TO APOLOGISTS FOR ISRAELI APARTHEID: BLACK VOICES ARE NOT COMMODITIES


 

SJP

NUS Black Students’ Campaign representing 1 million students of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean descent marching against Israel’s assault on Gaza.
Photo Permission: @Aaron_Kiely


This article was written by Tufts students Jonathan Jacob Moore, a Chicano and Black American and Dylan Saba, a Palestinian Jewish American

 

The article was penned by Chloe Valdary, a Christian Zionist and consultant for theCommittee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), an American non-profit pro-Israel media watchdog group infamous for “calling out” what it believes to be anti-Israel media bias in the United States, particularly from the New York Times.

Upset with what she branded as the invoking of “my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes,” she attacks the college student activism organization Students for Justice in Palestine at length. The article seems to completely ignore some of the most basic and pertinent facts of the current situation, and instead chooses to barrage it’s imaginary target with baseless, dehumanizing, and often completely fabricated claims.That said, the most troubling aspect of Valdary’s article is that it commodifies Black voices in the process, which is why we have decided to swiftly respond, not as representatives of SJP, nor as representatives of Black America, which Valdary attempts to be, but as people of conscience fed up with 1) the buffet of misinformation offered up in the article and 2) the exploitation of Black voices for Zionist injustice.

Enough is enough.

The article begins with the claim that Students for Justice in Palestine “masquerades as a civil rights group” and peddles fallacies across college campuses. This is the only time in the nearly 800 word article (about what is happening in Israel/Palestine) that Valdary used the word ‘Palestine’, preferring afterwards to use the terms ‘Arabs’, ‘Islam’, and ‘Hamas’ with seemingly little distinction to identify the Palestinian people.

“If you seek to promulgate the legacy of early Islamic colonialists who raped and pillaged the Middle East,” Valdary says, “you do not get to claim the title of “Freedom Fighter,” apparently tying anti-occupation Palestinian activism with the Islamic conquests of the 7th century. As we will see below, this is an absurdist mischaracterization of SJP’s goals and interests. Additionally, her alleged distaste for colonialism is confusing, seeing as she seems to have no qualms with continued Israeli colonial expansion in the West Bank.

“If you support a racist doctrine of Arab supremacism and wish (as a corollary of that doctrine) to destroy the Jewish state, you do not get to claim that the prejudices you peddle are forms of legitimate “resistance”, says Valdary. Beyond the problematic nature of her attempted ownership of words in the dictionary that can only be used to defendIsrael’s actions, her attack on SJP is baseless and backwards.

Moving beyond the point that the state of Israel was created by white Jews for white Jews (despite the fact that the Ashkenazim constitute a minority of Israel’s population) and currently exists as such, where is this supposed Arab supremacist doctrine? Oh right, it doesn’t exist. Valdary, and defenders of Zionism on the whole, will jump through hoop after hoop in an attempt to avoid this unavoidable fact: Israel has and continues to be an occupying power in the land of historic Palestine, subjugating and oppressing the native population of Palestinians.

As such, SJP’s three and only goals are the following:
1. End of the occupation of all Arab lands and the dismantling of the Apartheid wall
2. Equal rights for Palestinians living within the 1948 borders of Israel
3. Recognition and respect of the Right of Return as defined by UN GA resolution 194

If the right of return to Valdary means the destruction of “the Jewish state”, she has every right to think that way. But we encourage her to investigate exactly whose racist doctrine is responsible for that conflation and why Israel has been allowed to ignore resolution 194 (which was a condition of its membership in the United Nations) for 66 years.

“If your heroes are clerics who sit in Gaza plotting the genocide of a people,” Valdary continues, “who place their children on rooftops in the hopes they will get blown to bits… you do not get to claim that you are some Apollonian advocate of human virtue. You are not”.

Rather than the 3 very simple and well-outlined goals of SJP illustrated above, Valdary claims that the organization endorses Hamas.

What?

Beyond that brazen lie, the claim that any Palestinian, Hamas or not, would “place their children on a rooftop in the hope [that] they will get blown (note the passive tense and no mention of who is bombing) to bits” is as dehumanizing as it is devoid of a single shred of evidence. Either Valdary has not read a single headline from the past three weeks or, she has made the conscious decision to digest Israeli “Human Shield”propaganda and ignore the ever present evidence that Israeli soldiers are playing “Call of Duty” with Palestinian lives, committing war crimes and engaging in retributive killing.

