This is an eloquent and detailed description of the features of Israeli-style apartheid and its many similarities to the Jim Crow system of segregation in the US South.
A presentation made to the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on November 30, 2009
by Bill Fletcher, Jr.BlackCommentator.com & U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. President, Excellencies:
Let me begin by expressing my appreciation to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for inviting me to participate in today’s meeting and offering a presentation in connection with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
My name is Bill Fletcher, Jr. I am the Executive Editor of the on-line magazine BlackCommentator.com and a member of the leadership committee of the coalition known as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. I am the immediate past president of the advocacy group TransAfrica Forum which was the leading voice within the United States of America against South African apartheid and white minority rule in Africa. I am also a long-time trade union activist.
I sit before you today to discuss a contemporary apartheid: that practiced by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people.
As an African American in and from the United States, I am keenly aware of the similarities between the systems of Israeli apartheid, South African apartheid, and the home-grown apartheid in the United States of America once known as “Jim Crow segregation.”
Despite every effort of the Israeli state to wrap its actions in religious garments, to claim a God-given Judaic exclusive right for its actions, the description of the racial differential or national-ethnic differential that exists between the officially sanctioned Jewish citizens of Israel and the Palestinians within Israel, those in exile and those in the Occupied Territories sounds all too familiar. It is also far from Holy. Notwithstanding the efforts of heroic individuals such as William Patterson, Paul Robeson and Malcolm X to bring the case of African Americans before the United Nations, the international ramifications of the oppression suffered here were often and conveniently ignored by the great powers of the global North. The South African apartheid system was, to a great extent, modeled on the Jim Crow system in the United States, a fact noted by many people in South Africa and in the global South. The United Nations failed to take up the challenge to racism in my own country a generation ago; it must not fail to take up the struggle against Israeli apartheid today.
The realities of the Israeli apartheid system, in contrast to South Africa, were often hidden from view, at least outside of Israel and, later, the Occupied Territories. It was, however, the close collaboration—including military and nuclear collaboration—between the Israeli regime and the South African apartheid regime at a point when the South African apartheid regime had become an international pariah state that raised more than a few eyebrows and encouraged many people to more closely examine the theory and workings of the two states.
The parallel between the Israeli apartheid system and the Jim Crow system under which African Americans suffered and died here in the United States of America also helps to explain a phenomenon that seems to puzzle many mainstream commentators. How is it that there exists such a relatively large reservoir of sympathy among African Americans in the United States of America for the cause of the Palestinians? It is a vicious slander to assert that such sympathy is based on anti-Jewish sentiment, though I would be naïve to ignore that such sentiment does exist in some isolated quarters. Rather, for African Americans, we can at one and the same time stand with the Jewish victims of the Nazi’s Holocaust, while at the same time reject the Israeli apartheid system and its victimization of the Palestinian people. The horrors of the Holocaust, as the great Martiniquan writer Aime Cesaire pointed out, were not unprecedented, but found their basis in the brutal holocausts committed against the peoples of the global South by the colonial powers and the settler states. It was based on that shared history that African Americans viscerally understood and, therefore, placed ourselves in opposition to the racist motivations that lay behind the actions of the German Nazis and later the Italian Fascists in their persecution and then attempts at annihilation of the Jewish people.
Yet none of this, that is, none of the reality of the Holocaust suffered by European Jews, excuses what has happened to the Palestinian people in the period since World War II, and especially since May 1948. And it is this that many people, in what is colloquially known as “Black America,” understand so well. The Israeli apartheid system that expropriates land from the Palestinians; restricts mixed marriages; condemns Palestinians to separate AND inferior education; and repudiates their internationally recognized right to return to their land and their homes, simply carries with it the same stench of the decadent and oppressive system that we came to know here in the USA as Jim Crow segregation.
The work of your committee and the attention that you devote the situation facing the Palestinian people receives insufficient notice in the mainstream media. As a result, the actual conditions of the Palestinian people are not fully understood in many quarters, most especially here within the United States of America.