By Marivel Guzman
Sacramento, Calif. On September 29, 2016, Dr Cornel West at Press Conference at Sacramento State University.
I was aware of Dr. West’s role in advising the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, particularly on the Palestine Issue. For over 40 years, Dr. West has been a vocal advocate and supporter of the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Zionist occupation of their nation.
Knowing Dr. West’s position on this important issue-of-the-day, I was intrigued by his deep concern about the plight of the Palestinian people and the need for people in this country to gain an objective and historical understanding of the roots of the current plight of Palestinians.
In my familiarity with Dr. West’s books, he has almost maintained a very progressive stance by tying their oppression to foreign occupation of their country. Therefore, I very eager to hear more about his views when I attended his lecture and press conference at Sacramento State University.
Knowing that the mainstream media would not only shy away, but ignore the conflict in the Middle East, particularly in regards to the Palestinian issue, I made it a point to ask Dr. West about his role in advising the Sander’s campaign regarding the rights of Palestinian that live under Israel’s occupation. His response made it clear that he remained firm in his conviction that the people of this country must understand and support the Palestinian struggle to regain statehood.
When I asked why the Democratic Party after the primaries refused to acknowledge the Palestinian issue, his reply was unequivocally clear,
“if they didn’t address it, they were just wrong, this was cowardly and too indifferent, too unwilling to engage the level of suffering and misery and injustice of precious Palestinians brothers and sisters.”
Dr. West went on to explain that the position of the Democratic Party has been “tied too long to AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee).” He went on to explain that “AIPAC is not representative of Jewish-Americans, it represents a slice of centrist and conservative Jewish-Americans.” He went on to explain that the AIPAC is “very powerful, like the NRA, and any other powerful lobby that is shaping U.S. policy … and for too long the kind of policies that the AIPAC promotes has not recognized the humanity (of the Palestinians) and the evil of Israeli occupation …. I am against foreign domination, I think what we are about is that every human being has some security from domination.”
The topic went on to highlight Assembly Bill 2844 which Governor Brown recently signed into law opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) bill.
There is a broad campaign both nationally and internationally to boycott, divest and impose sanctions upon companies that financially benefit from the Israeli seizure of Palestinian lands and resources.
This campaign included a boycott of those products from the occupied territories. The intent of Governor Browns’ bill is to protect the State of Israel by silencing and suppressing the groundswell support of an every- growing number of people in this country and worldwide of the Palestinian people. Therefore, I asked Dr. West for his opinion of Assembly Bill 2844 and whether he thought groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would challenge it on the basis of a denial of free speech. He responded that he felt that there would be legal challenges to this bill because he considers himself a libertarian when it comes to freedom of speech.
He went on to state that “there’s no doubt that there are many brothers and sisters in BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) who are being targeted and demonized because they have a critique of not just Israeli occupation, they have a critique of the Israeli state that is perceived by very powerful elite at the top as being anti-Semitic …” “It is very difficult to have that conversation in the United States and so those of us who are part of the BDS we get demonized, we get viewed as if we are anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic and we just have to make it clear that we have to rob that kind of shallow characterization of the substance, we have to be very explicit about that fact that we take principled stance against anti-Jewish hatred and anti-Jewish prejudice and anti-Jewish sensibilities and still have fundamental commitment to the self-determination of Palestinians…”
I was very heartened by Dr. West’s formulation of the Middle East conflict and his wholehearted opposition to bigotry of any type. It was evident that he has pondered the issue long and hard or in his words for “30 to 40 years.” I found that his comments about President Obama’s neo-liberal identity that leads him to support the State of Israeli to be on-target. He bravely criticized President Obama for his support and allowing himself to be captive to the right-wing elements in Israel. This included the passage of the $38 billion bill to the State of Israel. Dr. West concludes that the Middle East conflict is a very complex issue that demands “that we have enough people who are willing to tell the truth the best way they know it.”