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Infiltration of "the Zionists" at Oxford University Conference on African Studies



Editorial Note


A conference hosted by Oxford University's Africa Studies Center, on June 27-28, 2019, caused a stir. Five delegates have written an article "Zionism and the infiltration of global African studies," protesting how "Zionists and their apologists are infiltrating and co-opting the academy." 


The Oxford University conference, titled “Racialization and Publicness in Africa and the African Diaspora,” co-hosted with the School of Global and Area Studies, aimed to “address the contemporary problem of racialization in Africa and the African Diaspora.” The conference intended to explore how “people of African descent are racialized" as well as "why and how racial identities and categories are constructed, imagined and inscribed (in)to the social, political and economic processes, practices and relationships in Africa and the African Diaspora." 


But the five delegates who participated, Samar Al-Bulushi of UC Irvine; Zachary Mondesire of UCLA; Peter James Hudson of UCLA; Corinna Mullin of New School; and Jemima Pierre of UCLA, wrote their critique on the conference, that it was "co-opted into a project to legitimize the settler-colonial, apartheid state of Israel and 'black-wash' its racist policies and practices... in light of Israel’s ongoing attempts to normalize its relations with African states in coordination with US imperialism."


Now, who are these five delegates? Three of them are pro-Palestinian activists with the BDS movement: Al-Bulushi is a signatory of "Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions," in 2015. Al-Bulushi already expressed anti-Israel sentiments in a co-authored article "Violent Rhetoric"  protesting "Israeli brutality" against the Palestinians in 2013. Mullin signed the PACBI Statement "Campaign to Boycott the Oral History Conference at Hebrew University of Jerusalem," in 2013. Mullin legitimized Hamas murderous methods, in 2010, claiming that "the West, and often Israel, its civilization proxy, is constructed as ontologically innocent, rational and peaceful in nature, in contrast to the Islamist terrorist, who is inherently guilty, irrational and violent... jihad, misconstrued as an ideological concept. As these movements are reduced merely to the tactics/strategies they sometimes employ," ignoring the circumstances "such as brutal occupation, dispossession, daily humiliation and international isolation, and hence the motives behind their use."  Pierre is the author of "Zionism, Anti-Blackness, and the Struggle for Palestine: Jemima Pierre on the Boycott", in 2015, which described "The Zionist dehumanization of Palestinians and its culture of anti-Blackness." Pierre has also written, in 2012, that "The Palestinian cry for dignity especially demands Black support," urging to "recognize that Palestinians are living under military occupation, a stifling and racist apartheid system." Likewise, Hudson and Mondesire also expressed  pro-Palestinian, and anti-American sentiments.


The five delegates, Al-Bulushi et al., complained that out of the 12 panels, two were part 1 and part 2 of “Notions of Diaspora and Homeland: The Impact of the Contemporary Emergence of Racism(s), Antisemitism(s), Nationalism(s) and White Supremacy in the Age of Globalization.”  The problem is, that these two panels were organized by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) which is, "an advocacy body, not an academic organization." They claim that the founder of ISGAP, Charles Asher Small, is a "Canadian without a permanent academic position who holds a degree from St. Anthony’s College, Oxford." 


But, Al-Bulushi et al. should have checked their facts, a perusal at the ISGAP website reveals that Dr. Small is an accomplished academic. He was previously the Koret Distinguished Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and currently, is the Goldman Fellow at the Harold Hartog School of Government and Policy, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. In September he will be a visiting scholar – senior member, at St. Antony’s College of Oxford University. 


What Al-Bulushi et al. find most troubling is that in a January 2019 interview, Small described ISGAP as “an intellectual grassroots movement within the academy” whose main aims include fighting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a movement Small has equated with anti-Semitism. The ISGAP works by “conducting strategic research and providing intelligence” in order to “influence future generations of policymakers, scholars and community leaders.” 


Contrary to the Al-Bulushi et al. assertion, ISGAP posted information on its website about the panels explaining that this interdisciplinary panel aims also to examine the "re-emergence of white supremacy – which has a long history of impacting African and Jewish diaspora communities," among other issues. The speakers and lectures fit well with the conference themes.  For example, MK Avraham Neguise spoke about the Ethiopian Jewish community. But for Al-Bulushi et al., he is a "Likud Party member of the Israeli Knesset."


According to Al-Bulushi et al., at first glance the panel title seemed "innocuous" and even "properly scholarly, if slightly outdated, and appeared to fall within the expressed themes of the conference." Then they claimed that the ISGAP panel composes a "strange unit," while, admitting that "Many of the presenters on the two ISGAP panels were from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States.


But, according to Al-Bulushi et al., "The HBCU connection is important” because “In recent years, the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been recruiting at Black colleges, targeting students and faculty interested in international politics. The AIPAC has sponsored travel to Washington DC to meet with politicians who are supporters of Israel, and provided all-expenses paid trips to Israel. Its aim is to cultivate sympathy for Zionism while driving a wedge between Black and Palestinian liberation struggles." Al-Bulushi et al. did not explain what is the relevance of this information to the conference.


Al-Bulushi et al. have also claimed that Israel is "a state founded on ethnic cleansing and the dehumanization and dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian population."


