racism, apartheid, and osloization

i’m preparing lecture notes for next week’s lecture notes for my postcolonial literature class. i’m teaching mbulelo vizikhungo mzamane’s novel the children of soweto. the novel is a moving portrait of the soweto uprising in 1976 that was led entirely by the youth. the youth were opposed to the enforcement of afrikaans as the language of instruction in south african schools. the thing that is interesting about the novel is that mzamane is one of the student leaders from that resistance movement so it is autobiographical and an historical chronicle of the events as they unfolded. it would be like of one of the youth leaders of the first intifada wrote a novel about it. because the soweto uprising was very similar to the first intifada–stone throwers against tanks and all. here is how he describes one of those instances:

Sizwe was two years older than Nomsa. He and Sandile went to school in the township. During the day they had been involved in a demonstration, together with children from other primary and secondary schools in the township. They marched through the streets, singing old liberation songs and others they had composed themselves, to protest against the enforcement of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in certain subjects throughout African schools. The students planned to converge at the township’s largest soccer stadium to voice their opposition to the scheme.

The police met them in the streets, before they could reach the stadium, and asked them through loudspeakers to disperse. They told the students that in terms of the Riotous Assemblies Act, which the children had never heard about, they were breaking the law by staging a protest march without obtaining permission from the police first.

“You are here. Give us your permission then,” someone in the crowd shouted. And the chant caught on, “Give us your permission then.”

The police then used teargas to try and disperse the students. Far from scattering about in a disorganised fashion, the students soon developed a technique for containing the teargas. Armed with cloths and buckets of water requisitioned from nearby houses, they covered the canisters with wet cloths as soon as they hit the ground. In this way many of the canisters were prevented from exploding. Thus unable to break the march the police resorted to shooting. At first they aimed above the heads of the crowd, but as the students surged forward resolutely they fired at their front ranks. Some students retaliated by throwing stones at the police. In the ensuing scuffle a few people were injured, including some police and onlookers, and several children were shot dead. (53-54)

there are so many other parallels in the novel–from collaborators within the ranks of south african resistance to the media’s total distortion of why these youth were resisting in the first place. and, then, of course are the curfews, closures, arrests, and torture.

south africa, like the zionist entity, were founded on ideologies of racial or religious supremacy. it is worth recalling what ali abunimah’s brilliant book, one country: a bold proposal to end the israeli-palestinian impasse has to say about the colonization of south africa:

The origins of the Afrikaner identity date back to April 6, 1652, when the Dutch East India Company established a colony on the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. Nelson Mandela explains that April 6 was “the day white South Africans annually commemorate[d] the founding of their country–and Africans revile[d] as the beginning of three hundred years of enslavement.” This anniversary is redolent of May 14, the day in 1948 that Israel declared independence but which Palestinians observe as al-nakba–the catastrophe–the beginning of their exile and subjugation. In the late seventeenth century, colonists arrived at the cape from the Netherlands, Germany, France, and other parts of Europe, many escaping appalling religious persecution and massacres in their home countries. In the 1830s, the Afrikaners or Boers (as these colonists eventually called themselves), chafing under British rule and in search of more land, set off to conquer the interior. These arduous journeys on foot and in covered wagons became known as the Great Treks and ended with the establishment of three independent republics. During the Boer Wars in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the British crushed the Boer republics, generating enduring Afrikaner bitterness. The “Anglo-Boer War burnt itself into the collective consciousness of my people, the Afrikaners, like no other event in our history,” [F.W.] de Klerk has said. The British scorched-earth policy destroyed farms and killed livestock, and ended Boer independence. Worst of all, the British “interned our women and children in what became known as concentration camps.” (The term “concentration camp” was first used in this context.) Of the entire Afrikaner population–a few hundred thousand at the time–tens of thousands are believed to have died in the camps.

