Birmingham honors Angela Davis after Israel lobby sabotages award

Angela Davis (Russell Tribunal)

Angela Davis says she is “stunned” at the decision of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama to revoke a human rights award it was planning to give her at a gala next month.

In a statement on Facebook, the iconic Black intellectual and activist said that the BCRI “refused my requests to reveal the substantive reasons for this action,” but that she “later learned that my long-term support of justice for Palestine was at issue.”

Reaffirming her “support [for] Palestinian political prisoners” and “opposition to policies and practices of the state of Israel,” Davis added that the rescinding of the award and invitation to speak was “not primarily an attack against me but rather against the very spirit of the indivisibility of justice.”

Davis said that the trip to Birmingham to receive the BCRI award was to be the “highlight of my year,” but despite its cancellation she would still travel there next month “for an alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us.”

The grassroots coalition organizing the alternative event represents a broad array of city organizations and leaders.

Organizers of the initiative held a press conference Wednesday to express their support for Davis.

“Absolutely embarrassing”

The BCRI’s decision is generating a growing backlash.

On Tuesday, the city council in Birmingham, Alabama, unanimously adopted a resolution “recognizing the life work of Angela Davis” – an implicit rebuke to the BCRI.

Davis, who suffered incarceration and political persecution for her support for Black liberation, grew up in Birmingham’s Dynamite Hill, a neighborhood that got its name from the frequency of bombings and violent attacks targeting its residents by white supremacists.

City council member Steven Hoyt, who proposed the council resolution, told media that the institute’s move was “absolutely embarrassing.”

“Everybody respects her but us. In academic communities as well as society and various groups,” Hoyt added. “I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed to even serve in a city that would do that.”

On Monday, Black activists called for leadership changes and protests at the BCRI, an institution ostensibly established to honor and advance the cause of civil rights.

On Wednesday, the BCRI’s chair, vice-chair and secretary resigned from the board.

“As members of this board, we regret the circumstances surrounding the selection process regarding the 2018 Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award and the dissension this has caused,” they said in a statement.

Earlier, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin expressed his “dismay” at the decision to cancel the award gala, which he said came “after protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies.”

Local media revealed that pressure had come from, among others, the Birmingham Jewish Federation, a staunchly pro-Israel communal group.

On Wednesday, the news publication confirmed that the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center wrote to the BCRI to express “concern and disappointment” over the honor to Davis, citing her support for BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to pressure Israel to respect international law and human rights.

Davis is the second high-profile Black intellectual to be targeted by pro-Israel lobby pressure in recent weeks.

In November, Marc Lamont Hill was dismissed from his role as a CNN political commentator following an Israel lobby campaign of lies and smears misrepresenting a speech he made at the United Nations in support of Palestinian rights and BDS.

Temple University also faced pressure from the Zionist Organization of America to dismiss Hill as a professor – a step it has not taken amid warnings that this would violate Hill’s First Amendment rights.

Last June, the University of Vienna banned a public lecture by Dhoruba Bin-Wahad after a smear campaign against the veteran Black American activist, author and former political prisoner, and against the Palestine solidarity groups co-sponsoring the event.

Punish and censor

The civil rights group Palestine Legal called the BCRI’s decision to rescind the honor to Angela Davis “the latest incident in a well-documented nationwide campaign to censor and punish critics of Israel.

“The pattern of censorship targeting Israel’s critics is already well documented,” Palestine Legal added.

“So are attempts by Israeli government officials to divide Black leaders and suppress those who draw connections between freedom struggles of Black Americans and Palestinians.”

This article has been updated since initial publication.




The just ideal of Israel of my youth is no longer. Sad.


Angela is on the moral side of this discussion. As Americans we have a right and obligation to call out injustice and acts against humanity when we see it in the world. Angela is justifiably critical of Israel's human rights abuses of Palestinians.

When a lobby of a foreign national power can silence anyone for criticizing their country it is patently un-American and dangerous to the well-being of the United States.

In acting in this manner, the pro-israel lobby is acting against the Constitution of the United States.

While Israel has the right to protect its borders, it should not have the right to abuse, steal from and humiliate Palestinians as a people. That Netanyahu won his last election on the promise that there would be no two-state solution while he was in office is a testament to his disinterest in peace and justice.

Angela Davis was and is a strong and courageous spokesperson for justice.


Steve, just which borders does Israel have the right to protect? The original 1948 borders created by the bestowal of Palestinian land by the British empire, land they had no right to bestow? At least, those borders contained the Zionist experiment and defined the areas that were to be a Palestinian state. Or do you mean the current de facto illegal borders that are continually encroaching upon Palestinian land, creating little pockets where Palestinians live and farm, surrounded by Israeli walls, Jewish only roads, and colonial settlements, eroding any and all possibility of any so-called "two state solution." The two state solution is gone. The only alternatives now are the current apartheid status or one free and open democratic state that does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or religion, with equality for all.


If the Palestine of the UN Partition Plan is dead because what the law said was to be Palestine was taken away unjustly and cannot be returned, and so justice cannot be found because lawlessness has supplanted lawfulness, which appears to be the case; how and by whom do you expect justice to be delivered now?
You and the movement you endorse propose to give the lawbreaker everything he wanted and surrender his victim to an army that's beaten, killed and humiliated him and his fathers and grandfathers. You will have him stand before courts that have whitewashed crimes against his humanity, the incessant theft of his legacy and have officially declared his kind second class citizens.
I'll ask it again; where are you saying justice can be found, if the best chances it could be are lost or ignored?


