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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Silent Museum: Palestinians and Black Americans face similar challenges

UH student, Kareem Hlayhel, stands for the oppression of the black community and the unjust occupation of Israel. | Thom Dwyer/The Cougar

On Thursday, members of the Black Student Union (BSU), NAACP, Students of East Africa (SEA), and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) stood in Butler Plaza to protest police brutality in the United States and Palestine.

It was deemed a Silent Museum as protesters placed tape over their mouths and held signs to let the facts speak for themselves and to show how their narrative has been silenced. The point they hoped to get across is that there are many commonalities between what Black Americans and Palestinians face as a result of their skin-color and their racialized existence.

Since 1948, Palestinians have lived under the longest standing military occupation in the world and have faced waves of ethnic-cleansing by Israel that has forced many Palestinians to flee to Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Living under an apartheid regime, Palestinians that remain have their movement restricted by checkpoints that cover the length of the West Bank, in a situation akin to the Pass Laws that Black South Africans once suffered under the Apartheid South African regime.

With shootings of innocent Palestinians occurring on a daily basis, collective punishment on Palestinian villages, and the shared phenomenon of mass-incarceration, the protest shows that there is a need for international solidarity and the need to connect broader struggles in order to fight against state-violence.

Violence against Black Americans is well documented yet unrelenting. In 2017 alone, at least 223 Black Americans were killed by police forces. Even after all the protests that have followed since the murders of names that have become hashtags, the state refuses to cease in its criminalization of the very act of being Black.

What Black Americans and Palestinians face are forms of the same phenomenon: internal colonialism. The relationship between both populations and the state is essentially colonial due to the history of colonialism being not only a violent one but one that exploits both in the formal-economies as much as possible; while simultaneously dispossessing both from the most essential aspect of life, access to land and resources.

This can be plainly seen in the gentrification of Black neighborhoods to make room for affluent white Americans and the destruction of Palestinian homes in their native villages to make room for Israeli settlements.

The argument that the shared struggle between Palestinians and Native Americans has more in common than with the history with Black Americans, due to histories of settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing, misses a crucial point: The history of indigenous ethnic cleansing and slavery is part-and-parcel of colonization because one necessitated the other.

Any honest history of the Americas, from Alaska to the Patagonia, makes this point crystal clear.

While formal colonization has ended, these new forms of internal colonization continue to destroy the lives of Black Americans and Palestinians. It is for these reasons that Palestinians were the first to tweet advice to Black Lives Matter protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, on how to combat the effects of tear gas.

They knew how to deal with the effects not only because they suffer daily from Israeli-state violence but because they were the same tear-gas canisters fired at Palestinians and were produced by the same company.

Deepening the similarities, police departments in the United States, from St. Louis to Houston, have trained with the Israeli military on repressive tactics, racial profiling, surveillance and shoot-to-kill practices. While it may seem surprising that local police forces are training with a foreign military, one needs to only consider how militarized the police forces are in the United States compared to the rest of the world.

It is for these reasons that the Black and Palestinian students stood together in a display of solidarity. They understand that the ties that bind both struggles can be broken when we join hands and fight for freedom.

Brant Roberts is a history senior and can be reached at [email protected]

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