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African American artists, clergy and activists to Alicia Keys: ‘the treatment Palestinians face shares much in common with what African Americans experienced under Jim Crow ‘

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The following statement has been published on the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation website:
On May 29th, novelist Alice Walker issued an open letter calling upon Alicia Keys to cancel her scheduled concert in Israel. The letter has created an immense stir, as those who wish to ignore the situation facing the Palestinians hasten to draw a false wall between the experiences of African Americans under Jim Crow and Palestinians today, attacking Alice Walker’s person in the process, in major media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, the Daily News and the New York Post. In signing this letter, we affirm the accuracy of parallels drawn between the experience of African Americans in the U.S. under Jim Crow and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
The reality of the Palestinian situation is nothing short of horrendous. Israel has refused to comply with United Nations resolutions calling for a withdrawal to the Green Line of 1967; no recognition has been given by Israel of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, in clear violation of international law and precedent; Palestinian land has been consistently seized by the Israeli government since 1948, often under the false pretense of security reasons; Palestinian citizens of Israel face de facto and de jure discrimination, including several dozen laws discriminating against them, and inferior education resources; a so-called separation wall has–again in violation of international law–been established through and around Palestinian lands. 
The list of the discriminatory treatment Palestinians face, which fits the definition under international law of “the crime of apartheid,” seems endless. UN Special Rapporteur and South African John Dugard made comparisons between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and apartheid in a 2007 report, as has famed South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who traveled the world advocating for a boycott of South Africa under apartheid. More recently the former South African ambassador to Israel sent a letter condemning Israel for its “replication of apartheid.” A 2012 report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, while also drawing attention to conventions on apartheid, framed Israel’s treatment of both its Palestinian citizens, and those living under military rule in the occupied territories, in terms of segregation and racial discrimination.
We stand against bigotry and racism in all their forms, and wish to express that the treatment Palestinians face shares much in common with what African Americans experienced under Jim Crow segregation in the USA. Apartheid is not a system limited to South Africa between 1948-1994. Apartheid was established as a universal crime by the international community in 1973 and again in2002. but it is a system whose origins can be found in Jim Crow segregation and in settler colonies established by Europe around the world.

We stand by Alice Walker’s analogy between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the Jim Crow segregation in the United States that many of us experienced, and struggled against through the civil rights movement. It is therefore no surprise to us, that, in response to Israel’s systematic discrimination, our acclaimed sister Alice Walker has urged Ms. Keys to employ the time-honored, peaceful method of boycott and to cancel her upcoming concert in Israel. 


  • Felicia Eaves, co-chair, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
  • Bill Fletcher Jr., African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Hon. Rev. Dr. Kwame Abayomi, Ret., City Council – Baltimore, MD
  • Adisa Alkebulan, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, San Diego State University
  • Ajamu Baraka, Human Rights Activist
  • Carl Bloice, Journalist
  • Rev. Carolyn L. Boyd, Adjunct Pastor – Plymouth Congregational UCC, Washington DC (Author, The Five Steps To Forgiveness) (Host, Higher Ground) (Host, What’s at Stake, Spiritually)
  • Pastor Heber Brown, III,  Pleasant Hope Baptist Church (Baltimore, MD)
  • Angela Y. Davis
  • Rev. Diane Ford Dessables, M.Div., MS
  • Aaron Dixon, author of “My People are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain” 
  • Dr. Rhone Fraser
  • Angela Gilliam, Faculty Emerita, The Evergreen State College
  • Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ
  • LisaGay Hamilton, actress
  • Dr Lynette A. Jackson
  • Maurice Jackson, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, Georgetown University
  • James Jennings
  • Robin D.G. Kelley, Professor of History, UCLA
  • Gerald Lenoir, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
  • Rev. Joi R. Orr
  • Reverend Chris Pierson
  • Barbara Ransby, historian, author and activist
  • Russell Rickford, Assistant Professor of History, Dartmouth College
  • Lynn Roberts, African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Jamala Rogers, Organization for Black Struggle
  • Robyn C. Spencer
  • Tabitha St. Bernard
  • Bill Strickland, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Aisha Truss-Miller
  • Brandon West
  • Johnny E. Williams, Department of Sociology, Trinity College
  • Emira Woods, Co-Director Foreign Policy in Focus- Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC
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14 Responses

  1. just
    July 2, 2013, 11:51 am

    I hope she listens– I think she should stay home and celebrate the 4th right here. Impressive letter and signatories.

    Thanks Adam.

