Shame on the US Ambassador to the UN: She Has Forgotten Her Roots

by Steven Sahiounie, published on Mideast Discourse, November 21, 2023

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, has refused to ask for a ceasefire in Gaza to save lives, after more than 12,000 civilians have died, and half are children. Thomas-Greenfield’s policy statements suggest Israelis are deserving of human rights, while Palestinians are not.

In 2015, Thomas-Greenfield received the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, and yet her current presence at the UN has not exhibited any humanitarian urgency for Gaza, which her own colleagues at the UN are calling a humanitarian disaster, and genocide.

She forgets that her own ancestry mirrors the Palestinians, not the Israelis.  She is representing the interests of the masters, while denying the oppressed people’s rights.

Thomas-Greenfield is the great granddaughter of Mary Francoise, who was born in 1865 in Louisiana. Mary was born after the civil war ended, but she was not born into freedom; her mother had been a slave, and even though the war ended, it would be decades before any African Americans were given their rights.

Mary Francoise might as well have been born in the Occupied West Bank, or Gaza. Her life and the lives of Palestinians today have a great deal in common. She lived in a land where the colonial government in Washington, DC. had two separate codes of justice and human rights. The White European settlers came to Virginia in 1607 and shortly were bringing thousands of enslaved Africans.  The Native Americans were deprived of all human rights, and many were kept as slaves.

Mary’s son, Oliver Thomas, and his son, Oliver Thomas, Jr. were born ‘free’ in America, but had no right to vote, to live where they chose, to sit anywhere on the bus, except in the back, to eat in a restaurant with White people, to use a public bathroom used by White people, and no right to a decent education alongside White classmates.  Thomas-Greenfield’s parents were illiterate, and she was the first in her family to graduate from high school.

Palestinians are not allowed to own land in Israel, and much of the land they live on in the West Bank has been bulldozed to make way of illegal Jewish settlements for decades.  Building permits in East Jerusalem are denied to Palestinians. The people who live in Gaza today are the original inhabitants of other areas, and were forced to be segregated into a ghetto called Gaza.

Thomas-Greenfield attended an all-Black high school in Baker, East Baton Rouge County, Louisiana.  In 1960, the total population of Baker was 4,823 persons, and by 2020 the population is 82% African American, the descendants of slaves, with 12% living at or below the poverty line.

She grew up in segregated Louisiana, where by law and tradition White students and Black students never sat together. When desegregation finally came to Louisiana in 1960, only four Black girls attempted to go to a White school and violence ensued by White parents.

In 2021, Tammy C. Barnett wrote that Louisiana’s history of racism is historical, and present. Barnett cites the definition: “Racism is the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another.” By this definition, we can see that the Israeli policy toward all Palestinians is racist.

Palestinians can attend schools in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, and many are run by the UN. However, if they want to receive a higher education from a prestigious University abroad, they can never return home again. Their decision to pursue a Masters or Doctorate degree is a decision for exile, imposed upon them by Israel. Thomas-Greenfield left her home to pursue a Master’s Degree in Wisconsin, but the same degree is prohibited for a Palestinian student, by Israeli law.

By the time Thomas-Greenfield entered Louisiana State University, she was one of a small number of Black students and experienced racism personally.  Later, she went way North to University of Wisconsin, and we might think getting out of the Deep South would make life easier, but in reality some of the most racist White people live in the North.  Because they never attended school with Black children, worked alongside a Black co-worker, had a Black neighbor, and never sat next to a Black person in church; the unfamiliarity bred contempt of the unknown.

Palestinians are prevented from attending a school with a Jewish student. This segregation is a mirror of the experience of Thomas-Greenfield and other African Americans.  Both the Jews and the Palestinians are apt to prejudice, based on the fact they are prevented from learning, living and working together side by side.

The parents of Thomas-Greenfield raised a daughter who became a shining example of what is possible if given a fair chance.  It was the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other activists and political figures who laid the groundwork making it possible for Thomas-Greenfield to become the US Ambassador to the UN.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) said in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

“Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel’s political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel, even as it has grown more emboldened in its occupation of Palestinian territory and adopted some practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States,” according to Martin Luther King Global in 2019.

To honor MLK and his message, it is imperative to condemn Israel’s actions when violating international law, occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Followers of MLK must protest the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the routine searches of their homes and restrictions on their movements, and the severely limited access to decent housing, schools, food, hospitals and water.

In a statement delivered at the 1962 American Negro Leadership Conference MLK declared: “Colonialism and segregation are nearly synonymous . . . because their common end is economic exploitation, political domination, and the debasing of human personality.”

Nation-State Law passed by the Israeli Knesset declares, among other things:

“The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.

The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.

The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.

The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

A calling out of Israel as an international criminal in its illegal seizure of Palestinian territories, a recognition of its colonial, segregationist, and apartheid project, would be consistent with the teachings of MLK.

Palestinians are crowded into ghettoes and required to have “passes” for moving; there are separate roadways for Jews and Palestinians; Palestinians are deprived of their homes and lands, deprived of equal rights. This is against everything that MLK fought and stood for in life.

In March 2022, the UN labeled Israel as an Apartheid state. Nelson Mandela was prominent in the fight for Black rights in Apartheid era South Africa. Mandela carried the torch MLK lit in America.

South Africa’s apartheid state and the state of Israel are both ‘settler-colonial nation-states’, where full citizenship is enjoyed by the chosen nation – the settlers – and Indigenous peoples are denied their rights.

Apartheid is about race. The Jews see themselves as a superior race, and deserving of all human rights, while they view the Palestinians as sub-humans and deserving no human rights.

In 1962, Mandela was trained as an armed fighter, and became the first commander of a resistance group called uMkhonto we Sizwe, which eventually was successful and led to the downfall of the racist Apartheid state. Armed resistance to occupation is guaranteed by the Geneva Convention; however, targeting civilians is prohibited.

Thomas-Greenfield is an employee of the State Department, and while others there have complained about what Israel is doing in Gaza, and one employee resigned in protest, it appears Thomas-Greenfield is defending the Biden-Blinken policy to support the war crimes of Israel in Gaza.  She has lost touch with her ancestors who were as oppressed as the Palestinians.

Steven Sahiounie is a Syrian journalist living in Latakia.  He edits the Mideast Discourse News site, and is a 2 time recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

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