They warned the "future Black Studies and African Studies conference organizers who may encounter similar tactics by Zionist organizations."  They are worried about the "potential backlash," and cannot "let the study of Global Africa be hijacked by Zionists."  They cannot "support the defamation and desecration of the history of pan-Africanism by academic charlatans and agents of a racist, settler-colonial state... a continuation of Zionist racism, dressed up in the finery of academic language."  


Mullin and Al-Bulushi spoke in a panel on the ‘War on Terror’ in Africa and beyond. Mullin spoke about counter-terror in Tunisia, and Al-Bulushi spoke about East Africa Warscape. Al-Bulushi explained in an article, that in an Al-Jazeera film, “members of the Kenyan security apparatus report that they have received direct orders from the US government for the targeted assassinations of terror suspects.” So, for Albulushi, “Africans, rather than Americans, are the most visible agents of counterterror abuses.”

Interestingly, A-Bulushi et al. voiced no criticism over a panel titled “A British National Dialogue on the Big Conversation of Racism: Beyond the Hidden Resistance,” which included only independent scholars with no affiliation.

For those unfamiliar with the jargon, the "infiltration of the Zionists" is a shorthand for delegitimizing respectable scholars by pro-Palestinian activists. This is a new trend in the anti-Israel academic circles. We should expect more of this approach in the future.



Zionism and the infiltration of global African studies


Delegates to a conference on Global Africa at Oxford University write about how Zionists and their apologists are infiltrating and co-opting the academy.  

On June 27 and 28 of this year, we attended a conference titled “Racialization and Publicness in Africa and the African Diaspora,” hosted by Oxford University’s Africa Studies Center and their School of Global and Area Studies. The conference was held to “address the contemporary problem of racialization in Africa and the African Diaspora.” Organizers wanted to explore how “people of African descent are racialized… [and] why and how racial identities and categories are constructed, imagined and inscribed (in)to the social, political and economic processes, practices and relationships in Africa and the African Diaspora.”

Instead, an international academic conference on Global Africa was co-opted into a project to legitimize the settler-colonial, apartheid state of Israel and “black-wash” its racist policies and practices. As such, and in light of Israel’s ongoing attempts to normalize its relations with African states in coordination with US imperialism, while ingratiating itself to African diaspora communities, we want to sound a warning to future Black Studies and African Studies conference organizers who may encounter similar tactics by Zionist organizations.

In the original call for papers, conference organizers used the languages of anti-racism, anti-colonialism, Pan-Africanism, and intersectionality. They invoked the murder of Trayvon Martin and the UK’s unlawful detention and deportations of members of the Windrush generation, and they referenced the work of radical black intellectuals including W.E.B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon. The conference’s 12 panels were to be anchored by keynotes from anthropologist Faye V. Harrison and philosopher Achille Mbembe (Mbembe was unable to attend).

Of the 12 panels, two were listed under one title (as Part 1 and Part 2): “Notions of Diaspora and Homeland: The Impact of the Contemporary Emergence of Racism(s), Antisemitism(s), Nationalism(s) and White Supremacy in the Age of Globalization.” At first glance, the collective title appeared innocuous. It seemed properly scholarly, if slightly outdated, and appeared to fall within the expressed themes of the conference. Yet a closer look at the make-up of the panels revealed some surprising things.

Both panels were organized by a group called the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP—an advocacy body, not an academic organization. It was founded by Charles Asher Small, a Canadian without a permanent academic position who holds a degree from St. Anthony’s College, Oxford. In a 2019 interview, Small described ISGAP as “an intellectual grassroots movement within the academy” whose main aims include fighting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a movement Small has equated with anti-Semitism. The ISGAP works by “conducting strategic research and providing intelligence” in order to “influence future generations of policymakers, scholars and community leaders.”

Whereas other Zionist organizations have used lawfare and blacklisting to dampen Palestine solidarity on university campuses, the strategy adopted by ISGAP appears to be somewhat different. On one hand, their approach is one of infiltration of scholarly spaces and appropriation of academic language. On the other they aim to incite dissent and strife within academic circles for the purposes of self-promotion and publicity, using the banner of “academic free speech” as a bludgeon against critique.

The ISGAP panelists at the Oxford conference formed a strange unit. Their panelists included a Likud Party member of the Israeli Knesset, a clinical psychologist and ISGAP board member who had never written on Africa, a Grinnell college anthropologist interested in “double consciousness” and Israeli diversity, a Tel Aviv University political scientist, as well as Charles Small himself. Many of the presenters on the two ISGAP panels were from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States. They included Harold V. Bennett of Morehouse, Valerie Ann Johnson of Bennett College, Carlton Long, an educational consultant formerly of Morehouse, and Ansel Brown of North Carolina Central University. Brown took over the entire time allotted to the first ISGAP panel with a fifty-minute presentation titled “Zionism and Pan-Africanism: A Common Journey to Recapture Ethnic Self-Realization.”

The HBCU connection is important. In recent years, the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been recruiting at Black colleges, targeting students and faculty interested in international politics. The AIPAC has sponsored travel to Washington DC to meet with politicians who are supporters of Israel, and provided all-expenses paid trips to Israel. Its aim is to cultivate sympathy for Zionism while driving a wedge between Black and Palestinian liberation struggles.

