NEW YORK – Human Rights Attorney Roger Wareham of the December 12th Movement and Blacks Against Genocide marched from Times Square to the Israeli Mission on Jan. 3, standing behind the black, red and green flag of Black liberation.
“We think the Gaza issue is very important for Black people,” Mr. Wareham told The Final Call. Black people in America cannot ignore what is happening in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, he said.
“We understand oppression,” the activist added. “If they come for Gaza in the morning, they will certainly come for Harlem at night.”
He talked about the West’s history of destroying governments it doesn’t like. “There is a definite connection to the overthrow of (Salvador) Allende in Chile in 1993; what happened in Zimbabwe in 2008 and Hamas now. When the West does not approve of a democratically elected government, they move to separate that government from its people,” Mr. Wareham said.
The New York-based International Action Center agreed. “A consistent tactic of Israel through all the years has been to divide Palestinians against their most effective organizations. Through most of the recent years Israel has attacked Fatah. Now it is Hamas that Israel attacks,” the group noted.
Mr. Wareham called for the Congressional Black Caucus to speak out on the siege of the Gaza Strip, which was onto more than a week old. Many of the 43 members of the Black Caucus serve on key committees. Kendrick B. Meeks (D-Fla.) serves on the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) serves as House Majority Whip. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) sits on the Appropriations committee. Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) serves as chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa and global health. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) sits on the foreign affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is senior Democratic whip and sits on the committee on foreign affairs and appropriations committee.
“We don’t hear the Black Caucus speaking out. We don’t hear U.S. civil rights leaders speaking out,” observed Ron Daniels, of the Institute for the Black World. “We as African people have always been the leading conscience in the struggle for justice in America. We, above all, understand oppression,” Mr. Daniels told The Final Call.
“It is up to Black leadership to be on the right side of history. Palestinians must have a homeland. We have to speak out,” Mr. Daniels stressed.
Days before Congress was to reconvene, Final Call efforts to reach key members of the Congressional Black Caucus by press time were unsuccessful and a call to the Rev. Jackson had not been returned.
The only member of the CBC to make a public statement on the situation in Gaza has been Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who called on both Israel and Hamas to halt the “renewed escalation of violence in Gaza.”
Mr. Ellison said on his webpage that he had been to Sderot, Israel where he learned firsthand of the “physical and emotional despair” caused by the rockets fired by Hamas. “At the same time life for the people of Gaza becomes increasingly unbelievable,” he said.
The Final Call sat down with longtime Black nationalist, political activist, poet, and author Amiri Baraka as he waited to join the Jan. 3 rally. The problem is media coverage of what Blacks say concerning issues such as the Gaza Strip is incomplete, he said.
“Black people do need to speak out because they clearly understand apartheid and White supremacy,” Mr. Baraka said. Former President Jimmy Carter once called what was happening in the Occupied Territories “apartheid,” he noted.
Many international activists began using the word “apartheid” in 2006, during their campaign against the 436-mile wall Israel started constructing in the West Bank to separate Israelis from Palestinians. According to the United Nations, the wall is to be completed in 2010.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague, in 2004 issued an “advisory opinion” based on a UN request and determined that the wall was “illegal.”
Activists and analysts such as Sara Flounders of the International Action Center and Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel.
“The atrocities carried out against Gaza are made possible by $3 billion in yearly U.S. aid to Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, with another $30 billion more to be allocated over the next 10 years,” according to the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupation.
“The F-16 war planes and the tanks and artillery being used by the Israeli military to destroy the Gaza Strip are supplied by the American taxpayer,” Ms. Flounders told The Final Call.
According to the American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, President George W. Bush signed a bill for FY2008 that gave Israel $2.42 billion in U.S. aid, which included $2.38 billion in military aid; and an additional $39.6 billion for the resettlement of Jewish settlers from the former Soviet Union.
Dr. Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and a senior fellow at Foreign Policy in Focus, wrotes that Israel is required to use 75 percent of its military aid to buy arms from some 3,000 U.S. suppliers, who in turn lobby for U.S. policies that benefit their agendas.
“Since 1992, the U.S. has offered Israel an additional $1.42 billion annually in loan guarantees, which are eventually forgiven by the Congress,” Prof. Zunes said.
The U.S. basically writes a blank check for Israel to use against the Palestinians, noted Mr. Daniels. “Aid which does not go to Africa; nor is it used to support programs in the Black community,” he said.
- Black Caucus abandons King legacy, votes for war on Gaza (Black Agenda Report, 01-14-2009)
- Israel: No Friend of Obama (FCN, 01-13-2009)
- Black, Palestinian solidarity in the struggle for justice (FCN, 10-25-2007)
- Apartheid In The Holy Land (Desmond Tutu, 12-24-2006)
- Israeli Apartheid: Striking parallels to So. Africa (FCN, 08-28-2006)