Two developments in Israel present a teachable moment in terms of the racial politics of the Israeli state. The first development was the slaughter of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on March 30. The second development, to be discussed in my next column, was the April 3 reneging by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on an agreement to send African migrants to Western Europe and North America rather than back to their countries of origin.
The brutal crackdown by the Israelis on the Palestinian protestors is noteworthy, not only because of the criminality of the act, but that it also captured the attention of the world. The Palestinian protesters were embarking on a non-violent campaign to raise attention on the outstanding demand of Palestinians for their recognized right of return to their homeland.
The Israeli establishment has continuously refused to recognize the international law governing the right of return of refugees following an armed conflict. Between 1947 and 1948, thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes by Zionist military units during the formation of Israel. The Palestinians expected that they would be able to return home to reclaim their land after the armed conflict ceased. This has been refused. As a result, forces within the Palestinian movement chose to begin a non-violent protest leading up to May 15, the anniversary date of the founding of Israel.
The Israeli government warned that they would use armed force, but such a warning holds no legal or moral value since they were simply saying that they—the Israeli political establishment—would not recognize non-violent protests. Hiding behind allegations that the Palestinians attacked the Israeli troops, the Israeli forces responded with superior force that was out of proportion to the nature of the protests.
The Israeli establishment refuses an investigation and believes that the soldiers acted correctly, but one must ask, how is shooting civilians acceptable? The only answer is contained in the notion that the Palestinians are not to be considered humans. Since there is no justification in murdering unarmed civilians, particularly since the Israeli forces have many means at their disposal in order to respond to non-violent disruptions, the message is clear: Palestinians have no rights that the Israeli establishment is bound to respect.
Bill Fletcher Jr, Contributor
Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO.
Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice”; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.