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Black solidarity with Palestine is rooted in shared struggles against oppression. Examine historical ties, key events, and the enduring fight for justice and equality.

Black Solidarity with Palestine Rooted in Shared Struggle Against Oppression

By Darius Spearman (africanelements) | June 2, 2024

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Shared Struggles Connect Black and Palestinian Activists

Black activists have long viewed their fight against racism as connected to the Palestinian struggle for freedom. They see parallels between the systemic oppression, state violence, mass incarceration, and denial of basic rights that African Americans and Palestinians face. The crisis in Gaza, with countless lives lost and many displaced, has heightened this sense of shared struggle (SOURCE: ReliefWeb). Black Lives Matter and other racial justice activists increasingly view Palestine as a core issue, seeing Palestinians as an oppressed people facing ethnic cleansing and apartheid.

Malcolm X and Early Black Support for Palestine

Black American solidarity with the Palestinian struggle dates back to the 1950s. Malcolm X first spoke out for the “Arab cause” in 1964 during his travels to Gaza, where he condemned Zionism as settler-colonialism (SOURCE: Middle East Eye).

“The Israeli Zionists are convinced they have successfully camouflaged their new kind of colonialism,” Malcolm X wrote in his 1964 essay “Zionist Logic.” “The ever-scheming European imperialists wisely placed Israel where she could geographically divide the Arab world, infiltrate and sow the seed of dissension among African leaders and also divide the Africans against the Asians.” (SOURCE: Middle East Eye)

He believed Black Americans “would be in sympathy with the Arab cause” (SOURCE: Yahoo News). This solidarity continues today, building upon the legacy of Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The Impact of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War on Black Activism

The 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, marked a crucial turning point. Black organizations like the SNCC and the Black Panther Party saw Israel’s occupation as another form of Western imperialism, drawing parallels to their own struggle against racial injustice in America (SOURCE: Duke University Press).

“We support the Palestinians’ just struggle for liberation one hundred percent,” the Black Panthers declared in 1970. “We will go on doing this, and we would like for all of the progressive people of the world to join our ranks in order to make a world in which all people can live.” (SOURCE: Tribune Magazine)

Black Activists and Anti-Colonial Struggles Worldwide

In the ’60s and ’70s, Black radicals supported anti-colonial struggles worldwide, seeing Palestine as part of this global fight. Figures like James Baldwin, Angela Davis, and Huey Newton framed support for Palestine as part of the battle against Western colonialism and imperialism (SOURCE: Duke University Press). The Black Panthers forged direct ties with Palestinian activists, meeting with PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1980 (SOURCE: Middle East Eye). Influential Black leftists like Angela Davis saw the Palestinian struggle as part of a broader movement against racism and colonialism globally.

Black and Palestinian Activists Forge New Connections

In recent years, personal relationships between Black and Palestinian activists have reinforced the sense of a shared fight against state violence and structural racism. During the 2014 Ferguson uprising, Palestinians shared advice on dealing with tear gas. Delegations of Black activists have traveled to Palestine, connecting the realities of Israeli occupation to their experiences of policing and incarceration in the US (SOURCE: Vox).

Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian Cause

The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of over 50 Black-led organizations, has spotlighted the Palestinian cause as essential to racial justice. In 2016, M4BL endorsed boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, reflecting the principles of internationalism and joint struggle (SOURCE: Jewish Council for Public Affairs).

Strengthening Ties Between Black Lives Matter and Palestine

Since the 2014 Ferguson protests, Black activists have increasingly connected the Palestinian struggle to their fight against racism. In 2016, the Movement for Black Lives endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, aligning with the legacy of activists like Malcolm X and James Baldwin.

“We know occupation, we know colonization, we know police brutality,” a Black Lives Matter organizer stated (SOURCE: AP News).

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped center Palestinian human rights as an urgent cause that intersects with the fight for Black liberation.

Global Solidarity for Racial and Social Justice

Inspired by the anti-colonial internationalism of earlier Black leaders, the bonds of joint struggle remain powerful despite the backlash. The crisis in Gaza has made acting on that solidarity vital, as African Americans heed Angela Davis’s call to “lift up the banner of Palestine” as part of a global struggle for freedom (SOURCE: Tempest Mag).

About the author

Darius Spearman has been a professor of Black Studies at San Diego City College since 2007. He has authored several books, including Between The Color Lines: A History of African Americans on the California Frontier Through 1890. You can visit Darius online at africanelements.org.