Palestine Unbound: Black-Palestinian Solidarity

Screenshots from the video “When I See Them, I See Us.” Dream Defenders. (14 October, YouTube)

On 18 August, over one thousand black activists, scholars, artists, students, and organizations released “Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine,” expressing solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation. The list of signatories included Angela Davis, Cornel West, Talib Kweli, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. The statement was published one year after Israel’s fifty-day war on Gaza and the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri (see Palestine Unbound, Killing Me Softly).

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Activist and journalist Kristian Davis Bailey encouraging others to sign the Black for Palestine statement. (17 August, Twitter)

First published by Ebony, the statement reaffirmed the signatories’ “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.” Linking Israel’s imprisonment of Palestinians with the mass incarceration of black citizens in the United States, Black for Palestine noted that “police and soldiers from the two countries train side-by-side.” In conclusion, the statement called on the U.S. government to end aid to Israel and endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) call against Israel. The statement specifically suggested G4S as a “target for joint struggle” in the BDS campaign. The largest private security company in the world, G4S, provides technology to prisons in the United States and Israel that incarcerate Palestinian political prisoners and black youth.

Leaders of the Palestinian BDS National Committee welcomed the statement. The movement’s cofounder, Omar Barghouti, emphasized that the statement was a “poignant testament to the organic links that connect the Palestinian struggle for self-determination with the struggle of the oppressed around the world, including ongoing struggles for racial and economic justice by black people in the U.S. and across the world.”

In addition, more than sixty black and Palestinian activists and artists launched a collaborative video project just two months later. Featuring Alice Walker, Lauryn Hill, Rasmea Odeh, Danny Glover, Remi Kanazi, Angela Davis, Dream Defenders cofounder Ahmad Abuznaid, and Cornel West, among others, the Black-Palestinian Solidarity video was produced by Palestinian activist and assistant professor of law at George Mason University Noura Erakat. In an interview with AJ+, Erakat explained that “The point is not to compare oppression. . . . But the point here is that solidarity is a political decision on how to resist and how to survive in our respective fights for freedom.” In the same interview, Kristian Davis Bailey, coauthor of the video’s script and co-organizer of the Black for Palestine statement, pointed to the parallels between the two communities. He explained that each is “fighting really large systems of racism, militarized control, and state control. And we also see that violence against us is justified at the same time that our protests are criminalized or demonized.”

Published in each issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies and updated regularly on Palestine Square, this section strives to capture the tenor and content of popular conversations related to the Palestinians and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Increasingly, these conversations are held on new and dynamic platforms unbound by traditional media. Therefore, items presented in this section are from a variety of sources and have been selected because they either have gone viral or represent a significant cultural moment or trend.

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