Monday, October 09, 2006

Zionism, Apartheid and the Pan-African Liberation Struggle

Zionism, Apartheid and the Pan-African Liberation Struggle

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Beginning with the conclusion of the 19th century, the world Zionist movement has been allied with the system of western imperialism since the consolidation of colonial rule in Africa and institutionalized segregation in the United States. Consequently, the struggle against Jim Crow, apartheid and for genuine national liberation of oppressed peoples in Africa and the United States would inevitably clash with efforts geared toward the building of support for the state of Israel as well as Zionist political aims and objectives.

According to Ismael Zayid in his 1980 study entitled “Zionism: The Myth and the Reality”, he states that: “Zionism, as a modern political creed, emanated in Europe, as a recognizable political ideology, at the end of nineteenth century with three main inherent and fundamental qualities. These three qualities have characterized the movement ever since, and have become inseparable from it. They are namely settler colonialism, racism and expansion.”

These political and economic objectives worked in conjunction with the rise of colonialism in Africa and the institutionalization of legalized racism in the United States. These developments occurred as a logical extension of the Atlantic Slave Trade between the mid-15th century and to the end of the 19th century, when slavery was ended in the United States as a result of the civil war between 1861-1865. In the Caribbean and Latin America slavery did not end in Cuba until 1878 after a long war for national independence and in Brazil in 1888, after the collapse of the monarchy in the that South American country.

Zionism, Imperialism and the African Liberation Movement

Examples of the most crudest forms of colonialism in Africa was the advent of Dutch and British settler intervention in southern Africa beginning in 1652 and continuing through the early 19th century. However, during the mid-15th century continuing into the early 16th century, the Portuguese and the Spanish engaged in exploration for mineral resources and eventually slaves. The purpose of these expeditions was to break into the world economic system which Europe had played a marginal role prior to the 15th century.

Also the onslaught of Portuguese colonialism in southwest, west and southeast Africa led to one of the most vicious and highly exploitative slave structures in history which lasted nearly five centuries. The colonies of Angola, Sao Tome & Principe Islands, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands and Mozambique suffered immensely under colonial rule where Africans were exploited in a slave system that relied on forced labor and mineral extraction including oil exploration during the 20th century in Angola, Sao Tome and Principe.

The most well known connection between the world Zionist movement and European colonialism and apartheid took place in the former colonies of Rhodesia and South Africa. According to Zayid in the same referenced study: “From its inception, the Zionist movement saw a natural systematic alliance with European imperialism. The rapid advances of aggressive and chauvinist nationalism in Europe stressed that the superior racial qualities were the basis for the exploitation and ‘civilisational mission’, under the notion of the ‘white man’s burden’.”

Throughout the negotiations involving the Zionist proposals for white penetration into Africa and Asia, Herzl, in the manner of 19th century imperialist thinkers, spoke of imperialism and colonialization as a “noble activity destined to bring civilization to the ‘backward races.’ Viewing the Jewish state with occidental white binoculars, he asserted that this state is designed to ‘form a part of a wall of defense for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism.’”

African territories were strongly considered as a “homeland” for the Zionist state. This contradicts the proclaimed scriptural basis for the colonization of Palestine. Zayid states that: “In their search for a location for the Zionist enclave, to be created, a variety of options were explored including Uganda (east Africa), Tripolitania in Libya (north Africa), Cyprus (Mediterranean), Madagascar (off the southeast African coast), Congo (in central Africa) and Palestine.”

Joseph Chamberlain, the British racist theoretician told Herzl that: “I have seen a land for you on my recent travels, and that is Uganda. It is not on the coast but the climate of the interior is excellent for Europeans. Though Herzl strongly favored Uganda as the location for the Jewish state, the committee, appointed by the World Zionist Congress to explore the area, found it unsuitable.”

During the period of World War I, Lord Balfour issued his declaration on November 2, 1917 which was utilized as the legal basis for Zionist settlement and the eventual creation of the State of Israel in 1948. The successor to Herzl, Chaim Weizmann, viewed a Jewish settlement in Palestine as a protector of British interests in the region, with specific emphasis placed on safeguarding the Suez Canal. Weizmann’s letter to Churchill in 1921 discussed an “identity of interests” as well as a “natural alliance” between the Empire (Britain) and the Zionist outpost. “If there were no Palestine it would, I believe, be necessary to create one in Imperial interests. It is a bastion to Egypt.” In 1935, labor Zionist Ben Guirion declared at the Nineteenth Zionist Congress that “whoever betrays Great Britain betrays Zionism.” He also stated that the Zionist enclave could maintain “bases of defense on sea and on land” for British imperial interests.

