By Bill Fletcher Jr.
Knowing of my concern about justice for the Palestinians, a friend sent me a link the other day regarding Palestine and Black America. The essence of this piece is the author’s allegation that Palestinians cannot and should not compare their struggle to that of the African American struggle for justice. Actually, there is nothing new in this piece. Those who oppose justice for the Palestinians regularly drag out quotes from various historic African American leaders in order to attempt to make their case. While this may sway some people, it does not settle the matter of whether comparisons of the Palestinian situation and that of African Americans are legitimate.
To consider such comparisons you have to look at a few things. Let’s start:
• Beginning in 1947, Palestinians, including Christians and Muslims, were removed from land that they had inhabited for thousands of years. The Palestinians, by the way, had not just appeared in that portion of the Middle East in the recent past. It is now clear that, genetically speaking, the Palestinians have their roots in the ancient Hebrews.
• With the establishment of Israel in 1948, a dual system was implemented that, among other things, permitted the expropriation of Palestinian land for alleged security reasons. The land was not returned to the Palestinians.
• A dual educational system was established, with Palestinian citizens of Israel receiving inferior and poorly funded education.
• Israel has held onto land that it captured in the June 1967 war in violation of international law, resolutions and precedent. It then began a process of settling the land, again, in violation of international law.
• The Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have absolutely no security, with their homes subject to being destroyed or seized, and their land divided. The creation of the so-called Security Wall does not conform to the 1949 Armistice line but goes through Palestinian territory, frequently cutting off Palestinians from their own land.
• Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot settle in Israel with a Palestinian spouse who comes from the Occupied Territories.
• Israel refuses to accept the right of return for Palestinians who were driven from their land–or vacated their lands ‘temporarily’ (they hoped)–in the 1948-49 war or the 1967 war. Again, this violates international law.
So, the question is really who or what does this sound like? Does this sound like the workings of a democracy? Or, in the alternative does it sound more like the experience of Native Americans in the U.S; African Americans in the Jim Crow South; and Africans in apartheid South Africa?
The Palestinians have the right to compare their struggle with ours based on the profound similarities in experience. This is not a matter of rhetoric or sleight of hand; it is about history and current reality.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies. He can be found on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.