The Organic Intellectual

If our greatest task is to liberate humanity, as Paulo Freire asserts, then it is absolutely essential that we create a culture of resistance from below that is able not only to counter, but transcend the limitations of the ruling culture imposed by above. Hopefully, The Organic Intellectual will help serve this purpose.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Black support for Israeli Apartheid?

Last month the Vanguard Leadership Group  (VLG), a group of self-proclaimed “African-American leaders,” paid for the full-page ad titled “Words Matter” targeting Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for their use of the term “apartheid” in labeling Israel.  The SJP is “a diverse group of students, faculty, staff and community members…organized on democratic principles to promote justice, human rights, liberation and self-determination for the Palestinian people” which utilizes educational events, film screenings, discussion forums, and demonstrations to raise awareness and further the gowing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement from Israel.

What has become painfully clear is that the VLG ought to be ashamed of themselves. The stench of their propaganda is evident, as this “vanguard” of elite charlatans complain about the “offensiveness” of a word that those who have actually suffered under apartheid  use themselves to describe Israel. Perhaps the whines and moans of the VLG would be a bit more convincing if their utter ignorance was not revealed by the fact that Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Willie Madisha, and many other heroes in the anti-apartheid struggle openly label Israel an apartheid state, rebuking the vacuous claims of the VLG. 
Archbishop Demond Tutu proclaimed:
I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.
Willie Mashonda, former president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, articulated the comparison openly:
As someone who lived in apartheid South Africa and who has visited Palestine, I say with confidence that Israel is an apartheid state. In fact, I believe that some of the atrocities committed against the South Africans by the erstwhile apartheid regime in South Africa pale in comparison to those committed against the Palestinians.
Over sixty church leaders and theologians in South Africa released a similar statement with no ambiguity and in no uncertain words:
From our own experience of apartheid, we can clearly and without equivocation say that your situation is in essence the same as apartheid and in its practical manifestation even worse than South African apartheid.
Although Nelson Mandela fell short of calling Israel an apartheid state, the purported letter to Thomas Friedman is not, contrary to popular belief (a mistake I previously made), written by him, he did maintain harsh criticism for Israel
[W]hat we know is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction. Nobody talks about that. Why should there be one standard for one country, especially because it is black, and another one for another country, Israel, that is white.
And in 1997, Mandela marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, (the official ANC website has, for whatever reason, removed this sourced speech) affirming his support for their struggle:
When in 1977, the United Nations passed the resolution inaugurating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, it was asserting the recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine. In the same period, the UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.
Zionist organizations condemned Mandela for his relatively moderate, two-state solution approach:
We deplore Mandela’s outrageous and immoral attempt to portray the terrorist dictator Saddam Hussein as an innocent victim of American aggression, and to put Israel on the same level as Saddam. Israel is a beleaguered, peaceful, and responsible democracy surrounded by terrorists and tyrants who have launched four wars against it and murder its citizens daily. Israel, like America, has every legal and moral right to protect itself with whatever weapons at its disposal.
In the normal Orwellian language employed by the Zionist state, it turns out people wanting to return to their homes are, undoubtedly, "terrorists and tyrants."

It is not only major figures in
the anti-apartheid struggle, but also South African dockworkers, who had taken up the cause of anti-apartheid struggle by participating in the boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement. In 2009, members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) refused to unload a ship carrying Israeli cargo in response to Israel's three-week assault on Gaza, which saw the slaughter of over 1,300 Palestinians, a third of which were children, and injured 5,300 more. Workers followed suit in Sweden and Malaysia. A year later, after the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla, US activists successfully convinced International Longshore and Warehouse Local 10, not bereft of black members, in Oakland, California to refuse unloading Israeli cargo, marking the first time Israel was boycotted at a U.S. port. I think it is clear that the opinions of working people, especially working people who actually suffered under apartheid, are far more convincing than the vacuous assertions of the VLG, who lace their website with various references to AIPAC and Israel.


