Showing posts with label Bill Fletcher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Fletcher. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Should Be Used to Target Israeli Apartheid

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.

I read with great interest Peter Beinart’s recent New York Times
op-ed “To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements.”  His thesis is straightforward: Beinart believes Israel is a democratic country being undone by the occupation of the Palestinian territories.  The settlements must be opposed while allegedly democratic Israel must be supported.  Efforts to support the Palestinian right of return (for refugees), he contends, undermine the possibility of a two-state solution and, thereby, end the possibility for Israel as a Jewish homeland.

It is critically important that Beinart identifies the undemocratic—indeed, colonial—nature of the settlements.  It’s insufficient, but an important start.  The Israeli settlements flout international law, utilizing distortions of Judeo-Christian theology and/or what are regarded as the ‘facts on the ground’ (in this case meaning that the Israelis hold the land so they are not going anywhere).  By controlling another people, the Israeli occupation renders impossible any real sense of democracy for Israel.


Yet it is within Israel itself that Beinart’s argument is fundamentally based upon a set of myths, repeatedly stated and often unquestioned, but myths nevertheless.  The central myth is that Israel, within the pre-1967 borders, is a democracy and that it is the Occupation perverting this otherwise just state.  This misrepresents reality.  For 20 percent of Israelis there is no genuine democracy.  Palestinian citizens of Israel exist as second-class citizens compared with Jewish Israelis.  Whether one is referencing a “racial” differential in public education, availability of land, marriage laws, employment, or discriminatory housing access, Israel within the pre-1967 borders - with some 35 discriminatory laws - comes up short on democracy. 


It's like calling the pre-Civil Rights United States of America a democracy.  With rampant legalized discrimination against African Americans and other people of color, and with voting skewed against the poor more generally, how could that have been a democracy?  It’s also reminiscent of those who speak of ancient Athenian democracy while ignoring the fact that this “democracy” was founded on slavery.  Either a system is democratic or it is not, a fact that many of us here in the USA understood in the period of Jim Crow segregation in the former Confederate states of our South.



Continue Reading at AlterNet

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No laughing matter: The cutting of UNESCO funding

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.

In classic fashion cable television's The Daily Show recently reminded those of us who have conveniently forgotten that, for the most cynical of reasons, the US government has cut funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The cut was carried out in October 2011 as a US response to UNESCO accepting Palestine as a participating member nation.  The US Congress, in its wisdom, has ruled that any such actions by an international body should come at great cost, in this case, the elimination of US funding - some 22 percent of UNESCO's budget.

The Daily Show rightly made the members of Congress out to be curmudgeons, hacks, and misanthropes who would rather score political points against the Palestinians than protect innocents being assisted by UNESCO. The program’s only shortcoming was its failure to assign blame to AIPAC for repeatedly pushing misguided policies toward the region.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
America's Problem with UNESCO Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The theory behind this ill-considered measure is that any recognition of Palestine as having an independent government and statehood aspirations should be discouraged in order that Palestinians and Israel may settle their nearly 64-year dispute via direct negotiations and with no outside assistance from the international community to balance the playing field between the state of Israel and the dispossessed Palestinian people. To some this may sound rational except that Israel holds all of the cards, even following the 1993 Oslo Accords that were supposed to lay the foundation for the establishment of an independent, legitimate Palestinian state living at peace with Israel.

It remains completely unclear to any independent observer how Palestine entering into UNESCO would influence negotiations that are not taking place.  What it does do is to display to all who wish to see that the Palestinians are viewed by most of the world as a legitimate nation of people who have the right to fully operate at the international level.

Continue Reading at The Hill

Monday, November 14, 2011

Freedom Riders on the West Bank?

In May 1961, 13 Freedom Riders left Washington DC on Greyhound and Trailways buses headed to New Orleans in order to directly challenge segregation in the Jim Crow South by staging mixed-race bus rides. 

