Another Freedom Summer
Special Feature: 

During the summer of 2014, the U.S. government once again offered the State of Israel unwavering support for its aggression against the Palestinian people. Among the U.S. public, however, there was growing disenchantment with Israel. The information explosion on social media has provided the public globally with much greater access to the Palestinian narrative unfiltered by the Israeli lens. In the United States, this has translated into a growing political split on the question of Palestine between a more diverse and engaged younger population and an older generation reared on the long-standing tropes of Israel’s discourse. Drawing analogies between this paradigm shift and the turning point in the civil rights movement enshrined in Mississippi’s 1964 Freedom Summer, author and scholar Robin Kelley goes on to ask whether the outrage of the summer of 2014 can be galvanized to transform official U.S. policy.

Robin D. G. Kelley is the Gary B. Nash Professor of U.S. History at UCLA and author of several books, including Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), and Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). His research has explored the history of social movements in the United States, the African Diaspora, and Africa; black intellectuals; music and visual culture; and contemporary urban studies, among other topics.

Full text: 

The Zionist Era is over!

—Max Blumenthal at rally in San Francisco, July 26, 2014 [1]

THIS WAS THE SUMMER of slaughter. In the course of fifty days, Operation Protective Edge took at least two thousand Palestinian lives (including over five hundred children), left ten thousand wounded, razed ten thousand homes, displaced about a quarter of Gaza’s population (some four hundred thousand people), wrecked much of the territory’s crumbling infrastructure, and made an already intolerable situation practically unlivable.

This was also the summer of outrage. All over the world, people took to the streets and to social media to condemn Israel’s assault on Gaza. Even in the United States, where nearly all elected officials declare their fealty to Israel as a matter of course, demonstrations and actions critical of Israel erupted all across the country. On 2 August, declared a National Day of Action for Gaza, an estimated fifteen to twenty thousand people gathered in Washington, DC, to demand not only an immediate withdrawal from Gaza but also an end to the occupation. Texans for Gaza mobilized five thousand to descend on the state capital of Austin, while seven thousand rallied in front of the Time Warner Center in New York City to protest the media’s biased pro-Israel coverage, to demand an investigation into alleged war crimes, and to call for cutting military aid for Israel. Similar demonstrations were held that weekend in San Diego, Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver, Saint Paul, Tucson, and elsewhere. [2]

In Los Angeles, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Al-Awda (The Palestine Right to Return Coalition), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and various antiwar and immigrant rights groups held regular protests in front of the federal building and the Israeli Consulate. And Palestine solidarity activists joined with the Southern California Immigration Coalition, International Action Center, and the Union del Barrio of South Central Los Angeles in a car caravan under the banner “Stop the War on Children from Gaza to the U.S./Mexico Border.” JVP, CODEPINK, SJP, American Muslims for Palestine, and dozens of other organizations held die-ins, sit-ins, and other acts of civil disobedience in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, Seattle, and Los Angeles—mainly targeting companies invested in the occupation or providing weapons used to attack Gaza, as well as the support organization, Friends of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), and senators who voted to send more weapons to Israel. [3]

In August, all along the West Coast, solidarity activists and labor organizers succeeded in delaying an Israeli ship owned and operated by ZIM Integrated Shipping Services from unloading its contents, costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars. ZIM is Israel’s leading cargo shipping company and the tenth largest in the world. [4] Even librarians got into the action. On 2 August, a group called Librarians and Archivists with Palestine read poetry and distributed bookmarks on New York City subway trains opposing “Israel’s bombing and siege of the Gaza Strip” and offering to “share with you Palestinian literature in an effort to honor Palestinian life in the face of massacre.” [5]

A Shifting Political Landscape

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The network of Palestine solidarity groups and individual supporters has grown in size, geographical breadth, and diversity. Besides those mentioned above, they include the U.S. Palestinian Community Network; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network; African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa; Global Women’s Strike; Queers Against Israeli Apartheid; U.S. Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) Movement; Let’s Go There Collective; the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network; ANSWER Coalition; Bay Area Intifada; Palestinian American Women’s Association; Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights; Stop the Wall; U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel; and Black in Palestine, to name a few. Indeed, one writer attending an antiwar rally in San Francisco contrasted the tiny, all-white pro-Israeli counterdemonstrators with “a spectrum of skin tone, Arabic and English accents, young and old, white youth, white progressive Jews, Mexican-Americans, and Arabs throwing their collective fist to the sky.” [6]