Perhaps, also, the VLG is ignorant of the historic connections between Israel and South Africa. For decades Israel propped up the white minority government under the apartheid regime, selling it weapons even while the rest of the world condemned it as a pariah state. The Jewish Defense League, a mouthpiece for Israeli propaganda, openly condemned Nelson Mandela and the ANC as a terrorist organization. Even by 1982, when apartheid comparisons were being made, Raphael Eitan, chief of staff of the Israeli Army during its brutal 1982 invasion of Lebanon, rejected the comparison, inverting the role of victim and victimizer, oppressed and oppressor:
I don’t understand this comparison between us and South Africa. What is similar here and there is that both they and us must prevent others from taking us over. Anyone who says that the blacks are oppressed in South Africa is a liar. The blacks there want to gain control of the white minority just like the Arabs here want to gain control over us. And we, too, like the white minority in South Africa, must act to prevent them from taking us over. I was in a gold mine there and I saw what excellent conditions the black workers have. So there is [sic] separate elevators for whites and blacks, so what? That’s the way they like it.
Perhaps the “African-American leaders” who hail from such haughty academic perches simply overlooked the historical facts? Doubtful. What is more likely is that they are spewing their propaganda to serve a political purpose.

As far as the evidence to support the apartheid assertion, I will rely upon what the evidence that one commentator has already posited:
One might point the VLG student leaders to The Inequality Report, a freshly-minted report by Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel,  which found that “Inequalities between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel span all fields of public life and have persisted over time. Direct and indirect discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel is ingrained in the legal system and in governmental practice,” and that “More than 30 main laws discriminate, directly or indirectly, against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the current government coalition has proposed a flood of new racist and discriminatory bills which are at various stages in the legislative process.” One might also point the 16 VLG members to the State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories, which in 2004, in a rare instance of candor, reported that Israel had done “little to reduce institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against the country’s Arab citizens. The State Department’s most recent report, published April 8, 2011, confirmed that 7-year-old finding, that “Principal human rights problems [in Israel] were institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Arab citizens.” (It should go without saying that racism in Israel is not limited to the anti-Arab variety.)
Furthermore, a 2009 report by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa concluded "On the basis of the evidence presented, this study concludes that Israel has introduced a system of apartheid in the OPT, in violation of a peremptory norm of international law."

All of these studies are worth extensive reads, and show more clearly than ever that Israel is, by all accounts, and apartheid state. Perhaps, as some activists have pointed out, the fundamental difference rests in the fact that the dominance of the white minority in South Africa rested upon the exploitation of the Black majority’s labor, whereas this dynamic is slightly different in Israel, which opts instead for separation and segregation to further its colonial settler goals. Yet, the pillars of apartheid are evident.

Perhaps even more shamefully, the VLG is not only ignoring the words and disfiguring the legacy of anti-apartheid activists who resist all oppression, but it is undoubtedly a shame to the historic legacy of black struggle and black liberation in the US against oppression.

Did the Zionists have the legal or moral right to invade Arab Palestine, uproot its Arab citizens from their homes and seize all Arab property for themselves just based on the "religious" claim that their forefathers lived there thousands of years ago? Only a thousand years ago the Moors lived in Spain. Would this give the Moors of today the legal and moral right to invade the Iberian Peninsula, drive out its Spanish citizens, and then set up a new Moroccan nation ... where Spain used to be, as the European zionists have done to our Arab brothers and sisters in Palestine?
Huey Newton, of the Black Panther Party, articulated the organization’s vociferous support for Palestinian liberation:
We realize that some people who happen to be Jewish and who support Israel will use the Black Panther Party’s position that is against imperialism and against the agents of the imperialist as an attack of anti-Semitism. We think that is a backbiting racist underhanded tactic and we will treat it as such. We have respect for all people, and we have respect for the right of any people to exist. So we want the Palestinian people and the Jewish people to live in harmony together. We support the Palestinian’s just struggle for liberation one hundred percent. We will go on doing this, and we would like for all of the progressive people of the world to join our ranks in order to make a world in which all people can live.
This was a position which the copycat Black Panther Party in Israel, originally created to challenge the anti-black racism in the country, also supported. Even Martin Luther King Jr., whose face the VLG shamefully plasters all over their website, was no ardent supporter of Zionism as the VLG would have you imagine.

The evidence is clear. How shameful, how repugnant, how utterly disgraceful, then, that the "top African-American leaders," self-proclaimed, have consciously placed themselves on the wrong side of history, on the side of oppression, of colonization, and injustice. How shameful indeed that they have attempted, from the comforts of their ivory tower, to pit the oppressed against the oppressed, to construct a façade of black support for Israeli apartheid against the Palestinians. But no matter, for those struggling for justice in Palestine stand on the shoulders of black intellectuals and giants that the VLG, the self-proclaimed "African-American leaders," could only wish to stand on.
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