Even before the ISGAP panels began, many conference participants expressed concern about their inclusion in the program. They were disturbed by the connections asserted between Israel, a state founded on ethnic cleansing and the dehumanization and dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian population, and the radical histories of Pan-Africanism. And they were surprised and troubled by the prominence given to this view by the conference organizers. Many conference participants discussed how the ISGAP-sponsored panels appeared to be designed to infiltrate and disrupt the proceedings, mirroring what was seen at previous conferences, especially when it came to questions of BDS.

In response, the conference participants demanded a public conversation with the organizers in order to discuss the Oxford African Studies Centre’s relationship to ISGAP. But our questions and concerns were met with redirection, and in some cases a dismissive mirth, and we were frankly surprised by the unwillingness to have an open conversation. Meanwhile, some ISGAP-affiliated participants attempted to squelch our inquiries by alleging that our concerns were encouraging anti-Semitism, racism, and, ironically, denying “freedom of expression.”

On the second day of the conference, a number of conference participants ceded their presentation time, allowing us the opportunity to meet to discuss our concerns. A majority of conference participants attended the meeting during which they expressed relief that we were able to come together as a collective, especially since academic settings often encourage isolation, atomization, and alienation. Collectively, we drafted a statement disassociating ourselves from ISGAP, and we asked that the Oxford’s African Studies Centre post our statement on their website. The Centre refused to do so. Instead, the leadership of the Centre released its own statement, denying any connection to ISGAP while asserting a commitment to free intellectual exchange.

We strongly believe that part of the African Studies Centre’s response was to mitigate the fact that so many conference participants were disturbed by ISGAP’s prominent presence. To this end, it was even suggested by some conference organizers that one prominent senior male scholar had spearheaded this protest.

This was not the case. Indeed, despite the efforts of the organizers, as a group we had spontaneously taken over the conference and turned it into a collective, self-organized, multi-generational forum for political education, each of us learning and making new calculations and interventions in response to the pushback from the African Studies Centre and ISGAP affiliates. Our collectively-written response was posted on the website of the Frantz Fanon Foundation on July 4, 2019.

To be sure, there was some anxiety expressed about the collective statement. Some participants worried that if we made our concerns public, we would implicate the Oxford African Studies Centre, which would have a grave impact on efforts to diversify the university. Indeed, ISGAP’s Charles Small, who sat in the audience observing our deliberations, suggested that we not do anything that could jeopardize the position of the Center’s director (Oxford’s first Black Rhodes Professor), who he described as an old friend.

We worried about the potential backlash from Oxford and elsewhere to those graduate students and untenured faculty who wanted to lend their voices in support. A number of senior faculty were concerned about reprisal, and one scholar, who at the last minute asked for their name to be removed from the statement, encouraged us to “acknowledge the atmosphere of intimidation and fear fostered throughout this process.”

But in the end, for the signatories (and for many who expressed support, but felt they could not sign), there was a sense that we could not let the study of Global Africa be hijacked by Zionists. We also could not support the defamation and desecration of the history of pan-Africanism by academic charlatans and agents of a racist, settler-colonial state.

The infiltration of the conference by ISGAP was little more than a continuation of Zionist racism, dressed up in the finery of academic language and, in particular, the staid gowns of Oxford. But we should note its significance and understand that such infiltrations will happen again.

If we are to maintain the political and intellectual integrity of the study of Global Africa, we must be wary of such infiltrations in the future—and we need to continue to strengthen and renew the connections between struggles against neocolonialism, racial capitalism, and imperialism across the globe in order to combat them.




Statement by undersigned participants in the Racialisation and Publicness in Africa and the African Diaspora



4 juillet 2019


La Fondation Frantz Fanon se joint à cette pétition de ses partenaires participant à la Conférence « Racialisation and Publicness in Africa and the African Diaspora » à l’Université d’Oxford, qui dénoncent une tentative de détournement de la cause panafricaine et de l’activisme antiraciste au service de la légitimation du projet sioniste. Le régime d’apartheid israélien ne saurait être assimilé à un projet d’émancipation ou à une réparation quelconque : il s’agit d’un régime suprémaciste colonial blanc au service de la domination occidentale au Moyen-Orient. La Fondation Frantz Fanon dénonce cette tentative d’usurpation : le chemin de l’émancipation du continent africain et de sa diaspora ne passera jamais par la reproduction des modèles coloniaux d’oppression.

Statement by undersigned participants in the Racialisation and Publicness in Africa and the African Diaspora Conference 

28 June 2019

As participants who gathered for a conference that invoked the themes of anti-racism, anti-colonialism, Pan-Africanism, and intersectionality in Global Africa, we wish to disassociate ourselves from the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP). We understand ISGAP, with Alan Dershowitz and Abraham Foxman in key leadership positions, to be an organisation that promotes zionism.

The ISGAP has carried out what we consider to be a hijacking of the conference. They have

  • advertised it as one of their events on their website;[i]
  • appropriated the language and tone of the conference to legitimise their own agenda.[ii] We discussed and expressed our concern that this is part of what we observe to be a broader campaign to normalise contemporary zionism in critical spaces and to insert representatives of the Israeli state into academic spaces;
  • halted and diverted a critical and rigorous discussion of Global Africa through forcing the comparison between contemporary zionism and Pan-Africanism. Contemporary zionism is an ideology that underpins settler-colonialism and apartheid. It is not a liberatory, anti-racist project.