Inspired by this action 50 years later, this Tuesday, November 15th,
Palestinian Freedom Riders will be challenging the Israeli military occupation through nonviolent civil disobedience by boarding segregated Israeli public transportation headed from the West Bank to Occupied East Jerusalem.


In his article "Freedom Riders on the West Bank?", Bill Fletcher, Steering Committee Member of the US Campaign, writes about how during his visit to Palestine this past June, the problem of transportation was a part of every conversation as Palestinians struggled to deal with the limits on their movement imposed by the Israeli system of apartheid. Just like during t
he US Civil Rights Movement, these Freedom Rides are meant to dramatize the violence Palestinians face everyday due to the occupation.  


You can find out more information about the Palestinian Freedom Riders on their website or follow them Facebook and Twitter. And make sure to share!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Well... It Is an Occupation!


Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, Editorial Board member of BlackCommentator.com, a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. 

by Bill Fletcher, Jr.
BlackCommentator.com

I recently returned from North Africa and Palestine.  I found myself giving a talk to a group in the USA where I mentioned my trip as a way of discussing the manner in which events can unfold very rapidly.  I mentioned that I had been to North Africa and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Barely had I finished speaking than an individual rose from their chair and moved toward the front of the room.  When the session broke the individual approached me and challenged my use of the term “occupied Palestinian territories,” claiming that that terminology is inflammatory and that I should have used a more neutral term like “West Bank” or “the disputed territories.”

I looked at the individual and listened to what they said.  I then responded:  “Well…it IS an occupation!”

It is difficult to describe the Occupied Territories.  I have followed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since the June 1967 War and I have been an advocate for peace and justice for the Palestinians since the spring of 1969.  I have studied countless documents, articles, speeches, etc.  I have seen pictures of the so-called settlements and the apartheid separation Wall.  Yet, to be honest, I still was not prepared for what I actually experienced.

I was part of a labor delegation.  When we crossed from Jordan into the Occupied Territories we immediately experienced the arrogance of the Israeli occupiers.  While waiting on line to go to the first passport control I was watched by an Israeli security person.  I somehow knew that this was not a good sign.  When my delegation awaited clearance to actually enter the Occupied Territories this same security person came up to me and me alone (in my delegation) and proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions about the objectives of my visit.  Perhaps it was my naturally curly hair, or perhaps it was that I am told that I look North African, but in any case, there was nothing approaching politeness in this exchange.  The Israelis held us at the border for about two hours for no apparent reason and then let most of my delegation through.  They then held one member of my delegation - not me - for an additional hour, again for no apparent reason and without explanation or apology (when they were released).

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bill Fletcher, Jr. tells Bono what's what at CNN.com

Remember when U2 lead singer Bono ignored the existence of Palestinian nonviolent resistance in the New York Times even as Palestinian grassroots activists like Jamal Juma', Mohammad Othman, and Abdallah Abu Rahmah were thrown in jail for their nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid? Here's US Campaign Steering Committee member Bill Fletcher, Jr., speaking truth at CNN.com:
"It has become almost a cliché, yet people, including Irish rocker Bono, continue to wield King's name when they bemoan the alleged absence of his like among the Palestinians. It seems no matter what Palestinian activists do, they are condemned as terrorists....The condemnation of Palestinian activists as terrorists, no matter their approach, shares a great deal in common with the manner in which King and African-American freedom fighters (and their allies) were demonized and repressed. It was the basic cause that needed to be destroyed by the oppressor and not just the individuals. The same is true today as Palestinian activists, including those who have consciously and openly repudiated armed struggle, are sidelined so that the Israeli government can claim, with a straight face, that it has no Palestinian partner with which it can discuss peace."
Read the full article here, and write to thank CNN for publishing Fletcher's piece here. Of course, as Fletcher himself testified to the UN General Assembly in November 2009, it's not just the style of resistance that ties the struggle against Jim Crow in the U.S. to the struggle against Israeli apartheid--it's the style of oppression, too:
"As an African American in and from the United States, I am keenly aware of the similarities between the systems of Israeli apartheid, South African apartheid, and the home-grown apartheid in the United States of America once known as “Jim Crow segregation.”.... Notwithstanding the efforts of heroic individuals such as William Patterson, Paul Robeson and Malcolm X to bring the case of African Americans before the United Nations, the international ramifications of the oppression suffered here were often and conveniently ignored by the great powers of the global North. The South African apartheid system was, to a great extent, modeled on the Jim Crow system in the United States, a fact noted by many people in South Africa and in the global South. The United Nations failed to take up the challenge to racism in my own country a generation ago; it must not fail to take up the struggle against Israeli apartheid today."
Take up the nonviolent struggle against Israeli apartheid by participating in the 6th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week, March 1-7, 2010

