Teaching life: Black freedom, Palestinian liberation

I am not writing this to provide fodder for the onslaught of Zionist and inherently racist rhetoric that is sure to accompany my words in the comments section once this is posted online. It is not that I don’t respect those who disagree with the basic aim of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which is “to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.” I simply cannot, as a black man in America, waste any energy engaging those whose denial of reality and the existence of white supremacist propaganda threatens my existence and the lives of countless others, including my Palestinian siblings in the struggle for earthly freedom and self-determination. I, like hundreds of students on this campus, am simply in the business of unapologetic truth telling. This is not the “Black voice” on the “issue” of Palestine — this is my Black voice on how Palestine is my issue.

To be Black in America is to both have your back used as a bridge and your bones used as toothpicks after colonial digestion of the displaced — to make sense of the nonsensical and wash away the deep imprint of history on the individual consciousness. Black people in the United States have always been towering trees with damaged, scarred roots, as the late political leader Marcus Garvey reminded us. To be Black and to be Palestinian are to be free with centuries of colonial imposed asterisks.

Black people in America and worldwide must reject the hegemonic white supremacist narrative that insists our continued oppression, co-option and mortality are isolated incidents. As the Black, radical activist Angela Davis said, “Once we know something, let’s not pretend we don’t know it.” Just as the racial hierarchy and all of its spoils, born from the greatest (slave) nation in the world, are not accidental, nor are the bombs dropped on schools in Rafah or the maintenance of hundreds and hundreds of militarized checkpoints throughout occupied Palestine. As a black American, not only will my silence, as Audre Lorde says, not protect me, but that silence is, in fact, a resounding endorsement of the same violence that continues to be visited upon my community, my body and the bodies of those I love.

While those that lead and benefit the most from the white supremacist state that is these United States of America have no incentive to advocate for the liberation of Palestine, black Americans are, as are anti-Zionist Jews, implored by our own histories to say, “or nah … not in my name,” with the aim of making visible the obfuscated connections between oppressions worldwide. Our oppression is not identical, yet our resistance is inextricably connected. This work demands that I refuse to engage in futile discourse and instead focus on subversive education of my self and of my community. To rupture the fear that there is not enough space or time or money or people to fight for revolution in every context is critical and, as a Black person, I cannot afford to buy into the myth that I am alone.

I am never alone. Neveen Jamjoum was never alone. Mohammed Abu Khdeir was never alone. Tamir Rice was never alone. We are and always have been united in our resistance to that murderous and malicious violence manifested in nation, in mob, in police officer and in wall. We are together, so let’s not pretend we don’t know it.

Let’s not pretend that we must prioritize speaking love and power to the oppressed bodies of some while neglecting others — being honest about the terror that millions contend with everyday is not an option. Let’s not pretend that violent resistance is a cause and not an effect. Let’s not pretend that Palestinians can refuse being bombed anymore than Blacks in the U.S can refuse being shot down like prey. It is our societal positioning that makes invitation or consent to this violence a blatant fallacy. Let’s not pretend that when little Black and Brown children are taken from their parents, their blood is not on the hands of the silent and supportive. Especially considering the work being done by paranoid Zionist lobbies like AIPAC to shore up support among Latinos and Black Americans for Israel’s crimes against humanity, it is imperative that I remind myself again and again: The oppression of Palestinians is, and always has been, a civil rights issue that demands my attention.

As a Black American, I am descendant of a people that have for centuries known resistance like the backs of their hands and the tips of their noses. Resistance is not an option, but how I choose to resist is. I choose to resist beautifully, paying close attention to the ways in which I am implicated in the erasure of others, and reminding myself that I am not the first Black man to wake up unsure of everything.

As Tufts’ Students for Justice in Palestine continues to provide a radically honest and approachable forum for discussing what Palestinian liberation means on campus during this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week, I urge Black students to learn more and embrace a politic that centers around narrative disruption, embracing resistance and radical realness over superficial comfort and accommodation of white discomfort. We cannot afford to get lost in neo-liberal rhetoric of respectability and co-operation.