When pressed to respond to these issues, their representatives have continued the strategy of conflating anti-semitism with anti-zionism in in what seemed to us to be an effort to shut down and delegitimise critique. We do not conflate anti-semitism with anti-zionism, and we are opposed to anti-semitism.

We are opposed to our names and our scholarship being affiliated with ISGAP and the politics that it represents.  We appeal to the African Studies Centre to release  a public a statement disassociating the conference from ISGAP for its promotion of ideas and policies that are diametrically opposed to the stated principles of this conference.

Samar Al-Bulushi- UC Irvine

Celina de Sá, Dartmouth College

Faye V. Harrison, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Horace G. Campbell, Syracuse University

Peter James Hudson, UCLA

Jemima Pierre, UCLA

Rhea B. Rahman, Brooklyn College – CUNY

Corinna Mullin, New School

Melissa M. Valle, Rutgers University-Newark

Marta Scaglioni, University of Milan-Bicocca

Valerio Colosio, University of Sussex

Luca Nevola, University of Sussex

Zachary Mondesire, UCLA

Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan, Goldsmiths, University of London

Derek Pardue, Aarhus University, Denmark

Rasul Miller, University of Pennsylvania

Victoria Osei-Bonsu, University of Ghana

Robert Freeman, University of Oxford

Gauthier Marchais, IDS Sussex

Samiha Rahman, University of Pennsylvania

Pamela Ohene-Nyako, Université de Genève

[i] Though they have since removed the event from their website, this is a screenshot of the original post:


[ii] For background, see this interview with Charles Asher Small, the founder and director of ISGAP, who presented at the African Studies Centre conference on Racialization and Publicness in Africa and the African Diaspora


Conference on Racialization and Publicness in Africa and the African Diaspora 
African Studies Centre and St Antony’s College, University of Oxford
June 27-28, 2019

Conference Convener: Professor Wale Adebanwi
Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, Director, African Studies Centre, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies

ISGAP-Oxford Panel

Chair: Dr. Charles Asher Small, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP)
Notions of Diaspora and Homeland: The Impact of the Contemporary Emergence of Racism(s), Antisemitism(s), Nationalism(s) and White Supremacy in the Age of Globalization
Recent scholarly and policy studies and surveys indicate that forms of racism(s), antisemitism(s), as well as increased notions of xenophobia are increasing, particularly in Europe and the Americas.  Some argue that these processes affect the very notion of diaspora communities and that of homeland in society. This interdisciplinary panel aims to examine socio-economic, political, historical and cultural processes, in the age of globalization, that impact notions diaspora and homeland.  Attention will be placed on the re-emergence of white supremacy – which has a long history of impacting African and Jewish diaspora communities – and how this manifests of hatred impacts society in general,  as well as, how it challenges and shapes notions of diaspora, homeland and integration at the local and global levels.  Contemporary issues, such as the refusal of contemporary reactionary social movements to recognize the legitimacy of the Other within society will be examined from various perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds.

Lawrence Amsel, MD MPH, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University 
Homeland and Diaspora Models for an Authentic Dual Identity 
Since the beginning of the slave trade African men and women have had to struggle with the internal duality of the memory of the Homeland and the lived reality of the involuntary African Diaspora. Yet only in recent decades has this struggle emerged from its inward facing and internal status to an outward facing Publicness, a social and political joining of the categories of Africa and the African Diaspora. In parallel, but rarely converging process, Jews have dealt with their Diaspora for an extended period, but only recently, with the establishment of a Jewish Homeland, has the bifurcation of Homeland Israel and Diaspora Israel come into a potentially conflicted and dichotomized rivalry for identity. This paper will examine how the tentative synergies have emerged in each of these peoples’ experience, and what they can begin to learn from each other regarding memory of homeland and aspirations for the future. 

Professor Harold V. Bennett, Morehouse College, Chair, Martin Luther King, Jr., Endowed Professor in Religion
A Hermeneutical Tool for Reimagining the Other in White Supremacists Religion and Religiosity in the African Diaspora
The Hebrew Bible (hereafter cited as HB) or the Protestant First Testament (hereafter cited as PFT) is essential to religion, religiosity, and moral philosophizing in the African Diaspora in the West in general and the American south, in particular. Judaism and Protestant Christianity share beliefs about the sacredness of this docu'ment. It, too, is essential to mention that the HB/PFT contains a plethora of information about different social subgroups with whom individuals and the entire biblical community interacted and classified as “the Other.” Since Judaism and Protestant Christianity are the prominent faith traditions in America, this collection of texts is a major source of ideas about morality and ethnic groups in areas where African and Israeli communities are in diaspora. The present article, therefore, delineates a framework for viewing texts in the HB/PFT that enhances the ability of non-mainstream theologians and social ethicists to situate, evaluate, and rehabilitate White Supremacists notions about African-American males in the African Diaspora.  A central premise of this essay is that texts and terms in the HB are objects, that is hard data, which are bankrupt without an interpreter. The hope is that this essay offers an approach or a hermeneutic for viewing “the Other” in the HB/PFT that positions select faith traditions to dismantle problematic notions of “the Other” and racial stereotypes of marginalized social subgroups, and promote respect for individuality and cultural diversity and in the African and Israeli Diaspora in the contemporary world.

