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New Pro-Israel Hasbara Meme: Blackwashing

african american aipac tour

African American political leaders and students on Aipac Israel junket

You’ve heard of pinkwashing, greenwashing–now “blackwashing” joins the cast of pro-Israel hasbara communities exploited in order to combat the major criticisms of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.  Pinkwashing is the effort to promote Israel to the gay community in order to point out the homophobia of Arab culture and nations.  Greenwashing is the attempt by environmental groups like Jewish National Fund to point to Israel’s alleged sensitivity to environmental issues (excluding of course its heinous treatment of Negev Bedouins whose communities are being bulldozed by the Israeli government in collaboration with JNF).  Now blackwashing is the rage.

Israel lobby groups like Aipac have worked closely cultivating relationships on college campuses with African-American students.  They send these young leaders to Aipac conferences where they can be trotted out to the media as witnesses for the defense to combat the BDS campaign to label Israel as an apartheid state:

When Vincent Evans arrived as a bright-eyed first-year at Florida A&M, the country’s largest historically black university, he knew he wanted to get involved in politics. So when an older student leader approached him one afternoon after a student government meeting to ask if he wanted an all expenses paid trip to D.C., Evans jumped at the opportunity.

The trip, it turned out, was sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the country’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying outfit. Israel is under growing attack from Palestinian and international activists who call the country a racist apartheid state. In response, its staunchest U.S. lobby is recruiting black students as moral shields to make the case for Israeli impunity. At historically black colleges and universities (known as HBCU’s) around the country, AIPAC is finding and developing a cadre of black allies to declare there’s no way Israel can be racist.

In his four years in college, Evans traveled to D.C. at least 10 times on AIPAC’s dime. He and a small group of other student leaders from his school joined hundreds of others from around the country, including other HBCU students, for AIPAC’s semi-annual Saban Leadership Seminar.

“Within the program,” says Evans, “they make a concerted effort to reach out to HBCU and majority Hispanic schools.”

Does the Israel lobby care about African-American students?  Does it care about the issues close to their heart?  Is it about to reach out to Blacks to create political coalitions to advance causes of mutual interest to each community?  Are you kiddin’?  These kids are fodder in the PR war.  They don’t mean anything other than having a black face to show the world that Israel isn’t an apartheid nation.  But how much do these kids really know about Israel?

Before he went to D.C., Evans knew nothing about Israel and had no opinions on Middle East politics. “The program starts at a layman’s level and takes you through what the current Middle East peace talks are about,” he recalls.

AIPAC trained Evans and other students in lobbying and campaign work and provided a crash course in its staunchly Zionist version of Middle East history and politics. Participants are introduced to American and Israeli political leaders and spend afternoons walking Capitol Hill to lobby for Israel.

It seemed to Evans an opportunity of a lifetime.

“You’re talking about a lot of students who grew up in a socio-economic place that does not give them these opportunities,” said Evans. “We met amazing people. I met Netanyahu. In 2007 or 2008 I met all the Democratic candidates for president. My dad cried when I met Obama. [AIPAC] opens your eyes to things you’ve never seen.”

Pardon me, but this sounds more like a cult to me than a political campaign.  They take kids who know or care nothing about Israel and they indoctrinate them with a narrow set of principles and values they hammer home.  At the end, they’ve produced walking anti-apartheid emblems who will supposedly immunize Israel from these charges.  Not just that, these Black students also become cannon fodder in the war of ideas on college campuses:

Last year, AIPAC featured several HBCU students as speakers at its 5,000-person national policy conference in D.C. On stage, one student explained that she and a group of other AIPAC-trained HBCU students launched an attack on the Palestinian rights movement.

Specifically, they targeted Students For Justice in Palestine, a national student coalition with branches on a growing number of campuses. SJP frames its work as a struggle against Israeli apartheid…

On stage at last year’s AIPAC conference, an HBCU student waxed indignant.

“How dare they use a word that has historic meaning for me,” said the speaker, to the loud cheers of the audience. “A word that conjures up some of the worst injustices an individual can suffer.” As she spoke, positioning herself as an arbiter of what gets to be called racist, a slide of an apartheid-era South African sign reading “White Area” appeared behind her.

Do these children know anything about Israeli politics or the nature of Israeli society?  Do they know how non-Jewish Israelis are treated?  Do they know anything about the Occupation?  Do they know anything about the racial prejudice rampant in Israeli society?  No.  They only know what Aipac tells them.  The lies and half-truths Aipac feeds them.

I find it almost amazing that some strategists like Frank Luntz sit in a room or hold a focus group and discuss Israel’s vulnerabilities and how to exploit different ethnic and gender-based communities in order to buttress them.  It’s cold, exploitative and vulgar.  It’s buying support with trips, nice hotels, and meeting famous people.  Instead of earning support the old-fashioned way through discussion, study, debate and the battle of ideas, Aipac programs these impressionable young kids to spout the talking points.

