A stack of signs from the Palestine Contingent to Ferguson October. Photos of a Palestine2Ferguson sign at the main march during Ferguson October. (Photo by Christopher Hazou)
Over 1,000 Black activists, artists, scholars, students, and organizations have released a statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.” The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. 40 organizations signed, including the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.
The statement debuted Tuesday afternoon on the website of Ebony, the largest Black publication in the US.
“We urge people of conscience to recognize the struggle for Palestinian liberation as a key matter of our time,” the statement asserts. It also calls on the US government to end diplomatic and economic aid to Israel, for Black and US institutions to support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law, and for supporters of Black and Palestinian liberation to target private security company G4S for boycotts and divestment.
Over the past 15 months, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United Methodist Church,United Church of Christ, and Columbia University have all divested from G4S following pressure from Black and Palestinian human rights activists.
“G4S harms thousands of Palestinian political prisoners illegally held in Israel and hundreds of Black and brown youth held in its privatized juvenile prisons in the US,” the statement reads.“The corporation profits from incarceration and deportation from the US and Palestine, to the UK, South Africa, and Australia. We reject notions of ‘security’ that make any of our groups unsafe and insist no one is free until all of us are.”
The statement represents a bridge between the current generation of Black activists and those who participated in the movements of the 1960s and 70s. Other signatories include the Black Panther Party’s Minister of Culture Emory Douglas, former SNCC chairman Phil Hutchings, as well as Kwame Somburu and Emeritus Professor Charles E. Simmons. Hutchings, Somburu and Simmons were all signatories of a 1970 ad in The New York Times of Black activists and scholars in support of the Palestinian struggle against Zionism and the occupation.
Over 330 current students signed, including Black or Afrikan Student Unions at Columbia, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Yale, and the Stanford NAACP Executive Committee. 150 scholars and 220 artists signed the statement as well. People have signed onto the statement from 25 different countries, 37 U.S. states, and the District of Columbia. Ten current political prisoners signed the statement, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, Ayyub Abdul-Alim, and Shaylanna Luvme.
The statement comes in the wake of a year of high-profile expressions of solidarity between Black and Palestinian people that began last summer with the simultaneous unfolding of Israel’s killing of 2,200 people in Gaza and the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri following the police killing of Mike Brown.
Since last August, a delegation of Palestinian students has visited Black organizers in St. Louis, Detroit, and Florida among other locations. The Florida-based group Dream Defenders voted to unanimously endorse the BDS movement at its December congress, just weeks before bringing a delegation of activists from Florida, Ferguson, and Black Lives Matter to Palestine.
“We’re at a crucial moment in the global struggle against racism, in which the Black and Palestinian struggles play a crucial role,” said statement co-organizer Kristian Davis Bailey. “We wish to send a loud and clear message to Palestinians, as well as the governments of the US and Israel that now is the time for Palestinian liberation, just as now is the time for our own in the United States.”
Statement co-organizer Khury Petersen-Smith said that justice for Palestinians is not simply limited to ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“The foundation of the Israeli state came through the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and every day since has involved oppression and violence toward the Palestinian population, both within and outside of Israel’s recognized borders,” Petersen-Smith said. “While there are differences between Israel and the US, we see parallels with a country that was founded on the enslavement of Black people and where anti-Black racism remains at the heart of US society centuries later.”
Bailey said he hopes the statement reaches widely within Palestinian society and encourages more constant interaction between the two movements: “Now is the time for us to re-educate our communities about the struggles the other group faces. Now is the time for us to unite across borders. Together we will achieve our liberation.”
The past year has been one of high-profile growth for Black-Palestinian solidarity. 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. Palestinians on Twitter were among the first to provide international support for protesters in Ferguson, where St. Louis-based Palestinians gave support on the ground. Last November, a delegation of Palestinian students visited Black organizers in St. Louis, Atlanta, Detroit and many other cities, just months before the Dream Defenders took representatives of Black Lives Matter, Ferguson, and other racial justice groups to Palestine. Throughout the year, Palestinians sent multiple letters of solidarity to us throughout protests in Ferguson, New York, and Baltimore. We offer this statement to continue the conversation between our movements:
On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.