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Move beyond conferences and fine words": Bill Fletcher, Jr. addresses UN on Israeli apartheid, civil society action

On November 30, 2009, in commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People addressed the UN General Assembly. Among the speakers who were invited to present was US Campaign Steering Committee member, trade union activist and anti-apartheid activist, and senior editor of BlackCommentator.com Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Fletcher's speech to the General Assembly, which represented the voice of civil society in working for a just peace in Israel/Palestine, addressed the connections between racism and apartheid in the United States, South Africa, and Israel/Palestine, noting that the UN has been slow to oppose apartheid in the past:
"As an African American in and from the United States, I am keenly aware of the similarities between the systems of Israeli apartheid, South African apartheid, and the home-grown apartheid in the United States of America once known as “Jim Crow segregation.”.... Notwithstanding the efforts of heroic individuals such as William Patterson, Paul Robeson and Malcolm X to bring the case of African Americans before the United Nations, the international ramifications of the oppression suffered here were often and conveniently ignored by the great powers of the global North. The South African apartheid system was, to a great extent, modeled on the Jim Crow system in the United States, a fact noted by many people in South Africa and in the global South. The United Nations failed to take up the challenge to racism in my own country a generation ago; it must not fail to take up the struggle against Israeli apartheid today."
Fletcher noted the importance of the Goldstone Report and highlighted the role that international civil society must play in holding Israel accountable for violations of international law. After analyzing some of the conditions and characteristics of Israeli apartheid, he ended with the following challenge for all of us:
"Common sense says that oppression, discrimination and, indeed, genocide, committed against one group never explains away or justifies crimes committed by that same group against another people. The flaunting of international law through an occupation lasting more than 40 years accompanied by clearly illegal colonial settlements, along with the institutionalization of a system of racial/national-ethnic apartheid in order to guarantee that the subordinate group never exercises their human rights and instead disintegrates as a people into the dust of the Middle East, simply cannot be tolerated. Not only are the governments represented in these halls called upon to take action against such criminality, but people of conscience around the world, including WITHIN Israel, must and are taking a stand. Whether through public statements in the mainstream media; petitions; resolutions; or through the boycotts, divestments and sanctions to bring non-violent pressure on the Occupying Power, the international desire for peace, equality and justice for the Jewish Israelis and for the Palestinians—including, Israeli citizens, the refugees and those under Occupation—must move beyond conferences and fine words and materialize ultimately as actions that those who have perpetrated this oppression and who profit from the suppression of the Palestinian people will not only hear, but will clearly understand."
You can watch the entire speech below, and read the full speech here. Fletcher is introduced by Ambassador Paul Badji of Senegal, Chairman of the Palestinian Rights Committee. Notice that he thanks all civil society actors working for justice for Palestinians. That means us, and it is both a thank you and a challenge:
You can read more about the United Nations commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People by clicking here. Fletcher challenged the UN to move beyond words to actions. As members of civil society, we need to do the same. To learn more about Israeli apartheid, click here. To find out how you can get involved for the movement to end apartheid and occupation through boycott, divestment, and sanctions, click here. Sign up to be a local organizer for our Motorola, Caterpillar, or End U.S. Military Aid campaigns by clicking here. And learn how you can sustain the important work of the largest national coalition working to end U.S. complicity in Israeli apartheid by clicking here.