South African apartheid didn’t have a domestic constituency in the U.S.

fletcher
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.” 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Activism, American Jewish Community, Israel/Palestine, Occupation, US Politics

{ 29 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avi_G. says:

    “Domestic constituency” is a polite way of putting it.

  2. Bumblebye says:

    “Domestic constituency”? Is that anti-semitic innuendo?
    Abe Foxman has a million smackeroos from Volkswagen to throw around and cry wolf some more:
    link to jta.org

    • American says:

      “Is that anti-semitic innuendo?”

      Not unless you think every single Jew out there is a cookie cutter raging zionist. LOL

      • Hostage says:

        Not unless you think every single Jew out there is a cookie cutter raging zionist.

        No we’re heterogeneous like the “Baptists” (Bible, Southern, Missionary, Free Will, & etc.) or Planters Cocktail Party Mix. You can’t just lump Jews together and pretend we’re all the same kind of nuts;-)

  3. American says:

    “There was not a mass of Afrikaaners in the U.S. discourse allying themselves with apartheid.”

    Yep, that’s the crux of it.
    1001 time…..the solution to I/P is dismanteling that domestic constituency in the US, the supporters, the politicians,the lobbies, their media, the religious prophets..
    Can it, will it ever be done?
    Not until they have inflicted some mortal wounds on the US…and others.
    Which they will do sooner or later.

    • Citizen says:

      Afrikaaners were of Dutch and English origin, right? Yet that demography in US never supported apartheid S Africa to my knowledge; did any American whites support it? Certainly no members of Christian churches? Apartheid had a Christian component but no other religious affinity to my knowledge. Certainly, all in all, the demography in the US was big enough to side with old S African regime and make a big difference if it had chosen to–like the Israelis who stuck with old S African regime to the near bitter end–they were even nuclear bomb buddies.

      • DBG says:

        like the Israelis who stuck with old S African regime to the near bitter end–they were even nuclear bomb buddies.

        some lies never die, do they?

  4. Kathleen says:

    “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…”

    Not to ignore that the confiscation of Palestinian lands by different means had been going on for decades before WWII and the Holocaust.
    ———————————————————————————

    He makes great points

    “domestic demographic constituency in the United States ”

    And that constituency is deeply embedded in the US congress and is supported by billions of dollars.

  5. Its not that simple.

    The reason that there is a domestic constituency is because there are literally millions of Americans with some close directly personal or merely sympathetic actual relationship with Israel and Israelis.

    There were few personal, commercial, political relatinships between the US and South Africa. Definitely some, but not many.

    South Africa was foreign to Jewish Americans, to Americans in general. Israel is friend, family to Jewish Americans, to Americans in general.

    To make this into a nefarious political sadism is just innaccurate.

    There are other less malicious ways to make change.

    • American says:

      The reason that there is a domestic constituency is because there are literally millions of Americans with some close directly personal or merely sympathetic actual relationship with Israel and Israelis.”

      So what?
      There are hundreds of millions of Americans who don’t have any personal relationship with Israel.
      Give me a good reason why the majority should be forced to support the desires of a few million Jews and Christian religious zealots especially when the object of their desire is a rouge country whose actions damage our own country and is morally offensive to decent poeple.

      • Citizen says:

        Other than Christian fundies and our 2% Jewish population, very few Americans have a personal relationship with Israel (with their idea of Israel since it’s rare to find any American with the facts about Israel), and more Americans than not have never even met a Jewish person; even more Americans wouldn’t recognize one if they met him/her. Most Americans never read a piece of literature by a Jewish American author unless they read one or two novels in college by such authors, who have had a long run in the literary area for going on a half century. Such “outsider” novels today are hard put for any serious POV; the critical jokes enmeshed in them are really stale.

      • pabelmont says:

        Citizen says it. There is a propaganda blast in favor of Israel. The USA’s captive MSM trumpets Israel incessantly. Americans are told, and told, and told, and — yes!, TOLD! — how much USA is aligned with Israel. Yessireebob. Who would doubt what all MSM say all day? (Just as who would oppose war with Iraq or Iran?) I don’t know if Hitler or Goebbels was the real inventor, but the APIAC folks and neocons have taken it up with a vengeance.

        • Bumblebye says:

          Just in case Joe Shmo wasn’t “TOLD!” enough those 5 traitors who went on a ChristiZio junket revealed yet another bill in the works to their hosts, that would require the “American administration to support Israel in a move deemed necessary to defend itself against the Iranian nuclear threat” – ” and stating “…expression of support for Israel’s right to defend its sovereignty and to protect the lives and safety of its citizens and use all necessary means to confront and eliminate the nuclear threat that emerges from the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force in the absence of other diplomatic means available in the near future.”
          link to gilad.co.uk

    • Mooser says:

      “merely sympathetic actual relationship”

      I’m just so humbled by the precision in his writing! Never a hint of ambiguity! You always know exactly what he’s referring to.

      • James North says:

        Richard Witty said, ‘Thanks for the compliment, Mooser. The secret of my precision is that I take a great deal of time with my comments, and I’m specially aware that grammar is important. We are dealing with vital issues here, and I have to make my meaning crystal clear. Otherwise, people might not understand me, and then I might have to accuse them of deliberately misreading what I have to say. Fortunately, my clarity prevents such unfortunate misunderstandings.’