Zayid wrote also that: “Herzl efforts in England included soliciting the backing of major colonialist figures, foremost amongst whom was Cecil Rhodes, the founder of the British colonial outpost in Rhodesia during the late 19th century. In a letter explaining his interest, Herzl wrote that although his project did not involve Africa but a piece of Asia Minor, 'had this been your path, you would have done it yourself by now. Why then did Herzl turn to him, the Zionist leader rhetorically asked? ‘Because it is something colonial was the answer.’ What Herzl sought was a Rhodes Certificate for colonial viability and desirability.”

Weizmann later found an identity of interest with Jan Smuts of South Africa. Smuts addressed a meeting organized by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation in Johannesburg on November 3, 1919 stating that: “I need not remind you that the white people of South Africa have been brought up almost entirely on Jewish tradition. The Old Testament has been the very matrix of Dutch culture, and it is the basis of your Jewish culture; and therefore we are standing together on a common platform.”

By 1948, with the creation of the State of Israel, the virulent anti-Semitic ideology of the Afrikaner Nationalist Party, which came to power in the Union of South Africa that same year, the party shifted its position strongly in favor of Israel. It also changed its views in support of Jewish community interests in South Africa.

According to Richard P. Stevens in his study on Weizmann and Smuts as it related to the apartheid system: “Not only did it perceive the necessity of white solidarity if a minority racial regime were to be maintained. Also Dr. Edwin S. Munger, a long-time observer of the South African scene, saw the post-war Jewish-Afrikaners rapprochement was also due to the feeling of highly influential Afrikaners that ‘the elimination of Jews from South Africa would shake the country to its foundation since it would lead to the withdrawal by wealthy Jews of sufficient capital to precipitate an economic slump.'"

All during the period of Apartheid in Southern Africa, the State of Israel was a staunch supporter of the racist state. Consequently, and particularly after the 1967 so-called six-day war, the African National Congress (ANC), the liberation movement in South Africa, the Southwest African Peoples' Organization (SWAPO), in addition to other liberation movements in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, as well as independent Algeria, were staunch supporters of the Palestinian national liberation struggle. This fact was used by the former apartheid regime to gain propaganda points in the United States under the guise of fighting terrorism and maintaining western civilization in Africa and the Middle-East.

This alliance between the national liberation struggle in Africa and the Palestinian and other struggles for independence and self-determination in the Arab world continues today in the aftermath of apartheid and the independence of the former colonial nations of Africa. One of the strongest Palestinian support movements exist today in South Africa.

During the World Conference against Racism (WCAR) in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, the United States government under the Bush administration, attempted to sabotage the international gathering because it allowed the Palestinians equal rights of expression and participation. Other issues as well, including reparations for slavery and the right of self-determination for indigenous peoples, drew the ire of the United States administration. So therefore, even today, the American administration and Israel stands on the wrong side of history.

Zionism and African-American Liberation

During the civil rights movement there was a perception of mainstream Jewish-American support for the aims and objectives of Africans in the United States who were demanding the abolition of legalized segregation and full voting rights. Jewish students and religious leaders made strong statements in support of civil rights and participated in marches and campaigns coordinated by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

However, other currents in the African movement, as represented by Malcolm X during and after his involvement with the Nation of Islam, maintained strong support for the Palestinian struggle as well as other Arab states that were attacked and threatened by the Israeli regime. Malcolm X after his departure from the Nation of Islam in 1964 visited Egypt where he crossed over into Gaza and met with some of the founding members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

When the civil rights movement came North in 1966 and with the advent of the Black Power movement initiated by SNCC in that same year, the relations between the African-American struggle and white liberal sympathizers became strained. With the rapid outbreak of urban rebellions between 1964-1968, attention was focused on the role Jewish businessmen and landlords in African communities. However, it was after the so-called six-day war of June 1967, that the split between Jewish liberals and African-American radicalism became pronounced.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in response to the six-day war between Israel and Egypt as well as other Arab nations in the region, began an internal discussion around taking a position against Israel and American foreign policy in the Middle-East. Ethel Minor, a former member of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) and then of SNCC, wrote a draft discussion document which was leaked to the corporate press criticizing the State of Israel and U.S. foreign policy which favored the Zionist regime.

