Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Michelle Alexander ignited a controversy by stating her support for Palestinian rights. In her piece, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” Alexander used the act of confronting her own silence on this issue to encourage others to break theirs. She made the case that “criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government is not, in itself, anti-Semitic,” while also affirming that
Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 57 percent in 2017, and many of us are still mourning what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history… We must be mindful in this climate that, while criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, it can slide there.
That statement was not nearly enough for the “pro-Israel” community in the United States. The Israeli-American former ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, called Alexander’s column a “strategic threat.” The American Jewish Committee had the audacity to accuse Alexander—a prominent African-American civil rights lawyer and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness—of “appropriating” Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. Numerous other voices, conservative and liberal, defended Israel from Alexander’s “attacks.”
On Wednesday, Marc Lamont Hill, a professor of cultural studies at Temple University and commentator at CNN, addressed the United Nations as a representative of civil society on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. On Thursday, he was no longer a CNN commentator.
CNN’s decision came after a sharp and coordinated series of attacks on Hill, accusing him of calling for violence against Israelis, the destruction of Israel, and even genocide against Jews. These attacks came from the usual quarters that characterize any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic and resonated with some more liberal supporters of Israel as well. However, other forces objected to CNN’s action, including more than a few pro-Israel advocates.
Hill has since published an article in which he clarified his meaning, unequivocally apologized for hurting people with his choice of words, and took full responsibility for what he said. The responses to that apology will be a strong measure of who was legitimately upset because they believed that Hill had crossed a line and who was disingenuously using his words to attack him for standing up for Palestinian rights. Read more at LobeLog
One of the greatest and most repulsive of tactics employed by repressive regimes and bigoted ideologues is the co-opting of the
Mandela’s image on a bad held by a San Francisco protester against Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009. [Photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes, published under a Creative Commons license]
legacies of great figures in the fight for justice and freedom. It never fails to happen, and it is never anything less than morally reprehensible. Not surprisingly, there has been plenty of it since Nelson Mandela’s passing, and equally unsurprising, Israel has been among the leaders in this practice.
Now, let me be clear, Israel is not unique in this regard. Indeed, the lunatic right wing in the United States which has been so influential in destroying US politics and the US economy, which has led the US into disastrous wars that have wreaked havoc on the globe but which, thankfully, is at least losing the social battles in the United States has raised this practice almost to an art form. Consider the recent statement of GOP congressional candidate from Illinois, Ian Bayne, comparing the anti-LGBT, racist and …well, the list of bigotries is too long, statements of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson to the actions of none other than Rosa Parks:
“In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians…What Parks did was courageous. What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.” Continue reading →