Let me be clear: Those that stand in the way of Palestinian liberation, either through inaction or reinforcement of the settler-colonist’s narrative of symmetrical power and religious fanaticism are not allies to Black people, nor are they our accomplices in the dismantling of the post-colonial world.

I don’t care if you’re cute or vegan, or anti-nation, or a socialist, or voted for Jill Stein or that you listen to The Roots. If you’re not about my freedom (and Palestinian freedom, right now) then I’m not about you.

To resist truly is to love acutely, and Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadah summed up this sentiment beautifully when she said, “We Palestinians teach life … after they have occupied the last sky.”

We teach life … and don’t intend on stopping anytime soon.


29 Responses

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  1. Jay
    Mar 02, 2015 - 11:01 PM

    This is bad writing.

    • Yaj
      Mar 03, 2015 - 01:15 AM

      let me translate this: I can’t prove myself right anywhere in this.

  2. Matt
    Mar 03, 2015 - 05:28 AM

    Keep fighting for Palestinian rights. It’s important that we recognize that these people MUST gain their freedom.

    My position on the legal logistics of Israel and Palestine and rights of Israel well…hazy to say the least, I see two oppressed peoples forced to live in fear of each other and the world around them. But the state of Palestine today is simply unacceptable. Whether or not one recognizes Israel’s existence and rightful place in the world, without a free Palestine, there’s no separating the home of the Jews who desperately need it from the oppression of the Palestinians.

  3. Arafat
    Mar 03, 2015 - 08:47 AM

    You want truth? You want to educate people? You want to know why Israel is under siege and is forced to protect her people?


    The only way we can change this insane Islamic dynamic is by educating all people about Islam.

    Sadly our academicians, political leaders, main-stream-media, and the leftists all feed us lies and half-truths about Islam because it is not PC to speak the truth.

    And the truth is (and this comes from Muslim holy books, not from me) is that Mohammed was a sexual predator. He pillaged his way to great wealth. He murdered, or had his followers murder for him, he enslaved, his thirst for power was never satiated.

    If we quit pretending he is a prophet like Buddha, the Hindu Gods, Moses or Jesus then we are moving in the right direction. If we inform instead of misinform then we are moving in the right direction. AND if we insist Muslims also hear the truth AND create an environment where they can feel safe, instead of threatened, by leaving their supremacist religion then we are making progress.

    It is long past time we quit pretending Islam is like atheism, Christianity or any other ism other than Stalinism, Nazism and the
    like. As awful as it sounds – in today’s PC world – to write this it is nevertheless true. Islam has spread through brute force and it is doing the same thing today. Sudan’s been devastated, Mali is being devastated, Somalia is a violent anarchist state, Nigeria is succumbing to Islamic terrorism.

    For all our good – Muslims too – it is long past time we started being honest about Islam, learn about its prophet, and then we can
    begin to have an intelligent discussion about what to do.

    • Curious Muslim
      Mar 03, 2015 - 01:45 PM

      Arafat, it’s incredible how much time you have on your hands…

      I’m just curious, what do you think is the solution to this “Muslim problem”? You can’t convert us all – we’re the second largest religious group in the world, and the fastest growing. Kill us? Throw us in internment camps? It’s fascinating how you constantly refer to Nazi ideology when anyone criticizes Israel, yet your stance on Islam is so close to how the Third Reich felt about the Jews.

      How do you reconcile this hypocrisy?