We’re betting on the latter.

In one of her more disturbing quotes, Valdary insists, “If your activities include grieving over the woefully incompetent performance by Hamas rocketeers and the subsequent millions of Jewish souls who are still alive–whose children were not murdered by their rockets; whose limbs were not torn from them; and whose disembowelment did not come into fruition–you do not get to claim that you stand for justice.”

Yes, apparently opponents of the Israeli occupation and the frequent massacres of Palestinians do not “stand for justice” because we dare mourn the senseless deaths of a people occupied and disenfranchised since birth while having the nerve to address Israel’s long history of facilitating these deaths. Unnecessarily grisly imagery aside, the numbers do not lie.

Nearly 300 children have been killed in Gaza since the onset of Operation Protective Edge, all at the hands of Israeli rockets, not because they are “woefully incompetent” or because they wanted to “stand for justice” but because they were unlucky enough to have been born on the side of the wall where they’re not considered human.

No Israeli children have been killed during Operation Protective Edge. They are human beings, too.

Valdary claims that “targeting and intimidating Jewish students on campus” and “arrogating their history of exile-and-return and fashioning it” to benefit SJP prevents the organization from claiming “civil liberty and freedom of expression.”

She is seemingly in complete denial of the Nakba (less than 70 years ago) and much more concerned about the Jewish exile that happened 2000 years ago.

One of our grandfathers still has the key to his house in Palestine.

“Fashioning” reality to look like reality isn’t arrogating, it’s called honesty and acceptance of historical truth, something Israel refuses to partake in, in addition to those buzzwords of civil liberty and freedom, two things Palestinians are denied by Israel and the complicit international community daily.

With the stellar quote, “You do not get to champion regimes that murder, torture, and persecute their own people, deliberately keep them impoverished, and embezzle billions of dollar from them–and claim you are “pro-Arab.” You are not,” the author reminds us that in typical Israeli fashion, the conflation of Palestine with Arab regimes who have abused and discriminated against the Palestinian people somehow makes perfect sense. It does not.

All this while ignoring the American funding of the massacres in Gaza.

Evidence to support the claim that SJP “champions” or advocates on behalf of a regime of any type is as imaginary the world that Valdary’s rhetoric makes sense in.

She goes on to claim that SJP’s support of the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement amounts to discrimination against Jews. Nice try.

Apartheid is real and it is not a device of the oppressed, it is a tool of the oppressor. Daring to whine about the threat of sanctions, boycotts and divestment while Gaza remains under blockade and the Palestinian economy remains neutered and at best is laughable.

At this point in the piece, Valdary invokes the legacies of Black civil rights leaders to sell us all on Zionism. We’re not having it.

“You do not get to pretend as though you and Rosa Parks would have been great buddies in the 1960s,” she says, “Rosa Parks was a real Freedom Fighter. Rosa Parks was a Zionist.”

Yes, I’m sure Rosa Parks would just adore the segregated bus system that operates in the West Bank. Parks also believed in racial integration and cooperation, which many Zionists believe to be the death-knell of the Jewish state.

You don’t get to invoke the names of dead civil rights leaders to whitewash actions that millions in the diaspora vocally fight against as a part of a global human mission to decolonize land, bodies, and minds. Racial oppression and the systems that are created and re-spawn to maintain said oppression are not foreign to the minds of Black Americans– many of us experience a wide variety of them everyday.

As the journalist Kristian Davis Bailey points out in a recent article for Ebony, the experiences of African Americans and Palestinians with systemic mass incarceration are strikingly similar, with forty percent of Palestinian men having been arrested and detained by Israel at some point in their lives. (To put this in perspective, the 2008 figure for Blacks was 1 in 11.)

“What is “safety” when the thing people are safe from is us?” he asks. “Who is looking out to protect the lives of Fadi or Trayvon? Why do our societies dismiss our narratives?”

His call for Black solidarity with Palestine is just one of many from the diaspora, acknowledging the interconnected nature of the struggle against white supremacy and militarism worldwide.