Afrikaners were determined never again to submit to foreign rule or forgo their independence and security. In 1910, the predominantly British-settled colonies of the cape and the former Boer republics int he interior formed the Union of South Africa, which excluded all indigenous African peoples, as well as Indians and other Asians, from any political power. Then, when the Afrikaner-dominated National Party won the whites-only general election in 1948, they ushered in a new era of more formalized discrimination–apartheid. As Mandela observes, the 1948 Nationalist election victory was, in the “cosmology” of Afrikaners, “like the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land. This was the fulfillment of God’s promise, and the justification for their view that South Africa should remain a white man’s country forever.” Afrikaners compared the Great Treks to the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, and saw their republics as a “new Israel,” built on land redeemed from godless “Canaanites.” Out of the undeniable suffering and trauma of the Boer Wars, Afrikaners constructed an ideology in which they were in a state of permanent victimhood. They acted with the belief that God was on the side in a struggle for self-preservation against external forces whose sole motivation was their destruction. (136-138)

the histories and the methods of resistance in palestine and south africa have been quite similar. but the main difference between the two situations is that nelson mandela refused to sign any agreement, any document until all conditions had been met. he wasn’t stupid enough to trust the colonizing entity in south africa. he wanted to see them put their words into action, such as releasing political prisoners. and he had enough integrity to make sure the other prisoners were released before him. here in palestine the oslo accords were signed without the zionist entity ever having to give up anything. and they never have. instead, they’ve created more suffering, more oppression, and increased the apartheid conditions.

today on z net haidar eid has a really important and smart article that addresses the way that oslo has destroyed palestine on so many levels, which i quote in full below:

One of the most important outcomes of the Gaza massacre (2009) has been the unprecedented tremendous outpouring of popular support for the Palestinian cause; something the signatories of the Oslo accords (1993) must have not been happy with. The return of the pre-Oslo slogans of liberation, as opposed to independence, have, undoubtedly, created a new dilemma, not only for Oslo political elites, but also for the NGOized, Stalinist Left.

The process of “Osloization”i.e, a combination of corruption, Ngoization, and a selling-out of revolutionary principles and sloganeering, fused with the fiction of the two-prison solution, has been dealt a heavy blow in the 2006 elections. Judging from statements made, not only by PA officials, but also by the Left, and even the Hamas government, the ultimate goal of the current river of blood has become the establishment of a Palestinian state in any dimension, i.e. the two-state solution. The contradiction between the tremendous international support, the revival of the BDS campaign, the outpouring of demos against Apartheid Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinians of Gaza, and the reiteration, by most political orgs, of the two state mantra is a strong indication of the need for an alternative program that makes the De-Osloization of Palestine its first priority.

In order to understand the Oslo Accords and the extreme damage they have caused to the Palestinian cause, one needs a historical contextualization of the so called “peace process”, or rather what many critical thinkers have called the peace industry. This understanding is a necessary step towards a process of De-Osloization, a term I will get back to at a later stage.

The Oslo accord was claimed to be the first step towards self-determination and an independent state. But it is clear now, 16 years after the famous hand shake on the White House lawn, that no state in the short run will be established because of the mere fact that Oslo simply ignored the existence of the Palestinian people as a people. In other words, these accords have offered Zionism what it has always been striving for. Golda Meir’s infamous statement that there are no Palestinians is a case in point here.

And yet, to claim that ‘Oslo’ and ‘Camp David’ were great missed opportunities and ‘breakthrough’, and that the so-called ‘peace process’ was in track until the Palestinians (i.e. colonized victims) blew it is a deliberate ideological distortion of reality claimed in order to prepare Palestinians for more concessions. Real comprehensive peace was not created in Oslo and Washington; rather what was created is an American/Israeli plan to resolve the conflict after the destruction of Iraq and the collapse of the Soviet Union and their attempt to construct a “new Middle East”—to use Condoleeza Rice’s words–a Middle East characterized by imperialist-Zionist hegemony and supported by despotic regimes. The Oslo accord was born dead because it did not guarantee the minimum national and political rights of 10 million Palestinian. As long as there are refugees, cantons, detainees, blockade, settlements, ‘legal torture’ of prisoners, dispossession, assassinations and occupation, comprehensive peace cannot be achieved. It is an illusion in the minds of those who signed the Oslo accords.

