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2019 Congressional Black Caucus assembly
“The CBC has never acknowledged or condemned Israel’s occupation, its ever-expanding illegal settlements, its violations of international human rights laws, its forcible displacement of Palestinians, or its endless theft of Palestinian land,” Getty Israel writes. Photo courtesy Congressional Black Caucus

Opinion | The Congressional Black Caucus Has Lost Its Conscience

When the Congressional Black Caucus was founded in 1972, ending apartheid in South Africa became its major political goal.

The late Congressman Ronald Dellums, D-Calif., led the initial effort to enact a law to dismantle South Africa’s apartheid system. In 1985, the late Rep William Gray, D-Pa., introduced the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 prohibiting loans and new investment in South Africa, pressuring South Africa to abolish apartheid laws and to release Nelson Mandela. This act, along with protests and a global divestment movement, led to the end of South Africa’s apartheid system.

The CBC became known as the Conscience of the Congress. “When it comes to conflicts at home and abroad, … it is important to come to the aid of those in need, and the CBC has a history of doing this that begins with helping to end apartheid,” it states.

Conversely, I have found no evidence of the CBC championing the cause of Palestinians, another oppressed people of color. The CBC has never acknowledged or condemned Israel’s occupation, its ever-expanding illegal settlements, its violations of international human rights laws, its forcible displacement of Palestinians, or its endless theft of Palestinian land. It has never introduced legislation to eradicate Israel’s apartheid system or to demand a ceasefire of the current massacre even though Israel has killed more Palestinians in the past four months than South Africa murdered during its 40-year reign of oppression.

‘Israel’s Inhumane Treatment of Palestinians’

As a Black American with roots in Mississippi, I strongly identify with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination. We share a history of mass incarceration, land seizures, bombings, destruction of our communities and massacres solely based on our ethnicity. We have been denied fundamental human rights such as voting, driving on a road or walking on streets reserved for whites. We’ve been forced to live in poor and segregated communities. Our men have been routinely snatched off roads or from their homes, incarcerated without due process or lynched. We have been forcibly displaced because whites desired our lands, and our nonviolent protests were met with violence.

Charts showing the reported cumulative casualties in the Palestine / Israel war
The Israel-Palestine conflict has produced thousands of casualties and injuries since last year. Chart courtesy OCHA

Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories—including Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem for the past 75 years—is the root cause of the ongoing conflict, which varying human-rights organizations have documented.

A Human Rights Watch report concluded “(Israeli) … authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity.” In 2022, Amnesty International found that “Israel imposes a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians across all areas under its control: in Israel and the OPT, and against Palestinian refugees, in order to benefit Jewish Israelis. This amounts to apartheid as prohibited in international law.”

Israel has created and maintained a system of laws, policies and practices designed to oppress and dominate Palestinians in four ways:

Palestinians are separated from each other into distinct territorial, legal and administrative domains.

The Israeli government practices property seizures, home demolitions and forced evictions.

Palestinians are segregated into enclaves away from Jews and live under military law while Jews live under civil law.

Palestinians are deliberately impoverished and starved.

As of Feb. 15, 2024, Israel’s military has killed more than 28,000 Palestinian civilians. Moreover, 70% of the casualties are reported to be women and children. About 7,000 are missing, and two million are displaced. The South African government reported that Israel dropped 6,000 bombs each week during the first three weeks following the Oct. 7 attack in its historical and profound case accusing Israel of committing intentional genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

“The acts in question include killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction,” the report states. The case has received support from 77 international groups. More than 800 scholars of genocide studies and international law issued statements of support. Craig Mokhiber, a former United Nations human-rights official, called Israel’s war a “text-book case of genocide,” and Raz Segal, an Israeli historian, referred to it as a “textbook case of intent to commit genocide.”

Meanwhile, the CBC, which stands on the shoulders of the Civil Rights Movement, has chosen to defend Israel. It issued a press release that swiftly condemned Hamas for committing terrorism, but failed to condemn Israel’s historical acts of terrorism against Palestinians and declared its blind loyalty to Israel.

Pro-Israel Lobby’s Influence Over the CBC

The CBC’s unconditional support of Israel seems to be influenced primarily by its relationship with the Israel lobby: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the nation’s most powerful lobbying organizations; the United Democracy Project, a political action committee; and the American Israel Education Foundation that have net assets exceeding $163 million and a shared mission to influence U.S. policy toward Israel through campaign donations and all-expense paid trips to Israel.

The CBC’s first AIEF-sponsored trip to Israel occurred in 2014 where it met with Israeli leaders and residents. Nearly a month before the Oct. 7 attack, CBC members met with Netanyahu, another trip AIEF sponsored.

Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the Democratic Leader and Israeli puppet, has visited Israel on five AIPAC-sponsored trips. “Israel is a democracy. It is not an apartheid state,” Jeffries said. “You can’t repress 20% of your own population, illegally occupy neighboring territories in an apartheid setting and call yourself a democracy,” historian Walter Hixson said.

Pictured are the original founders of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1972. Photo courtesy Congressional Black Caucus

In 2022, AIPAC boasted giving more than $2.5 million in campaign donations to CBC members. Jeffries has received $950,331. Before Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) became a U.S. senator, he was a passionate champion of Palestinian rights, but he abruptly changed his theology during his 2020 election and subsequently received an endorsement from the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, along with $928,796.

Other CBC notable recipients include Reps. Valerie Foushee (D-N.C.), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), and Shontell Brown (D-Ohio) at $426,455, $775,199, $734,251 and  $1,028,686, respectively, who toe the pro-Israel line. CBC members who received more than $100,000 push for U.S. military support to Israel and back its war. Current CBC members have received a total of nearly $9 million.

Conversely, the Israel lobby targets CBC members critical of Israel, more recently the few who have condemned the war and support legislation to end it. AIPAC intends to spend $100 million to defeat them. The organization has a history of funding pro-Israel candidates who ran against Black candidates critical of Israel or neutral on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, including Gus Savage (Ill.), Charles Barren (N.Y.),  Omari Hardy (Fla.), Cynthia McKinney (Ga.), Earl Hilliard (Ala.), Summer Lee (Pa.), Donna Edwards (Md.), and Nina Turner (Ohio). Only Lee won her race.

The CBC has the political clout to end Israel’s apartheid system because it represents the most loyal voting bloc of the Democratic Party; hence, no candidate can win the presidency without the Black vote. Black ministers understand this. More than 1,000 Black ministers representing hundreds of thousands of congregants across the country issued a demand for a ceasefire to the Biden Administration. The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church recently called on the Biden Administration to end military aid to Israel.

“We see them as a part of us,” Rev. Cynthia Hale, the founder and senior pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Ga., said. “They are oppressed people. We are oppressed people.”

Editor’s note: At the time of the original publishing date, the caption for the inline picture of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus incorrectly stated, “Some legislators who have received endorsements or donations from the Congressional Black Caucus have declared their support for Israel over Palestinians.” This opinion column names current CBC members who have received donations and endorsements from the pro-Israel lobby. The caption has been updated to correctly identify the CBC founders.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints. 

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