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Hawaii News

Controversy surrounds Tutu’s isle appearance

A group of psychiatrists is boycotting the annual convention of the American Psychiatric Association in Honolulu this weekend to protest a ceremony honoring Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Tutu, who is to deliver the convention’s convocation lecture Monday, is known for his reconciliation work in South Africa after apartheid but has also criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

A paid advertisement in Psychiatric Times newspaper, signed by 27 psychiatrists, criticized Tutu for his "vituperative stance regarding the State of Israel and those who support it."

More than 10,000 psychiatrists from 76 counties are expected to gather at the Hawai‘i Convention Center this weekend for the association’s annual meeting.

Psychiatrist Dr. Ronnie Stangler said she’s opposed to Bishop Tutu’s call in 2010 for an academic, artistic, social and political boycott of Israel.

"If you Google ‘Tutu’ and ‘Israel,’ you get some pretty scary stuff … and it’s not old stuff, either," said Stangler, a distinguished fellow with the association.

"It is a big controversy, and I think it’s going to gain traction as people understand."

Association President Dr. Carol Bernstein said she understands that some members were unhappy with the choice of Tutu.

"I asked Archbishop Tutu to speak about his observations of the nature of humanity during the reconciliation process in South Africa," she said. "I have heard him speak about this, and his message is simple and powerful. It’s not a political speech. It is about the fundamental good in all of us."

An email from the Star-Advertiser asking for a response to the criticism was sent to Tutu’s Peace Centre in South Africa, but he was unavailable for comment.

The meeting is the second largest gathering to be held at the convention center this year and is expected to generate more than $47 million in revenue. The largest will be the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in November.

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