On the one hand, mass demonstrations and public outrage should not surprise us. Spectacular violence, especially when children are victims, is guaranteed to generate condemnation. People came out in droves during Operation Cast Lead, and again when Israeli airstrikes resumed under Operation Returning Echo in 2012. But this time public outrage was more widespread, sustained, even mainstream, despite the near-unanimous consent from U.S. officials and the war’s popularity among Israelis. Are we witnessing a shift in the political landscape? Is Israel losing the war for legitimacy in the belly of its closest ally? Is Zionism really dead?

Neither opinion polls nor head counts at rallies are sufficient for measuring changes in the political landscape, especially when it comes to Israel/Palestine. Even today, many of my colleagues refuse to publicly criticize Israel for fear of reprisal. Nevertheless, I do think the response to events in Gaza reveals a growing disillusionment with Israeli policies, if not with Zionism itself, and a deepening critique of the occupation. While the extent and durability of this change remains to be seen, we can begin to identify several factors that help to explain why moral authority and political sympathies are shifting from the State of Israel to the Palestinian people—by which I do not mean Hamas or Fatah or the Palestinian Authority (PA).

One very obvious factor is social media. The skewed corporate media is no longer omnipotent or omnipresent. Nothing stopped the devastating reportage and tweets from journalists Mohammed Omer, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, and Rana Baker; Palestinian bloggers like Khaled Safi or sixteenyear- old Farah Baker; the International Solidarity Movement (Palestine); or the untold number of citizen-journalists who uploaded horrific cellphone footage of Israeli airstrikes and sniper attacks on civilians onto YouTube for the world to see. [7] More and more Americans turn to outlets like Al Jazeera, Ma’an News Agency, Middle East Eye, the Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Jadaliyya, Palestine News Network, CounterPunch, Middle East Monitor, Democracy Now!, or they simply follow the actions and reports of the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), JVP, Students for Justice in Palestine, CODEPINK, and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, to name a few. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008–9, Israel tried to impose a media blackout by banning the foreign press, but with the proliferation of alternative media outlets and the presence of an extensive social network inside Gaza, this time around Israel could do little more than circulate its own counternarrative—besides killing journalists.

The widespread use of social media partly reflects—and partly produced—a growing generational split over Israel/Palestine. Ironically, as younger Israelis harden their stance against Palestinian rights and in defense of ethno-nationalism, a recent Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans below thirty believed Israel’s attack on Gaza was unjustified. As the Economist put it, “for many younger Americans, who have mainly seen a powerful Israel occupying the West Bank and battering Hamas, the picture is different.” [8] The generational divide has been most consequential among younger, liberal Jews. According to a Pew Research poll released last year, although 70 percent of American Jews aged eighteen to twenty-nine believe a two-state solution is possible, only 26 percent believe the Israeli government is making a sincere effort to achieve it. Perhaps more striking is the finding that half of the respondents aged eighteen to twenty-nine believed that settlement construction in the West Bank undermines Israel’s security. [9]

The generational divide has fueled a growing political divide, as more and more American Jews move further to the left. J Street, seen as the younger, liberal Jewish lobby challenging the inflexible and uncritical support of Israel of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has lost some of its members to groups like Jews Say No, Partners for a Progressive Israel, Peace Now!, If Not Now, When?, and JVP. Seth Morrison, former chair of J Street’s Washington, DC, chapter, is now active with JVP. “It became really obvious that the Israeli government was going to do nothing constructive, and nothing J Street was going to do would make a big enough difference,” he explained. “It’s very clear that the occupation is the root cause of all of these problems.” [10] JVP’s call for an end to the occupation, citizenship, and equality for Palestinians in Israel, the cessation of U.S. military aid to Israel, and its unwavering support for the global BDS campaign has made the organization one of the most progressive forces for Palestinian rights and anathema for Zionists. Its members played a critical role in persuading the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest its holdings in companies used by Israel in the occupied territories. As a result of its many campaigns and acts of civil disobedience, its membership has ballooned over the course of the latest assault on Gaza. According to its executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, its dues-paying membership rose by 20 percent in July of 2014, its chapters have increased by 50 percent, and its Twitter following doubled. Its initial open letter to the Jewish community calling on Israel to stop its assault on Gaza garnered over sixty-five thousand signatures. [11]