Who does it fool?  Who does it persuade?  I rather think it helps the Aipac donors who fund this sort of charade more than it persuades anyone outside this narrow pro-Israel political niche.  One of them is Haim Saban, the wealthy Hollywood and media powerbroker who is one of Aipac’s most important donors.  He also is a major donor to the Democratic-leaning think tank, the Brookings Institution.  He also played a role in lobbying Rep. Jane Harman on behalf of accused Aipac spy Steve Rosen.  Saban also lobbied Nancy Pelosi on Harman’s behalf to appoint her intelligence committee chair, which the then Speaker refused to do.

By the way, the Lobby’s cultivation of Vincent Evans paid off.  He used the connections he made on his Aipac trips to DC to land a job working for Florida’s Democratic Party in Tallahassee.  As he works his way up the political ladder, Aipac will be able to call on him for ongoing support in its political battles, just as it does a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who routinely sell out their values and principles to sup at the pro-Israel altar of Mammon.

That’s the way the game’s played.  It’s a dirty, nasty game.  But Aipac has mastered it to perfection.  Except that more and more see through it.  They don’t buy it.  The only people they’re fooling is themselves.  Yes, and members of Congress and a president it appears.  But so many of the rest of us know better.

H/t to my friend, Nan Rubin.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bob Mann January 19, 2012, 2:49 AM

    Where do these excerpts you’ve provided in this piece come from?

    You’ve quoted about 10-12 paragraphs from what appears to be an article written by someone else, but I don’t see where you credited that person or provided a link to the original.

    • Richard Silverstein January 19, 2012, 3:21 AM

      Woops, the link’s there now. Sorry about that. It’s from Colorlines.

  • William Burns January 19, 2012, 4:14 AM

    This contrasts with the actual treatment of black Jews from Ethiopia in Israel, which includes a great deal of old-school racism.

    • Maria January 19, 2012, 6:18 PM

      Yes, it does. That was the first thing that came to my mind, as well.

      • Gay State Girl January 20, 2012, 9:41 PM

        Maria
        We’ve all heard about racism against Ethiopian Jews in Israel, but non Arab muslims such as Africans and South Asians who are designated as “inferior muslims” and non muslims are heavily discriminated in the Arab world and often paid slave wages.

        While there are many zionist organizations in the diaspora who support the occupation, there also many Jews who fight for human rights. There are comparatively few organization run by Arabs or Muslims that address the condition of ethnic minorities or foreign workers within Arab/Muslim countries. There are some notable exceptions such as Ray Hanania who is a member of the Alliance for Kurdish Rights (if you can provide me with others I would love to hear), but most of their resources and energy is concentrated on the liberation of Palestine and improving their own situation within their new nations. This is fine, but I would not consider them altruistic human rights activists as long as they only fight for their own race. It would be nice if a prominent Muslim American could acknowledge the plight of the Kurds in Turkey and Syria or the condition of South Asian foreign workers in the UAE and in Lebanon.

        • Richard Silverstein January 21, 2012, 12:49 AM

          You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You know nothing about Arabs or Muslims & smell like a troll to me.

        • Richard Silverstein January 21, 2012, 1:13 AM

          This person is a fraud and has been moderated. Please do not respond to anything that s/he writes.

  • Gay State Girl January 19, 2012, 3:39 PM

    I can understand that Jewish involvement in civil rights was often driven by ulterior motives, and I admit that Darfur was more of a tribal conflict than an Arab genocide of Black Africans, which was exploited to create hostility towards blacks, and that African Americans get nothing out of supporting Israel, but blacks who are inclined to side with Palestinians on the sole basis that they are a non white group colonized by Europeans, are deluded as well. The Palestinians have no particular love for people of color, oppressed, or poor people in general, and many of their supporters would be harshly discriminated if they ever stepped foot in the Palestinian territories.

    • Maria January 19, 2012, 6:20 PM

      They ARE “people of color,” many are poor, and they are certainly oppressed.

      How many Palestinians do you know?

      • Gay State Girl January 19, 2012, 6:58 PM

        I never said that they weren’t and I can not defend Israel. But the sole fact of living under occuption does not make one a good person. Arab culture is still very racist and continues to exploit “inferior” non Arab Muslims to do their dirty work which is why there is more radical Islamic activity in South Asian Muslim nations and in Africa and to a much lesser extent, among converts in the West than there is in the Arab world.

        I am not in favor of Israel, but Palestinians are not the sweeties that you think. They may pretend to care about other oppressed people

        Palestinians are not weak or underdogs by anyone’s stretch of imagination. Not when the entire Muslim world worships the ground that they walk on. Sure it may be entirely acceptable to champion various causes, but Kurds, Uyghurs, Saharans, and Kashmiris would consider themselves privileged if they could attract a tiny fraction of the amount of support among activists in Western countries and attention from the UN that your precious Palestinians receive, not to mention acknowledgement from their fellow Muslims.

        No ma’am. I won’t call the Palestinians underdogs when an oil rich nation like Iran declares the “liberation of Palestine” more important than the welfare of its own citizens. The Palestinians expressed their gratitude to the generous Ayatollah by sending volunteers to serve in Saddam’s army during the Iran/Iraq war.

