Black historical, political, moral authority to speak on U.S.-Israel-Palestine policy despite Zionist disapproval

February 2019

Mandla Mandela

By Jehron Muhammad

Last year during International Solidarity Month with the Palestinian people, the grandson of South Africa’s first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela, and chief of the Mandela household, Mandla Mandela, visited Palestine to see up close the oppression and brutality of “Apartheid Israel.”

Mandla Mandela documented much of his experience through writing, a quality he obviously inherited from his grandfather. He in part wrote: “Never before in my life has the reality of Apartheid Israel stared me so bluntly in the face as it did today on my visit to Al-Aqsa, Bethlehem and Hebron.

Standing in the Sacred Sanctuary of the very place that Apartheid Israel installed metal detectors and surveillance cameras against which we protested a few months ago made me realize just how intimidation, illegal occupation and brutality is meted out daily to Palestinians. We cannot be complicit by our silence.”

During his visit, at a joint press conference with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, he stated, “The settlements I saw here (in the West Bank) reminded me of what we had suffered in South Africa because we all were surrounded by many settlements and were not allowed to move from one place to another freely. Palestinians are being subjected to the worst version of apartheid.”

He added, “Israel is the worst apartheid regime” and called for the continued support of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) and for South Africa to cut all ties with “Apartheid Israel.”

Fast forward to CNN commentator and Temple University professor of media studies, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill’s speech in November at the United Nations commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian

People. Anger at Dr. Hill’s remarks led to CNN firing him unjustly. He had called for the international community to support Palestinian freedom “from the river to the sea,” in effect demanding the dismantlement of an apartheid regime and the establishment of a bi-national state.

His 22-minute speech to the United Nations General Assembly may go down in history as one of the greatest speeches ever given for human rights by one whose ancestors and people suffered under the brutal Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, racism, mass incarceration and police brutality. Great not just for its content, but because it was spoken in front of the UN General Assembly, composed of all the world’s nation states, and thus it reverberated around the globe. But if that wasn’t enough, during the same week that Dr. Hill delivered his damning remarks condemning Israel’s unjust policies toward its Palestinian “captives,” the UNGA approved six anti-Israel resolutions including two that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

The primary resolution on Jerusalem, which passed 148-11 with 14 abstentions, disavowed Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. Both that text and a second more global declaration on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which passed 156-8 with 12 abstentions, spoke of Judaism’s most holy site, The Temple Mount, solely by its Muslim name of al-Haram Al-Sharif (or Al-Aqsa).

The UNGA votes came as Israel was diligently working to shore up international support, including developing close diplomatic and economic ties with many African countries. According to Yonathan Freeman of the political science department at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, over the last two years, Israel “has increased its relationship with Africa.”

Why one might ask? According to Israel’s New York consul general Dani Dayan, it’s to “dissolve” or redirect Africa’s large UNGA voting bloc that tends to vote in favor of Palestine.

A case in point is last year when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the first non-African to address the Economic Community of West African States, spoke of Israel’s “generosity” as “tikkum olam: acts of kindness performed to repair the world.”

Privately he made it clear that Israel wanted something in return. “In meetings on the sidelines of the summit, (which Nigeria didn’t attend) he warned ECOWAS leaders that Israeli technology would solve their nations’ most urgent issues—as long as they opposed UN resolutions critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestine,” reported the African Independent.

Then there’s Chadian President Idriss Deby’s recent visit to Israel, ostensibly Freeman says to gain assistance with the country’s technical and water challenges. The real reason appears to be Israel seeking to change the anti-Israel voting patterns in international forums, such as the UN. “We want to get to those 103 billion people,” said Freeman. “In return, we want to get votes.”

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s thinking is that there are 54 recognized countries on the African continent and the more states Israel can get to vote its way or at least to abstain from votes against it, the less it will come under attack in international arenas.

Dr. Hill’s UN speech coupled with the recent anti-Israel UNGA vote may have put into serious question whatever perceived momentum of support Israel may think it actually has. Deby for his part, while in Israel, making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict one of his talking points, said “open dialogue is the basis” for any solution.

Dr. Hill shaped his remarks to include all oppressed people, which is reflected in this year’s shared 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Palestinian experience of the “nakba,” or catastrophe, of 1948—when 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes, expelled from their land and dispossessed of their country with the creation of the state of Israel. According to The Nation, “Hill depicted how the Palestinians have continued to be denied the very rights—political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights—supposedly guaranteed to every human being in the Universal Declaration.”

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) national executive director Nihad Awad wrote in the Huffington Post, “African-Americans … (this includes Dr. Hill) have the unique historical, political and moral authority to improve American policy toward Israel-Palestine.” In addition, Awad and the Nation of Islam Research Group in separate commentaries wrote, what Israel fears the most is a unified youth movement that includes Blacks and Palestinians.

As the former Israeli consul general in Atlanta explained, “The major problem with Israel is with the young generation of the Black community—Black Lives Matter starts there,” wrote Awad.

Historically one of the principal driving forces for human, civil, economic, political, religious and women’s rights in America and abroad, Blacks in America and the Caribbean, “have the unique historical and moral authority to improve American policy toward Israel-Palestine,” he wrote.

And, as Ghana president Kwame Nkrumah learned while living and studying in the U.S., many of the world’s liberation struggles were inspired by Blacks born in America.