Before we begin, I want to acknowledge that I am sitting on LennI Lenape land, on Turtle Island; this acknowledgement must be the place we start from, to address the contradictions we are discussing this evening.
As our session is discussing the negative effects of zionism upon our African population, at home and abroad; I shall open with a couple of quotes from Nelson Mandela- now lionized as ‘a man of peace and compromise,’ but was a direct enemy of the west and its allies, placing him on the U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008.
“If one has to refer to any of the parties as a terrorist state, one might refer to the IsraelI government, because they are the people who are slaughtering defenseless and innocent Arabs in the occupied territories, and we don’t regard that as acceptable.”
“The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine…we can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face…yet we would be less than human if we did so…it behooves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice…”
We must be incredibly discerning, and we must educate ourselves before we stand in favor, or against a political force or movement. We must never, as Mandela also spoke about, think of the enemies of the west as our own enemies. If one’s political analysis regarding injustice in the U.S. is not tied with whatever injustices occur for the people of Palestine, then one must recognize how myopic that analysis truly is. Or, as I’ve once written in an essay, “If you claim to have supported all of these social justice movements and yet currently disagree with the fight for Palestinian people’s self-determination by any means necessary, then you must ask yourself if you actually support social justice movements, or a certain, hygienic perception of it.”
As each of us is working to find our place in this world, we may gravitate toward an ideological perspective or analysis that ties in with our particular worldview at any given time. If the perspective or analysis is again, myopic; we may view our own struggles singularly, and disregard past and present mass liberation movements ultimately connected to said personal (or domestic) struggles, leading us to think others’ struggles are antithetical to our own.
An example of this myopia is the sentiment that the struggle for Palestinian liberation is not our struggle as African people, not only because ‘we must deal with problems locally before we can focus on international issues’; but also because ‘Arabs don’t like us.’ You can guarantee that a person who thinks in this way has very little historical or anti-imperialist analysis built into the work they do.
While the position is naive at best and injurious at worst; even if one claims to view the genocide of Palestinian people as insignificant (in comparison to what’s happened to our African relatives and ancestors in both the past and present), it would take a certain level of apathy to ignore the inextricable link of material realities we share with our Palestinian comrades.
The economic, ideological and state-sanctioned violence doled out to the masses share stark similarities; from economic and educational disparities, ‘urban renewal projects’, to police terror.
As many of us watch in dismay the destruction of housing and hospitals at the hands of the IsraelI Defense Forces and the displacement/ethnic cleansing of a people; as we see and hear prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasize the “need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future,” we can point to the role of government-sanctioned land acquisition, or eminent domain, in the displacement of African families in the U.S. Universities and hospitals could uproot self-sufficient communities at the behest of the government, as long as the families were compensated. While someone’s immediate reaction may be, “Well, at least they were compensated,” no amount of compensation could replace the years of cultural connections and community building. It’s also crucial to consider that said compensation most likely was not an adequate amount to be able to move forward in sustainable ways. Examples of eminent domain would be the uprooting of Linnentown in Athens, Georgia in the 1960s, where the University of Georgia built the Russell Hall, Creswell Hall and Brumby Hall campuses in its place; as well as Portland, Oregon between 1971-1973, where 171 houses were destroyed in order to accommodate the building of an extension of Emanuel hospital. This extension was never built (due to funds running out), and promises of new houses being built to replace the ones which were destroyed were never fulfilled. It’s also important to note that Oregon was the only state constitution, upon its formation in 1859, to have ‘Black Exclusionary laws’ built into it. ‘Asian Exclusion laws’ were also included. The exclusionary laws were initially passed on June 26, 1844, prior to becoming a state. Included in the first of these laws was the prohibition of free Africans moving into Oregon County. if this law were to be violated, the person would receive “not less than twenty nor more than thirty-nine stripes.” Despite slavery being outlawed in Oregon County, forced labor was still a policy as a move from the distributing of lashes. After the period of enslavement, the enslaved African would be removed from the county.
Just as the IsraelI Defense Forces (or the IDF) are considered an occupying force, police presence (which is increasingly comparable to an actual military force) in the U.S. is also considered an occupying force, in the heaviest-survilled areas. The more militarized the police become, the more the masses will be perceived as hostile enemies of the state, and in some cases, enemy combatants.
One of the few who were sentenced for the murder of a person whose punishment was far worse than the perceived crime they committed- and I say ‘perceived,’ because the notion of crime in this country is constructed by a model that benefits those who have access to the most capital- Many began to tie Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd in 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to the collaborative exchange programs that have existed between Israel and police forces in the U.S.
