* Organizer for New Jersey Solidarity and Al-Awda
* Co-chair of National Lawyers Guild’s Middle East Subcommittee
* Former leader of Rutgers University’s Palestine Solidarity Movement
* Believes that Israel has no right to exist
* Says that Israeli children are “legitimate” targets for Palestinian suicide bombers
* Considers the U.S. to be a racist, imperialistic nation
Born in 1981, Charlotte Kates is an organizer with Al-Awda’s New York chapter and with New Jersey Solidarity-Activists for the Liberation of Palestine. A member of the Communist party since age 13, Kates identifies Lenin’s State and Revolution as her favorite book. In 2006 she graduated from Rutgers University Law School, where she was a campus leader of the Palestine Solidarity Movement. Today she co-chairs the Middle East Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild.
Known for her open and virulent hatred of Israel, Kates once authored, for the Rutgers University newspaper The Daily Targum, an op-ed piece which she originally titled “Israel has no ‘Right to Exist.’” The editors, seeking to minimize controversy, retitled her piece “Palestine Roots in Land Proven Through History.”
In December 2002 Kates penned a CounterPunch article titled “Tension on Campus,” where she proudly took credit for having helped to create an environment at Rutgers “where it is, indeed, uncomfortable to declare oneself an unequivocal supporter of an oppressive, racist state” like Israel. “May the tension continue to escalate,” she said, “and the [Palestinian] movement continue to grow, until it is recognized not as tension but as an irresistible force for global justice.”
While organizing a Palestine Solidarity Conference at Rutgers, Kates told a reporter: “Israel is an apartheid, colonial settler state. We’re opposed to the racism and apartheid in Israel, and we believe no state has the right to be a racist state.”
In September 2003 Kates told the New York Times that “apartheid states” such as Israel “have no right to exist.” Two months later she publicly declared that Israeli children were “legitimate” targets for Palestinian suicide bombers. On November 26, 2003, she participated in an Ohio Sate University conference where she joined other radical activists in advocating the destruction of Israel “by any means necessary.” Kates attended that conference wearing a feather boa and a kafiyah — the headdress popularized by Yasser Arafat.
A frequent guest speaker at anti-Israel events, Kates sometimes holds or waves a PLO flag while she addresses her audience. She has spoken at divestment conferences along with such notables as Tariq Ali, Anthony Arnove, Hatem Bazian, Richard Becker, Mahdi Bray, Sara Flounders, Larry Holmes, Joseph Massad, Carl Messineo, Elias Rashmawi, Lynne Stewart, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Isma’il Kamal of the Muslim Students Association, Eyad Kishawi of the Free Palestine Alliance and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Brian Flanagan (a former member of the Weather Underground and Students for a Democratic Society), and Al-Awda officials Reem Abu-Sbaih and Rima Anabtawi.
According to Kates, New Jersey Solidarity calls for the end of U.S. aid to Israel, but takes no position on what she terms “Palestinian resistance” activities such as suicide bombings.
Because the United States is Israel’s most important ally and protector, Kates detests America. She depicts the U.S. as an oppressor nation with an insatiable lust for world dominance. In one fiery speech, she condemned Israel and the United States jointly:
“Our troops are Hezbollah. Our troops are the Palestinian resistance. And we do support our troops and we will struggle and we will build our resistance here until all of Palestine is free, until not one more cent of our money goes to fund genocide, until not one more U.S. bomber or U.S. soldier stands in Iraqi streets and stands in Afghan streets.”
On another occasion, Kates conflated Israel’s alleged mistreatment of Palestinians with what she depicted as America’s hostility to nonwhite minorities:
“People around the world will continue to stand with the Palestinian people until every one of the 7 million Palestinian refugees in the world can return to their original homes, lands, and properties; until every inch of Palestine from the river to the sea is free and liberated. And until in our own [American] cities, the people of color are free to walk the streets and live … without fear of murder … End racism. End colonialism. End Zionism. Free Palestine.”
When Kates alluded to the so-called right of the Palestinian refugees to “return” to their homes in Israel, she was referring to those Arabs who voluntarily (for the most part) left their homes when the 1948 Arab-Israeli war commenced. They sought out safe haven during what they anticipated would be a brief war that the Arab invaders would undoubtedly win, and they fully expected to return to their homes once the fighting had stopped and the Jews had been defeated. Instead, the Arab armies were beaten. Today Kates and other Palestinian advocates call for the readmittance not only of the relatively few remaining survivors who were among the 725,000 original refugees, but also for the admittance of more than 7 million of their descendants. The incorporation of 7 million Arabs into Israel would render the Jews a permanent minority in their own country, and would thus spell the end of Israel. Kates fully understands this, and that is why she has made it a fundamental demand.
In September 2007 Kates accused Israel of engaging in “psychological tactics” of “torture” in an “attempt to break [Palestinian] prisoners’ spirits: threats to family members, the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, loud music, light.” “It’s very similar,” she said, “to what the U.S. has been reported to engage in at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.”
Calling the Guantanamo Bay detention center “a prison camp for the international political prisoners of the U.S.,” Kates asserts that “political imprisonment is nothing new here [in America]. There are many political prisoners, from Mumia Abu-Jamal and other veterans of the Black Liberation Movement to the Puerto Rican Liberation Movement and other struggles for social justice.”
Vis a vis America’s war on terrorism, Kates asserts, “The bloody trail that the U.S. leaves behind it is global terrorism. The so-called War on Terror is a War of Terror on liberation and democracy.”
Kates condemns the “U.S. imperialism” that “wages war on the Arab world, invades and occupies Afghanistan, continues an occupation in Iraq that has brought about the deaths of over 650,000 Iraqis as well as several thousand U.S. soldiers, funds a war on Palestine, funds and arms Israel’s war on Lebanon, threatens Iran, and attempts to criminalize all resistance to its rule as it imprisons thousands around the world, kidnaps and ‘renders’ people to countries where they will be interrogated under torture, and holds hundreds of men at Guantanamo Bay in an international symbol of the apparent impunity of U.S. imperialism and its brutality.”
Citing what she views as some of America’s chief domestic ills, Kates wrote in April 2007:
“Millions of people in the United States have no health care, and costs of education have been skyrocketing increasingly out of reach for many. Youth of color in U.S. cities are put on a fast track to criminalization, targeted by often-brutal police and introduced at a young age to the world’s largest prison system. Women’s rights are increasingly under attack, while … immigrants … have been targeted for severe repression…. [T]he right to dissent is under attack, as the [Bush] administration seeks ever-increasing authority to spy on citizens … [and] attempts to sell its bankrupt policies to the people of the United States through scare tactics, racist manipulation, and repression.”
In an April 2007 article in ZMag, Kates defended Sami Al-Arian (the onetime North American head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad) as a “political prisoner” and “an exemplary founder and leader of community institutions that provided immense support to the strengthening of the Muslim community in Florida.” She lamented that Al-Arian had suffered “persecution” by “those in power” who sought “to criminalize resistance and punish Palestinian activism.” She also defended Mazen al-Najjar, Al-Arian’s brother-in-law, who was arrested and deported on the basis of evidence that he was supporting terrorism.
Kates is an Organizing Committee member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.