The newest kid on the progressive Jewish bloc, as it were, calls itself “If Not Now, When?” Specifically birthed by the war on Gaza, If Not Now was partly founded by members of J Street U, the group’s student-based auxiliary. Their first act of civil disobedience took place in front of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in New York City on 28 July, where they read the names of Palestinian and Israeli casualties of the war and occupied the building in which the conference took place. Nine members were arrested. In Washington, DC, they launched a similar action outside the national office of the Jewish Federations of North America, reading a statement condemning “the gratuitous killing of Palestinian civilians,” “the bombing of UN schools,” and “the use of live ammunition on nonviolent protesters in the West Bank.” If Not Now is a loosely-based ad hoc movement driven more by moral and ethical positions than by political and strategic considerations. However, they oppose the war and the occupation, and completely “reject the view that ‘we have no choice,’ that [Israeli state] violence is necessary and inevitable.” [12]

And yet, neither youth nor the proliferation of social media nor the horrors of war alone can adequately explain the paradigm shift that has refocused the problem from one of conflict to occupation and colonialism. Much of the credit belongs to the BDS campaign. Although the call for a worldwide boycott of Israel was launched nearly a decade ago by Palestinian civil society organizations inspired by South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, BDS has gained momentum in the United States in the last couple of years after students at several universities waged successful divestment campaigns, and professional academic organizations such as the American Studies Association (ASA), the Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA), the African Literature Association (ALA), and the Asian American Studies Association (AASA) endorsed the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. The ASA resolution, passed a little less than a year ago [see the special documents file in JPS 171 for more], generated a firestorm of criticism, culminating in an acrimonious attack on the BDS movement by nearly every major university president across the country. [13] All of these efforts were hard-fought, including the Presbyterian Church’s decision to divest from its holdings Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions—three U.S. companies complicit in the occupation. But the war threw fuel on what had been a simmering fire. On 8 July 2014, the start of Operation Protective Edge, a “Buycott” smartphone app designed to assist consumers wishing to honor the boycott of companies they disapprove of showed only 470 followers for the “Long Live Palestine, Boycott Israel” campaign against companies that support the Israeli occupation. A month into the war, the number skyrocketed to over 250,000 followers, and it had reached more than 400,000 at this writing. [14]

The essential role of the BDS movement here should not be measured in economic terms or numbers. Instead, as Yousef Munayyer recently argued in response to Noam Chomsky’s dismissal of BDS in the Nation magazine, the campaign is “changing the conversation and educating the public.” Referring to the historic decision by the Presbyterian Church to divest, Munayyer noted, “Just as important as the economic impact of that vote was the fact that a massive convention in Detroit, representing an important institution in American life, was engaged in lively debate about the impact of brutal Israeli policies—and Washington’s role in that impact—on Palestinians half a world away. That debate would not have happened if not for BDS.” [15] In other words, thanks to years of sustained, protracted public debate, the public knows a lot more about the occupation, and who profits from it, as well as the historical roots of dispossession going back to 1948. People have been learning how different generations of Palestinians were pushed out of their homes, and their bank accounts, personal effects, even libraries seized without compensation—actions rendered legal by Israel’s Absentees’ Property Law (1950). They learn about the illegal “apartheid wall” snaking through the West Bank, the equally illegal settlements and settler-only roads, and the overcrowded, multi-storied shacks that house refugees in their own land. A new generation has been reintroduced to the term “apartheid,” and to the UN’s definition, i.e., any measures designed to “prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country,” including “the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” [16] And they are told over and over again how our tax dollars subsidize Israel’s garrison state to the tune of six million dollars a day, and how the United States has consistently vetoed UN resolutions condemning Israel’s abuses of human rights. BDS proponents frequently point out that the wars on Gaza, not to mention IDF attacks and home demolitions in the West Bank, violate our own Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits the use of U.S. weapons and military aid against civilians, particularly in occupied territories.