These accords have led to the creation of a limited “administrative autonomy” in the Gaza Strip and some parts of the West Bank. The local population was given “the right” to form an authority that they could call “national.” Now the question is what makes the PNA (Palestinian National Authority) beyond questioning? What is the ‘legitimate’ ground upon which it was established? Very simple: The Oslo Accords. It has now become very obvious that despite the famous hand shakes on the White house lawn and in Annaplois, and the optimistic talk of the ‘New Middle East,’ these accords, in contradistinction with UN and Security Council resolutions, have not guaranteed the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state, or the return of the refugees, nor even the demolishment of the Jewish settlements, and compensation for those Palestinians who have lost—and still losing—their homes, lands and properties; nor the release of all political prisoners, or the opening of all checkpoints, which have become daily nightmares for residents of the WB and GS; …etc. In spite of all the hand shakes, kisses, and friendly press conferences, Israel launched one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the conflict against the civilian population of Gaza, killing in 22 days more than 1400 people, including 438 children, 120 women, 95 old people, 16 medics, 5 journalists, 5 foreign women, and in which it destroyed more than 40.000 institutions and houses, leaving many families homeless. That, of course, was not mentioned as an objective of the Oslo Accords, but nothing either was mentioned in them that would prevent such bloodletting from taking place.

This is the political reality that Palestinian officials who signed the agreement do not like to be reminded of. In fact, what has been created in parts of Gaza and the West Bank is a very strange entity—an apartheid-type Bantustan endorsed by the international community. Gaza 2009, therefore, is the mirror-image of Oslo. When we bear in mind that 75-80% of Gazans are refugees, the results of 2006 elections become more comprehensible not only in its anti-colonial context, but also in socio-political terms. What Oslo has created in Gaza, and the West Bank for that matter, is literally two different worlds, both of which have been led by undemocratic institutions, many security apparatuses, a Third Worldish military court (commended by the Clinton administration), corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency and nepotism—to mention but few (neo)colonial qualities.

By winning the 1948, 1956 and 1967 wars, and by getting international, Arab and Palestinian recognition, Israel–as an Apartheid settler-colonial state—has hoped to move into a new stage; a stage that requires the formation of ‘new consciousness’ amongst colonized Palestinians. Herein lies the danger of Oslo; Osloization, within this neo-Zionist context, means the creation of a new paradigm through which you wash out the consciousness of your supposed enemy-the ‘Other’-and replace it with a one-dimensional mentality, through the construction of a fiction (two states for two peoples) whose end is unattainable. Even the fascist Lieberman has started singing the same song.

Put differently, to aim at creating the two-state Palestinian is to aim at creating false consciousness led by assimilated intelligentsia, some of whom have a revolutionary past record. Singing the slogans of “the two state solution,” “two states for two peoples,” “return to the 1967 borders,”–or even “a long-term Hudna” (as proposed by Hamas) — is intended to guarantee the subordination and conformity of the Palestinians, especially those with revolutionary ideas. Gone are the right of return of 6 million refugees and their compensation, and the national and cultural rights of the indigenous population of Palestine 1948.

This goal, however, never sees the antithesis it creates as a result of displacement, exploitation, and oppression; it ignores the revolutionary consciousness that has been formulated throughout the different phases of the Palestinian struggle. Nor does it take into account the legacy of civil and political resistance that has become a trademark of the Palestinian struggle. Hence the necessity of the formulation of Palestinian alternative politics. To be conscious of the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, and of the huge class gape that the Oslo Accords have created has definitely been the beginning of De-Osloization represented in the Al-Aqsa uprising and the outcome of the 2006 elections. This is an oppositional consciousness that the signatories of Oslo did not take into account. Both events represent an outright rejection of the Oslo Accords and their consequences.

