Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bill Fletcher, Jr.: Why B.D.S. ? Daave Ziron, on Pat Summitt

Why Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Should Be Used to Target Israeli Apartheid

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

AlterNet: April 13, 2012

I read with great interest Peter Beinart's recent New York Times op-ed "To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements." His thesis is straightforward: Beinart believes Israel is a democratic country being undone by the occupation of the Palestinian territories. The settlements must be opposed while allegedly democratic Israel must be supported. Efforts to support the Palestinian right of return (for refugees), he contends, undermine the possibility of a two-state solution and, thereby, end the possibility for Israel as a Jewish homeland.

It is critically important that Beinart identifies the undemocratic-indeed, colonial-nature of the settlements. It's insufficient, but an important start. The Israeli settlements flout international law, utilizing distortions of Judeo-Christian theology and/or what are regarded as the `facts on the ground' (in this case meaning that the Israelis hold the land so they are not going anywhere). By controlling another people, the Israeli occupation renders impossible any real sense of democracy for Israel.

Yet it is within Israel itself that Beinart's argument is fundamentally based upon a set of myths, repeatedly stated and often unquestioned, but myths nevertheless.

The central myth is that Israel, within the pre-1967 borders, is a democracy and that it is the Occupation perverting this otherwise just state. This misrepresents reality. For 20 percent of Israelis there is no genuine democracy. Palestinian citizens of Israel exist as second-class citizens compared with Jewish Israelis. Whether one is referencing a "racial"

differential in public education, availability of land, marriage laws, employment, or discriminatory housing access, Israel within the pre-1967 borders - with some 35 discriminatory laws - comes up short on democracy.

It's like calling the pre-Civil Rights United States of America a democracy. With rampant legalized discrimination against African Americans and other people of color, and with voting skewed against the poor more generally, how could that have been a democracy? It's also reminiscent of those who speak of ancient Athenian democracy while ignoring the fact that this "democracy" was founded on slavery. Either a system is democratic or it is not, a fact that many of us here in the USA understood in the period of Jim Crow segregation in the former Confederate states of our South.

A more recent similarity, however, is that of apartheid South Africa. The apartheid regime loved to lay claim to being Africa's shining democracy. It possessed a working parliament, regular elections, and voting rights - except for one small matter: none of this worked for the non-white majority (so-called blacks and so-called coloreds). In the face of a rising tide of global indignation against the racist South African system, the United Nations asserted that apartheid represented a total system of racist oppression and was anathema to the modern, civilized world. The United Nations, in 1973, condemned this system but did not limit its criticism to South Africa. Instead, it expanded the criticism to describe racially oppressive regimes such as those in southern Africa at that time.

Resistance to South African apartheid took many forms.

In South Africa there were military actions as well as non-violent protests. Fundamentally, the African majority made it clear that the apartheid system would no longer be tolerated. Resistance, however, was a global phenomenon and, responding to the call from democratic forces on the ground, an international movement emerged to support boycotts, divestments and sanctions as a means of pressuring and ultimately undermining the apartheid regime.

In today's setting, while the Occupation of the Palestinian territories is the most glaring example of the system of Israeli apartheid, it's not the only representation. The Israeli government has been toying with the further expansion of the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories along with population transfers-read ethnic cleansing-of Palestinian citizens of Israel, particularly as voiced by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The lack of democracy that Beinart points to in the Occupied Territories is not walled off from what has been unfolding within the Israel of the pre-1967 borders.

Beinart further undercuts his argument about Israeli democracy by never having admitted that he was wrong when he said to Jeffrey Goldberg two years ago, "I'm not asking Israel to be Utopian. I'm not asking it to allow Palestinians who were forced out (or fled) in 1948 to return to their homes. I'm not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I'm actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel's security and for its status as a Jewish state. What I am asking is that Israel not do things that foreclose the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, because if it is does that it will become--and I'm quoting Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak here--an `apartheid state.'" This reinforces the notion that he gets the non-democratic reality of the West Bank, but either doesn't get Israel's internal lack of democracy or simply doesn't much care. It's a serious flaw in Beinart's thinking about the conflict (not to mention Goldberg's, who doesn't even follow up on the undemocratic statement).

