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African Americans Affirming the Jim Crow analogy in Palestine/Israel

July 1st, 2013

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 in 2002. 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 
  • Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Duke Sociology Department
  • 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) 
  • Dr. Gloria Brown, Director of Racial-Ethnic Ministry, East Ohio Conference, The United Methodist Church
  • Pastor Heber Brown, III,  Pleasant Hope Baptist Church (Baltimore, MD) 
  • Minister Pamela. Y. Cook, Sojourner Truth Community
  • Angela Y. Davis 
  • Thadious Davis, Professor, English, University of Pennsylvania
  • 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 
  • Kai M. Green, American Studies & Ethnicity, USC
  • Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ
  • LisaGay Hamilton, actress 
  • Rev. Dr. Lora Hargrove, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Rockville, MD
  • 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 
  • Heidi R. Lewis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Feminist & Gender Studies, Colorado College  
  • Minkah Makalani, African & African Diaspora Studies Department, University of Texas- Austin 
  • Tracye A. Matthews
  • Darnell L. Moore, Writer, activist, and a member of the first US Delegation of LGBTQ scholars and activists to Palestine 
  • Rev. Joi R. Orr
  • Reverend Chris Pierson 
  • Charles "Cappy" Pinderhughes, former Lt. of Information, New Haven Black Panther Party
  • 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 
  • Rosetta E. Ross, Ph.D., Professor of Religion, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Spelman College
  • Jamala Rogers, Organization for Black Struggle 
  • Karlene Griffiths Sekou, Executive Director, Dignidad International, Member of 2013 Delegation of the Health and Human Rights Project to Israel/Palestine
  • Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Beverly Guy-Sheftall 
  • Aishah Shahidah Simmons, Filmmaker, Writer, Activist
  • Robyn C. Spencer
  • Tabitha St. Bernard
  • Bill Strickland, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Aisha Truss-Miller
  • Ralph B. Watkins, ItsTheChurch
  • Brandon West
  • Johnny E. Williams, Department of Sociology, Trinity College
  • Emira Woods, Co-Director Foreign Policy in Focus- Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC 
  • Rev Dr Jeremiah A Wright, Jr, Pastor Emeritus, Trinity UCC - Chicago
PDF of letter here. If you would like to endorse, please email membership@endtheoccupation.org with your name and affiliation.