        • Mooser says:

          Just think! If Witty had contributed the ten thousand plus comments to his own blog, instead of Mondoweiss, he would have a blog by now!

  6. pabelmont says:

    Fletcher is wonderful. His points are necessary. All praise to the Jewish supporters and putting-bodies-on-the-line in 1960s. Indeed. And now, post 1967, near deafening silence. then and now. Pride and shame.

    • jayn0t says:

      “All praise to the Jewish supporters and putting-bodies-on-the-line in 1960s. Indeed. And now, post 1967, near deafening silence. then and now. Pride and shame.”

      Surely a more economical explanation is ethnic interest, rather than the moral concepts pride and shame.

      Fletcher’s statement ‘Palestinians are being made to pay the price for the Holocaust’ is also a common mistake. In fact, Zionists planned their project before the Holocaust.

      • Diane Mason says:

        Fletcher’s statement ‘Palestinians are being made to pay the price for the Holocaust’ is also a common mistake. In fact, Zionists planned their project before the Holocaust.

        There’s no contradiction between saying that Zionists planned their project before the Holocaust, but couldn’t realize it until they had the weight of the Holocaust to bring doubtful members of the UN into line.

  7. kma says:

    oh, NO, Israel is NOT friend or family to Americans in general, and NO, the American government does NOT coddle Israel and condone the ethnic cleansing because Americans just feel warm and fuzzy about it. our politicians do NOT sit there thinking, ‘boy this next foreign policy move we are about to make is incredibly stupid, but Americans must WANT me to’! right…..

    Americans in general do NOT support the ethnic cleansing, the settlements, the war against the entire Palestinian population, the wars we are now involved in, or the wars to come. all of this only makes our lives WORSE. nor do those of us who have been over there have any equally boneheaded notions that Israelis think of us as “friends” or “family”!!!

    that’s just self-delusion!

  8. mudder says:

    The conservative Calvinist Afrikaners indeed had sectarian affinity in the U.S.–Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were always ready to support them. When he wasn’t denouncing Desmond Tutu as a “phony”, Falwell preached the Christian virtue of buying Krugerands to support South Africa. And Robertson told his 700 Club viewers that “one man, one vote” would not be wise.

    The difference is that evangelicals were much less politically powerful then than they are today. And, of course, the biggest difference is that evangelicals aren’t the only powerful religious group to support Israeli apartheid.

  9. ahhiyawa says:

    The sole responsibility for a constituency lobbying, politicking and supporting Palestine is a job that belongs to the community of Arab/Muslim Americans.

    Like all immigrant groups before them, they adhere to the delusion if they hide in the wood work, play it low key and mind their own business they can avoid trouble and reap the economic benefits the US has to offer. It doesn’t work that way.

    The American Arab/Muslim community needs to get off their dead asses and start organizing and participating across the board in the public, private and political spheres of America, just as all other immigrant groups have learned to do.

  10. kapok says:

    There are actually two justifications for the “Jewish” State. The Holy Coast(tm) for sure but there’s also the fall back position, namely, the from-time-immemorial bunkum.

  11. ahhiyawa says:

    I will further add that Israel and its front groups, lobbies and agents provocateurs are doing nothing different than any other foreign interest group in the US.

    The only reason the Zionist Lobby in the US is effective, and this needs to be underlined with an atomic pencil a million times, is because they have a free road with absolutely no competition to blunt their effectiveness. There is no Arab/Muslim Lobby in the US, or not much to speak of.

    There are just as many Arab/Muslim Americans as there are Jewish/Americans, their numbers globally total in the billions, nor are they a destitute people. Expecting Jewish/Americans to save their butts is a nice idea, but wrong headed.

    Politics in America is a public affair wide open to all classes of PERSONS, foreign or domestic. Its not a democracy and its not elusively the domain of indigent or naturalized citizens.

    Its the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, and when Arab/Muslims stand mute they just don’t give way to Jewish/American interests and gains, their political silence literally means they accept the status quo.

    • annie says:

      stand mute? they do not stand mute. maybe they should buy a large american news corporation.

      • ahhiyawa says:

        In America having an opinion or speaking one’s mind is like having an asshole, everyone has got one and consequently is no more important than anyone else’s. Nor am I talking about Palestinians in the M/E who have been struggling since 1947 to regain their liberty and country.

        The problem I’m identifying is the American Arab/Muslim community who are not politically engaged in the US for Palestinian interests, as the Jewish/American community is politically engaged for Israeli and Zionist interests. This isn’t the major media, Obama’s or the Jewish/American communities fault, or Jordan’s, Egypt’s, Saudi Arabia’s or any other Arab or Muslim nations fault.

        Until Arab/Muslim Americans start uniting, organizing politically, mobilizing their base, creating political lobbies & PAC’s, funding politicians, get out the vote drives and fully competing and engaging in all the gambits of civil society their story just won’t be heard. In fact, it doesn’t exist. Accusations, pointing fingers and sobbing won’t do it. Not in America.

        There are dozens of other successful immigrant experiences from which to learn should Arab/Muslim Americans can’t edure absorbing the lessons learned from the Jewish/American community. There is no excuse there either.

        Not only do Arab/Muslim Americans stand mute on political advocacy for Palestinian interests, as well as their own, in the American political scheme of things this failure to politically advocate their interests also means they count for nothing.

        In America that’s the way it is.