      • Arafat
        Mar 03, 2015 - 02:09 PM

        The solution is simple: Education, honesty, openness, protection for Muslims who want to leave the shackles of Islam, the protection of journalists, politicians and others who speak honestly about Islam.
        It’s my belief that most Muslims would leave their religion in a heartbeat if given the chance. But since all Muslims fear leaving Islam thanks to Islam’s apostasy laws we do cannot know this.
        We need political leaders who will speak honestly about what is contained in the Qur’an and about Mohammed’s sadism and megalomania. We need educators to do the same. We need journalists who care more about honest reporting than about being the most PC journalist on the block.
        We need to create programs supporting Muslims who fear the ramifications of leaving Islam.
        If that sounds like the Third Reich to you than that says a lot about you and nothing about my proposals.
        “Allahu Akbar” they shouted out as they beheaded 21 Coptic Christians.
        “Allahu Akbar” they shouted out as the kidnapped 200 young Christian children.
        “Allahu Akbar” they shouted out as they burned caged Hindus alive.
        “Allahu Akbar” they shouted out as they flew planes into buildings.
        These are examples of genocide. The ethnic cleansing of all Chaldeans from Mosul is genocide. The continued torture, kidnappings and mass murders in Nigeria are examples of genocide. The murder of hundreds of thousands of Animists in Sudan is an example of genocide. The ethnic cleansing of all Buddhists from Afghanistan is genocide. The continued genocide of what little remains of the Hindu community in Pakistan is genocide.
        What is really “fascinating” is how Muslims like you turn the world on its head. American Muslims like you make George Orwell look naïve.

        • cam
          Mar 06, 2015 - 11:07 PM

          the Koran and the Torah agree more than they disagree. There are Buddhist terrorists in Burma, and they don’t even believe in an absolute right and wrong. We know that the Christian doctrine has been used to carry out more murder and abuse than any other. This is xenophobic nonsense, try to see the humanity in all people. http://www.countthekids.org/

          • Arafat
            Mar 06, 2015 - 11:27 PM

            Really? Is that why there are 1.4 billion Muslims but only 14 million Jews? Because their values are so similar?
            No, Cam, no. Islam is the only religion whose prophet practiced and preached violence against others. Name me one other religion whose prophet stole from the needy, slapped the other cheek, raped his neighbors and tortured and killed those who refused his religion.
            When Buddhists kill they are not honoring anything in their religion – they are behaving in ways that Buddha would have found unspeakable. When Muslims kill in the act of jihad they are promised virgins in paradise.

      • bruce
        Mar 04, 2015 - 09:13 PM

        To be clear–as a zionist, I disagree with Arafat’s characterization of Muslims. My assumption is that the majority of Muslims (like the majority of Jews and the majority of Israelis) simply want to live with their families and neighbors in peace. That is precisely why I stand against radical hate-based groups like Hamas.

  4. Arafat
    Mar 03, 2015 - 08:48 AM

    The Nazification of Israelis—and by extension Jews—is both breathtaking in its moral inversion and cruel in the way it makes the actual
    victims of the Third Reich’s horrors a modern-day reincarnation of that same barbarity. It is, in the words of Boston University’s Richard Landes, “moral sadism,” a salient example of Holocaust inversion that is at once ahistorical, disingenuous, and grotesque in its moral and factual inaccuracy.

  5. anonymous
    Mar 03, 2015 - 10:05 AM

    pure poetry

  6. Jidf Notmossad Shill
    Mar 03, 2015 - 10:40 AM

    I love how you refer to Palestinians as your siblings when they want you just as dead as any other American.

    • henry
      Mar 03, 2015 - 05:29 PM

      Excellent generalization that is unfounded and baseless.

    • cam
      Mar 06, 2015 - 11:03 PM

      ? ive worked at two palestinian refugee camps– no one wanted to kill me. Framing a whole group of people as being less than human (ie savages who love bloodshed) has a name.

  7. d
    Mar 03, 2015 - 04:01 PM

    So if I support civil rights for blacks in the United States, but disagree with what you have to say about Palestine and Israel, you can’t agree with that? It has to be both, or none? Since when are these issues mutually exclusive? What about all the pro-Palestine people that hate black people? What happens to them?

  8. A friend
    Mar 03, 2015 - 05:07 PM

    When did being Zionist and pro-Palestinian become mutually exclusive?

