Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ralph Bunche’s achievements didn’t make Jim Crow kosher

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Sid Shniad wrote this letter responding to a column in yesterday’s Vancouver Sun. He says they probably won’t publish it, so we can.

Letter to the Editor, Vancouver Sun,

[Columnist] Barbara Yaffe sides with Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff, taking issue with student activists’ use of the term ‘apartheid’ to describe the situation facing Palestinians at the hands of Israelis (Israel, apartheid-era South Africa not comparable). 

By way of rebuttal to the charge, Yaffe cites the fact that Arab-Israelis have won as many as 12 of the 120 Knesset seats in a single Israeli election and that there have been Arab members of the Israeli Supreme Court, along with the fact that Muslims and Druze have served as ambassadors representing the country abroad. But these examples do not refute the charge. 

In the era when American blacks were subject to Jim Crow laws and other forms of racial segregation, a number of blacks held prominent positions in the United States. Artists like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were sent on international goodwill tours by the U.S. State Department. Ralph Bunche served as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. None of this vitiated the fact that the U.S. was a segregated society which could validly have been described as practising a form of apartheid. 

Given the fact that Bishop Desmond Tutu and other South African social justice activists who visited Israel and Palestine found the conditions facing the Palestinians worse than the plight of black people in apartheid South Africa, it is not surprising that the Palestinian cause is resonating with increasing numbers of people around the world. Isn’t it time for people like Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff and Barbara Yaffe to end their embrace of Israel Right or Wrong and join the growing ranks of people like the courageous students who are putting on Israel Apartheid Week activities out of concern for Israel’s unconscionable abuse of the Palestinian people?

Yours truly,

Sid Shniad

Surrey, BC

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