But a paradigm shift is not a consensus, and in much of the United States criticizing Israel and standing up for Palestinians is still considered a form of dissent. In Boston, the Transit Authority pulled paid ads that characterized Israel an apartheid state, calling them “demeaning.” Houston police and private security detained and then forcibly ejected Buthayna Hammad from a Houston Dynamo soccer game because she carried a Palestinian flag, which the police called anti-Semitic and a “racial slur.” [17] Not surprisingly, universities continue to be the most public and most embattled site of contestation, as evidenced by the recent efforts by the AMCHA Initiative to fire Professor Rabab Abdulhadi from her post at San Francisco State University for leading a delegation of scholars to Palestine, and the decision by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise to fire Professor Steven Salaita for his charged tweets about Israel. [18] Indeed, incidents of retaliation have only increased, prompting attorney Dima Khalidi to found Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS) to defend activists and community members subject to intimidation, persecution, surveillance, economic retaliation, and character assassination. PSLS provides legal advice and develops strategies to challenge laws designed to stifle any criticism of Israel, as well as criminalize legitimate nonviolent forms of protest (that is, boycott, walkouts, leafleting, demonstrations, and so forth). [19]

Such repression is so pervasive that it deserves an essay of its own. And the consequences can be devastating, as we are seeing in the case of Rasmea Odeh, the Chicago-based activist imprisoned for alleged immigration fraud because she had not disclosed on her naturalization application that she had been convicted by an Israeli military court and served ten years. Despite overwhelming evidence that her Israeli conviction on trumped-up charges was secured by torture, this does not concern the U.S. Justice Department.

A History of Solidarity

The role Israeli cultural and academic institutions play in supporting the occupation and legitimizing or camouflaging apartheid is well known to this readership and need not be discussed here. For our purposes, it is simply worth noting that the academic and cultural boycott has generated overwhelming opposition not because it significantly affects Israel’s economy, but because exposing the complicity of Israel’s artistic, cultural, and educational institutions in sustaining apartheid has profoundly damaged Israel’s symbolic economy, its struggle for legitimacy as a liberal, democratic state. Israeli officials understand that the domain of culture is a terrain of war—and the terrain of war is a domain of culture. In the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spent an additional two million dollars to improve its image through cultural and information diplomacy. And as Arye Mekel, the ministry’s deputy director general for cultural affairs, put it, the export of novelists, dancers, and visual artists is a way to “show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.” [20] Not surprisingly, as Operation Protective Edge began to wind down, Israeli private and government institutions looked for new ways to sway U.S. public opinion. The Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) began shifting a significant sum of Israel’s military budget to the Foreign Ministry to fight a campaign of delegitimization presumably waged by leftists and BDS activists. Reut Institute’s approach to delegitimization is to recruit U.S. evangelicals to counter “Islamists and Leftists,” while engaging in a strategy of pink-washing by circulating images of gay pride parades. According to the Economist, Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s strategic affairs minister, has asked for money “to coordinate efforts by the army, the foreign ministry, the government press office and other bodies to combat delegitimization. In the recent Gaza campaign, the government has coopted universities to its war effort. Several have established ‘war rooms’ with banks of computers where student volunteers use army talking points to rebut social media attacks.” [21]

It is no accident that Israel and its U.S. lobbyists—AIPAC, Stand With Us, and so forth—have tried to recruit African Americans to combat accusations of apartheid and racism. AIPAC became a major supporter of the Vanguard Leadership Group (VLG), a self-proclaimed “student group” made up of a few graduates from historically black colleges and universities. [22] VLG members participated in AIPAC-sponsored tours of Israel and developed their talking points through AIPAC’s Saban Leadership Training seminars. [23] AIPAC’s American-Israel Educational Foundation has also worked closely with Christians United for Israel (CUFI), founded by the controversial Reverend John Hagee, in an effort to attract black students, elected officials, and religious leaders to serve as moral shields for Israel’s policies of subjugation, settlement, segregation, and dispossession. [24] Thus far, their efforts have yielded very little. Aside from a curious and dreadfully ill-informed essay by a little-known African American Zionist named Chloe Valdary (“To the Students for Justice in Palestine, a Letter from an Angry Black Woman”), [25] black support for Israel virtually disappeared. While it is true that most black leaders and elected officials signaled their consent for Israel’s onslaught through their silence, ordinary African Americans are twice more likely than whites to blame Israel rather than Hamas for the violence in Gaza, according to a Pew survey. [26] Thus, we have seen more statements and initiatives by black activists on Gaza than usual, due in part to a recent rise in predominantly black delegations traveling to the West Bank and a string of reports about racist attacks on African asylum-seekers in Israel. For many African Americans who tended to be catholic on the Palestine question, images of African immigrants marching against racism in Tel Aviv were enough to pique their curiosity. [27]