During the same time period James Forman, the then International Affairs Director for SNCC, held discussions with the Guinean Ambassador to the United Nations, who made it clear that they would be in support of the Arab position in the region. These currents were bound to influence SNCC and its constituency in regard to coming out solidly in support of the Palestinians and other Arab states in conflict with Israel in the region.

Unfortunately, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) refused to come out in support of the Palestinians at that time. King was under fire for his position against the United States war against the Vietnamese people, and probably felt he could not afford to take a stand against Zionism. However, if he had lived beyond 1968, being the honest leader that he was, would have inevitably taken a stand against settler colonialism in Palestine and the Middle-East.

Later the Black Panther Party, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, took strong positions in support of the Palestinians and did considerable solidarity work on their behalf. All of these organizations, including SNCC before, took a considerable amount of criticism and vilification in the corporate press because of their views on the Middle-East. Nonetheless, because of the work of these organizations, the consciousness related to the plight of the Palestinians in the African community in the United States is far higher than it was during the 1960s and 1970s.

Today even liberal and moderate groups such as Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition support the creation of a Palestinian state. Unfortunately some of these groups have not been prepared to call for the dismantling of the State of Israel as the only real possibility for the creation of a genuine peace in the region. With the aggressive policies of the State of Israel since its inception in 1948, the regime has not proved its willingness to live in peace with the neighboring states in Asia Minor and North Africa. The only reasonable future option for the peoples of this region is the creation of a unitary secular state of Palestine where Jews, Arabs, Muslims and other groups can live equally within a democratic dispensation. The American Government has always been opposed to the right of genuine self-determination and independence for the Palestinians.

With the Israeli aggressive war on Lebanon during July and August of 2006, the role of U.S. Imperialism has been made crystal clear. While the American made F-15 and F-16 fighter planes dropped bombs on innocent Lebanese people, the Secretary of State under George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, stated that the administration would not support a ceasefire and that the genocidal actions of Israel represented the “birth pains of a new Middle-East.” Such venomous rhetoric directed against the peoples of the region has exposed the American regime as the principal threat to peace in the region.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed resolutions during the Israeli war on Lebanon in support of the carnage. Within the Senate the vote was 97-0 endorsing the Zionist aggression. In the House of Representatives a few Congresspersons stood up and refused to endorse the slaughter, although the overwhelming majority sanctioned the massive destruction against the Lebanese state and its people. It was only the efforts of the resistance movement Hezbollah and its allies that successfully fought and beat back the Zionist aggressors. The defeat of Israel in the recent war against Lebanon has created a political crisis in the Zionist state. Its own military personnel complained of the logistical confusion, the lack of food and water and the fact that millions of Israelis were forced into bomb shelters for over a month. In regard to public opinion in the United States, more people are willing to speak out against the Israeli aggressive military policies. All during July and August mass demonstrations were held both inside and outside of the Arab-American community in support of the peoples of Lebanon and Palestine.


It is important that oppressed and working people in the United States support the liberation struggles of the Palestinians. There can be no peace in the Middle-East without the resolution of the Palestinian question aimed at self-determination and statehood. In addition, the existence of the State of Israel and it security is utilized to justify aggressive policies against Syria, Iran and Lebanon as well as the continuation imperialist occupation of Iraq.

One African-American clergyman in Detroit, who is heavily financed by the conservative Christian Zionist lobby in the United States, has declared that he will seek to build support for Israel among blacks in America. This lonely effort will only result in a political dead end. The masses of Africans in the United States see the direct link between their own oppression domestically and the role of the American state in suppressing the peoples of the Middle-East, Africa, Latin America and Asia. It is only with the total liberation of the peoples of the world from racism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism will there be the possibility of real peace in the Middle-East and throughout the world.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. The contents of this article were delivered in part at the “Faces of Imperialism” Teach-In on the Middle-East held on September 30, 2006 at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

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