Ali Abunimah Activism and BDS Beat 27 August 2015
Israel advocates are alarmed by growth in Black-Palestinian solidarity. (Sarah-Ji/Flickr)
Palestinians have welcomed the declaration signed by more than 1,000 Black activists, artists and scholars in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
This comes as an Israel lobby group is expressing concern at the growing cooperation between Black activists and Palestinians.
The statement, whose endorsers include scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, urges full support for the Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.
First appearing in Ebony earlier this month, the statement emphasizes “return to their homeland in present-day Israel” as “the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.”
Mahmoud Nawajaa, general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) said that the Black activists’ “support for BDS against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid is particularly inspiring as it translates principled positions into morally consistent actions that are capable of righting injustices.”
The BNC is the broad Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement.
“The US civil rights movement has always been a key inspiration for us in the BDS movement,” Nawajaa added in a statement from the BNC. “We are deeply moved by this powerful proclamation that evokes the spirit of that heroic civil rights struggle.”
Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, called the statement “a poignant testament to the organic links that connect the Palestinian struggle for self-determination with the struggle of the oppressed around the world, including ongoing struggles for racial and economic justice by Black people in the US and across the world.”
“Despite the obvious differences, there are compelling similarities between the forms of oppression that both Palestinians and African Americans live under,” Barghouti added. “Dehumanization, dispossession, racial injustice and discrimination, state violence, criminalization of entire communities and impunity are all key characteristics of the oppression faced by Black Americans and Palestinians.”
The Black activists’ statement calls for joint campaigns against G4S, the multinational security firm that works in Israeli prisons in the occupied West Bank and runs detention centers that are part of the US system of mass incarceration that targets people of color.
The Black activists’ statement – and the Palestinian response – represent the kind of solidarity that is ringing alarm bells in the offices of Israel lobby groups.
This week, the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) warned in a report that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) “and its allies continue to deepen their involvement with social justice-oriented organizations on campus.”
“This year saw efforts by anti-Israel groups to build coalitions with progressive campus organizations that deal with issues such as LGBT rights, fossil fuel divestment, private prison reform, racial discrimination and immigration reform,” the ICC report states.
In particular, ICC – which evidently closely monitors the Palestine solidarity movement – says it “observed strong ties between SJP and many African American student groups during the 2014-2015 academic year.”
“As recently as May 2015, SJP student activists were actively involved in Black Lives Matter-linked demonstrations,” it states.
ICC also notes an “increasing number of SJP-backed slates and candidates winning legislative and executive positions within student governments.”
“These candidates are running on platforms that call for reform on a wide range of social issues; BDS is now mentioned alongside other issues such as private prison divestment, minority rights and fossil fuels,” it adds.
But ICC assures Israel supporters that anti-Palestinian activists are “fighting back” by “forming coalitions to educate the broader campus community, and working to build support for Israel on campus.”
The Israel lobby group says that media reports alleging that BDS is taking over college campuses are exaggerated.
It warns, however, that “if the current trends on campuses nationwide persist, the result could be dangerously close to that reality.”