Even more crucial is the fact that the war on Gaza coincided with an escalation of the police war on black America. The killings of Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Kajieme Powell, John Crawford III, and most significantly, Michael Brown—all unarmed, all in the space of a couple of months—were immediately (and sometimes uncritically) linked to events in Gaza. Activists readily drew connections between Israeli racialized state violence in the name of security and the United States—from drone strikes abroad and the killing of black men at the hands of police to the role Israeli companies and security forces have played in arming and training U.S. police departments. Palestinian solidarity activists issued statements about the Ferguson protests (which followed the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in a suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri) and the New York City Police Department killing of Eric Garner, and Palestinian activists in the United States as well as in Gaza and the West Bank have put out their own solidarity statements along with advice on how best to deal with tear gas. [28] A “Statement of Solidarity with the People of Ferguson” signed by Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, the United States, and across the diaspora, declared: “We recognize the disregard and disrespect for black bodies and black life endemic to the supremacist system that rules the land with wanton brutality. Your struggles through the ages have been an inspiration to us as we fight our own battles for basic human dignities.” [29] 

And yet, amid these extraordinary and heart-wrenching expressions of solidarity, we were also reminded that this was not the first generation of activists to regard Israel as a settler-colonial regime, to situate Zionism and the occupation as the core problem, to call out U.S. complicity, and to draw parallels between U.S. and Israeli racism. This was, after all, the summer of freedom—the year veterans of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) gathered in Mississippi to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer. In 1964, SNCC recruited one thousand white students to help organize a voter registration campaign in Mississippi, in hopes that the unrelenting violence by the state and vigilantes might subside with the presence of young white folks. It did, but only a little. Forces committed to Southern apartheid bombed thirty homes, burned thirty-five churches, beat or shot at over one hundred people, and killed at least six workers. Most of the men and women who tried to register were evicted, fired, denied credit, thrown off welfare rolls, and barred from access to cotton ginners and grain elevators. All black people wanted were basic citizenship rights, justice, and a color-blind and fair economic system. Later that year, when members of the racially integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party showed up in Atlantic City prepared to take their rightful place at the Democratic National Convention as the only loyal, inclusive, and representative party from the state, their delegates were denied a seat.

SNCC’s experiences in Mississippi would have a profound effect on the way many activists viewed the rest of the world. Three years later, in the aftermath of the June 1967 war, SNCC Chairman Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and fellow member Ethel Minor published a statement on Palestine in SNCC’s newsletter titled, “Third World Round-up: The Palestine Problem: Test Your Knowledge.” The highly controversial two-page spread portrayed the June 1967 war as a war of dispossession, Israel as a colonial state backed by U.S. imperialism, and Palestinians as victims of racial subjugation. In short, the longstanding tradition of black identification with Zionism as a striving for land and self-determination gave way to a radical critique of Zionism as a form of settler colonialism akin to American racism and South African apartheid. Liberal Zionists, mainstream civil rights leaders, and the press immediately attacked the piece as anti-Semitic drivel. Funders and allies threatened to withdraw support, and some bridges were permanently burned. [30]

Dismantling Apartheid

Almost as soon as the reunion of SNCC activists in Mississippi decamped this past summer, Israel began bombing Gaza. Movement veterans concerned about the war debated over what action to take, how to respond, how to interpret the war. The strongest voice to emerge from among the Freedom Summer vets was that of Dorothy M. Zellner, a Jew, a radical, and an active member in JVP. In a moving essay titled, “What Ella Baker Taught Us about Ferguson and Gaza,” she put the issue plainly:


In 1969, Ella Baker, SNCC’s great mentor, pointed us in the direction of meaningful action when she said, “In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed.” This means that we are going to have to learn to think in radical terms. I use the term radical in its original meaning—getting down to and understanding the root cause. Baker continued, “It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.”. . .


