“The zionist argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine has no intelligent or legal basis in history.”
There have been few more disgusting and cynical displays of Black Democratic lackyism in recent years than the recruitment by Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney’s own Democratic Party of a fellow Black female Democrat – Denise Majette – to displace her during the 2002 primary as punishment for her critique of the State of Israel and her suggestion that Palestinians should have the right to self-determination.
One of the most disfiguring effects of the knot that ties existing outposts of Black political power in the US to the putrescent Democratic Party is how it sets the anchor point for Black politics so far away from Palestine. So long as Black participation in politics in the US remains lashed to this decaying corpse, it cannot gain the independence necessary to scale the Apartheid wall that the DP has constructed between the occupation of African America and the occupation of Palestine. Yet this connection is vital to understanding and acting in the face of imperialism at home and abroad.
It is no accident, to my mind, that MLK was killed the same year that he said “every bomb that explodes in Vietnam explodes in Harlem.” He was recapturing the connection between the Black Freedom Struggle and anti-imperialism that was severed during the McCarthy era by a combination of co-optation and repression. Penny M. Von Eschen’s excellent book Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 is a very good account of how this process worked.
The aftermath of Katrina has opened a lot of old wounds and inflicted new ones on African America. My friend Dave Cline told me on the phone yesterday — reminding me of the MLK quote above — every bomb that explodes on Iraq explodes in New Orleans. The efforts in recent years to refound a strong Black left in the United States — that is, an African American political base that recaptures the pan-Africanism and anti-imperial internationalism that was driven underground during McCarthy’s era — have included NGOs like Trans-Africa Forum and the Black Radical Congress and publications like Color Lines and Black Commentator.
Historically, the experience of the Palestinians is probably more analogous to the history of the indigenous nations of North and South America than the forced immigration history of African America, but structurally the situation of African America and Palestine gets closer all the time. And again, internationalism is not about shared or perfectly common history as much as it is about identifying who and where the common enemy is in order to mount a more effective struggle. But most importantly, solidarity has to be established and deepened among all peoples who are struggling for self-determination — the diametric opposite of imperialism.
While high levels of co-optation and assimilationism have served to confuse and weaken both Palestinian and African American self-determination struggles, the structural conditions of both subjugated nations continue and will therefore continue to reflect themselves in the consciousness — however partial or whole — of the people who live under these conditions.
There is little doubt thast the Palestinian condition overall is worse than that for African America, but Katrina has opened a window on the fact that what we see today in Palestine is precisely what we can expect by and by in African America. Neither Israel nor the United States ever has the least intention of allowing either nation to direct its own development, because the subjugation of both colonized nations is fundamentally necessary for the continued exercise of power by the dominant classes of the colonizing nations. Neither the Palestinian National Authority nor the Democratic Party will EVER be the vehicle for self-determination because they are both creatures of those dominant classes.
McKinney’s 2002 campaign showed exactly how dangerous these ruling circles believe African American/Palestinian solidarity to be by how visciously they went after McKinney. This is an inverse measure, then, of how important precisely this alliance is to the self-determination of both subjugated nations.
It is important to disclaim conspiracy theories about Israel controlling the United States — which often as not end up as the keystone in the anti-Semitic arch of a “world Jewish conspiracy.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel is not a religion or even an ethnicity; it is a European settler state. And the idea that Israel could dictate to the United States, after even the most superficial analysis of relative financial, economic, diplomatic, or military leverage, is asinine. Israel’s value to the United States is that it serves as a US aircraft carrier (albeit with some maverick commanders from time to time) in the region that most interests the US imperium right now.
The problem is that it is not really an aircraft carrier, and therein lies the vulnerability of both Israel and the US…. ergo, the strategic as well as moral importance of Palestine, and its connection to the question of self-determination for African America. The State of Israel exists on recently conquered territory. It is still conducting a ruthless military ocucpation of the people who live there. And Israelis themselves are not a homogeneous mass. This aircraft carrier has a lot of “domestic” politics aboard, not the least of which is an active and often armed struggle by the Palestinians for their land and future.
Those struggles will not go away.
Israel quite simply cannot continue in its present form as an ethnically-defined racist Apartheid state without the on-going support of the United States. It would have neither the financial nor the military resources to continue the dispossession, humiliation, and destruction of the Palestinian nation without American money, American arms, and American diplomatic cover in the United Nations. That DEPENDENCY, and not some monolithic Jewish conspiracy, accounts for the immense sums of money and energy spent by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) each year in advertizing, editorializing, lobbying, and (funneled) campaign contributions to federal candidates for elective office.