Of course, none of this has reached the ears (or resonated with) many Black Americans like Valdary. While it is her prerogative to support the politics and policies she believes in, she speaks for no one other than herself. It is also important to note that Israel lobby groups like AIPAC as of late has taken a keen interest in recruiting young Black and Hispanic college students, particularly from HBCUs, from across the country to help make the case for Israeli impunity, supplying a crash course in its staunchly Zionist version of Middle East history and politics.

This intentional commodification of Black student voices to act as frontline repellents in the Zionist war on truth about the occupation should alarm anyone engaged in any facet of anti-racist and anti-apartheid organizing worldwide. Using Black voices to whitewash efforts against Israel in an attempt to create faux lines of solidarity with the Black community in America spits in the face of transparent advocacy and ignores reality.

Valdary lists Black leaders like Bayard Rustin and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as Zionists without providing supporting evidence, particularly for Dr. King. His expertise as a non-violent civil rights leader are unparalleled in U.S. history but that does not make him an informed commentator on Zionist ideology or Middle Eastern affairs. Zionists often quote from his supposed “Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend” in an August, 1967 edition of Saturday Review however, no letter has even been found in print, anywhere. The hoax remains to be disbelieved by supporters of the Israeli occupation.

Valdary forgot to mention that some of the most vocal champions in the struggle to hold Israel accountable have been Africans and African Americans, from Desmond Tutu to Alice Walker, Angela Davis, and Cynthia McKinney.

Instead, she presents the text from a 1975 letter supposedly signed by Black Americans in support of Zionism without providing a source or link to the original.

“You see,” she says, “my people have always been Zionists because my people have always stood for the freedom of the oppressed.”

Again, speaking for all of Black America, which she insinuates is her army for Zionism, her words ignore the fact that Black people worldwide are fighting against the occupation and throws out consideration for Palestinians in her definition of “the oppressed”.

Her attempt to grant Zionism legitimacy by enlisting all of Black America in her fight, past and present, while Black and brown bodies remain under attack, from the occupied territories to the streets of Detroit is preposterous.

This is just one of the many faces of Zionism in the 21st century.

Black people, American or otherwise, are not PR ploys in a toolkit for Zionists and anti-Zionists alike and both should be fully aware of that fact.

Indeed, Black solidarity with Palestinians is not merely a choice beneficial to those in Palestine but Black folks around the world.

As Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa states, “We can and should do more to give solidarity where it is needed, even if we have nothing to offer but heartfelt words written and broadcast from the ghettos of Bantustans and refugee camps… there is a kind of liberation that can only come from being a part of the liberation of others. And because fostering reciprocal human solidarity is how we break an oppressors imposed isolation, such as the siege of Gaza. Because the United States and the European Union are not our friends. They have never been our friends.”

We leave you with words from an appeal published in the New York Times more than 40 years ago on November 1st, 1970, entitled “An appeal by Black Americans against United States support of the Zionist government of Israel,” sponsored by the Committee of Black Americans for Truth about the Middle East. This signatories include the National Association of Black Students and the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.

We, the Black American signatories of this advertisement are in complete solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters, who like us, are struggling for self-determination and an end to racist oppression… We stand with the Palestinian people in their efforts to preserve their revolution, and oppose its attempted destruction by American Imperialism aided by Zionists and Arab reactionaries.
We state that we are not anti-Jewish. We are anti-Zionist and against the Zionist State of Israel, the outpost of American Imperialism in the Middle East. Zionism is a reactionary racist ideology that justifies the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homes and lands, and attempts to enlist the Jewish masses of Israel and elsewhere in the service of imperialism to hold back the Middle East revolution…
We demand that all military aid or assistance of any kind to Israel must stop. Imperialism and Zionism must and will get out of the Middle East. We call for Afro-American solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation and to regain all of their stolen land.

To learn more about Black solidarity with Palestine visithttp://blackonpalestine.tumblr.com

To learn more about Students for Justice in Palestine visit http://sjpnational.org

To learn more about the worldwide BDS movement visit http://www.bdsmovement.net/

This article was originally posted @ Tufts SJP WordPress

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