African Americans must take a leadership role in the movement to boycott and disinvest in Israel, both for reasons of elemental justice and to defend our own people from the raging right-wing, corporate assault, of which the pro-Israel lobby is an integral component. If solidarity with Palestinians who suffer the aggressions of a regime as fundamentally racist as apartheid South Africa is not a compelling enough reason — and it surely is — then self-defense against Zionist subversion of domestic Black politics should move us to action. There can be no prospect of global peace or domestic progress while Israel runs amok in the Mid-East and its operatives wreak havoc in the African American political arena.
The moral imperative to answer the call “to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era,” is overwhelming — so much so that failure to act amounts to a kind of self-mutilation, a defiling of one’s legacy. Every iota of African American past and present existence tells us that no people can be allowed to superimpose themselves, their history, their supra-national rights on another people and their land, thus negating the Other’s humanity — the essential facts of Zionism.
1948 saw the creation of civilization’s greatest document to date – possibly the founding document of the truly modern era — the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The year also witnessed the founding of a state based on the antithesis of those values: Israel.
Both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tapped the deep reservoirs of the Declaration in their struggle for African Americans’ human rights, and both understood the indivisibility of freedom. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Dr. King in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” Malcolm counseled Black activists that “if they would expand their civil rights movement to a human rights movement it would internationalize it.”
That movement was internationalized, culminating in the 1980s South Africa corporate disinvestment and boycott campaign. As Black writer/activist Kevin Alexander Gray wrote in a piece earlier this year, calling for a similar campaign against Israel:
“What’s happening in Palestine is not fundamentally different from what occurred in apartheid South Africa. Kids are being killed. People have been herded into the (more deadly) equivalent of Bantustans. Political leaders are targeted for assassination…. Israel’s behavior demands the same response from the world human rights community as was mustered against South Africa.”
The obligation to respond is felt most intensely among Black Americans, who have experienced apartheid at home and fought successfully against it in Africa — but who are represented in public offices by abject cowards. Thirty members of the Congressional Black Caucus shamed themselves and us by endorsing a Resolution affirming the Jewish State’s “right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” and absolving Israel of any blame for the slaughter. Seven Black lawmakers sought cover in voting “present” — as if that would cloak their slavish fear of the Israel lobby — while only two voted Nay: Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Gwen Moore (D-WS).
The man- and womanhood was scared out of the Black misleadership class in general, and the Congressional Black Caucus in particular, in 2002, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) joined with corporate moneybags to unseat two Black lawmakers. Reps. Cynthia McKinney, of suburban Atlanta, and Earl Hilliard, from Alabama, could not be counted on to bend their knees to Israel. They had to go.
As Hilliard told me in July 2002, tons of money suddenly rained down on his opponent, Artur Davis, “not just [from] corporations, but organizations like AIPAC. Mostly Republican operatives and Jewish operatives that were sent by different organizations and groups and corporations.”
Was it their intention to make a public display of their power, I asked? “Oh, definitely — the seed of fear,” Hilliard replied. “It sends a message to every member of Congress.”
The same message was sent the next month, with Cynthia McKinney’s defeat in Georgia. “I was targeted by AIPAC and others for my opposition to the Israeli occupation of and genocidal policies toward Palestine,” said McKinney, who last year ran for president on the Green Party ticket.
2002 was the beginning of a joint corporate/pro-Israel offensive to subdue or eject “unreliable” Black Democrats. The dramatic deterioration of the Congressional Black Caucus, as an agent for progress on Capitol Hill, dates from that year. The corporate Right and the Israel lobby act in tandem. Their purge of Black politicians has been so successful, they’re running out of live targets. Maxine Waters and Gwen Moore are the last two righteous sisters standing on Capitol Hill — where Black manhood is extinct. Down the street at the White House, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel stands guard — although President Obama appears to be an entirely voluntary captive of Israel.
So we see that the tentacles that strangle Gaza and once helped South Africa build nuclear weapons, are throttling the life out of independent Black politics in the United States. Boycott and disinvest in Israel! If not in solidarity, in self-defense.