In 1997, Nelson Mandela called on those who had been active in the fight against Apartheid in South Africa to support those suffering injustice in the Middle East with the famous acknowledgment that “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Over two decades later, we in the United States see that our leaders across the political spectrum need to once again hear Mr. Mandela’s call to action. To this end, the Palestine Advocacy Project will put out this message during the 2020 Democratic National Convention in a series of ads on TheHill.com, featuring Mandela’s words and the question “will Democrats stand on the right side of history?”
With the advent of the 2020 Democratic convention, it is imperative Democratic voters demand that presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden and other elected officials commit to policies that build towards a just peace in Palestine and Israel and that cease to adhere to policies that merely pay lip service to Palestinian rights and statehood while maintaining the unjust status quo.
Indeed, it has long been U.S. policy to support and enable Israeli violations of international law and human rights abuses against Palestinians. From 2009 to 2018, the U.S. provided an annual $3 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Israeli military despite its record of human rights abuses and war crimes, which have been condemned by international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
A recent poll by Data for Progress indicates that approximately 64% of Democratic voters support reducing aid to Israel based on its human rights violations. Yet Democratic lawmakers were instrumental in crafting the new $38 billion, ten-year military aid package to Israel covering FY2019 to FY2028, the largest such military aid package in U.S. history. “How can we justify this, particularly in light of Israel’s annexation of the West Bank in clear violation of international law, something 47 United Nations appointed human rights experts have condemned as a vision of ‘21st-century apartheid’? Let us remember what ‘annex’ actually means here: to steal, to seize by force,” says Palestine Advocacy Project board member Sarah Gold.
Nelson Mandela, icon of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and a symbol of hope for liberation movements the world over, once called the question of Palestine the “greatest moral issue of our time.” He stood in solidarity with Palestinians, affirming that “just like ourselves they are fighting for the right of self-determination.”
Mandela’s grandson Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela echoes his grandfather’s steadfast support for Palestinian self-determination. When Israel passed the 2018 Nation-State Law that declared Israel the historical homeland of the Jewish people, Zwelivelile Mandela said that it “confirmed what we have always known to be the true character and reality of Israel: Israel is an apartheid state.”
Gold tells us that “under the Trump regime, we have seen Israel’s oppression of Palestinians worsen significantly. American progressives must not be satisfied with their representatives’ condemnations alone. Without follow up action to pressure Israel to change its policies and behavior, those hollow condemnations serve as an active cover for ongoing abuse, racism, and apartheid. We demand the Democratic Party and its presidential nominee take a stand for Palestinian rights.”