prince Harry and Archie in 2019
Mr Corbyn defended his remarks in a television appearance later the same day.
Shortly afterwards, Labour confirmed it was suspending Mr Corbyn pending an investigation, as well as withdrawing the whip.
Mr Corbyn has said he believes his suspension to be unfair, and has threatened legal action.