A reminder of how Palestinian and black social movements have historically viewed their oppression as intertwined.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) has come out in support of the protests over anti-police brutality in the US and offered its unwavering solidarity to movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM) in their struggle for justice.
The BNC is the largest Palestinian civil society coalition that works to lead the global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
In a statement on May 30, the BNC wrote: “We call on the Palestine solidarity movement in the US and elsewhere to stand with the Movement for Black Lives and other Black-led organizations in their righteous struggle for justice, and for an abolitionist approach to police reform, reparation, and liberation.”
“We endorse calls for targeted and strategic boycott, defunding and divestment campaigns against institutions, banks and corporations that are implicated in the system of racial injustice.”
Clear institutional parallels between Israel and the US were also drawn.
“As indigenous people of Palestine, we have firsthand experience with settler-colonialism, apartheid and racist violence wielded by Israel’s regime of oppression – with the military funding and unconditional support of the US government – to dispossess us, ethnically cleanse us, and reduce us to lesser humans.”
“Just as the occupying Israeli military forces serve to further entrench the apartheid system against Palestinians, the US police forces only serve to further entrench the system of American white supremacy and privilege.”
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, also expressed its “strongest support for the Black liberation movement and for the popular uprising that is currently confronting police violence, racist structures of mass incarceration, economic injustice and state repression.”
“We recognize that our liberation as Palestinians is bound together with the liberation of Black people and that our movement must stand clearly with the targets of US racism and imperialism, domestically and internationally,” it said.
The organisation went on to demand an end to all state violence against black people, called for reparations for crimes against black and indigenous communities, the release of all black political prisoners in US jails, and the dismantling of current structures of US policing – including an end to the “Deadly Exchange” between US and Israeli forces.
The Israeli military trains US police in racist and repressive policing tactics, which systematically targets Black and Brown bodies. The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are examples of racialized, systematized violence. https://t.co/DJ7T2qh6RL— US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (@USCPR_) May 28, 2020
A historical alliance
These statements are just a reminder of the history of shared transnational solidarity between Palestinian liberation and Black social justice movements.
Starting in the 1950s, there were indications that African-Americans had begun to link their activism to more global struggles, such as the plight of Palestinians.
Professor of History at Randolph-Macon College, Michael R. Fischbach chronicled this historical alliance in his book Black Power and Palestine, uncovering why black leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali came to the support of Palestinians.
Fischbach explored how two wings of the black freedom struggle – the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement – approached the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and interpreted the conflict in ways that reflected their own domestic fight for racial equality.
Fischbach argued that “Black Power activists identified with the Palestinian’s struggle against Israel, seeing in the former a kindred people of color fighting for freedom against imperialist domination.”
“This fit in with their own vision of identity and political action: an internally colonized people fighting to overturn a racialized system of oppression,” he said.
A new generation of civil rights movements have picked up where those from the 1960s and 1970s had left off.
The most visible expression occurred in 2014, during Israel’s assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,250 Palestinians, including 550 children, which coincided with the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of teenager Michael Brown.
That moment saw the hashtag #Palestine2Ferguson, displaying strong expressions of solidarity between the two causes.
In doing so, it brought renewed attention to connections between their intersecting oppression – like joint training between Israeli forces that kill Palestinians with impunity and deadly US police violence against black people.
A report by Israel’s Reut Institute and the US-based Jewish Council for Public Affairs saw this joint-consciousness building as a worrying development.
It claimed these movements threatened to undermine the Jewish community and its support for Israel, calling it a “strategic benchmark in the evolution of anti-Israel agendas within intersectional spaces.”
In fact, BLM’s solidarity with Palestine was one of the driving reasons why the Israeli government and its lobbying arms worked hard to disrupt it, as revealed in The Lobby – USA, a four-part undercover investigation by Al Jazeera.
As Black America seethes today in the face of police killings and a racialised criminal justice system, that historically shared political analysis and mutual solidarity have again become visible.
Not long after George Floyd was publicly slain by an officer in Minneapolis, a 32-year-old disabled autistic man, Iyad Halak, was killed by Israeli police.
Taken together, their deaths highlighted parallels between the two struggles.
Eyad and George were victims of similar systems of supremacy and oppression. They must be dismantled.— ThePIPD (@ThePIPD) May 31, 2020
Palestinian Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.
It is time for justice. pic.twitter.com/EoE0opIKiR
In response to Floyd’s murder, artist and activist Lina Abojaradeh visualised the connective tissue between different forms of oppression.
View this post on Instagram
#TOwardTOmorrow @toward.2030 #SDG10 #SDG16 This drawing is my way of calling out against Inequalities, as well as demanding a future that holds Peace, Justice and Strong institutions. I challenge Ahmad, Janna and Bayan to join this art challenge. As an artist and activist, I had to draw something in response to the murder of George Floyd. I stayed up all night to finish this, and couldn't help but think of how connected different forms of oppression are. The black man choked to death, the Palestinian worshipper being imprisoned, the indeginous native women facing violence... It is all rooted in the settler colonialism mentality, and in the deeply systematized belief of the supremacy of one race over another. I wanted this drawing to convey power, and so the fisted hands symbolize our fight for every single lost live in this war against oppression. #BLACKLIVESMATTER #FreePalestine #NativeLivesMatter #PoliceBrutality #Occupation #ICantBreathe #GeorgeFloyd #activism #blacklivesmatter #policebrutality #supremacy #racism
“The black man choked to death, the Palestinian worshipper being beaten, the indigenous native women facing violence…it is all rooted in the settler colonialism mentality, and the deeply systematized belief of the supremacy of one race over another,” she said.
The BNC concluded: “We can’t breathe until we’re free from oppression and racism. #BlackLivesMatter”.