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‘African Americans for Justice in the Middle East & North Africa’ condemn rising tide of racism in Israeli society

ActivismIsrael/Palestine

We, the undersigned, condemn in the strongest possible terms recent racist comments made by Israel’s newly-elected chief Ashkenazi rabbi, David Lau, who referred to African-American basketball players playing in Israel as “kushim,” a derogatory term that is akin to “nigger.” Rabbi Lau, a government official who is paid by the state and who is scheduled to serve a ten-year term as one of two official chief Israeli rabbis, made the offensive remarks to young Jewish religious students while warning them against watching televised sports like basketball. Following criticism from anti-racism activists, Rabbi Lau was defended by Natfali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of Religious Services and leader of the Jewish Home party.

Regrettably, the sentiments expressed by Rabbi Lau reflect a larger problem of racism in Israeli society. In recent years, Israel has witnessed a rising tide of socially acceptable bigotry, particularly against African asylum seekers and Palestinians, fanned by senior religious and political figures. In June 2012, Israel’s then-Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, declared that Israel “belongs to us, to the white man,” in response to a question about Muslim asylum seekers. The previous month, Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his Likud party, helped incite a wave of violence against Africans after making fear-mongering and incendiary comments about asylum seekers. In one instance, Likud parliamentarian Miri Regev described African refugees as a “cancer in our body” at a rally in Tel Aviv that degenerated into what local media described as a “race riot” in which random individuals of African descent were attacked in the street. Around the same time, a series of arsons and other violent attacks were carried out against Africans in Israel. The situation was so bad that a group of ambassadors from African countries complained to Israel’s foreign ministry that African diplomats were afraid to walk down the street.

The situation for Palestinians living in Israel and the occupied territories is no better. Those who are citizens of Israel suffer systematic discrimination as non-Jews living in a self-defined “Jewish state,” while those living under Israeli military rule are denied the most basic of political and civil rights, which are accorded to Jewish settlers living in illegal settlements right next to them, simply because they are not Jewish. Increasingly, the world is recognizing the regime that Israel has instituted in the territories that it controls between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as a form of apartheid.

As African Americans and as citizens of the United States, which provides enormous economic, military, and diplomatic support to the state of Israel, we are appalled by Rabbi Lau’s racist statement, the lack of condemnation from senior Israeli and American officials that it engendered, and by the disturbing growth in openly racist attitudes expressed in Israel against Africans, Palestinians, and others. We call on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, and all peoples of conscience, to condemn Rabbi Lau’s comments and the growing culture of intolerance and naked racism in Israeli society that they represent, and to demand his immediate removal from his position as chief Ashkenazi rabbi. As negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians begin again under the rubric of the US-sponsored peace process, which reportedly includes a demand supported by the Obama administration that Palestinians officially recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” we also urge politicians and all others concerned to acknowledge and address the worsening racism and discrimination suffered by Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens of Israel. Failure to do so will mean the perpetuation of the injustices done to the Palestinian people, and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, regardless of the results of any negotiations. 

Signed,

Kali Akuno
Dr. Adisa A. Alkebulan
Carl Bloice
Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
Rev. Dr. Carolyn Boyd 
Dr. Gloria Brown
Christopher Cathcart
Felicia Eaves
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Patricia Ford
Dr. Rhone Fraser
Dr. Angela Gilliam
Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler
Dr. Jennifer F. Hamer
Mark Harrison
Dr. James Jennings
Dr. Robin Kelley
Mel King
Rev. Dr. Phil Lawson
Gerald Lenoir
Dr. Charles Pinderhughes
Dr. Russell Rickford
Dr. Lynn Roberts
Jamala Rogers
Roger Toussaint
Dr. Elijah Ward

African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North A
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6 Responses

  1. Blaine Coleman
    Blaine Coleman
    August 2, 2013, 10:45 am

    This statement against Israeli racism is much better than nothing. Thank you.

    However, that statement demands no action against Israel – no boycott, no cutting of ties, nothing. Hat in hand, it begs politicians to “acknowledge and address” Israeli racism.

    That statement is typical of the current toothless BDS movement, which can hardly be found outside a few California campuses.