The Gaza Strip, however, is seen by the PA as one of three building blocks of an independent state, although it is geographically separated from the second block, i.e. the West Bank. The third block is, Jerusalem, is under total Israeli control. None of the Palestinians in the occupied territories believe that the ‘semi-autonomous’ zones in the GS and the WB -that is, the ones that fall under category A—can lay the foundation for an independent state. What Oslo has led to is, in fact, a South Africa. When black South Africans needed to move from their townships to big ‘white’ cities, they needed to get a ‘pass’. During ‘peace time,’ Palestinians, not only those who work in Israel, but also those who wanted to visit the WB form Gaza, or vice versa, needed to apply for a ‘permit’. Beside the permit, Palestinians needed a so-called ‘magnetic card,’ which is a computer card that has a password to its holder’s security file. No one could work in Israel, or visit the WB, or even go to a hospital inside the ‘green line’ without a ‘permit’ and a ‘magnetic card’. If one was granted such invaluable cards, one was still not allowed to visit any other area except the one s/he was entitled to visit. If one was ‘caught’ at another area, one’s permit and card were confiscated immediately, not to mention the torture one was exposed to. Nowadays, no one is even given such luxurious ‘permits’ and cards. How was apartheid South Africa different?

The tribal chiefs of the South African Bantustans used to believe that they were the heads of independent states. Luckily, the ANC, despite its many compromises with the National Party, had never accepted the idea of separation and Bantustans. The official Palestinian leadership on the other hand, at the end of the millennium, boasts of having laid the foundation for a Bantustan, claiming it to be an independent state in the make. Undoubtedly, this is the ultimate prize Zionism can offer to its ‘Other’ after having denied her/his existence for a century, and after that same ‘Other’ has proved that she is human. For Zionism’s continued presence in Palestine, the ‘Other’ must be assimilated and enslaved without her/ him being conscious of her/his enslavement. Hence the granting of ‘semi-autonomous’ rule over the most crowded Palestinian cities, and hence the logic driving the Oslo Accords.

Oslo, then, brought an unprecedented level of corruption into Palestine; and security coordination with Israel, under the supervision of—irony of ironies—an American general, has become the norm. Repeating the two-state mantra, carrying the Palestinian flag, singing the national anthem and— more importantly—recognizing Israel, regardless of the rights of two thirds of the Palestinian people, are what Oslo is all about.

The lesson we learn from Gaza 2009 is to harness all effort to fight the outcome of the Oslo Accords, and to form a United Front on a platform of resistance and reforms. This cannot be achieved without dismantling the PA and realizing that ministries, premierships, and presidencies in Gaza and Ramallah are a façade not unlike the South African Independent Homelands with their tribal chiefs. The classical national program, created and adopted by the Palestinian bourgeoisie has reached its end unsuccessfully. Most political forces, including the governing party in Gaza, fail to explain how 6 million Palestinian refugees will return to the Israeli State of the Jews and an independent Palestinian state will be created at the same time.

Hence the necessity for an alternative paradigm that divorces itself from the fiction of the two-prison solution, a paradigm that takes the sacrifices of the people of Gaza as a turning point in the struggle for liberation, one that builds on the growing global anti-apartheid movement that has been given an impetus by Gaza 2009. De-Osloizing Palestine is, therefore, a precondition for the creation of peace with justice.

part of this osloizing process that eid analyzes above is the continual dispossession of palestinians from their land. in gaza it happened in a very obvious way. it was clear to those who watched al jazeera, the only international media allowed into the gaza strip. and that savagery continues with israeli terrorists bombing gaza every day, which no longer reported in the international media:

The Israeli military confirmed that it bombed smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip early on Thursday.

Witnesses in Gaza said that the bombing took place in Rafah Refugee Camp, along the border with Egypt.

The Israeli military said the strike was in response to four homemade projectiles and one mortar shell that landed in Israel. No damage or injuries resulted from those attacks.

The tunnels in southern Gaza are used to import goods made scarce by an Israeli blockade that has been imposed on Gaza since 2007.

and what seems to me to be a clear–and horrifying–indication that hamas is in the process of becoming osloized:

Gaza’s Hamas rulers issued rare criticism Thursday of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the strip, saying now is the wrong time for such attacks.

The Islamic militant group has fired thousands of rockets at southern Israel in recent years. But Hamas said Thursday that it was not behind recent attacks and that it was investigating who was responsible.

there are no rockets coming from the west bank. and there may not be bombs falling on the west bank, but the continual ethnic cleansing in the west bank and in 1948 goes on unnoticed for the most part. there is, of course, a bit of international coverage of the ethnic cleansing in al quds, which is possibly why there is a temporary ban on the demolition order of homes in silwan:

The Israeli Central Court in Jerusalem decided to temporarily freeze a decision to demolish 35 apartments in Al Abbasiyya neighborhood in the East Jerusalem town of Silwan.