Now is the time that we must speak out for the defenders of justice and speak against the forces of evil who continue to bring pain and suffering to the Palestinians.


Now I see! We must contact the Justice League.


PS. Since Israel does not honor or respect its neighbor's borders, regularly violating international law and dismissing UN injunctions; since it encroaches on West Bank land, destroying villages, demolishing homes and farms; and since it repeatedly unleashes lethal weapons of mass destruction upon Gaza Strip with impunity, how can Israel claim its entitlement to protect its so-called "borders" which are fake borders after all.


There are no borders save the original States borders established by the UN. They only respect their own borders when they are forced to. They overfly Lebanon and break the sound barrier to annoy and intimidate the Lebanese. They come from Europe and America and steal the land of the natives who have lived there for a millennium, and brutalize anyone who opposes them. They aye treating their hapless victims as badly as the Nazis treated their Jewish citizens. Its the old generator of intolerance & hate, the abused becoming the abusers. Only the strictest international oversight of human rights abuses and war crimes can break the tragic cycle from repeating or becoming worse. The current generation of abusers now possessing nuclear weapons is a danger to every living being. Time to think of means to stop the cruelty and murder before it destroys us all.


Interesting Article:
Aletho News - The War On Populism - by CJ Hopkins.

"We'll get back to the war on terror - eventually, as the war on populism is just a temporary rebranding of it. In the end it's all the same counter-insurgency
. When a system is globally hegemonic, as our current model of capitalism is, every war is a counter-insurgence (i.e., a campaign waged against an internal enemy), as there are no external enemies to fight. The "character" of the internal enemies might change (e.g., Islamic terrorism - extremism - fascism - populism - Trumpism - Corbynism - et cetera) but they are all against the hegemonic system ... which, in our case is global capitalism - not the United States of America."

This is a great article.

When there is no game to play we will invent on & play for all we are worth.


Give thanks to Southern Jewish Life and the Israel Zionist lobby for displaying the paternalistic bigotry and arrogance in telling black folks who they may or may not listen to or award.

This backlash will backfire, igniting the communities, especially black communities , to re-evaluate the racist relationship with the pro Israel lobby, awareness of Palestinian genocide and the leaders of the various black communities who kow tow to AIPAC and others.

The liberation struggle of Palestine is a commonly shares struggle with the black community.

We are not respected by Israel's supporters but held in contempt, following 350 years of abuse.

Give thanks to the Israel lobby for showing their hate toward Birmingham's black community and thanks to them for add another bit of solidarity between black people and the people of Palestine.

To Israel's supporters, black folks ARE NOT you slaves, dogs or servants!!

Palestine WILL be free- in THIS life!!


The Israeli government is no friend to the Black community in the U.S. or in Israel. It is time we get this apartheid government out of our pockets, decision making, and way of life. We are Americans. We are not Israelis.


Readers, please support EI. If it were not for EI this struggle for Palestinian freedom and self determination would not be widely known and shared.

I am making a renewed commitment to contribute as best I can. Spread the word to support the Electronic Infitada.


Palestine Legal: “So are attempts by Israeli government officials to divide Black leaders and suppress those who draw connections between freedom struggles of Black Americans and Palestinians.”

You don't need to connect two dots that have the same coordinates. When you visit the apartheid state of Israel, you are welcomed at gunpoint by Israelis at the Jordan border, and a huge Hollywood-like star of david is emblazoned on a hillside. "welcome to Israel", it says, and roads are Jews only. That's the West Bank, future "Palestine". Everything they are doing to Palestinians is worse than South Africa and they are such experts at it that THEY ARE TRAINING US POLICE who GUN DOWN our own Black citizens here in the US.

The question is not where do the circles intersect, or the "connections drawn". The question is how far is the US going to follow Israel in this 180-degree turn toward persecution, incarceration, segregation, murder, and apartheid racist treatment of our Black citizens, and how far are all of us going to go to support that disease in Israel? They should be following us in recovering from it. We should not be following Israel in returning to it.


All very inspiring. But opposition to powerful national minorities, made up mostly of people following their convictions, in complete ignorance of their wrongheadedness and the evil driving them, requires a people's Marshall Plan. Not only great numbers, proliferation and coordination but a global crossroads where groups and individuals that can't see eye to eye in many ways and who may even perceive each other as the enemy, are forced to confront injustices in a moral and ethical common.
That was the place we built alongside Israel. Unfortunately, as time marched on and Israel absorbed Palestine and our attention, that place was disintegrating. It lost it's allure to progressives - here in the US anyway - and it's historical significance faded as it was whored by pimps for unjust national agendas. It became unfashionable the way government has with this national populist trend. Our youth became fascinated with the moral purity of anarchism and came to regard the UN in a similar way to John Bolton; just a debating society for the old and out of step.
In its place we have fragmented justice movements who see their differences as of more concern than uniting against a common enemy. At the UN a liberal Zionist and a BDS advocate are forced to grapple with real solutions to real problems together, not just plead their case to themselves.
There has to be a global consensus against the US economic war on poor and it has to have some teeth, even if their a little worn.