The Minneapolis Police Department’s policy on neck restraints is described as a “Non-deadly force option. Defined as compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints.” While Minneapolis has had policies regarding Conscious and Unconscious Neck Restraint on the books for years, these exchange programs should never be discounted.
While the Anti-Defamation League (or the ADL) state they “stand in solidarity with the Black community who is yet again subject to pain and suffering at the hands of a racist and unjust system,” as well as “mourn for George Floyd, who was horrifically murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis,” the irony of this statement, amid the history of the ADL’s attacks and surveillance on anti-zionist Africans, and anyone organizing and mobilizing for Palestinian liberation should not be lost on anyone. This is very much like Google and Amazon saying ‘Black Lives Matter,’ while simultaneously contributing to the funding of policing logistics and infrastructure (via collaboration with formations like the National Security Agency, or NSA) to surveil protesters and communities.
And as they, like many, utilize the name Martin Luther King Jr. to hammer their point about opposing injustice, they ignore his anticapitalist and anti-imperialist analysis that would very much apply to the economic and physical violence that Palestinians experience daily.
Another aspect of the shared experiences of injustice between Africans, Palestinians (and the many other indigenous folks around the world) are educational disparities. Just as discussion of the humanity and culture of Palestinians (or the history of the formation of Israel and the mass displacement that occurred) are expunged/censored from school lessons (or on sponsored ‘Birthright’ trips) in Israel, the struggle for African liberation is pathologized and curated to see Africans as defined primarily by their painful experiences…. and even that is questionable, as we see some wanting to alter the language of forced labor as being equitable to employment. The opposition to Critical Race Theory (via lawsuits and laws across the nation), and the still-almost ubiquitous conditioned interpretation that racism is based on individual thought and action versus a system that holds root in particular laws and institutions is another way we can see these disparities playing out.
As a counter to the myopia many of us experience, it is crucial we emphasize collective struggle through organization and political education. It is crucial we learn about other struggles around the globe, and formulate united fronts to address these commonalities of oppression.
In theory, we understand oppression anywhere in the world to always have been historically destructive and disruptive; this myopia potentially looks at particular types of oppression as being monolithic though, when it is suitable for an argument.
While enslavement of a people anywhere is unconscionable, as Pan-Africanists, especially as we are in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, are sometimes asked why we do not emphasize the Arab slave trade, as Africans were the ones who were enslaved. The short answer is that the Arab (or any other form of) slave trade was not motivated by profit, nor was it motivated by the specificities of racism in the ways enslavement at the hands of Europeans were. As a rib under the umbrella of war, gender-based violence upon enslaved women did occur; we still see evidence of this in every era and iteration of war. Enslavement was also a rib under this umbrella, and to state that Africans sold other Africans to slavery in the same context of European-led chattel slavery is an, again, myopic misreading of history.
The experiences we face in this day and are are in no way shaped by an Arab slave trade. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was a foundation to the building of the United States. It is the bedrock of what capitalism and its various appendages of imperialism, neocolonialism, settler colonialism and fascism stand upon. Chattel slavery is firmly rooted in the structures of eminent domain, redlining, gentrification and subprime mortgages from banks- some, like Wells Fargo, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase and Barclays who profited off of enforced labor.
Because conversation around enslavement of African people tends to be concentrated around a particular point in time, wage slavery is something some unfortunately view to be a myth. Via his Green Book, Muammar GaddafI made an interesting observation regarding wage slavery: “Wage-earners are but slaves to the masters who hire them. They are temporary slaves, and their slavery lasts as long as they work for wages from employers, be they individuals or the state. The workers’ relationship to the owner or the productive establishment, and to their own interests, is similar under all prevailing conditions in the world today, regardless of whether ownership is right or left. Even publicly-owned establishments give workers wages as well as other social benefits, similar to the charity endowed by the rich owners of economic establishments upon those who work for them.”
In his defense of socialism as a solution to the ‘Economic problem’: “The human being is essentially, physically and emotionally, the same everywhere. Because of this fact, natural laws are applicable to all. However, constitutions as conventional laws do not perceive human beings equally. This view has no justification, except for the fact that it reflects the will of the instrument of government, be it an individual, an assembly, a class or a party. That is why constitutions change when an alteration in the instruments of government takes place, indicating that a constitution is not natural law but reflects the drive of the instrument of government to serve its own purpose.”