  2. ritzl
    July 2, 2013, 1:56 pm

    Thanks Adam. If black Americans start turning, in numbers, on this it will be a hugely significant milestone. Pivotal.

    If African Americans started flying in to visit Palestine and were greeted with the same tactics as whites or people of ME descent the similarities to Jim Crow would be filmable and relevant and explainable by and to people who lived through US segregation. And that’s not a “use/token” suggestion, but rather a suggestion of real power on this issue, and maybe a plea for help.

    God bless these folks, and more power to them. Hopefully they may even be able to force discomfort on, if not outright decisions and public statements from, the Congressional Black Caucus.

  3. StandardDeliverySchwartz
    July 2, 2013, 4:27 pm

    When calling for cultural boycotts of Israel, there seems to be a double standard. In 2011, pop musician Justin Bieber performed in Israel. His visit was dismissed as a dopey concert for tweens. That same year punk musician Jello Biafra planned a performance in Tel Aviv, and BDS supporters automatically called for him to boycott.

    It was a “not in my backyard” scenario for progressives. Israelis can enjoy Justin Bieber’s crappy music, but don’t touch our punk rock records. But Bieber’s music is (statistically) more popular that Jello Biafra or Dead Kennedys. If Justin Bieber had boycotted Israel, it would have had an impact on a lot of tweens who are just getting into politics.

    Regarding Alicia Keys, she’s a good middle ground for the cultural boycott debate. Keys’ music is popular, contemporary R&B, but her career appears to be based on artistry and musicianship. I mean, she plays her own instrument and writes her songs! The fact that Keys is African American has added another level on her scheduled performance in Israel, with the Jim Crow/Apartheid comparison.

      • StandardDeliverySchwartz
        July 2, 2013, 5:21 pm

        Thanks for sharing the info, I did see that post before I wrote my comment.

        Bieber’s performance actually happened, and I see that some people satirically suggested that listening to Justin Bieber was a punishment.

      • Rusty Pipes
        Rusty Pipes
        July 2, 2013, 10:22 pm

        Keyes might benefit from reading about the experiences of performers, like Bieber, who ignored the calls for boycott and had a miserable time in Israel being used as PR pawns or others who found it an eye-opening experience and will not return.

  4. Ludwig
    July 2, 2013, 11:29 pm

    It seems that BDS is advocating collective punishment against Jews.

    • ritzl
      July 3, 2013, 7:49 am

      It seems, in Ludwig-world, that simply being Jewish means never having to say you’re sorry.

      What a typically offensive comment, alluding to the Nazi-era boycott of Jews in an attempt to let Israel off the hook for actual past and ONGOING death, deprivation, humiliation, and oppression of Palestinians. Sick.

      Israel does not equal “the Jews” or “Jews.” Israel is a state doing bad things with little (but increasing) accountability for its actions. BDS is the source, the only source at the moment, for that accountability.

      Embrace your inner BDS! It’s the right thing to do.

    • Cliff
      July 3, 2013, 9:40 am

      bds is targeting the settlements and colonialism

      not jews

      get y0ur facts straight

      • yrn
        July 4, 2013, 9:17 am

        You gut to be kidding
        Alicia performs in the settlements……..???
        get your facts straight ignorant.

        BDS targets ISRAEL which is the Jewish state.
        Your verbal games a pathetic

    • iResistDe4iAm
      July 3, 2013, 11:23 am

      Just one of many reasons why apologists for Israeli occupation have lost credibility:

      * They indignantly denounce any non-violent BDS action against Israel as “collective punishment against Jews”, while Israel lobbies for more crippling sanctions (and military aggression) against Iran, and continues its barbaric collective punishment of 1.6 million civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip, and 2.6 million non-Jewish civilians in the walled-in, segregated West Bank & East Jerusalem.

      • Citizen
        July 3, 2013, 8:50 pm

        I guess in ZioWorld, persians and palestinians are not collective peoples.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        July 4, 2013, 8:02 am

        No, they are, but in ZioWorld it is only Jews who merit moral consideration. They have no interest in the humanity of anyone else.

  5. yrn
    July 4, 2013, 9:22 am

    Well as the BDS just lost again, all choose to ignore commenting on this article

    Imagine if Alicia Keys was cancelling.
    Wow what a party would all organize here.
    You can still try with Sir Cliff Richard he comes over for 2 performances next week.
    He mentioned already how BDS tried all the tricks in the book.
    But he just mentioned he dose not even pay attention to this nonsense.

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