Ansel Brown, J.D. Assistant Clinical Professor, Director of the University Honors Program, North Carolina Central University
Zionism and Pan-Africanism: A Common Journey to Recapture Ethnic Self-Realization
The 20th century witnessed a unique moment in history where African and Jewish communities around the world experienced parallel movements of national emancipation and reconstitution in their historic homelands. Jewish communities emerged from 2000 years of exile, expulsions, oppression, and genocidal Antisemitism to be reestablished as a sovereign Jewish nation in the state of Israel. African communities emerged from centuries of slavery, colonialism, murderous brutality, and institutional racism to be reestablished as a fully sovereign people with full civil and political rights. The subjugation of both diasporic communities was consistently prefaced by a pervasive demonization that culminated in the grossest of crimes against humanity in recorded history. What are the parallels between the psychoses that fueled this demonization and subjugation of African and Jewish communities? What common cords of resilience and mutual inspiration fueled the liberation of both groups? What common lessons and strategic partnerships will catapult the modern progenies of Zionism and Pan-Africanism to greater levels of self-realization and contribution to human progress in the 21st century?

Valerie Ann Johnson, Mott Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies and Director, Africana Women’s Studies and the Honors Program, Bennett College, North Carolina  
The African in the American: Sites of Memory-Contested Histories
The United States is experiencing another round of social, cultural, economic, and political upheaval.  Proponents of a national identity based on the ideology of white supremacy are utilizing public spaces to propagate a narrative of US history that positions the United States as a “white” nation.  This directly contradicts the enormous influence those of African descent have had in the US historically and contemporarily.  The intentional use of antisemitic rhetoric and actions, and various misogynistic, anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-people of color activities undergirds attempts to erase in the public space those who represent non-white narratives.  The current public contestation regarding Confederate monuments is actually a struggle for national identity based on the particular racialized identity of whiteness.  This would place those identified as non-whites (e.g. African descended people, Jews, other people of color, certain immigrant groups) in permanent positions of inferiority and servitude, negating the agency of these groups of people in creating the US as a sovereign nation.  In this paper, I focus my discussion on examples of “sites of memory” that illustrate how the African presence in the US is both revealed and occluded.   I also discuss the intersectional link between antisemitism, misogyny, and an anti-African/Black ideology whose proponents seek to dominate public spaces.  I approach this discussion from a Black/African feminist perspective informed by recent participation in an ISGAP seminar on critical antisemitism studies. 

Dr. Carlton Long, ISGAP, Lawrence Long and Co. Educational Consulting  
The Impact of Racial Formation on Afro-Religious Imagery and Hierarchy in Cuba and the United States
The centuries-old fabrication of the “race” idea has served multiple economic, political and social functi'ons in the history and longevity of imperialism in Western society.  Afro-diasporic peoples and communities in Cuba and the United States have encountered, endured and survived not only these fun'ctions, but also their current intrusions into psychological, artistic and religious spaces.   To unpack the layered artistic and liturgical representations is to begin to access explicit and implicit meanings, many of which either reify the race concept, in Cuba and the United States, or potentially liberate, theologically and otherwise, “raced” individuals from it.

Professor Katya Gibel Mevorach, Anthropology Department Chair, American Studies Concentration, Grinnell College
Racecraft and an Expulsion from Diaspora
Focus on ways discourses of racism, antisemitism and nationalism have re-scripted Jewish diversity into an ahistorical whiteness and obfuscated the “double consciousness” which registered the resonance between Jewish and African diasporas among elite African and African American intellectuals until 1967. Indeed, a late 20th century appropriation and banalization of the concept “diaspora” recast it as an all-inclusive concept that whited-out Jews not only from their own history, but also erased the utility of the concept in thinking through the intersecting and similar experiences of racialization which mark the diaspora experience of both Jews and people of African descent. 

Professor Yossi Shain, Tel Aviv University 
The Legacy of Babylonian Exiles in Contemporary Diaspora Affairs: Jews and Blacks in our Time
The Jewish story of exile in Babylon in the 6th Century BC has become an important metaphor in the history of the African American Diaspora and the struggle against slavery. It is now on display for n various fashions in the African American national museum in Washington DC. While the Jewish Diaspora began as a nationalist and concrete concept, the idea of displacement and return shifted over the years towards a larger ethos of liberation. This ethos was building bridges between Jews and African Americans during the 1960, but the alliance broke up with the understanding that American Jews now support a concrete Jewish State. Attacks in the African American community (and elsewhere) on Israel and Zionism were framed in the language of Apartheid, while Jews consider the bashing of Israel and Zionism as new forms of antisemitism.  How this all came about? Can the tensions about what Diaspora constitutes and what’s its obligation can be reconciled with the liberation theology that grew out of the Babylonian exile?

