While much has been written about Obama's recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama's comparison of the situation in Israel to the civil-rights struggle has gotten less attention. The particular section was
After equating the creation of Israel with the American civil-rights movement, he went on to say this: “What is also true, by extension, is that I have to show that same kind of regard to other peoples. And I think it is true to Israel’s traditions and its values—its founding principles—that it has to care about … Palestinian kids.It is true that in the territory controlled by Israel, as was the case in the U.S. before the Civil Rights Era, there is a class of people who do not have a say in the governance in the state that most closely affects them. However, the pre-Civil Rights Era is not the only time in American history when this was the case. There was also the example of Reconstruction in which southern whites who had not taken an oath to obey the order being established by the North were denied a say in the governance of either the state or national government. While the Civil Rights Era's being in living memory makes it easier to relate to, this does not mean that Reconstruction is any less relevant as a lens through which to view Israeli-Palestinian relations.
One notable similarity between Israeli-Palestinian relations and Reconstruction which is different from the Civil Rights Era is that both Israeli-Palestinian relations and Reconstruction feature a reversal in the social order. For someone who never knew an era when Arabs dominated Jews, this might be hard to fathom, but the proper comparison here would be the situation that would have prevailed in the American South in the 1920's if Reconstruction had not been abandoned and the southern whites had maintained their irredentism for the old social order. In that counterfactual, the enfranchisement of southern blacks and disenfranchisement of irredentist southern white would be a reversal of the long ago, pre-Civil War, social order in which the blacks were chattel of the whites. This would be the case even though for someone who was not alive before the Civil War, the disenfranchisement of the southern blacks could seem like a capricious decision of an imperial force. Similarly, before the advent of Zionism, the social order of the Middle East clearly put the Jew below the Arab. To today's observers, it might seem that the Jews in Israel have imposed restrictions on the lives of the Palestinians among them out of nowhere because there is no living memory of the time when the social order was reversed. That viewpoint is as valid today as the viewpoint would have been regarding "arbitrary" restrictions on southern whites in the 1920's had Reconstruction been preserved until then.
A second difference between the Civil Rights Era and the struggle against Reconstruction is what happened at their conclusions. At the end of the Civil Rights Era, those who were previously oppressed made progress towards equality and did not turn around and do to their oppressors as was done to them. In contrast, the end of Reconstruction led to, with the exception of chattel slavery, the reinstitution of the social order that existed less than two decades prior. While we don't know the result of the Palestinians achieving their aims because they have not, and may it please G-d that they never do, achieved them. However, the indication of everything aside from their western directed taqqiya is that they would reinstitute the social order that existed prior to the first Aliya. However, it would not be sufficient for them to reinstate the Pact of Umar, it would be necessary to demonstrate to cost of abrogating it, as Abu Ishaq did in 1066. Mr. President, 1877 must not be allowed to repeat itself.