    • henry
      Mar 03, 2015 - 05:27 PM

      The definition of Zionism is to create a *Jewish* state in Israel. By definition that does not include the indigenous population of Palestine. Therefore, by being Zionist, a person is advocating for a country to be the homeland of a certain religious group, unwelcoming and at the expense of other groups- Palestinians (both Muslim and non-Muslim alike) included. How can one be a Zionist yet be pro-Palestinian when the former advocates for a state that excludes the latter?

      • A friend
        Mar 03, 2015 - 07:36 PM

        The definition of Zionism is to create a Jewish state *within* the historic Jewish homeland. That is why the Jews accepted the 1947 UN Partition plan for Palestine, in which the Jews were given a small sliver of territory on the Mediterranean, plus the largely uninhabitable Negev desert. They accepted the proposal for Jerusalem to be governed internationally. The Zionist founders of the State of Israel were willing to give up much of the land for the Palestinians to govern. Irredentism is an unfortunate aspect of all forms of legitimate nationalism; look at Hungary and Transylvania, Serbia and Kosovo, Spain and Gibraltar, etc. Just like Hungarian, Serbian, and Spanish nationalism, Jewish nationalism is a legitimate movement that should not be defined by *some* Jewish nationalists that promote expansion of Israeli territory. Two-thirds of Israelis, in fact, support a two state solution.

      • bruce
        Mar 04, 2015 - 05:31 PM

        Henry–so wrong. That is like saying because New Hampshire has a state, it must want to abolish and incorporate Massachusetts. Zionism means something different to each individual person who ascribes to it. By definition, it says nothing about the borders or extend of the Jewish homeland.

  9. Bobby
    Mar 03, 2015 - 08:30 PM

    I just wish people in the United States realize that jews literally control our control. 4/9 Supreme court justices are jewish. 3/4 major sports leagues have jewish presidents. Many ceo’s of news corporations are jewish and most hollywood producers (spielberg) are jewish. Most doctors are jewish and most lawyers are jewish. Many writers are jewish as well. People will read this and say “so what? its just a coincidence.” No, no… no…. Its not coincidence when jews only make up 2% of the population yet hold a significant portion of positions of power within the United States. People will say “wow, look at this anti-semite” but they only say that because I am right. Nothing i said is remotely negative, I just am saying jews control our country. Now personally, I dont like that. I think our country should be equally run by all faiths. But because of the fact jews do have so much power, our country will continue to support Israel and anger the rest of the world.

    • Eliza
      Mar 03, 2015 - 10:42 PM

      You ARE disgustingly anti-semitic. There is not “secret society” of Jews running the US and to say so is ridiculous and unfounded. Saying that “jews control our country” is a long-standing and harmful stereotype, and saying that IS EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE AND ANTI-SEMITIC.
      Anti-Zionist does not equal anti-semitic.

    • bruce
      Mar 04, 2015 - 05:34 PM

      Bobby–this is literal antisemitism. Also, what, lawyers and doctors are jewish, therefore the country is controlled by Jews? That makes no sense whatsoever. Not to mention, your theory only has any relevance if there were some coordination between each of these diverse, individual Jews, which is not the case. Antisemitic theorists espouse notions like that..

  10. Dubs Checkem
    Mar 04, 2015 - 11:54 AM

    Americans are making enormous strides, compared to how we were 150 years ago with slavery, 100 years ago with Jim Crow, 50 years ago with segregation, today with a black president and black representatives.

    America is still in a shitty place with race relations, but I’m truly excited for what we’ll look like in 50, 100, and 150 years from today. Our progress is generational, racism gets ostracized

    Racism in the Middle East is intense, a hundred fold what it is in the United States.
    A lot of these countries are almost entirely ethnically homogeneous, they don’t have the massive race struggle because their population has very little diversity. The Africans, Indians, and people from South East Asia they do encounter they treat like complete shit, basically in Slave conditions.