And what, in my opinion, is the “root cause” of all the death and destruction in the Middle East? It isn’t Hamas, it isn’t who sent the rockets first, who killed which teenager first, and it isn’t who broke which ceasefire first. The underlying cause flows from the injustice of one group controlling the lives and future of another group. As long as Israel occupies Palestine, and as long as Palestinians resist (which, according to international human rights law, they have the right to do), confrontations and death will result. The root cause is the occupation, which itself flows from the previous dispossession of Palestinians from the land they inhabited for generations. [31]

The root cause—this is the heart of thematter. It is what lay buried even deeper under the rubble, under the blood and bones and wails, obscured by the nightmare of war. Only by unraveling and laying bare the root cause can we begin to think about how to dismantle apartheid and what is required for “the system . . . to be radically changed.” This work is much, much harder than showing up at demonstrations, blocking traffic, and chanting, “Free, Free Palestine!” And still this work is necessary. For all the evidence of a paradigm shift vis-à-vis Israel/Palestine in the United States, U.S. policy hasn’t budged an inch. On 29 July, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation held a powerful briefing in the nation’s capital calling on the American government to abide by international protocols and stop supplying Israel with massive military aid. The lawmakers for whom the briefing was intended avoided it like the plague, with the exception of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. Those who did attend heard moving testimony by Tariq Abu Khdeir, the 15-year-old Palestinian-American boy beaten and arrested by Israeli security forces during protests in the wake of the lynching of his cousin, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Other speakers included campaign organizer and author Josh Ruebner; Tariq’s mother, Suha Abu Khdeir; Hassan Shibly of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Amnesty International representative Sunjeev Bery; Brad Parker of Defence for Children International; and renowned Palestinian author Laila El-Haddad [see her essay, “After the Smoke Clears,” also in this issue] who opened her speech with these haunting words: “My tax dollars killed eight members of my family this morning.” [32] Seven were members of the El-Farra family, three of them children. CSPAN-2 had begun airing the briefing, but three minutes into Tariq’s speech, the network suddenly tuned into Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who delivered a belligerent speech to a mostly empty Senate chamber about why we have to back Israel. [33]

Later that day, Congress approved an “emergency” appropriation of $225 million in additional military aid to Israel to fund its Iron Dome system. The next day, Israel bombed the UNRWA school in Jabaliya refugee camp, killing twenty civilians and wounding at least one hundred fifty people as they slept. Three days later, Israel bombed another UN shelter in Rafah killing ten civilians and injuring scores of others. [34]

Zionism may be dead, but imperialism in its most brutal colonial form is alive and well. Senator John Kerry was right to say there was “no daylight” between the United States and Israel. Before we can see a post-apartheid future, we need light.



Robin D. G. Kelley is the Gary B. Nash Professor of U.S. History at UCLA and author of several books, including Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), and Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). His research has explored the history of social movements in the United States, the African Diaspora, and Africa; black intellectuals; music and visual culture; and contemporary urban studies, among other topics.

1 Nicholas Powers, “The War over the War: Israel, Gaza and American Protest,” Truthout, 8 August 2014,

2 Karen Chen, “Thousands fromacross Country Protest in Support of Palestinians near White House,” Washington Post, 2 August 2014; Kit O’Connell, “Video: 5,000 Texans March for Gaza,” Mint Press News, 6 August 2014,; Jillian Jorgensen, “ ‘We Need to Stay in the Streets’: Rally for Palestine Fills Columbus Circle,” New York Observer, 1 August 2014, “Rallies in U.S. Grow Stronger for Gaza,” Workers World, 5 August 2014,

3 “Rallies,” 5 August 2014; JVP, “Jews across the U.S. Oppose the Assault on Gaza,” news release, 18 July 2014, “Not in Our Name: Jewish Activists Arrested in Sit-in at Friends of Israel Defense Forces NYC Office,” Democracy Now!, 23 July 2014,; Alex Kane, with Philip Weiss, “US Jews Occupy Israeli Army Support Office in NY in Civil Disobedience Action,” Mondoweiss, 22 July 2014, Nora Barrows-Friedman, “California Activists Arrested at US Senator’s Office as They Demand Halt to Israel Arms,” Electronic Intifada, 19 August 2014,

