The Pervasiveness of Race

July 22, 2009

Whilst the following news story (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/21/henry-louis-gates-jr-arrest-harvard) is not directly related to the Middle East I have decided to post it anyway because of a recent debate about racism and as it provides a convenient excuse to revisit the topic on this site. What this short news story suggests is that even though institutional and legally enforced racism is less pervasive today than in previous eras where the slave trade and European colonialism produced racist doctrines premised on the superiority of the white race, there is still a resilience to racial stereotyping and more subtle forms of racism in the US, at least. I would argue that subtle and insidious forms of racism remain pervasive in the modern world more widely than just in the US . The harsh reality is that racism is as pervasive internationally as it was a century or so ago when W.E.B. Du Bois suggested that the issue of race relations would be a defining motif of the twentieth century. The events of the twentieth century have shown us how prescient Du Bois was and how relevant his comments remain as we enter into a new millennium. Today, racial differences (ethnic and religious differences as well) continue to shape the world we live in.

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Astonishing European court ruling on boycotts of Israeli goods

July 20, 2009

The Jerusalem Post reports on an astonishing decision closing off yet another non-violent effort to exert pressure on Israel to end its brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine. Excerpt and link to original news report below.  I wonder when we can expect the North Korean, Iranian, Zimbabwean and Sudanese challenges to boycotts on the grounds that they are discriminatory?

Despite its long history of supporting Israel in defiance of multiple U.N. resolutions, somehow I can’t imagine that a ruling like this, which declares that it is neither illegal nor a violation of one’s freedom of expression for France to fine someone from calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, could ever be passed in the U.S., where freedom of expression is so central to the American political imagination — or at least it was during the Cold War, when freedom of expression was said to be what fundamentally distinguished America from the Soviet Union.

Jerusalem Post Jul 20, 2009
European court: Israel boycotts are unlawful discrimination

By HERB KEINON

Israel finally won one last week in an international human rights court. On Thursday, the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights upheld a French ruling that it was illegal and discriminatory to boycott Israeli goods, and that making it illegal to call for a boycott of Israeli goods did not constitute a violation of one’s freedom of expression.

The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg, has some 47 member states and is independent of the European Union. The court is made up of one judge from each member state, and the rulings of the court carry moral weight throughout Europe.

On Thursday the court ruled by a vote of 6-1 that the French court did not violate the freedom of expression of the Communist mayor of the small French town of Seclin, Jean-Claude Fernand Willem, who in October 2002 announced at a town hall meeting that he intended to call on the municipality to boycott Israeli products. …

–L.L. Wynn