The need the US has for Israel is explained nicely by Noam Chomsky in the interview linked above. Here is an excerpt:
“The US is a global power. What happens in Israel-Palestine is a sidelight. There are many factors entering into US policies. Chief among them in this region of the world is control over the world’s major energy resources. The US-Israel alliance took shape in that context. By 1958, the National Security Council concluded that a ‘logical corollary’ of opposition to growing Arab nationalism ‘would be to support Israel as the only strong pro-Western power left in the Middle East.’ That is an exaggeration, but an affirmation of the general strategic analysis, which identified indigenous nationalism as the primary threat (as elsewhere in the Third World); typically called ‘Communist,’ though it is commonly recognized in the internal record that this is a term of propaganda and that Cold War issues were often marginal, as in the crucial year of 1958. The alliance became firm in 1967, when Israel performed an important service for US power by destroying the main forces of secular Arab nationalism, considered a very serious threat to US domination of the Gulf region. So matters continued, after the collapse of the USSR as well. By now the US-Israel-Turkey alliance is a centerpiece of US strategy, and Israel is virtually a US military base, also closely integrated with the militarized US high-tech economy.”
Since Chomsky gave this interview in 2002, the bond between Turkey and the US has weakened because of US support for Kurdish separatists in Northern Iraq (who are now in the Iraqi occupation-government), and Kurdish overtures to Israel, but the political and military ties between the Bush administration and the Sharon government of Israel have proven very durable.
The point that has to be emphasized here is that the same imperial power that uses Israel to deny self-determination to Iraqis and Palestinians depends on control over the so-called Middle East to retain its power… and that saem imperial power made the decision — without consulting a single survivor of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — to deny entry to over 1,500 Cuban doctors who volunteered to assist with rescue and recovery efforts in the Black homeland that was most affected by these storms. The Israeli state (dependent on the US) deciding when and where Palestinians can go while they systematically take their land is exactly the same as the (white controlled) US state determining for Black storm and flood victims who can provide them with assistance and whether or not they will ever be able to return to their homes.
It is no accident that both the Palestinians and the African American survivors of Katrina are demading the “right of return.” White capitalists, with the able assistance of Black comprador assistants (both entrepreneurs and politicians), are already figuring out how to steal formerly Black land in New Orleans and elsewhere, just as the Israelis have stolen the best lands (and the vast majority of the water) from the Palestinians.
It is likewise no accident that the methods used to control subjugated populations — be they African American, Palestinian, or Iraqi — are draconian racialized policing, marginalization of genuine popular leadership, and prisons. I have been saying for some time now that the most powerful connection we can make between Iraq and African America is not how much money gets spent, but the similarities between Abu Ghriab Prison and Angola Penitentiary.
We know about the land exporpriations conducted by the Israeli state against Palestinians, but we need to thing about it in light of the fact that in 1920, there were nearly 1 million Black farmers in the US. They owned 14 percent of all farms in the country. Today there are around 17,500 Black farmers; and they own less than one percent of the farmland.
Yet on September 11, 2003, AIPAC wrote:
“The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised House Democrats, led by Representative Howard Berman (CA), for writing a letter to Governor Howard Dean explaining why the U.S.-Israel relationship has been, and will continue to be, the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The letter also explains why ‘it is unacceptable for the U.S. to be â€˜evenhandedâ€™ on these fundamental issues.’”
On the massive antiwar demonstration this September 24th, Democrats were warned en masse by AIPAC that any participation in this event which also featured pro-Palestinian messages would be severely frowned upon. This threat was backed up by the demosntration effect of the campaign that was launched by both AIPAC and the Democratic Party agaisnt Cynthia McKinney in 2002. It’s little wonder, then, that only two major (Democratic) Black federal elected official attended and spoke at the event: Cynthia McKinney and John Conyers. It is also no surprise that there was no call from many influential Black “leaders,” many joined at the hip with the DP establishment, to participate in the antiwar march.
The Democratic Party is committed to Zionism — a racist philosophy of colonial expansionism — because it is committed to imperialism. And the continued colonization of the Black nation inside the United States is an integral part of US imperialism… so the Democratic Party chiefs are committed to maintaining that colonial staus, too. They just want to do it in a way that co-opts enough of the Black comprador bourgeoisie and enough of the Black intelligentsia to ensure Black votes on election day and peaceful acceptance of chronic structural inequality. (Don’t forget that it was under Bill Clinton’s leadership that the prison population of the US jumped to over 2 million. George Bush may not care about Black people, but neither do a hell of a lot of Democrat “leaders” except on election day.)
That’s my rant for this evening, and I know plenty of others will have the time and inclination to elaborate on the connections between African America and Palestine, as well as the necessity to forge international solidarities against US imperialism.