Boycott and Disinvest in Israel, in Solidarity and Self-Defense

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.

Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Glen, or visit Glen's website.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. jz said on February 18th, 2009 at 11:28am #

    Sir you are doing a disservie to the South African memory when you compare it to current situation in Israel where Arabs can vote, live anywhere, and it is a known fact that Israel has the best judicial system in the world to protect anyone’s rights, and Jews are the majority. Try to find that in any Arab or Muslim country. But you really do not care my friend because your viscious anti-semitisn rises above all else. Shame on you.

  2. Atiya said on February 18th, 2009 at 12:49pm #

    Mr Ford,

    Good points raised in this article. Indeed, all oppressed groups need to unite in this common struggle against colonisation and injustice. I have read about Senator McKinney’s brave efforts to present truth and how she has been demonised by those who want to repress it.

  3. mebosa ritchie said on February 18th, 2009 at 1:25pm #


    Teva Pharmaceuticals Registers Record Sales

    by Hillel Fendel

    ( Israeli-based Teva, the world’s leading generic pharmaceutical company, reported sales of $11.1 billion for the year, 18% more than in 2007. It earned $634 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, following its acquisition of Barr.

    Teva grew by over 20% in the international market in 2008, though only 13% in Europe. It launched 28 new products in the United States over the year, where it has a full 24% of the generic drug markets. Teva CEO Shlomo Yannai said that every 1% of growth in the generic drug market in the U.S. saves Americans $7 billion each year – indicating further expected growth in light of the financial hardships Americans are continuing to face.

    Teva is also making inroads in Japan, the world’s 2nd-largest pharmaceutical market. It has set a goal of $1 billion in sales in Japan by 2015.

    Teva manufactures innovative drugs in niche markets where it has a relative advantage in research and development, and also manufactures generic drugs (copies of known drugs after the original patents have expired) of all types.

    The company had been foreseeing a growth of 28% in the year 2009, but after releasing the reports of record profits in 2008, upped its growth forecasts to as much as 31%.

    Acquired Barr and Bentley
    Teva recently acquired the New Jersey-based Barr pharmaceutical company. “There were several challenges on the way to closing the Barr deal,” said CEO Yannai, “because the world turned upside down [financially] over the past few months. We are now at the height of the integration. This is most definitely our crowning achievement of the past year, and of the coming years.”

    Teva’s market share in Spain has jumped from 1.5% to 10%, because of its purchase of the Bentley drug company. Bentley manufactures and markets 130 pharmaceutical products, mainly in Spain. Teva introduced 30 new products to Spain in the past year.

    Copaxone for MS
    Teva’s flagship product is Copaxone, a unique immuno-modulator therapy used for the treatment of Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. The first innovative drug to be developed in Israel and to receive FDA approval, Copaxone was originally discovered by Professor Sela, Professor Arnon and Dr. Teitelbaum at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. Teva was granted world-wide exclusive license for Copaxone and became the developer of the product.

    On its website, Teva emphasizes that it recognizes that “multiple sclerosis encompasses more than drug therapy alone. While the company is working to bring this emerging therapy to market, it is also dedicated to working with the multiple sclerosis community to develop solutions that address the far-reaching implications of the disease. As part of this commitment, Teva currently supports a variety of programs and services for the multiple sclerosis community.”

  4. lance watson said on February 18th, 2009 at 2:33pm #

    Thank you mebosa ritchie for you contribution to the debate. As you well know teva is a part of the ZPC. See James Petras: The Politics of An Israeli Extermination Campaign: Backers, Apologists and Arms Suppliers

  5. Tree said on February 18th, 2009 at 2:45pm #

    Individuals boycott to make themselves feel better.
    Our global economy makes boycotting even more futile than it was even 20 years ago.

  6. Paul Meyer said on February 18th, 2009 at 3:31pm #

    Right on!!! The point is the same as in the ’60s–injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere. The myth that is believed by 90% of Jewish Israelis is that Palestinians want to destroy them. Falsehood. They are perfectly willing to live in equality with the Jewish Israelis in a secular state. That scares the H— out of the Zionists, but is the eventual future state.

  7. Rita said on February 18th, 2009 at 7:17pm #

    “Never Again!” must be the call to universal human conscience and not an exclusionary directive.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain said on February 18th, 2009 at 9:32pm #