Lawyer Ziad Qi’war, representing the families, said that the order gives the Jerusalem Municipality seven days to respond to appeals filed by the residents.

There are more than 240 Palestinians living in the buildings slated to be demolished.

Qi’war added that the appeal accuses the Jerusalem Municipality of practicing racism against the Jerusalemite Palestinians, and of not providing services to the residents in this area.

The residents said that the Municipality does not want to sit with them in order to listen to their points of view.

Qi’war called on all civil, legal and political groups to unite their efforts in order to achieve a ruling that completely voids the demolishing orders.

Israel intends to demolish nearly 180 homes in Al the Arab Jerusalem neighborhoods of Al Bustan, Al Abbasiyya, Ras Khamis, and Al Tour.

of course this is when the israeli terrorist colonists send in the colonists without uniforms to go in and attack palestinians:

Palestinian sources reported on Wednesday that a group of extremist Jewish settlers attacked dozens of Palestinian homes and stores in East Jerusalem.

The settlers were marching in the city and chanting slogans against the Arabs and the Palestinians, and calling for expelling them from the Holy City.

The Israeli police did not attempt to intervene and allowed the settlers to continue their march, which encouraged them to attack Palestinian property, local sources reported.

The settlers chanted “death to Arabs” and other racists slogans while marching in Arab markets and the alleys of the Old City.

The Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported that the different settlers groups marched in different parts of the Old City under heavy protection and presence of the Israeli military and police.

The police closed main roads in the Old City barring the Palestinians from using them in order to allow the settlers to march.

WAFA said that dozens of extremist Jews arrived in the Old City by special buses since early morning hours of Wednesday, and held prayers at the Western Wall before marching in the alleys of Jerusalem.

They were accompanied by settlers living in East Jerusalem, especially from outposts in Sheikh Jarrah area, and several outposts in East Jerusalem.

in contradistinction, there is very little about the rest of the west bank. consider these latest developments:

in aqraba near nablus:

The Israeli Army handed miltary orders to several residents of Aqraba village, southeast of the northern West Bank City of Nablus, informing them of a decision to demolish six homes and a mosque in the village.

Local sources in the village stated that the order comes to enable the expansion of Israeli settlements surrounding the village, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

The sources added that nearly 90 percent of the village’s land is used as grazing ground, but the Israeli authorities are attempting to annex the land for settlement construction and expansion.

There are four Israeli settlements surrounding the village, all built on land annexed from the villagers. Settlers have carried out repeated attacks against the village and its inhabitants, killing four villagers over the past few years.

Recently, one resident was killed and another was wounded in a roadside bomb placed by the settlers, the Palestinian Information Center said.

Last week, Israeli Authorities handed fifteen military orders to the residents of Aqraba, informing them that Israel intends to demolish 15 homes, barns, tin-houses for sheep, and water wells located in Khirbit al-Taweel area, which belongs to the village.

in qalqilia a farmer suffered a heart attack after witnessing israeli terrorists destroying his olive trees:

Palestinian medical sources in Qalqilia, in the northern part of the West Bank, reported that a farmer suffered a heart attack two days ago after the Israeli army uprooted his olive trees in the village of Ras Tira, near Qalqilia.

The army was uprooting the trees to allow the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the area.

The farmer tried to stop the soldiers and defend his land, and suffered a heart attack while arguing with the troops and the bulldozer driver, local sources reported.

Also, the Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, reported that five human rights activists from the United states, Sweden, and Denmark were taken prisoner by the army after joining a non-violent protest against the uprooting of trees in Ras Tira, Wadi Ar-Rasha, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) reported.

Residents from the area, joined by activists, were protesting the uprooting of olive trees as the army started implementing the change of the route of the Israeli Apartheid Wall in the area.

As the trees were being cut, villagers and activists demonstrated while the troops fired tear-gas at the them and the villagers, WAFA said.

The new Wall route will lead o more destruction and uprooting of the villagers’ farmlands and orchards.