        Or when Arab leaders who have committed mass murders of minorities within their country, reserve their last words for the Palestinian cause.

        I won’t call the Palestinians underdogs when a Pakistani adolescent from a rural village, whose never met a Palestinian in his life (and who would undoutedly be harshly discriminated if he ever stepped foot into Arab society) gives his life for the Paelstinian cause and the Palestinians show no consideration for his family and continues to dismiss his countrymen as “inferior muslims.”

        Suffice to say, I am no fan of Israel, but my encounters with Palestinians have not been pleasant. I may be bat shit crazy but I’m not retarded. What needs to be said, needs to be said and if accuse me of racism, than you’re no better than those you oppose.

        • Maria January 20, 2012, 12:23 AM

          My partner is Palestinian, as is his family. His father was born in Jerusalem, but has no right of return, of course. American Orthodox Jews live in his neighborhood now.

          Of course, they are Palestinian Christians, but they are no “whiter” than a Palestinian Muslim.

          • Gay State Girl January 20, 2012, 9:28 PM

            For intents and purposes,

            But you did not respond to my actual points. While support for Israel has become a prevalent theme in the West among conservative Christians and secular atheists alike, and Zionism and the Holocaust have undoubtedly been dominant in Jewish life over the past 65 years, you can not deny that the Palestinian cause has played a central role in contemporary Islamic identity.

        • Richard Silverstein January 21, 2012, 1:11 AM

          Arab culture is still very racist

          “Arab culture” (& where did you get such a sweeping statement from & how can you know what such a concept represents?) is no more racist than “Jewish culture” or “Chrsitian culture” whatever those concepts mean as well. You’ve tried my patience.

          Palestinians are not weak or underdogs by anyone’s stretch of imagination

          More nonsense. Palestinians are certainly weak in comparison to their oppressors, Israel.

          Now I see what you are. You’re someone pretending to be gay, pretending to be a woman, pretending to be god knows what else in order to defend Orthdox Jews and Israel (though you lie claiming you’re “not in favor” of it) and tear down Arabs & Muslims.

          This is quite clever. It actually took me a bunch of comments by you before I caught on. But for the life of me I don’t understand the psychological makeup of someone like you. Why do you do it? Why do you waste your own time & everyone else’s with this idiocy. Is it entertaining to you? If so, you’re beyond pathetic.

          As for being ‘bat shit crazy,’ you said it, not I. As for retarded, no you’re not retarded. You have some native intelligence. But being smart and being wise are two different things. You may be the former but clearly not the later.

          • Elisabeth January 23, 2012, 1:47 AM

            I thought her comments on kosher food a while ago were bat shit crazy and decided I would not bother arguing with her.

    • Richard Silverstein January 21, 2012, 1:01 AM

      The Palestinians have no particular love for people of color, oppressed, or poor people in general

      This is more ignorant nonsense. You know no more about Palestinian belief than you do about Jewish belief.

      If you wish to continue posting here I insist that you write to me telling me who you are. I want your real name and some way of proving you are who you say you are. Otherwise, you’re no longer going to be welcome here.

  • dickerson3870 January 19, 2012, 6:53 PM

    RE: “You’ve heard of pinkwashing, greenwashing–now ‘blackwashing’ joins the cast of pro-Israel hasbara communities exploited…” ~ R.S.

    FROM THE AIPAC WEBSITE (undated):

    African American Political Leaders and Activists Visit Israel

    A group of African American politicians, consultants and activists arrived in Israel this week to participate in an American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) Seminar. The group of 18 includes eight state and local elected officials and three appointed government officials, including the presidents of the city councils of Atlanta and Detroit. The other participants are all deeply involved in political and civic life in their communities, including five who are co-chairs for the DNC’s Generation44 fundraising initiative in their cities. A number of the seminar participants have already attended pro-Israel events in their communities and have shown interest in strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May passed Iranian divestment resolutions in their jurisdictions in 2009.

    SOURCE – http://www.aipac.org/en/in-the-news?newsid=%7BF4379DFB-D32D-49C8-965B-37E03013BEE3%7D

  • Linda J January 19, 2012, 8:09 PM

    Wonder if this will take the air out of AIPAC’s tires. It should. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/ethiopian-israeli-begins-three-day-march-to-protest-racism-1.407679

    Ethiopian Israelis Protest Racism

  • Stefanie Brendler January 19, 2012, 8:48 PM

    Thanks for this great article! I want to encourage you to get rid of the language “kids” and “children” when referring to college-age individuals. That will make your article (and argument) even better/stronger.

  • Andy January 19, 2012, 10:14 PM

    Someone needs to give these guys a copy of Adalah’s “Inequality Report”.

    http://www.adalah.org/eng/publications.php

    http://www.adalah.org/upfiles/2011/Adalah_The_Inequality_Report_March_2011.pdf

  • Zhu Bajie January 20, 2012, 8:45 PM

    I would expect that many of these black american students are born-again and have Dispensationalism in their mental furniture.

  • Adam L March 12, 2012, 12:00 PM

    [comment deleted. you claim you’re a “Black Zionist.” You’re a fake & a fraud & have tried this before here]