    Who will voice any heartfelt defiance against the last apartheid state on Earth, to publicly demand its boycott and abolition?

    We are called on to do more than wring our hands. At this late date, we must demand total boycott and total abolition of the apartheid state — exactly what worked on the now dead-and-buried South African apartheid state.

    Black Americans used to condemn Israeli racism with the defiance it deserved — at least since the 1956 Israeli attack on Egypt.

    Just look at this 1970 New York Times ad, condemning Israeli state racism – http://tinyurl.com/celltfh
    Read more about it here – http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/jalal-abukhater/black-people-against-zionism-black-people-against-apartheid

    That 1970 ad was written as an “Appeal by Black Americans” demanding an end to all military aid and assistance of any kind to Israel. Tell me, why can’t you say that now, 43 years later?

    ————————————————————

    Do you realize how deep, and how old, Israeli racism is? See this 1973 racist cartoon in Ha’aretz – http://tinyurl.com/mue64sw

    That 1973 Israeli cartoon portrayed African diplomats as cannibals who were cheerfully preparing to eat Israeli officials.

    Then Israel joined white South Africa’s 1975-76 invasion of Angola, which ultimately led to the death of a half-million Angolans over several decades. Israel also joined white South Africa and the United States in the destruction of Mozambique: a million Mozambicans are dead as a result, and a third of the country was contaminated with landmines.

    Tell me why, as Israel destroys thousands more lives, do condemnations of Israeli racism grow meeker, not louder?

    Re-read that 1970 New York Times ad, to get a flavor of proper defiance against Israeli racist violence. Boycott and abolish the last apartheid state on Earth.

  2. dimadok
    dimadok
    August 2, 2013, 3:53 pm

    I’m eager to see your statement with regard to Western Sahara/ Mauritania black population slavery; extortion, murders and rapes of black Ethiopian migrants in Yemen, racial profiling in US and other Western countries, and recent comparison of first black Italian minister to orangutan. Otherwise, mind your own business and don’t teach us Hebrew linguistics use of the word ‘cushi” which means only ‘black person” and nothing else.
    There is a Biblical land of Cush where people have black skin, and there is no African-American or African-Israeli term. You’re also very welcome to suggest new Hebrew words for the person with dark skin and African descent.

  3. just
    just
    August 2, 2013, 5:44 pm

    Powerful!

    Another branch of BDS blooms! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    ( wanna bet the list of names grows? not Alicia, but many, many others.)

    • Blaine Coleman
      Blaine Coleman
      August 3, 2013, 7:24 am

      Why are you calling this statement “BDS”?

      It does not call for boycotting Israel. It does not call for divestment against Israel. It does not call for sanctions against Israel. It does not call for any action against Israel?

      Does “BDS” now refer to any critique, on any blog or email, of Israeli policies? I was hoping for a bit more, especially from the seasoned human rights advocates on the list of signers. They know how to demand boycott. They chose not to.

      Why?

  4. Caruthers
    Caruthers
    August 2, 2013, 7:30 pm

    Clearly there is only one possible explanation for this denunciation of Israeli policy: anti-Semitism. Those not anti-Semitic will have their minds angrily closed to the very question or idea of Jewish or Israeli racism.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    August 2, 2013, 9:36 pm

    RE: “‘African Americans for Justice in the Middle East & North Africa’ condemn rising tide of racism in Israeli society”

    THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE UP AGAINST (FROM THE AIPAC WEBSITE) :

    African American Political Leaders and Activists Visit Israel

    A group of African American politicians, consultants and activists arrived in Israel this week to participate in an American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) Seminar. The group of 18 includes eight state and local elected officials and three appointed government officials, including the presidents of the city councils of Atlanta and Detroit. The other participants are all deeply involved in political and civic life in their communities, including five who are co-chairs for the DNC’s Generation44 fundraising initiative in their cities. A number of the seminar participants have already attended pro-Israel events in their communities and have shown interest in strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May passed Iranian divestment resolutions in their jurisdictions in 2009.

    SOURCE – http://www.aipac.org/en/in-the-news?newsid=%7BF4379DFB-D32D-49C8-965B-37E03013BEE3%7

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