    Actual slavery of Africans in what is now Palestine didn’t end get abolished until 30 years after in the United States, and pretty recently they were still doing super racist shit in popular publications like comics of Condi and Obama as Monkeys.

    Forget actually being of African descent, dark skinned Palestinians face a ton of shit from their peers just for being dark Arabs, seriously, don’t just take my word for this, google this stuff. Read some articles. Despite being a fucked up place itself, there IS a racial divided ghetto in the Palestinian territories where it is only for blacks and dark skinned Arabs.

    How the fuck are these people your brothers and sisters? You’re looking at a conflict between two evils and arbitrarily picking one of them.

  11. bruce
    Mar 04, 2015 - 05:36 PM

    As another difference, the Palestinian people control territory (gaza) in which there are no Israelis, ruled by an organization whose stated mission is to destroy Israel, which uses billions of dollars in international aid to dig tunnels and purchase offensive weapons to attack Israeli civilian populations. Ignoring those distinctions prevents a real understanding of the situation.

    • cam
      Mar 06, 2015 - 11:14 PM

      and Israel uses its much larger military aid budget to blow up one of the most densely populated, and most impoverished, areas in the world. Likud’s charter is to settle all of Gaza– why do you see a difference?

      • bruce
        Mar 07, 2015 - 07:21 PM

        A difference between the struggle of african americans in the US versus hamas? see my comment above, the difference is clear.

        In terms of between Israel and Hamas–has Bibi ever said “I want to kill all the palestinians and push them into the sea”? Find me a quote, and ill change my view. In contrast, Hamas official statements say that regularly. So that is a difference in government policy. Keep in mind, Sharon was head of Likud, and unilaterally withdrew from Gaza.

        Also, see the inconsistency in what you’re saying. You’re saying israel has this massive military and wants to destroy gaza. But Gaza still exists. So either Israel is just really bad at planning military operations, or, in fact, its goal is NOT to destroy gaza, but rather to respond to attacks by Hamas (which fires rockets directed at utter non-military targets for the sole purpose of killing civilians). And, think about it–Gaza receives literally billions of dollars in international aid, yet remains impoverished. Where does that money go? The concrete largely goes to building offensive tunnels to attack israel. The money in large part is going to buy rockets from Iran to attack Israeli civilians. That doesnt sound like a government that cares about its people, or is even trying to make things better domestically.

        Again, as I have already said, I do think at times Israel’s strategy for dealing with hamas can be shortsighted and ultimately counterproductive. I think there needs to be a fundamental change in how things are done on both sides for the cycle to cease. But pretending Israel is the root of the problem, let alone the sole source of it, is just patently false.

  12. Trisha Ormond
    Mar 05, 2015 - 09:52 AM

    All of this is wonderful!

    In my opinion the two most important messages to hold and spread are…..

    The oppression of Palestinians is and always has been a civil rights issue that deserves my attention
    Embracing resistance and radical realness over superficial comfort and accommodation of white discomfort

    Thank you – please continue your inspiring work, spreading this important message in such a fluent and eloquent manner.

  13. truth speaker
    Mar 05, 2015 - 11:28 AM

    I was very saddened when I read that most black congressmen decided to walk out or not attend the Netanyahu speech. It reminded me of what happens in a school yard. A bullied student decides himself to bully someone perceived as an easier target. Blacks having suffered from terrible and completely unjustified biaese, have themselves found an easier target to bully.

  14. ID politics ruined the left.
    Mar 08, 2015 - 10:22 PM

    “I don’t care if you’re cute or vegan, or anti-nation, or a socialist, or voted for Jill Stein or that you listen to The Roots. If you’re not about my freedom (and Palestinian freedom, right now) then I’m not about you.”

    A.K.A. me me me me. This is why people are alienated by your shitty politics. I don’t oppose Palestinian liberation or anti-racism but holy fuck, the aggressive and individualist rhetoric is ridiculous. Go ahead, spew more slogans like “You’re policing my anger!!2121!1!12@@” Do something useful.

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