Source: In These Times
The statement revives the internationalism of the ’60s and ’70s, when black activists saw themselves as part of a global fight against Western colonialism
Long before the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson cop coincided with the bombing of Gaza by Israeli forces, there were parallels between the Palestinian and African-American freedom struggles. On Nov. 1, 1970, black activists published an ad in the New York Times titled, “An Appeal by Black Americans Against United States Support of the Zionist Government of Israel.” Signed by more than 50 writers, educators, students and union leaders, the statement opened, “We, the black American signatories of this advertisement, are in complete solidarity with our Palestinian bothers and sisters, who, like us, are struggling for self-determination and an end to racist oppression.”
When news reports last summer revealed that the tear gas canisters used by police to disband Ferguson protests were the same as those used by Israeli soldiers in occupied Palestinian territories, it boosted the connection—and led to a stunning public statement of African-American solidarity with Palestinians. The Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine was published in August, a year after the assault on Gaza. It defines the struggle for the “liberation of Palestine’s land and people” as “a key matter of our time.”
Co-author and Boston-based activist Khury Petersen-Smith was inspired when Palestinians produced two statements of solidarity with Ferguson and the black struggle in the United States. The gesture was well-received among black activists organizing against police violence, and Petersen-Smith saw an opportune moment to reciprocate. He also noted a growing willingness among prominent black intellectuals, such as Cornel West and Alice Walker, to express solidarity with Palestinians. So he hooked up with Kristian Davis Bailey, a Detroit-based activist who had penned a piece on Ebony magazine’s website titled “Why Black People Must Stand with Palestine.” Together, they composed the solidarity statement, which explicitly connects the African-American and Palestinian struggles:
Out of the terror directed against us—from numerous attacks on black life to Israel’s brutal war on Gaza and chokehold on the West Bank—strengthened resilience and joint struggle have emerged between our movements.
More than 1,000 black scholars, activists, students and artists and nearly 50 organizations have signed. Among them are names like Angela Davis, Cornel West, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Talib Kweli, and groups like the Dream Defenders.