We can neither forgive nor forget last summer’s violence. We remain outraged at the brutality Israel unleashed on Gaza through its siege by land, sea and air, and three military offensives in six years. We remain sickened by Israel’s targeting of homes, schools, UN shelters, mosques,ambulances, and hospitals. We remain heartbroken and repulsed by the number of children Israel killed in an operation it called “defensive.” We reject Israel’s framing of itself as a victim. Anyone who takes an honest look at the destruction to life and property in Gaza can see Israel committed a one-sided slaughter. With 100,000 people still homeless in Gaza, the massacre’s effects continue to devastate Gaza today and will for years to come.
Israel’s injustice and cruelty toward Palestinians is not limited to Gaza and its problem is not with any particular Palestinian party. The oppression of Palestinians extends throughout the occupied territories, within Israel’s 1948 borders, and into neighboring countries. The Israeli Occupation Forces continue to kill protesters—including children—conduct night raids on civilians, hold hundreds of people under indefinite detention, and demolish homes while expanding illegalJewish-only settlements. Israeli politicians, including Benjamin Netanyahu, incite against Palestinian citizens within Israel’s recognized borders, where over 50 laws discriminate against non-Jewish people.
Our support extends to those living under occupation and siege, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the 7 million Palestinian refugees exiled in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The refugees’ right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.
Palestinian liberation represents an inherent threat to Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, an apparatus built and sustained on ethnic cleansing, land theft, and the denial of Palestinian humanity and sovereignty. While we acknowledge that the apartheid configuration in Israel/Palestine is unique from the United States (and South Africa), we continue to see connections between the situation of Palestinians and Black people.
Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US, including the political imprisonment of our own revolutionaries. Soldiers, police, and courts justify lethal force against us and our children who pose no imminent threat. And while the US and Israel would continue to oppress us without collaborating with each other, we have witnessed police and soldiers from the two countries train side-by-side.
US and Israeli officials and media criminalize our existence, portray violence against us as “isolated incidents,” and call our resistance “illegitimate” or “terrorism.” These narratives ignore decades and centuries of anti-Palestinian and anti-Black violence that have always been at the core of Israel and the US. We recognize the racism that characterizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is also directed against others in the region, including intolerance, police brutality, and violence against Israel’s African population. Israeli officials call asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea “infiltrators” and detain them in the desert, while the state has sterilized Ethiopian Israeliswithout their knowledge or consent. These issues call for unified action against anti-Blackness, white supremacy, and Zionism.
We know Israel’s violence toward Palestinians would be impossible without the US defending Israel on the world stage and funding its violence with over $3 billion annually. We call on the US government to end economic and diplomatic aid to Israel. We wholeheartedly endorse Palestinian civil society’s 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and call on Black and US institutions and organizations to do the same. We urge people of conscience to recognize the struggle for Palestinian liberation as a key matter of our time.
As the BDS movement grows, we offer G4S, the world’s largest private security company, as a target for further joint struggle. G4S harms thousands of Palestinian political prisoners illegally held in Israel and hundreds of Black and brown youth held in its privatized juvenile prisons in the US. The corporation profits from incarceration and deportation from the US and Palestine, to the UK, South Africa, and Australia. We reject notions of “security” that make any of our groups unsafe and insist no one is free until all of us are.
We offer this statement first and foremost to Palestinians, whose suffering does not go unnoticed and whose resistance and resilience under racism and colonialism inspires us. It is to Palestinians, as well as the Israeli and US governments, that we declare our commitment to working through cultural, economic, and political means to ensure Palestinian liberation at the same time as we work towards our own. We encourage activists to use this statement to advance solidarity with Palestine and we also pressure our own Black political figures to finally take action on this issue. As we continue these transnational conversations and interactions, we aim to sharpen our practice of joint struggle against capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and the various racisms embedded in and around our societies.
(View list of signatories here.)