Sunday, January 27, 2008

Israeli checkpoints a modern Jim Crow?

There is a letter to the editor of the Quad-City Times by Art Pitz that takes issue with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s recent comments comparing the Palestinians feelings about Israeli checkpoints with her feelings as a southern black under Jim Crow. He claimed that the Israeli policy is a justifiable response to terrorism while Jim Crow was simply a means to maintain white supremacy. link

I wrote the following response:

Mr. Pitz,
You admit that the Palestinians feel about the Israeli checkpoints and other restrictions the same way that African-Americans felt about Jim Crow. You seem to be claiming that there is a fundamental difference between the two situations in how the other side feels about the situation. The Israelis feel that their policies are justified by the threat of terrorism -- the actions of a minority of the Palestinians (the vast majority of Palestinians are just trying to survive in a difficult situation). You contrast this with the situation in the American south during Jim Crow, where you seem to think that the white power structure would have freely admitted that their actions had no justification other than maintaining white supremacy. (You do not state it that way but your argument makes no sense unless that is what you are claiming.)

You should watch the movie 'Birth of a Nation' again. The argument for the Klu Klux Klan and Jim Crow by the whites was EXACTLY the same as the Israeli argument for checkpoints, etc. -- acts of violence by a few blacks against whites.

Your argument seems to be that the feelings of the Palestinians are of no importance as long as they do not influence American support for Israeli policies. As long as Americans can be persuaded that the Israeli domination of the Palestinians can be justified then the feelings of the Palestinians can be ignored.

Secretary Rice is right to compare the Palestinians under Israeli occupation to African-Americans under Jim Crow. Jim Crow did not end until a majority of Americans saw television images of little black girls terrorized on their way to school and black teenagers blasted with fire hoses and started to empathize with the African-Americans. The situation for the Palestinians will not change until the majority of Americans start to see the situation through Palestinian eyes. Americans might want to keep that in mind when they think about how few images of Palestinians they see on television.


Saul said...

Great letter, Dave. The last two sentences are pretty key--I wonder when Americans are going to see more images of Palestinians on TV? Does that depend on waiting for reporters to go there and do more stories about Palestinians? Will that depend on the TV networks deciding that they have to broadcast more stories about Palestine? Will that depend on whether the networks think that Americans want to see more stories about Palestine? If that's what it will take for the US to change its policies on Israel/Palestine, then how long are we going to have to wait?

I have to say, though, that I'm quite pleasantly surprised that Condoleeza Rice used the Jim Crow metaphor. That's probably the best thing I've ever had to say about Condoleeza Rice.

Tacky said...

I agree with Saul. Until I read your blog I was unaware that Condi had the nerve to make that comparison.
Art Pitz is giving two lectures on the Civil Rights Movement in Davenport, Iowa from 1945 to 1972.
He has long been s staunch supporter of Israel ( having spent some time there as a volunteer and perhaps teacher).
Too bad the news blackout is so effective. Now I better understand how well meaning German citizens were "not aware" of what the Nazis were truly about.
Unfortunately, we have millions of American citizens and others in other countries unaware of what our government is about by suppressing news coverage. Condi perhaps is making ready to pick up a professorship in a university, and starts to tell it as she sees it now. I haven't seen her photo ops with Bush lately.