Black American activists have delivered a powerful message to Palestinians and other oppressed communities around the world: you are not alone in your causes.
Of all the discussions I ever had about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, undoubtedly the most engaging ones were with delegations of black Americans who visited the region to learn firsthand about Palestinians in the occupied territories, inside Israel, and in refugee camps. These groups – made up of community organizers, students, journalists, judges, and others – not only found commonalities with the experiences of Palestinians, but shared their own lessons of struggle against racism, state violence, and inequality.
The “Invest-Divest” chapter of the platform of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) is an outcome of that growing exchange between black Americans and Palestinians. The chapter, which partly addresses foreign policy concerns in various countries, outlines clear and practical ways for Americans to help in ending the Israeli occupation. These include engaging the Leahy Law to withdraw military aid for human rights violations; campaigning against private security companies like G4S; and fighting state legislation aimed at silencing BDS activism in the U.S.
The platform’s alliance with the Palestinian struggle – including its support for BDS, which was founded by a Palestinian civil society coalition much like the M4BL – has raised the public profile of the Palestinian cause at a very critical time. The political leaderships in Palestine, Israel, and the U.S. have shown little will or legitimacy to make progress in the conflict, leaving grassroots and civil society movements as the only agents actively challenging the worsening status quo. Thus by including their cause among their international priorities, black activists have delivered a powerful message to the Palestinian people: you are not alone in your struggle.
At the same time, the M4BL arguably overstepped its position when it used the word ‘genocide’ to describe Israel’s oppressive policies toward Palestinians. The problem here is not mere semantics and arguments over definitions. Many people like myself have lived and learned alongside survivors and descendants of survivors of genocides in Sudan, Rwanda, Armenia, and the Holocaust, to name a few. For all the crimes that Palestinians are subjected to, placing our situation on the same pedestal as history’s most egregious and murderous atrocities gives us an unwarranted exceptionalism which, in my view, undermines the transnational consciousness that we are trying to promote. The M4BL is certainly right to...Read More