4 Charlotte Silver, “Protesters Block and Delay Israeli Ships up and down US West Coast,” Electronic Intifada, 28 August 2014, Henry K. Lee and Kale Williams, “Ship Targeted by Protesters Makes U-Turn, Heads Back to Oakland,” SFGate, 20 August 2014,

5 Sarah Irving, “New York Librarians Take Subterranean Action in Solidarity with Gaza,” Electronic Intifada, 14 August 2014,

6 Powers,“The War over the War,” 8 August 2014.

7 Yousef al-Helou, “Social Media: The Weapon of Choice in the Gaza-Israel Conflict,” Middle East Eye, 21 August 2014,

8 “Us and Them: Israel and the World,” Economist, 8 September 2014, 21610312-pummelling-gaza-has-cost-israel-sympathy-not-just-europe-also-amongamericans/.

9 Samantha Lachman, “Young Jews Protest Israel’s Offensive in Gaza, Call for End to ‘Gratuitous Killing,’” Huffington Post, 5 August 2014,

10 Steve Lipman, “Fault Lines Open as Civilian Deaths Mount,” Jewish Week, 23 July 2014, Deborah Nussbaum Cohen, “Gaza War Pushes Some to the Left of J Street,” Haaretz, 5 August 2014,

11 Cohen, “Gaza War Pushes Some,” 5 August 2014; Lipman, “Fault Lines,” 23 July 2014; JVP, “Jews Across the U.S.,” 18 July 2014.

12 Mariam Elba, “‘If Not Now, When?’ – Jewish American Peace Activists Organize to Oppose War in Gaza,” Common Dreams, 31 July 2014, Cohen, “Gaza War Pushes Some,” 5 August 2014.

13 Nora Barrows-Friedman, “ ‘We Are at a Turning Point’: UC Santa Cruz Passes Divestment,” Electronic Intifada, 29 May 2014, American Studies Association, “ASA Members Vote to Endorse Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions,” Critical Ethnic Studies Association, “CESA Passes Resolution on BDS,” 16 July 2014,; Elizabeth Redden, “A First for the Israel Boycott?” Inside Higher Ed, 24 April 2013, Jimmy Johnson, “African Literature Association Endorses Academic Boycott of Israel,” Electronic Intifada, 23 July 2014, Robin D. G. Kelley, “Defending Zionism under the Cloak of Academic Freedom,” Mondoweiss, 4 January 2014, See also USACBI and BDS Movement websites for more at;

14 Patricia Sabga, “Campaign to Boycott Israel Gains Ground,” Al Jazeera America, 13 August 2014,

15 Yousef Munayyer, “How BDS Is Educating the Public about Israel’s Brutal Policies,” Nation, 10 July 2014, Chomsky, “On Israel-Palestine and BDS,” Nation, 2 July 2014, See also the excellent response to Chomsky, by the Organizing Collective of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, “How BDS Has Galvanized the Struggle for Justice in Palestine,” Nation, 10 July 2014,

16 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, G.A. res. 3068 (XXVIII), 28 UN GAOR Supp. (No. 30) at 75, U.N. Doc. A/9030 (1974), 1015 UNT.S. 243, entered into force 18 July 1976, University of Minnesota Human Rights Library,

17 Radhika Sainath, “As Protest over Gaza Grew, So Did Attacks on Speech Supporting Palestinian Freedom,” Mondoweiss, 4 September 2014,; Annie Robbins, “Houston Stadium Security Detains Soccer Fan for Waving Palestinian Flag as ‘Racial Slur,’” Mondoweiss, 6 June 2014,

18 the most detailed account of Professor Salaita’s battle with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign can be found on Corey Robin’s blog, Corey Robin,

19 Nadine Naber, “Defending Palestine Solidarity Activists: An Interview with Dima Khalidi,” Jadaliyya, 18 September 2014,

20 Ethan Bronner, “After Gaza, Israel Grapples with Crisis of Isolation,” New York Times, 18 March 2009,

21 “Us and Them,” Economist, 8 September 2014.

