A December 5th article at The Independent focused on the decision by US Congresswoman-elect Rashida Tlaib – the first Palestinian American elected to Congress – to turn down an AIPAC sponsored trip to Israel and instead host her own congressional delegation to the West Bank.
The report uncritically cites Tlaib – a strong proponent of BDS who has accused Israel of “inciting” Palestinian violence, and once expressed support for convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh – making the following remarks.
One thing is for certain for Ms Tlaib: She wants her delegations “to humanise Palestinians, provide an alternative perspective to the one AIPAC pushes, and highlight the inherent inequality of Israel’s system of military occupation in Palestinian territories,” something she compares to the treatment of black Americans in the Jim Crow era.
Tlaib’s comparison doesn’t hold up to even minimum critical scrutiny.
Jim Crow refers to a series of state laws in the American South from the late 1800s till the mid 1960s that enforced racial segregation in schools, public transport, parks, restaurants and other public accommodations. These laws effected black US citizens and were based entirely on race. Life under Jim Crow truly relegated blacks in these states to second class citizenship – and created an environment that left many vulnerable to racist inspired violence, including scores of public lynchings.
Restrictions on Palestinians living in the West Bank (as with restrictions on Israelis, who, for instance, can’t enter PA controlled cities) are not based on race, but on security – decades of terrorism, including the bloody suicide bombing campaign in the early 2000s which claimed over a 1,000 Israeli lives – and citizenship. Unlike Israel’s Arab population, who enjoy the same legal rights as Jews, West Bank Arabs (Palestinians) are not citizens of Israel, and, unlike most east Jerusalem Palestinians, are not permanent residents. The conflict is not a struggle for Palestinian racial justice, but a violent dispute between two separate peoples who have historic claims on the same land, and haven’t been able – despite multiple Israeli peace offers – to reach a negotiated solution. Israel’s continued control of the West Bank is not the cause of the conflict. It’s a result of the conflict.
Moreover, attempts by pro-Palestinian advocates like Tlaib to impute race into the equation is undermined by the fact that a majority of Israel’s citizens are not ‘white’, but ‘people of colour’, in that they claim Mizrachi, Ethiopian, or Arab ancestries. Unlike the US and UK, Israel is a majority ‘minority’ country.
Tlaib’s ahistorical evocation of race and Jim Crow into the Israeli-Palestinian debate is clearly not motivated by the desire to build bridges, promote social justice or achieve a lasting peace, but, rather, represents a cynical misappropriation of the US Civil Rights Movement to demonise Israel and undermine its very legitimacy as a state.