I agree with Cornel West.
I never thought I would find myself writing those words. West, a leading African-American author and intellectual, is a vicious critic of Israel. He supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. He says Israel’s leaders are “war criminals.” In a speech at Princeton last year, he made the wildly absurd claim that the Israelis “are killing hundreds [of Palestinians] daily.”
But even a broken clock gives the right time twice a day, so on the rare occasion that West utters words of truth about the Palestinians or Israel, I must acknowledge that.
West was appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to serve on the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee. He lobbied hard for a platform plank supporting the Palestinian cause, and was partly successful.
Speaking to a Jerusalem Post reporter on July 26, on the floor of the Democratic convention, West said that he was disappointed the platform did not go further, but he vowed to continue his struggle. He declared: “The Palestinians will be free, brother. Ain’t no doubt about that.”
And that’s where Cornel and I agree.
Since 1995, more than 98 percent of the Palestinians have been living under the occupation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) (and, since 2007, 100 percent of the residents of Gaza have been living under the occupation of Hamas). Ain’t no doubt in my mind: one day, brother, the Palestinians will be free of the cruel totalitarian Palestinian regimes that occupy and oppress them.
One day, brother, the Palestinians will have the freedom to democratically choose their leaders. Mahmoud Abbas was elected head of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005 for a four year term. Yet somehow he is still in office, seven and a half years since his term expired. And Hamas has not held a democratic election since taking over the Gaza Strip nine years ago.
One day, brother, the Palestinians will have the right to freedom of speech. Najat Abu Baker, a member of the Palestinian parliament, recently hid out in the parliament building for seventeen days to avoid being arrested by the PA police. The warrant for arrest was issued because –as the New York Times put it– “Ms. Abu Baker said Mr. Abbas should resign and suggested that there would be money to pay educators if ministers were not so corrupt.”
One day, brother, the Palestinians will have the right to free assembly. Earlier this year, 20,000 Palestinian public school teachers went on strike because they had not been paid (those were the unpaid educators to whom Ms. Abu Baker was referring). When some dissidents tried to hold a rally in support of the strikers, “the PA security services set up rings of checkpoints to prevent the teachers from attending the demonstration,” according to Ha’aretz. Twenty teachers and two school principals who did manage to reach the rally were arrested for doing so.
One day, brother, the Palestinians will no longer have their basic human rights violated by the Palestinian occupation regime. According to the State Department’s most recent report on human rights around the world, the PA is guilty of “abuse and mistreatment of detainees, poor and overcrowded detention facilities, prolonged detention, and infringements on privacy rights;” “restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and assembly;” “limits on freedom of association and movement;” “discrimination against persons with disabilities” and “discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status;” and “limits on worker rights,” including “forced labor.”
So, I agree with Cornel West: one day, the Palestinians will be free. The question is–how long will it take Professor West to acknowledge just who it is that the Palestinians need to be liberated from?
This blog first appeared on JNS.org.