22 See Yaman Salahi, “Truth Matters: The Vanguard Leadership Group Is Wrong,” Mondoweiss Gary Rosenblatt, “Black Group Defends Israel against Charge of Apartheid,” Jewish Week, 10 October 2011, Seth Freed Wessler, “The Israel Lobby Finds a New Face: Black College Students,” ColorLines, 18 January 2012,

23 “African American Vanguard Steps Forward for Israel,” The Birmingham Jewish Federation,

24 Nathan Guttman, “Christian Backers of Israel Reach Out to Blacks,” Forward, 19 October 2011, Ira Glunts, “The Pro-Israel Lobby Courts African Americans,” Mondoweiss, 6 November 2011,

25 Chloe Valdary, “To the Students for Justice in Palestine, a Letter from an Angry Black Woman,” Tablet, 28 July 2014,

26 Bruce A. Dixon, “Why Our Black Political Class Is Paralyzed and Silent on Gaza Massacres and Israeli Apartheid,” Black Agenda Report, 23 July 2014, Charles D. Ellison, “Is the Gaza Conflict Making Black Folks Uncomfortable?” Root, 1 August 2014,

27 “Statement about the Crisis in Gaza by African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa,” Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR), 24 July 2014, news release, Kristian Davis Bailey, “Why Black People Must Stand with Palestine,” Ebony, 21 May 2014, Kristian Davis Bailey, “In Palestine the Time Is Now,” Truthout, 16 July 2014,; Brittney Cooper, “I Was Wrong About Gaza: Why We Can No Longer Ignore the Horrors in Palestine,” Salon, 5 August 2014, On African asylum-seekers in Israel, see David Sheen, “Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land,” Nation, 21 October 2013, Jemima Pierre, “Black Migrants in White Israel,” Black Agenda Report, 6 June 2012, See also David Sheen’s blog, No Holds Bard,; and Max Blumenthal, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (New York: Nation Books, 2013).

28 Jaime Omar Yassin, “The Shortest Distance Between Ferguson and Palestine,” CounterPunch, 15–17 August 2014, Dean Obeidallah, “Michael Brown, Gaza, and Muslim Americans,” Daily Beast, 20 August 2014, Sydney Levy, “JVP Stands in Solidarity with the Community of Ferguson, Missouri,” JVP blog, 20 August 2014, David Gilbert, “Michael Brown Shooting: Gaza Strip Tweets Ferguson About How to Deal with Tear Gas,” International Business Times, 14 August 2014, For an excellent critique of the tendency to attribute militarized policing to Israeli training without considering America’s long history of militarized law enforcement, see Mark LeVine, “Ferguson is not Gaza . . . Yet,” Al Jazeera America, 18 August 2014,

29 Rana Baker, “Palestinians Express ‘Solidarity with the People of Ferguson’ in Mike Brown Statement,” Electronic Intifada, 15 August 2014,

30 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, “Third World Round-up: The Palestine Problem: Test Your Knowledge,” SNCC Newsletter 1.2 (July-August 1967), pp. 5–6. For an excellent analysis of the SNCC essay, see Keith P. Feldman, “Representing Permanent War: Black Power’s Palestine and the End(s) of Civil Rights,” New Centennial Review 8, no. 2 (Fall 2008), pp. 210–21.

31 Dorothy M. Zellner, “What Ella Baker Taught Us About Ferguson And Gaza,” Tikkun, 26 August 2014, see also PhilipWeiss’s interview with Zellner, “From Mississippi to Gaza—Dorothy Zellner Reflects on 50 Years of Struggle,” Mondoweiss, 24 June 2014,

32 “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” 1 August 2014, C-SPAN,

33 Naureen Khan, “Activists Tell Congress That US Complicit in Israeli Assault on Gaza,” Al Jazeera America, 1 August 2014, Rania Khalek, “US Senator Filibusters Live Coverage of Powerful Palestinian Testimonies,” Electronic Intifada, 5 August 2014,

34 Bradley Klapper, “Congress Backs $225 Million Aid Package for Israel’s Iron Dome,” PBS NewsHour, 1 August 2014, “‘They Thought They’d Be Safe. They Were Wrong’: 20 Gazans Killed in Israeli Bombing of UN Shelter,” Democracy Now!, 30 July 2014,; “Fresh Israeli Shelling Kills 10 in UN Shelter for Displaced in Rafah,” Ma’an News Agency,