Dr. Charles Asher Small, Executive Director, ISGAP
Contemporary Discourse of Homeland and Its Impact on African and Jewish Diaspora Communities in Europe and North America
Racism(s) and antisemitism(s) are highly complex and, at times, perplexing forms of hatred. It spans history and has infected many societies, religious and philosophical movements, and even civilizations. Manifestations of racism(s) and antisemitism(s) emerge in numerous ideologically‐based narratives and in the constructed identities of belonging and otherness. As manifestations of racism(s) and antisemitism(s) are increasing in contemporary Europe and North America, along social movements that adhere to nationalist and xenophobic ideologies, this paper will examine how racist and antisemitic discourse, pertaining to Israel and Africa or notions of “ homeland’, affect Jewish and African communities in the diaspora. Analysis will also focus on the impact on notions of integration, otherness, and citizenship.



Zionism, Anti-Blackness, and the Struggle for Palestine: Jemima Pierre on the Boycott


[This essay originally appeared on Savage Minds]

Jemima Pierre[1][2]

The video begins mid-action. A Black man sprawls on the ground. He seems injured. He tries to move but his efforts are slow, labored, slight. There is blood beneath him, fresh and bright against the polished white floor. On the edge of the frame, people move frantically. The Black man is encircled. Someone holding a gun – he looks like a soldier – steps forward and kicks the Black man in the head. From the bottom right of the screen, an orange bench is thrown, smashing into the head of the Black man. Someone – another soldier? – waves the others back and lifts the bench from the Black man’s head. Another man carrying a book bag quickly walks towards the Black man and swiftly kicks him in the head. His body spins across the floor, leaving a large smear of red blood. The man with the book bag walks away, unhurried. The Black man tries to lift his arm. A large White man places the legs of a tall stool over him. The man appears to be shielding the man on the floor from further attack; he yells at the crowd, flailing his arms, waving people away as they try to advance on the Black man. He is actually trying to keep the Black man from escaping. A person from the growing mob gets in another kick at the almost lifeless Black man on the ground, and the stool is briefly knocked away. The large man quickly replaces the stool over the victim while frantically screaming at and waving away the enraged mob.

I can no longer watch.

Hours after the attack, the Black man succumbs to his injuries and dies.

When I came across the video, it was captioned “Horrific footage of Israelis beating Eritrean refugee falsely accused of being bus station attacker and shot on site.”

His name was Habtom Zerhom. He was twenty-nine years old. He had migrated from Eritrea to Israel seeking political asylum. On that fateful dayhe had gone to Beersheba, the capital of Negev, to renew his work visa. He was in the Beersheba’s bus station when an Israeli soldier was attacked and shot by someone the media referred to as an “Arab  citizen of Israel.” After the attack, Mr. Zerhom scrambled to get away with the rest of the crowd. But according to official sources, Israeli security forces assumed he was with the attacker and shot him multiple times. Mr. Zerhom was shot, according to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, “Just because of his skin color.” The mob kicked him and spat on him, while screaming“death to Arabs” and “Arabs out!” reportedly “mistook him for a terrorist.”

The “lynching” of Habtom Zerhom has been reported as an isolated incident, even as there is the occasional, muted recognition that African immigrants and other Black populations in Israel have been subject to dehumanizing discrimination – often propagated by the State of Israel itself. Indeed, incited by prominent Israeli officials, attacks on African migrants and other Blacks have been on the rise. In 2012, for instance, I wrote about a spate of attacks, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, that included the firebombing of apartments and a kindergarten used by Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, racist protests, and mob assaults (see photo stream here). Some have described these attacks and protests as a coordinated pogrom against Africans. The Hareetz journalist, Ilan Lior, who was present at the anti-African rally in Tel Aviv on May 23, 2012, described his reaction:


I’ve covered terror attacks, funerals, car accidents, and protests. I’ve seen fury, frustration, despair, and sadness in a variety of places and forms. But I’ve never seen such hatred as it was displayed on Wednesday night in the Hatikva neighborhood. If it weren’t for the police presence, it would have ended in lynching. I have no doubt.

In early January 2014, a fifty-nine-year old Israeli man stabbed an eighteen-month-month-old Eritrean girl in the head with scissors as she was being held in her mother’s arms at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. Once caught, the man told police, “I attacked black terrorists, she’s a black baby.” He then continued, saying of Africans living in Tel Aviv: “I hate them, they’re black and they make a big mess.”

These attacks by individuals and mobs are bolstered by equally disturbing racist language of some Israeli politicians as well as the punitive anti-Black actions by the Israeli state. In 2012, the most vocal of these politicians was Minister of Internal Affairs Eli Yishai, who consistently argued that the country must solve the “problem of the infiltrators,” African immigrants. Like many protesters, he accused African asylum seekers of spreading disease and raping Israeli women. Yishai was also adamant that Israel “belongs to us, to the white man.” In fact, several leading Israeli politicians, many of them from the ruling Likud party headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed a May 2012, anti-African rally in Tel Aviv. At the rally, Likud MP, Miri Regev, stated that, “the Sudanese were a cancer in our body.” Parliamentarian Ben-Ari (who was once a member of the Meir Kahane Movement, banned in Israel and placed on the U.S. State Department’s Terror List) demanded that all “African infiltrators” be deported. Meanwhile, Knesset member Aryeh Eldad of the National Union said that, “anyone that penetrates Israel’s border should be shot.”