In his writings he also openly apologizes on behalf of his people for any involvement in the enslavement of African people. Utilizing principles of Pan-Africanism, he facilitated meetings with African leaders to forge a unified African economic system. In the prologue to the book of the relationship between Libya and the west (namely the U.S. and its acronymned imperialist appendage of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (or NATO)), the so-called ‘Black mercenaries’ alleged to be attacking Libyans have in turn been murdered, kidnapped and enslaved, once GaddafI and the people’s Jamahiriya could no longer physically hinder their preferred western hegemonic project.
As we must approach everything dialectically, while I will continually insist on it being a myopic perspective; it’s also understandable in some ways why anti-Arab sentiments exist among Africans, and why there’s somewhat of a universality around the thought that ‘Arabs hate us.’ If we are to observe what people such as Tunisian President Kais Saied have said without any ounce of class analysis, it would be easy to slip into a mode of essentialism. In February of 2023, Saied opined that immigration of ‘Sub-Saharan Africans’ was a conspiratorial plot to undermine a national Arab Islamic identity. “There is a criminal plan to change the composition of the demographic landscape in Tunisia and some individuals have received large sums of money to give residence to sub-Saharan migrants.” Echoing former presidents of France and the U.S. (not respectfully), Nicolas Sarkozy and Donald Trump, he equated what he considers to be these “hordes of illegal migrants” to be the source of “violence, crime and unacceptable acts.”
Without a class (or anti-imperialist) analysis, we see GB Group tycoon (and lone billionaire in Haiti) Gilbert Bigio, or some video of nightlife in SaudI Arabia as a representation of what ‘Arab money’ looks like. We don’t necessarily take notice of the exploitation one performs in order to have access to that amount of wealth, or that the Minister of Foreign Affairs (of also not-so-innocent Canada), sanctioned Bigio due to “illegal activities of armed criminal gangs, including through money laundering and other acts of corruption.”
That Arab people are a minority of the population in the Caribbean yet are said to be some of the most successful business owners is something that, again, may give one pause. Some of these shop owners both in the Caribbean (and in the U.S.) may have opened their shop from a petit-bourgeoisie position, with financial access to open it. It is when the shop owners enact racist or white supremacist behaviors or sentiments in the communities they open in, seeing the shop only as an investment versus a community resource is when it becomes a problem. It is when we equate the petit-bourgeois shop owner with the behavior of ALL Arabs that it becomes a problem.
In reality, there has been a fairly well-documented history on the solidarity between, and connection to, the anti-zionist, Pan-Africanist and anti-imperialist struggles. The Black Panther Party For Self-Defense was seen as a symbol of self-determination around the globe; from the Dalit Panthers in India, and the Black Panthers Organization in Israel, who utilized the name because they were aware of how incendiary it was considered to be by the zionists. Sa’adiya Marciano (of the Israel-based Panthers, also was an immigrant from Morocco) specifically and openly addressed what she viewed to be its shock value. Many in mass political struggles who appropriate the name ‘Black’ tend to not do it because of its racialized dynamics or categorization; similar to how we in the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party identify as Africans; the approach to utilizing ‘Black’ as an identity is primarily political and ideological.
The Black Panthers and The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (or SNCC) indeed have a history of anti-zionist principles. One of the connections the Panthers (in Israel) made was the support for FATAH (under the Palestinian Liberation Organization (or the PLO)). The biggest connection made between all of these liberatory struggles is the understanding of the land question. As Shirley Graham DuBois put it (while speaking to the liberation movements in Azania), “…South Africa and Palestine land some 3500 miles apart, but each the concern of the same imperialist interests – each sacrificed in the name of western peoples and British Empire building.” FATAH, in a 1969 message at the Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algiers, also gave recognition to our collective struggles: “On the map, there are two kinds of classifications; a geographical one and a political one in which the world is divided into only two major continents. All the forces of Revolution, Liberation and Justice stand against the forces of Colonialism, Racism and Imperialism. Africa on this map is a cause more than it is a continent. We, therefore came here as being a part of Africa the cause, although we are not from Africa the continent.”
In conclusion, I’d like to say that these struggles may be present until the day each of us leaves this earth; however, I am confident that through sessions such as these, as well as our in-person mobilization (and particularly organizational) actions and efforts, we will win. It is crucial that we continue to build this work so when our physical bodies eventually do pass beyond this realm, future generations are able to do even better with the work we’ve left behind.
I am grateful for this opportunity to participate in this session, and I hope I have contributed positively to it. Thank you so much, and forward ever!