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Thursday, May 12, 2011
Psychiatrists Boycott Honolulu Meeting Over Desmond Tutu Invitation
By Selected News Articles @ 1:48 PM :: 10874 Views :: Maui County, Education K-12, Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics, World News, Family

The invitation of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to the annual meeting in Hawaii this May has a number of professionals swearing off attending, and even resigning from the association. Tutu has been invited to keynote and deliver the Convocation lecture. From what we have heard, the person who extended the invitation was not aware of Tutu’s troubled history concerning Israel and the accusations of anti-Semitism that have dogged him. Now that they know, they’re not all that interested in doing anything about it.

At least one member has already resigned from the APA over the matter:

To the APA Leadership and Membership Committee:

This letter constitutes my formal resignation from the American Psychiatric Association. Although my feeling that the APA does not have its members’ interests at heart has been growing for many years, the precipitant for this action is, first, the selection of Archbishop Desmond Tutu as recipient of one of APA’s highest honors, the role of convocation speaker and second (and more important), the complete indifference and non-responsiveness of the leadership when his despicable record of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel communications was explicitly pointed out by actual cites and quotations. The leadership’s refusal not only to dis-invite him but even to respond to members’ concerns was, for me, the final straw.

I will, of course, also be boycotting the Hawaii meeting and urging all I communicate with to do the same.

Thomas G. Gutheil, MD
Distinguished Life Fellow (resigned)

That sounds rather familiar. Organization invites controversial speaker (and gratuitous…what does Tutu have to do with Psychiatry?). Organization receives complaints. Organization ignores complaints. Organization loses members.

There is a lengthy article on the controversy in Psychiatric Times, Boycotts and Protests To Meet APA Keynote Speaker, Desmond Tutu, but it requires registration. This article in The Jewish Chronicle should be more accessible: Pittsburgh psychiatrist opposed to Desmond Tutu speech at national meeting:

…Tutu’s anti-Israel remarks are well known in Jewish circles. Not only has he referred to Israel as an apartheid state, last year he urged the Cape Town Opera to cancel a tour of Israel, which it refused to do, and called for an academic, artistic, social and political boycott of Israel including the severing of research cooperation on water purification between the University of Johannesburg and Ben Gurion University in Israel. APA is on record with a position statement opposing all academic boycotts.

Among his many other controversial remarks, Tutu has said the Palestinians are paying “penance” for the Holocaust…

In an email exchange with me, one of those backing the boycott of the event, Jerry Rogoff, explained some of the background:

…About 30 Amer. Psychiatric Assn. members paid for an ad in Psychiatric Times in Feb. announcing that none of us would attend the APA annual mtg. in Hawaii in May because Tutu was chosen by the APA pres, Carol Bernstein (yes Bernstein) to be the Speaker at the Convocation of Fellows, the highest honor APA can bestow at the ann. mtg. We listed in detail, including quotes from Tutu’s speeches and comments to the media, why this was an inappropriate and divisive choice. Earlier we had entered an Action Paper (like a Bill in Congress) at the APA Assembly mtg in Nov. to have the invitation rescinded. In a close vote at the very end of the mtg. it was defeated in a voice vote, but after an insufficient time for debate and with no time to have a standing vote taken. Carol B. and the rest of the leadership have completely stonewalled us. A few–too few–of us who are going to attend the ann. mtg want to plan some sort of protest, but they so far have been able to muster only 5 or 6 members willing to do so. In the meantime, a number of other members have joined us after seeing the ad and the article. And a few, including one nationally renowned forensic practitioner and professor, have quit the APA over this issue.

Tutu had spoken earlier at a mtg of the Amer College of Psychiatry, a gathering of mostly academic psychiatrists, to accolades. We are pretty certain that very few, if any, of them knew about his anti-Israel and at times anti-Semitic statements. In all likelihood Bernstein didn’t either, when she sat next to him at the Amer. College mtg and invited him then. He spoke only about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in S. Africa at that mtg. with no mention of Israel. We are told that it will be the same at our mtg. He is being paid $39K for this talk, which is but one part of a swing he is making through the western U.S. That is where things stand…

$39K. For one talk. Not bad work if you can get it. The paid advertisement which Rogoff refers to is here:

Feb11 Tutu Ad Final

Here is the text for easier reading. It explains their concerns rather concisely:

Exercising her prerogative as president, Dr. Carol Bernstein has invited Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa to deliver the principal address at the Convocation of Fellows during the Annual Meeting of the APA in Hawaii in May 2011. This selection is one of the highest honors the APA has to bestow. We shall not be going.

Mr. Tutu is well known for having been awarded a Nobel Prize for his reconciliation work in South Africa after the end of the apartheid regime. What is not well known is his persistent vituperative stance regarding the State of Israel and those who support it. He has repeatedly called Zionism racism and Israel an apartheid state. He, who knows what apartheid really is, has chosen to ignore Israel’s million and a half Arab citizens with full rights, the thousands upon thousands of black Ethiopian Jews rescued and resettled in Israel, and the granting of a safe harbor and citizenship to Vietnamese boat people and Christian refugees from Darfur.

His latest attack upon Israel, in 2010, was to urge the Cape Town Opera to cancel its visit to Israel (it did not) and to call for an academic, artistic, social, and political boycott of Israel including the severing of research cooperation on water purification between the University of Johannesburg and Ben Gurion University in Israel. APA is on record with a Position Statement opposing all academic boycotts. That alone is reason not to have invited him.

In a speech in Boston, Mr. Tutu directly attacked the Jewish supporters of Israel as being in effect traitors to America, controlling U.S. foreign policy for the benefit of Israel and to the detriment of America. In that speech he compared American Jewish supporters of Israel to Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin, Milosevich, Stalin, and Pinochet. This kind of scurrilous attack has iniquitous roots in history and the name for it is Anti-Semitism.

We doubt that the APA would choose for a singular public honor a person who is outspokenly racist or anti-gay despite having accumulated honors elsewhere. That would be wrong as well as offensive to a sizable minority of our membership and therefore unacceptable to a majority of their colleagues. Tutu’s pending APA honor is offensive to us and to many others who support the existence of the State of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people and as the only country in the Middle East respecting democracy, a free press, minority rights, and religious freedom. We believe that it also should be unacceptable to a majority of our colleagues.

We have petitioned Dr. Bernstein, the Board of Trustees, and the Assembly to rescind the invitation to Mr. Tutu, to no avail.

For these reasons, the undersigned are outraged at this appointment and feel betrayed by their valued organization and its use of our dues to honor this man, by whom we feel personally attacked and defamed. We want no part of an Annual Meeting that features such a speaker, and at least some of us are seriously considering whether we want to continue to belong to the organization that is honoring this man. Others, who agree with the undersigned but plan to attend the Annual Meeting, are considering various kinds of protests during the meeting.

If you feel as we do, we urge you to let Dr. Bernstein know, at If you would like to support the cost of this ad or join the ad hoc group below, contact any one of us. We can be reached through the APA at central office: 1-888-357-7924, or the online Membership Directory at If you will be attending the Annual Meeting and want to join a protest there, email Dan Shrager, M.D., at

Ignoring Tutu’s troubling blindness with regard to Israel and Judaism would only further normalize it. Good for those willing to say “No.”

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