Bill Fletcher Jr.
During the Palestinian Freedom Rides yesterday, the Institute for Middle East Understanding had a conference call for journalists, and Ismail Khalidi asked Bill Fletcher Jr., a scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, how he reconciled strong American Jewish support for the civil rights movement with the fact that "elements of the Jewish community" today support Israel no matter what it does to Palestinians.
"Well it's a complicated situation. I would first say that we African-Americans certainly appreciated the assistance we received from Jewish Americans," Fletcher said. "And people put their lives on the line, and that can never be taken away from anyone.
"What also has to be said is that Palestinians are being made to pay the price for the Holocaust when they had nothing to do with the Holocaust. And that's the issue that people don't want to put on the table." Fletcher pointed out that the Holocaust, which he characterized as the horrific annihilation of millions, was carried out by a European power...
Fletcher was also eloquent about the occupation, saying the term occupation is not strong enough to describe what he saw last June, and Americans are ignoring it.
"It's a slow moving annexation.... This really is a fight for a people's existence. The Palestinians are being cleansed from the land.... All people of conscience need to grapple with [this]... When this was being done in the Balkans, people were screaming. There were calls for military intervention. But it has been happening since 1947 in Palestine, and yet there's an immense amount, a high degree of silence."
Khalidi asked Fletcher to compare the American engagement against apartheid with the American engagement on the Israeli occupation.
Fletcher: "Let me start with one of the biggest differences. The biggest difference is there was no domestic demographic constituency in the United States that was deeply connected to South African apartheid." There was not a mass of Afrikaaners in the U.S. discourse allying themselves with apartheid.
"That is a tremendous difference."