"We here in the US should be especially conscious of the similarities between historical Jim Crow practices and contemporary regimes of segregation in occupied Palestine."
— Angela Davis
"I have been to the occupied Palestinian territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of apartheid."
— Desmond Tutu
"Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as four years old without due process. Everyday, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall."
— The Movement for Black Lives
Congressman Keith Ellison, who represents Minnesota's 5th congressional district, was slated to become the next chair of the DNC. Upon the scandals around Clinton's embarrassing loss to Trump, leaked emails, Bernie being thrown under the bus and much more, it was clear the DNC needed to implement serious changes. The DNC needed to confront its lack of effective leadership, its utter misreading of what concerns the American public and whether or not they're actually committed to values held by those on "the left."
When Ellison's name was tossed around as a possible pick, I remember my faith in the DNC being restored. Ellison is the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, a prominent black leader and, more importantly, unafraid to take a stance on some of the most pressing issues of our time. He represents an honest breath of fresh air that we rarely see among politicians.
Before his loss to Tom Perez (Obama's former labor secretary), Ellison was a top pick for the party and his role as Chair was assumed and fitting. A prominent Israeli donor of the DNC then began a severe backlash that essentially cost Ellison the position. During his campaign, Ellison was labeled anti-Semitic and smeared for his moral stance against Israeli apartheid.
According to The Intercept, Haim Saban, the entertainment tycoon who is one of the Democratic Party’s largest donors, called Ellison both “anti-Israel” and anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League called on Democrats to reject him. On the eve of the vote, prominent Democrat Alan Dershowitz proclaimed that he would leave the party if Ellison were elected chair. Jack Rosen, who leads the American Jewish Congress, emailed DNC members the day before the vote decrying Ellison’s views on the Middle East, concluding that he threatened the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Ellison's loss, due to his political and moral stance on Israeli apartheid, is emblematic of the left and its shameful inconsistencies. The Israeli apartheid is one of the most prominent issues of our time. Ignoring the illegal settlements, human rights violations and mass militarization is akin to ignoring climate change — it's utterly ridiculous. Turning a blind eye to terrifying realities faced by Palestinians, echoes the denials of apartheid in South Africa. The majority of the world has spoken out against Israel's international law and human rights violations, yet in America, any mention of holding Israel accountable, labels you anti-Semitic and hateful. Colleges and universities across the country have passed resolutions to divest from the apartheid state, and numerous academics have thoroughly researched and written about this issue. There are numerous Jewish run organizations that speak out against state terror in Israel and a substantial number of activist organizations who organize in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
The condition of Palestinians is seen as appalling to most countries worldwide; the oppression Palestinians face is blatant and getting worse. To label Ellison anti-Semitic for his stance on apartheid, is to label Desmond Tutu or Angela Davis anti-Semitic. It's clearly illogical and outrageous, especially considering that Tutu and Davis have dedicated their lives to fighting against state terror, globally. Throwing around the term "anti-Semite" is beginning to feel like The Boy Who Cried Wolf. If every critique of Israel is labeled as hate-speech, how will the state of Israel ever be held accountable?
To provide a simple analogy: as a proud Ethiopian, I am open and eager to hear criticism of the Ethiopian government, because, from an objective point of view, I can understand how governments colonize, oppress and manipulate their most vulnerable populations. Do I accuse everyone who criticizes Ethiopia as being an anti-black orientalist racist? No.
Why doesn't this same logic apply to Israel?
Israel receives astronomically more money in US aid than any other country. Holding the Israeli government accountable, criticizing their practices and closely examining their policies, is allegiance and dedication to US taxpayers. Clearly an allegiance not held by the DNC.
Ellison's stance on Israel is that of a concerned leader, a taxpayer and frankly someone with a conscious for human suffering. Unfortunately, this censoring will only proliferate, especially following the "Anti-Semitism Awareness Act", which deems any critique of the State of Israel as equal to hate speech against Jews.
"We can’t allow another country to treat us like we’re their ATM. Right? And so we ought to stand up as Americans."
As much as the DNC wants to hide behind their rhetoric, the backlash Ellison faced illustrates what many already believe about the party: White collar neoliberals who tout social justice and equity as "main causes", yet silence the authentic and obvious cries for justice made by those on the left. In their unsuccessful efforts to remain "centrist", the democratic party is only losing support of more Americans. Clinton's failure coupled with the smear campaign against Ellison illustrate the downward spiral of the DNC, and the crash is coming quickly.
If the DNC wants to restore faith among young people, people of color and those who care about dismantling systemic injustice, they should quickly realize that they are showing their teeth, and the American public is not fooled. Whatever hope was left in the DNC rested in Ellison's possible election. By replacing him with a docile Perez, the DNC has shown the American left that they're unwilling and uninterested in truly investing in just causes.
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