It is worth mentioning that the Wall and the Alfe Menashe settlement completely surround the villages of Ras Al Tira, Wadi Ar Rasha, and Dhaba’.

or how about in 1948 palestine?:

Bulldozers of the Israeli municipality of Beer Sheba in 1948 occupied Palestine on Thursday demolished two Palestinian houses at the pretext of lack of construction permit.

Local sources in Beer Sheba said that hundreds of policemen escorted the bulldozers during the demolition process.

They pointed out that the same force uprooted 100 olive trees.

The step was taken on the same day that cattle owners plan a demonstration in the same city to protest additional taxes and unfair distribution of grazing lands, the locals underlined.

of course, the united states doesn’t want to look at the racism inherent in the zionist entity’s apartheid regime. that is why it has chosen to boycott the world conference on racism in geneva (known as durban 2). (you see, obama does not care about discussing and ending racism any more than bush.) the main issue for boycotting the conference in 2001 was the discussion of zionism as a form of racism as well as the discussion of reparations for slavery. this time around the issue of slavery reparations seems to irk obama as does the discourse on the terrorist state of israel. but the draft document that the obama administration objects to does not talk about zionism as racism. instead, it focuses on israel as an apartheid regime. still, they refuse to attend. ramzy baroud explains:

The US conditioned its participation of the April conference in Geneva (Durban II) by removing any specific censure of Israel, and ensuring that Israel is not ‘singled out’ for criticism. Although US sensibilities constantly expect, but demand the singling out of any country, leader or group it deems rouge, war criminal, or terrorist, Israel is treated based on different standards. “A bad document became worse, and the US decided not to participate in the conference”, Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported in reference to the draft documents being finalized before the conference.

The original “bad” document apparently dubs Israel “an occupying state that carries out racist policies”, a description which is consistent with international law, UN resolutions and the views of leading world human rights defenders – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Dugard, the former UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk,the current UN’s envoy, among many others.

The ‘bad document’ might have ‘became worse’ with new references to the Gaza bloodbath, which killed and wounded nearly 7,000 Palestinians in 22-days.

From an American – and unfortunately, Canadian and Italian, so far – viewpoint, such inhumane practices don’t warrant a pause or mere words of condemnation. The same, of course, doesn’t apply to Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran, Cuba and other ‘unfriendly’ nations. The US decision must be particularity disheartening to African nations who saw in the advent of Barack Obama some vindication. The US first black president, however, saw it fit to boycott a conference that intended to discuss the issue of slavery and repatriation, to once again prove that race alone is hardly sufficient in explaining US internal and external policies.

in response to this some people have organized a campaign to try to get obama to reconsider. while their letter is not perfect, i do think attending the conference sends the right message to the zionist entity that they cannot bully the world by threats of anti-semitism. their racist regime must not only be critiqued, but ended. here is the letter and if you click the link you can sign their petition:

January 20, 2009

Dear President Barack Obama,

As people of conscience in the United States struggling for a socially, economically and ecologically healthier world free of racism, colonialism, and militarism, we write to respectfully urge you to attend the upcoming Durban Review Conference on Racism from 20-24 April 2009.

Your election marks a historic moment in a nation founded upon the slavery and genocide of people of color. We, along with millions everywhere, are full of hope that this legacy will finally be redressed. First Nation, people of African descent, working class people, immigrants to this country, and people from colonized countries throughout the world all have suffered for far too long. We hope that your inauguration will usher a new dawn on which the US government will respond to calls to tackle historic and current injustices that stand in the way of change.

You were brought to power by an unprecedented chorus of grassroots voices, a unique gathering of activism and resources. We honor your experiences as a grassroots organizer working for change in the lives of working class people of color. Like many others who voted for you (or wanted to but couldn’t because we are not US citizens), we were inspired by your call for dialogue on foreign policy, and your opposition to the politics of torture and preemptive wars. We rejoiced in your victory – our victory – against racism and war.

