Two Black Caucus Members Ask Gaza Flotilla Probe, the Rest are Silent

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Terrified of offending the Israel lobby, Black congresspersons routinely vote for anti-Palestinian resolutions as “if they represented some Arab-hating constituency in Utah.” Two Black Representatives – Barbara Lee (CA) and Keith Ellison (MN) – last week dared to ask President Obama to support lifting Israel's blockade of Gaza and an investigation into last week's savage attack on the aid flotilla – but were careful to note they did not speak for the Congressional Black Caucus as a body.

Two Black Caucus Members Ask Gaza Flotilla Probe, the Rest are Silent

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The relentless pressures of the Israel lobby have succeeded in causing most Black elected officials to cower in fear of being labeled anti-Israel.”

Every objective observer of Black American grassroots political sentiment recognizes that African Americans are the most inclined of any major demographic group to empathize with the plight of Palestinians. It is an historic and contemporary fact that is consistent with Black America’s special identification with the downtrodden and dispossessed of the world. This relative pro-Palestinian bent in the Black American worldview flows from obvious and formative facts of the Black experience in the United States, which has led Black people to put the highest premium on social justice. That’s why Blacks can sing about Moses and the Promised Land all day long on Sunday, and still feel that the people currently in charge in Israel are on the wrong side of justice.

Since at least the mid-Sixties, many Jewish organizations have treated Black sympathies for the Palestinian people as rank anti-Semitism of the kind Jews experienced at the hands of whites. In some Jewish circles it is accepted as a truism that that Blacks are anti-Semitic. We see such perceptions, today, in the willingness of some to believe that even Barack Obama is somehow out to get Israel, despite his groveling support of the Israeli regime’s barbaric behavior since his election.

Over the years, the relentless pressures of the Israel lobby have succeeded in causing most Black elected officials to cower in fear of being labeled anti-Israel. Black officeholders now typically embark on periodic, pitiful pilgrimages to the Jewish state, bowing symbolically to Jerusalem, so as not to be marked as sympathetic to Palestinians. And on the floor of the U.S. Congress, the Black Caucus shames itself and misrepresents its constituents by endorsing every fawning resolution promulgated by Israel’s operatives in the United States.

Even this exceedingly mild letter is apparently too risky for the rest of the 42-member Black Caucus to sign.”

Two Black congresspersons – Barbara Lee, of California, the Caucus chair, and Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, one of two Muslim members of the House – recently wrote a letter to President Obama, saying they were “deeply troubled by the military action aboard the aid flotilla en route to Gaza...resulting in the death of nine civilians, including one American.” Representatives Lee and Ellison requested that Obama “support a thorough investigation” and that he “call for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.”

Yet even this exceedingly mild letter is apparently too risky for the rest of the 42-member Black Caucus to sign.

Back in January of 2009, as Israel was massacring more than 1,300 Palestinian men, women and children, and President-elect Obama stood shamefully silent, only two Black Caucus members – Maxine Waters of California and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin – had the courage to vote against a House resolution vilifying the Palestinian victims. Barbara Lee and Keith Ellison were among the seven members that sought “neutral” ground by simply voting “present,” while the bulk of the Black Caucus behaved as if they represented some Arab-hating constituency in Utah. Clearly, the Black Caucus is collectively terrified of the Israel lobby. The bigger the Black Caucus gets, the less representative it becomes of Black America and its desire for global social justice. But that's alright – Tel Aviv is pleased. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].