The Black Congressional Caucus and Israel
Only two members of the Congressional Black Caucus mustered the courage to oppose a House Resolution in support of Israel’s savage assault on Gaza last week. An additional seven CBC members sought cover by voting “present.” The remaining 30 Black lawmakers (the delegates from Washington, DC and the Virgin Islands cannot vote on the House floor) gave their assent to a statement that could have been written by the Israeli government—and probably was.
The Resolution, similar to one passed by the Senate on a voice vote, is a blanket condemnation of Hamas, the political party that won Palestinian Authority elections three years ago, and which Israeli leaders vow to “destroy” before leaving Gaza. The destruction of a mass political party requires massive civilian deaths. Destroying Hamas in Gaza is like stamping out Democrats in The Bronx—with 1.4 million people, about the same size as the Palestinian enclave. The document blames Hamas for “the breaking of the ‘calm’ and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza.” In other words, Israel is absolved for all the men, women and children it has burned, eviscerated, blasted into dust, sliced in pieces or melted like wax.
In addition to the usual nonsense about the U.S. maintaining an “unwavering commitment to the...State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state [as if a settler state based on race-ethnicity can be democratic] with secure borders,” (Israel is the only state in the world that refuses to say where its borders are), the Resolution invokes the United Nations and its Charter (Israel is the unchallenged world champion violator of UN Resolutions, dating from shortly after its declaration of independence, in 1948).
Could it be that Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Milwaukee’s Gwen Moore are the only Black Caucus members who remember that Israel was racist South Africa’s closest ally, the apartheid regime’s hi-tech weapons quartermaster and godfather to its nuclear bomb project? Do the seven members that voted “present”—Donna Edwards (MD), Keith Ellison (MN), Hank Johnson (GA), Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI), Barbara Lee (CA), Donald Payne (NJ), Diane Watson (CA)—believe that by refusing to take a position on Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza, they somehow salvage the Caucus’s claim to be the “conscience of the Congress?”
Where has John Conyers’ conscience disappeared to? In July of 2006, when the House passed an equally noxious Resolution in support of Israel’s systematic destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure, killing over 1,000 people and displacing one million, Conyers and fellow Detroiter Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick were the solitary CBC members to vote “Nay.” (Oakland’s Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters voted “present.”) Then came the Democratic victory in the midterm congressional elections and Conyers’ chance to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee—at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pleasure. Conyers picked a fight with Jimmy Carter over the former president’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Conyers objected to Carter’s use of the term “apartheid” in the book’s title, saying it “does not serve the cause of peace, and the use of it against the Jewish people in particular, who have been victims of the worst kind of discrimination, discrimination resulting in death, is offensive and wrong.” Translation: Not just Israel, but Jews are off limits to criticism.
It appears the old John Conyers has left the scene without those of us who used to know him having had a chance to say goodbye. The Israeli lobby has that kind of effect on erstwhile progressives and anti-war folks. The Zionist ideology, and especially the chilling effect of Zionist power, is probably the second-greatest impediment to creation of a sustained American peace movement—the first obstacle being the ideology of American Manifest Destiny, which is in practice quite compatible with Zionism.
However, African Americans are least susceptible to the Manifest Destiny/Zionist Mythology combo. Both ideologies reek of racism, and most Black people know it. The Congressional Black Caucus knows it, too, but they are terrified of offending Israel’s innumerable political hit men.
Zionist power helped knock off two CBC members who refused to tow Tel Aviv’s line, in 2002. Georgia’s Cynthia McKinney and Alabama’s Earl Hilliard found themselves heavily outspent and ultimately unseated by otherwise puny challengers in Democratic primary contests. AIPAC bragged of its ability to shut down independent-minded Black politicians who fail to understand that U.S. foreign policy is shaped by whatever is deemed good for Israel. Bullying works, especially against the meek. Except for Maxine Waters and Gwen Moore, the Congressional Black Caucus is out of the anti-war business.
That also goes for the Congressional Progressive Caucus which, with 71 members, claims to be the “single largest partisan caucus” in the U.S. House, but whose members voted overwhelmingly in support of Israeli barbarity. About two-thirds of the voting members of the Black Caucus also belong to the Progressive Caucus—meaning, they are members of two defunct organizations, and doubly useless to the cause of peace.
Glen Ford is editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article appears. He can be contacted at:Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com
—Black Agenda Report, January 14, 2009