    It didn’t take long for the ‘anti-Semite’ slur to appear. All criticism of Israel’s depravity can expect to be so labelled, an attempt both to vilify and intimidate, and a not so subtle expression of the Judaic belief that the Jews are above the rest of humanity, and their actions are answerable only to themselves. How a country such as this, with utter contempt for international law and humanitarian law, and a particular visceral contempt for the UN, remains in the UN is beyond comprehension.
    In Australia the Jewish Lobby enjoys total media and political dominance. The media is contemptibly biased, with Palestinian voices silenced, yet the Jewish Lobby still screeches with outrage at non-existent media ‘bias’. The local political rabble, without a single exception, jumped to attention immediately Israel’s long-planned slaughter in Gaza began, uniformly condemning Hamas and laying total blame, as ever, on the victims. The Israeli Ambassador has just emerged and together with the ex-UN Israeli envoy, Gillerman, are issuing instructions that Australia not attend the UN Convention on racism in Geneva, lest the Holy State be criticised by a motley crew of ‘darkies’, the ultimate insult. Israeli Ambassadors regularly issue instructions to local politicians, a process unimaginable from any other Ambassador, even that of the US, but it always goes unremarked upon, let alone, God forbid, attracting criticism.
    The media, uniformly Rightwing, dominated by Murdoch’s apparatus, is literally insanely pro-Israel, as if they need to over-compensate in displaying their loyalty. The eye-witness accounts of Israeli atrocities in Gaza, by the likes of Amnesty, the Red Cross, UN, Medicines sans Frontieres and al-Jazeera, were hysterically decried as all lies, motivated by anti-Semitism, and Israel portrayed, what else, as ‘uniquely moral’. They have even taken to re-writing the history of Lebanon in 2006 turning it into a stunning Israeli victory over the ‘two-legged animals’ of Hezbollah, with undisguised threats of a repeat, only this time even more bloody, cowardly and destructive as Israel ‘finishes the job’.
    The evolution of the state of a viciously persecuted people into one which viciously persecutes another is a great historical tragedy. Zionist racism and the desire to ethnically cleanse the indigenous pre-date the Nazi Judeocide. It is a pretty typical example of European settler racism, complicated by Judaic delusions of cosmic supremacy, but the horror of the mass exterminations has, perhaps not surprisingly, lent a decidedly paranoid streak to Israeli thinking. The rest of the world has been patient with Israel,( aside from the racists and Moslem haters who actively support it), in waiting for a single sign of good faith in the ‘peace process’, but all we get is lies, double-dealing and vicious abuse when the world objects to the latest round of child-murder. There appears no hope of a peaceful end to the horror, as Israel lurches further Right into open fascism, and Jewish money power so dominates Western politics and the media. What horrors Israel is capable of no-one knows, but its Holy Books are replete with exhortations from On High to massacre, and Judaic religious leaders openly maintain that according to Judaic religious law, killing civilians in time of war is actually a mitzvah, or good deed. The thought that such a society, rapidly going stark, raving, mad, possesses hundreds of nuclear weapons, is a sombre reality that the rest of the world needs to address, before it is too late for everyone, including Israel.

  9. Deadbeat said on February 19th, 2009 at 1:19am #

    Finally an article that I can fully agree with Glen Ford on. Confronting Zionism is very much needed by people of color and it will weaken their support for Obama. This is Obama’s Achilles’ Heal and the best way for the boycott of Israel Left to build solidarity with communities of color. Forget Chomsky. He has done more damage than anyone from the Right.

  10. mary said on February 19th, 2009 at 4:19am #

    I don’t really see what the success or otherwise of a pharmaceutical company has to do with anything but here is the reverse side of that coin.

    and the company details

  11. jz said on February 19th, 2009 at 8:04am #

    If the success of a pharmaceutical company had been noted for any other country but Israel it would have been touted as a great service to mankind. These are afterall medications that help make people have an easier lifer or a longert life but no somehow in the twisted world of anti-semtism it does not work this way. If Palestians did soemthing more constructive with their lives than digging tunnels and making bombs maybe we could one day hear about their phamaceutical company. This also goes for the rest of the Muslim/Arab world that reads less books than a small country like Norway, keep their woman subservient, etc.

  12. bozh said on February 19th, 2009 at 8:59am #

    we cld juxtapose also german achievements with israeli and conclude how noble nazis were.
    didn’t they invent drugs, rockets, diesel fuel; didn’t germans have bethoven, bach, max plank, nietzche?

    so, that country cldn’t have done what it is accused of having done ’33-45! thnx

  13. bozh said on February 19th, 2009 at 9:11am #

    one cld compare german achievements with israeli. germans have been manufaturing drugs for long time.
    germans had max planck, werner, bach, bethoven, goetthe, heisenberg, eisenhower, nietzche, et al.
    they invented rockets, diesel engines, etc.
    so how cld have such a country perped crimes that the world accuses it of having done?
    no way, jose. and i am speaking as a son of a high nazi official. he told me all this. do you think my dad wld lie to me? thnx

  14. bozh said on February 19th, 2009 at 9:31am #

    if US is a piramidical society and the top layer had been supplanted by another ethnic group we wld still have the same structure of governance with low and lower layers of society as powerless as ever.

    for 4 centuries the top layer consisted largely of british people; some of which even had slaves.
    so, british people are being replaced with the ‘jews’.
    but had US policy changed because of change of management?historical facts prove that US policy had not changed.
    and 98% of USans have just approved of it. moreover, police, fbi, cia, the 3 houses, bankers, army, business, msm all in favor of change in management.
    if that is the case, what can the 1 or 2% of dissenters do? hit the streets with this knowledge? i think so!

  15. Barry said on February 19th, 2009 at 11:26am #

    JZ – No one touts pharmaceutical companies as a great service to mankind. Pharmaceutical companies are depicted as greedy, given to pushing pseudo-drugs and even harmful drugs, given to false advertising, phony research, and related crimes. So stop with the notion that your favorite drug pusher would be celebrated if it wasn’t Israeli.