Your participation in the Durban Review Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance (Geneva, Switzerland, April 2009) will reaffirm your commitment to these principles. We are aware that great pressure is being exerted on your administration to boycott the Durban Review Conference; that congress has passed a resolution in support of this boycott. Lobbyists on behalf of the State of Israel are wrong to claim that the first Durban Conference was anti-Semitic because it held Israel accountable for its racist laws and policies. Nothing could be farther from the truth: anti-Semitism today is fueled by U.S. policies that apply double standards in its relationship to Israel and allow Israel to violate international law with impunity. The failure to distinguish between criticizing Israeli government policies and anti-Semitism on the one hand, and perpetuating, the misleading image of Jews as united in support of Israel’s unconscionable violence against the Palestinian people, on the other, feeds into anti-Jewish hatred and incites anti-Semitism today.

Israel must obey international law like any other state. Israel has to end its occupation of Palestinian lands, its dismemberment of the country into Bantustans, its apartheid-like laws and policies against Arab people, and its theft of Palestinian land and resources. Only recently, the majority of the international community has raised its voice in protest as Israel waged a savage war against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The U.S. has for too long condoned Israel’s disregard for international law, settlement buildup, and bad faith negotiations. There has never been a more urgent time for the U.S. to join the international community to effect a serious change.

We stand in with the world’s majority who demand an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza and who had the courage to break ties with Israel—the leadership of Latin America, the Arab World, and Turkey; the UN General Assembly and its President, D’escoto Brockmann; Sir Gerald Kaufmann from the British House of Commons, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and the millions of voices demanding that Israel comply with international law.

To ignore Durban is to align with those who justify Israel’s racism, human rights violations, occupation and apartheid-like policies; and to allow its siege of Gaza. A boycott of the Durban global dialogue towards a united and principled stand against racism could only send the wrong message that the U.S. is not committed t to overcoming its history of racism and the impact that history has had in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as on communities of color within the United States. A United States boycott of the Durban Review will squarely put the U.S. in opposition to the global aspirations to transform current conditions of racism and xenophobia.

US boycott of the Durban Review will precipitate a speedy disillusionment in the US and around the world with the commitment of your administration to developing policy that is qualitatively different from those of the previous administration. Ignoring the message of Durban would also undermine and alienate the organizers of the conference who are looking to the principled engagement of your administration against those whose power is based on promoting and enforcing racist divisions within their populations. We hope that your administration can show that the United States is ready to participate in international dialogue aimed at ending its legacy of colonization, slavery, racism and xenophobia. We are conscious that, because of your history and experience, you are well aware of the nature and impact of US policies in the Global South.

From amplifying the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, through the terrorizing of immigrant communities, and to the continued destruction of indigenous lands, peoples and cultures, harmful U.S. government policies also reflect the culpability of the United States in perpetuating racism and injustice throughout the world. The lavish funding for war and the generous military and political aid to regimes that disrespect human rights have been part and parcel of a governmental outlook that is oblivious to the needs of health care, education, employment and housing.

To fulfill the hope you have inspired and which brought you to office, we urge you and your Administration to:

* Participate in the Durban Review Conference in Geneva from 20-24 of April 2009.

* Consider deeply felt and urgent demands of the Durban Review for US acknowledgment and repudiation of past racist crimes and injustices, in particular against First Nations and African people, as well as of current racist and xenophobic policies enforced by the US within and beyond its borders.

* Engage in critical dialogue on the de-institutionalization of racism within the US, and the ways in which war economy can be diverted into peace economy.

* Shift the US policies toward recognizing the legitimate concerns of participants from communities devastated by war and occupation and listen with an open mind to their demands for justice, dignity and peace.

In your speech at a Howard University Convocation in 2007, you asked the audience to:

Be strong and have courage in the face of injustice. Be strong and have courage in the face of prejudice and hatred. Be strong and have courage in the face of joblessness and helplessness and hopelessness. Be strong and have courage, in the face of our doubts and fears, in the face of skepticism, in the face of cynicism, in the face of a mighty river.

We ask you to be strong in the face of these challenges and to trust the strength of your grassroots base. We ask you to stand up against those who would keep this country and the world shackled by to policies that harm us all. Stand with us as we join hands to support you as a President of a United States that can leave behind racism, colonial oppression and war and that rejoins the world community for justice, dignity and peace.

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