Posted by: Lister | January 22, 2009

900 sign call for divestment from Israel

In a letter to Obama:

In 1981, while you were an undergraduate at Occidental College, you were among the first of a courageous group of students and faculty who, while the cause was still unpopular or unheard of, spoke out for divestment from the apartheid regime in South Africa. […] The ANC, under Nelson Mandela, was proscribed as a terrorist movement, its leaders were imprisoned, tortured or killed, its guerillas faced the overwhelming power of the South African army, equipped and trained in part by the United States and its European allies.

[…] The divestment movement in which you so actively participated understood that the euphemistically and cynically named policy of “constructive engagement” was a moral and practical failure and that only the non-violent force of a financial boycott on the South African regime had any hope of bringing an end to apartheid without an horrific bloodbath.

Public figures as diverse as Bishop Desmond Tutu and President Jimmy Carter have recognized that Israel too maintains an apartheid regime, in practice if not in name. South Africa, now a functioning multi-racial democracy, was a white state for a white people. Israel is a Jewish state for a Jewish people. Its non-Jewish, mostly Palestinian Arab citizens are discriminated against in numerous ways, economically and civilly.

[…] America continues to support Israel to the tune of billions every year at the expense of US taxpayers and at the expense of its moral standing in the world.

You will continue to do so, according to your own web page, because “our first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel, America’s strongest ally in the region.” You and your Vice-President, Joe Biden, not only “defend and support the annual foreign aid package that involves both military and economic assistance to Israel”, but moreover “have advocated increased foreign aid budgets to ensure that these funding priorities are met.”

In doing so, you lend your support, in the name of the United States, to a regime no less criminal in its acts and in its policies towards its own minority population and its dispossessed Palestinian neighbors than South Africa was in the 1980s. Then, it was argued, South Africa was our strongest ally in the region, a bulwark in the war against communism, a crucial supplier of uranium and other minerals, a prosperous Western-style democracy, if not the only democracy on the continent. To bring down the South African apartheid regime, it was argued, would be to create chaos in southern Africa, unleash a bloodbath in which whites and blacks alike would suffer, and pave the way for a communist or dictatorial postcolonial regime.

The divestment movement, a non-violent coalition of students and academics, union members and churches, came together in the spirit of the Civil Rights movement to challenge those self-serving assumptions.

[…] That the United States has stood so often alone in defending Israel before the court of world opinion in the United Nations is not a sign of its virtue, but of the obstinacy and arrogance of its stance. But it is not for the sake of the reputation or advantage of the United States that you should take a new path in relation to Israel. It is in the name of justice.

The long list of signatures is available at the above link.

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