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Friday Feature - Lost in the Melee: Segregation and the Palestinian cause

Friday Feature

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18 Jul 2019 (All day)
Friday Feature - Lost in the Melee: Segregation and the Palestinian cause
An important issue got buried amid this week’s overblown political mêlée between US President Donald Trump and the “Squad” of four new Congresswomen. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the Palestinian American woman elected from a heavily Arab district in Detroit, likened Israel’s ‘racist’ policies against the Palestinians to the segregation of blacks in the American South. This analogy is nothing new and it needs to be taken seriously, especially since it can easily distort the true picture in the eyes of millennials. And the truth is that the analogy between the Palestinians and the Jim Crow South actually runs in the completely opposite direction. Stay tuned and you will understand why.

IN AN interview with the socialist quarterly magazine Jacobin published last weekend, Tlaib insisted that “there is continued dehumanization and racist policies by the State of Israel that violate international human rights, but also violate my core values of who I am as an American.”

“‘Separate but equal’” doesn’t work, Tlaib continued. “I know that my ancestors were killed, died, uprooted from their land.... I can tell you when I was in Palestine with my mother and she had to get in a separate line. There are different colored license plates if you are Palestinian or Israeli.”

“Just like we [Palestinians] looked at the struggle for black Americans for true equality and access to opportunity to thrive. The same thing that has happened to the LGBTQ community. All of that is why I say ‘Free Palestine,’ that Palestinians deserve human rights. I see young people understanding that. When I see young Black Lives Matter activists with t-shirts that say ‘Free Palestine,’ and I’m wearing the Black Lives Matter t-shirt, I know it’s working.”

SUCH comparisons have been around a while. For instance, both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice drew the same connection with black Segregation in comments about the Palestinian nationalist movement while serving as secretaries of state under US President George W. Bush.

There is even an entire documentary film focused on equating the Palestinian struggle with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Produced (surprisingly) by an Evangelical and released in 2010, “Little Town of Bethlehem” features three protagonists – a Palestinian Muslim, a Palestinian Christian and an Israeli Jew – who each concluded that non-violent protest, modelled on the approach of Dr. Martin Luther King, is the best way to end the bitter Israeli occupation.

In following the trio, the film seeks to draw a direct parallel between the Palestinian cause and the American civil rights struggle in the 1950s and 60s. The correlation is clear: Bethlehem is Selma, Alabama, and the Palestinians and their supporters are walking arm-in-arm with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

What got ignored in that film was that Dr. King openly declared his support for the Zionist enterprise. He could do so and remain consistent with his great moral principles because the analogy between the Palestinians and the segregationist South simply does not fit. And in fact, the shoe of the oppressor actually belongs on the foot of the Arab/Muslim majority, who subjugated and humiliated Jews and other non-Muslim minorities in their midst for centuries.

IN THE OLD SOUTH, the white Southerners had convinced themselves that they were inherently superior to blacks and thus owned and traded them like chattel.
Such notions of racial superiority had become so ingrained that even the most ignorant, poor white man felt he could lord it over any black man – even those with money and education. For a black man to look a white man directly in the eye was a sign of disrespect, and the white man was entitled to physically punish the offender. Even if the assault resulted in death, the white man merely owed the slave’s owner his market value.

America paid for this glaring injustice with a horrific Civil War, but even that great conflict was not enough. Slavery may have been abolished, but Southern whites refused to give up their sense of superiority over blacks for another 100 years, until Dr. King bravely led a nonviolent movement which achieved equality for all races in America.

In contrast, in the Israeli-Arab conflict it is the Arab/Muslim world which has resisted giving up their historic sense of superiority over Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims.

For fourteen centuries, ordinary Muslims were taught that Christians and Jews falsified their respective scriptures and thus belong to inferior faiths, rendering them dhimmis or second-class citizens. This inequality became enshrined in the legal systems where Islam ruled. Muslims were free to lord it over non-Muslim communities to the point they felt it was their natural right. Much like in the Old South, this unjust system was presented and defended on religious grounds, ordained by Allah no less.

The resulting parallels between these two discriminatory systems are quite shocking. For instance, the testimony of a Jew or Christian in court was officially deemed less reliable than the testimony of a Muslim, just as a white man testifying in court was automatically considered more credible than a black man in the Old South. Jews or Christians were not dignified enough to ride horses in Muslim lands, just as blacks suffered similar humiliations in the Old South.

The Zionist movement, however, challenged this belief system. The victory of a rag-tag Jewish militia over much larger Arab forces in 1948 was a shock to long-standing theological principles in the Islamic world.

How could the lowly Jews go so quickly from the nadir of the Holocaust to besting superior Arab/Muslim armies on the battlefield? The evil Jews must have lied and manipulated their way to triumph and independence. Herein lies the root of much of the Muslim attraction to Zionist conspiracy theories and even Holocaust denial today.

Rashida Tlaib’s mother may have stood in lines, for security reasons. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still with us after all these decades because the Palestinian majority, and much of the Arab/Muslim world, has refused to come to terms with Jewish equality. Instead, they have sought to destroy Israel and place the Jews of the region back into submission. And this conflict will not be resolved until this absurd mentality of Islamist supremacy is confronted and vanquished

Indeed, it is past time that we all joined arm-in-arm to cross that proverbial bridge and challenge Islam’s historic, theological claim to a right of dominance over Jews, Christians and other ‘infidels.’

 

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