Netanyahu has argued that Africans threaten “the social fabric of society” and the “Jewish and democratic character of the country.” While claiming to denounce anti-African violence, his official response was to order the immediate deportation of 25,000 African asylum seekers and to erect a border fence between Israel and Egypt. Moreover, a new law went into effect in June 2012 allowing the Israeli government to hold all African asylum seekers – including women and children – in prison for up to three years without charge. (After intervention by Israeli NGOs against this long-term detention, the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered that this law was revised to reduce detention to no more than twelve months.) The Israeli government in late 2013 began offering the mainly Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers each a cash amount of $3500 and a one way ticket to return to their country of origin – or to a third party country. If they refuse, they are sent to the recently built Holot detention center for African asylum seekers – a sprawling “open prison” in the Negev desert. (Israeli officials summoned the father of the 18 month-old Eritrean girl who was stabbed in the head to the Holot detention center just a few months after the stabbing, and while his daughter was still receiving treatment at the hospital.) Although the Israeli government is now only allowed to hold asylum seekers in Holot for 12 months, it bans the released former prisoners from entering, living, or working in cities such as Eliat and Tel Aviv, places where the Eritrean and Sudanese migrants have community. They also only have two months to renew their conditional release visas. If these asylum seekers have no place to go, or refuse to “self-deport,” they can be sent to Saharonim prison and held indefinitely.

The treatment of African migrants is as much about race and Blackness/anti-Blackness as it is about asylum. In fact, we can get a better sense of the vitriolic nature of anti-Blackness by seeing the responses of some Israelis to other Israelis who protest against anti-African violence. For example, in a video shot right after an anti-African rally, a lone Israeli woman who disagreed with the racism and xenophobia of the protestors is brusquely insulted and threatened by the crowd. In front of children, men and women protesters shouted: “A Sudanese man will rape you in the ass,” “May your daughter be raped,” “May your mother be raped,” and “She wants some nigger dick.” Similarly, Israeli human rights organizations assisting migrants have received threats of arson and rape. The marshaling of the typical anti-Black stereotypes of hypersexuality, criminality, and disease, and now “terror,” and the increased violence and incitement against Black/African asylum seekers, reflects a disturbing trend. But the recent reports that Jewish Ethiopian women were forcibly injectedwith long-acting contraceptives (which has ultimately decreased the Ethiopian Jewish population by 50 percent), and that Ethiopian Jews remain severely marginalized in Israel, confirms the depth of anti-Blackness in Israeli society. Significantly, it underscores, if not exposes, Zionism as an explicit racial project.


The rise in this crude form of racism and anti-Black violence seen in the attack on Mr. Zerhom are not unrelated to the ongoing dehumanization of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. By now, we know all too well the ongoing trauma of the Palestinian people through displacement and military occupation: the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians during the founding of Israel (“al-Nakbah”); the siege of Gaza and its separation from the West Bank; the dual system of laws that allow the indefinite detention and imprisonment of children (some in solitary confinement), students, politicians; dehumanizing checkpoints; the forced immobility of students and scholars; the rewriting of history texts; home demolitions; destruction of olive trees; and most recently the full out bombardments and summary executions of Palestinians, young and old, men and women. The recent reportby the Task Force on the American Anthropological Association Engagement on Israel-Palestine carefully docu'ments some of these practices, confirming that the Palestinian people continue to suffer through an occupation buttressed by a legal apparatus that impacts all areas of life and that depends on violence against the living—and the dead.

The Zionist dehumanization of Palestinians and its culture of anti-Blackness depend on the same system and, as scholar and activist Angela Y. Davis reminds us, “its outbursts are not isolated incidents.” Indeed, Davis’s words come in the context of a renewed U.S. Black-Palestinian solidarity movement, one that builds similar work dating back to the early 1960s. During the summer of 2014, as Israel waged yet another military assault on Gaza, young Black people in Ferguson were protesting the killing of Michael Brown (as well as the posthumous desecration of his body and dehumanization of his person) and battling racialized state sponsored violence and repression. Many in the Black-Palestinian solidary movement point to the fact that Palestinians were among the first to voice solidarity for protestors in Ferguson. At the same time, a delegation from the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson visited Palestine and the Occupied Territories. Protestors in the U.S. also revealed that U.S. police have traveled to Israel for seminars in “counterterrorism techniques,” that include combat training and tours of border checkpoints, military facilities and surveillance. On a trip to occupied Palestine, Black community organizer Cherrell Brown acknowledged that the struggles of U.S. Blacks and Palestinians are not the same butremarked that “many parallels exist between how the US polices, incarcerates, and perpetuates violence on the black community and how the Zionist state that exists in Israel perpetuates the same on Palestinians.” As the lynching of Mr. Zerhom reminds us, Black people living within Israel –asylum seekers, docu'mented residents, and citizens – can easily become victims of the ethno-supremacist Zionist edifice.


My support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israeli cultural and academic institutions (not individuals)[3] emerges in this context of solidarity through similarity and difference, and out of an understanding of the life and death matters of state sponsored racialized violence transnationally. As a Black anthropologist with cultural, political, and research concerns in communities of African descent, I know too well the ways that global structures of race and power operate to control, destroy, debase, punish, and dehumanize. I understand that anti-Blackness in Israel is but a symptom of the broader culture and practice of Palestinian disenfranchisement. Even as I recognize that anti-Blackness exists in most societies[4], I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian right of self-determination. As a U.S. citizen whose tax dollars are used to support a violent racial state that refuses to comply with international law, I say “not in my name!” And as a human being concerned with social justice and equality for all, I cannot look away[5] – and I cannot stay silent.