Whether the resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is found in one bi-national state or two states will be a matter settled by the Israelis and the Palestinians - and, one trusts, the balancing influence of an international community that recognizes the law- breaking ways of the more powerful Israel. In fact, global opinion has increasingly moved to isolate Israel and to make clear the false democratic façade surrounding it. The campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has been a significant instrument in that campaign. BDS delegitimizes the Israeli apartheid system and challenges the false theology and colonial mentality that has both helped to create it and reinforced it. BDS offers an opportunity for all those who support peace, justice and democracy for the Israeli and Palestinian people to enter into a struggle with one of the most profound examples of injustice currently faced, an injustice that rather than existing in isolation can ignite a firestorm if permitted to go unanswered.


Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the Executive Editor of He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. He was a co-founder of both the Center for Labor Renewal and the Black Radical Congress. He is the co-author of "Solidarity Divided"

(University of California Press, 2008)."

c 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved. 

* * *

 By Dave Zirin
The Nation:  April 19, 2012 
 "Summitt earned the right to handle this on her own terms. She isn't bigger than the program. She is the program."
David Climer, the Tennessean

Just weeks before the sports world celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the passage of Title IX, one of the true icons of both women's sports and the sports world in general, Pat Summitt, is retiring as basketball coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols. It's hard to imagine someone in our polarized society who has earned everyone's respect as fully as Pat Summitt. She built a women's sport in a red state and left all observers from every political stripe in awe of her intensity, her work ethic and her hawk-eyed smarts. As she once said, "I'm sure there were some good old boys who thought, 'I'm not going to watch women's basketball.' But when they saw it, they saw something they didn't expect."

Late, great UCLA coach John Wooden once called Summitt the best coach in the sport, and the numbers back it up. This is someone who won more college basketball games than Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (1,098) and more national championships than Coach K and Dean Smith combined (8). She is also still just 59 years old, but made the decision to say goodbye. It had to be done. Coach Summitt announced last year that she was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's. This season saw Coach Summitt occasionally drift and stare into the deep distance during practices, or clutch the edge of a table or clipboard to keep her hands steady. But still, even with Alzheimer's, she led the Lady Vols to a 27-9 record, only losing in the Elite 8 to a Baylor team that was on its way to finishing 40-0.

It was time to step down, deal with her health, raise money for her foundation aimed at battling this evil, merciless disease, and after thirty-eight years, hand the clipboard to someone else.

As Ann Killion wrote for Sports Illustrated, "It's been heart-wrenching to witness, even from afar. I can only imagine the pain suffered by those closest to Summitt—her assistants, her players, her son, Tyler. We saw a glimpse of it last month, on the night that Tennessee's season ended—a night that many suspected would be the last for Summitt—when [assistant coach Holly] Warlick broke down in tears in the postgame interview. Her pain was so sharp, it took my breath away."

It did for so many, as former and current players spent much of last season grieving with their coach. That's the awful truth about Alzheimer's. The person afflicted will be with us for some time, but you still need to hurry and say goodbye. Despite the emotional strain and endless well-wishers, Coach Summitt kept pushing forward until season's end.

After winning the SEC Tournament, Lady Vols senior Shekinna Stricklen said, "It's been a hard thing to deal with, but I'd do it all over again if I could. We've all learned so much from Pat. She's such an inspiration."

This is true. But it's an inspiration and a legacy that is greater than wins and titles and even more profound than the bravery with which she's confronting this chapter of her life. In so many respects Pat Summitt is women's sports in the United States: fearless, self-made and tough as hell. Just consider that Pat Summitt started coaching at UT in 1974, two years after the passage of Title IX. Her salary that first year was $8,900. She was only 22 years old and the program was of such low stature, it made sense to her that players just call her "Pat," a practice that has never changed.

Summitt had free reign to build the UT women's hoops program because no one in the high profile, football-dominant, world of Tennessee athletics gave a damn whether it lived or died. One writer described it as the "step child" of the athletic department and based on how the program was deprioritized and under-funded, that description serves as a grave insult to stepchildren everywhere.

But her teams competed with the fierce intensity of their coach, traveling the country looking for opponents. Their grueling schedule and unreal success at home was noticed, and fans in Knoxville and beyond started to pay attention. As Coach Summitt said, "We've built this fan base not on scheduling patsies. We've built it on bringing in the top opponents throughout the country from a lot of conferences and our fans deserve that. We also think that to be the best you have to play the best."

Summitt also recruited and coached players who became champions and icons of the sport: There were "The Meeks" Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Semeka Randall, Kara Lawson, Candace Parker, and three-time All-American Holly Warlick, who now takes over as head coach.

Summitt will still be a presence in the program, and has promised to be at games, offer advice when asked and even help recruit. But a chapter in the history of sports closed today, and while we celebrate the unbelievable legacy of Pat Summitt, we should also be brave enough to say that we are all weaker for her absence


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