[1] Jemima Pierre is Associate Professor in the Departments of African American Studies and Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

[2] I am grateful to Peter James Hudson for his incisive commentary on this essay, and to Robin D.G. Kelley for his generous feedback.

[3] This includes my full support for the Resolution put forth by the Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions. Please note that the resolution explicitly calls for the boycott of institutions and not individual academics.

[4] And of course there is also the community of Afro-Palestinians who are subject to the same Israeli occupation as other Palestinians, but who also experience forms of anti-Blackness.

[5] The inspiration for this piece comes from two placards held by participants in the Black Solidarity with Palestine video, “When I See Them, I See Us.” Dr. Angela Y. Davis’s sign read: “Racism is systemic. Its outbursts are not isolated incidents.” Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley’s sign read: “I really have no choice, I can’t look away. 


Violent Rhetoric
The common presumption among some members of the Columbia community and in certain sectors of the mainstream media seems to be that an Arab is violent until proven otherwise. Catering to the ignorance of some, we comply and offer these contextualizations of the weekend's events as a way to acquit ourselves of this burden of proof.

The pictures and reports of the desecration of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus might give some people the idea that Palestinians are somehow inherently aggressive or disrespectful of other faiths. Others may contend that these occurrences should come as no surprise and that their probability justifies Israeli presence at these sites.

The notion of intrinsic Arab animosity towards all things Jewish, predating and justifying Israeli protection of holy places, does not hold up to historical scrutiny. If Arabs had always wanted to destroy Joseph's Tomb, or any other Jewish sacred site in historical Palestine, for that matter, they had ample opportunity to do so over many centuries.

The very fact that these sites have survived proves Arab and Muslim respect for other faiths. The desecration of Joseph's Tomb following the evacuation of Israeli troops therefrom, far from being meant as an attack on Judaism per se, was intended to prevent the site's renewed use by Israel as a pretense for the occupation of Nablus. While that may constitute a partial explanation, in no way does it excuse an action execrable not only to Jews, but also to Muslims and Christians who recognize the shrine's sanctity.

That we don't intellectually bend over backwards to justify the inexcusable may prove unsettling to LionPAC. Frank criticism of one's own "side" does not fit into their openly proclaimed commitment to unconditionally defend Israel. While Israeli soldiers, using live ammunition, missiles and helicopter gunships, killed over 90 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, a third of them under the age of 16, and wounded thousands, LionPAC denounced Turath's violent rhetoric and its misleading protests on campus.

We were shocked to see fellow students actually spit at us as they walked by the sundial, one going so far as to loudly voice her hope of seeing more Arabs killed. How a series of silent protests to mourn the excessive use of force against civilians constitutes violent rhetoric eludes us, but we will take the time to address the more common arguments put forth by the apologists of Israeli brutality, in line with our aforementioned duty to state the obvious.

The most spurious contention is that Israel is acting in self-defense, protecting its citizens against Arab aggression. The fact that Israel has no internationally recognized right to be there in the first place is conveniently omitted, and never mind that the citizens in question happen to be illegal settlers armed to the teeth by the Israeli military and heavily subsidized by their government. International law and overwhelming firepower are insignificant details, it seems.

Equally irrelevant to Zionist cheerleaders is the sequence of events. Palestinians should be blamed, even if the spark that set off the unrest was Ariel Sharon's raid on the Haram Al-Sharif, with an escort of 300 armed men who proceeded to charge protesters, causing them to pick up stones. Palestinians ought to be held responsible for the violence, even if Israeli soldiers are doing most of the shooting and Arabs are doing most of the dying. More moderate praise-singers (read: not Hillary Clinton or Rick Lazio) argue that both sides are equally to blame, regardless of the disproportionately Palestinian death toll, stemming from the disparity of means favoring Israel and the impunity with which it can trample internationally recognized Arab rights.

However, to the probable surprise of our detractors, we will blame both sides for the current violence. Indeed, both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority are responsible. To this list of culprits we add the United States. All three are guilty of endorsing a process that has consistently eschewed the grievances at the heart of the Arab-Zionist conflict, such as refugees, and has contributed to the deterioration of the living conditions of most Palestinians.

If anything, the recent unrest reveals the extent of the Palestinians' dissatisfaction with the Oslo process and with the shortcomings of their unelected representative, Yasser Arafat. While it is unfortunate that we must keep writing articles denouncing patent injustices, we were comforted by the turnout at the protests this past week.

People of African, American, Asian, European, Jewish, and Israeli origin stood among Arabs and Muslims, decrying Israeli atrocities. Even the U.N. Security Council managed to pass a resolution condemning Israel's excessive use of force against civilians.

Meanwhile, Ehud Barak issued an ultimatum calling on Palestinians to cease acting up lest he use all the means at Israel's disposal, raising the disturbing inference that the horror of the past ten days fit his definition of restraint...


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