Black-Palestine solidarity is making its way to Capitol Hill

On May 13, something remarkable happened on the floor of the U.S. Congress: 11 Democratic representatives delivered blunt speeches criticizing Israel for its military assault on Gaza and its crackdown on Palestinian protests in Jerusalem. Perhaps the most powerful speeches came from two Black Congresswomen — Ayanna Pressley and Cori Bush — who connected the Black freedom struggle in the United States to the Palestinian movement for liberation.

“When Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets to demand justice, they were met with force,” said Pressley, who represents the Boston area in Massachusetts. “They faced tear gas, rubber bullets, and a militarized police just as our Palestinian brothers and sisters are facing in Jerusalem today.” Her fellow Congresswoman Bush, who represents St. Louis, Missouri, said “When heavily militarized police forces showed up in Ferguson in 2014… our Palestinian siblings showed up too.”

The speeches signaled the growing prominence of a small bloc of Black Democrats — which includes Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Ilhan Omar, in addition to Bush and Pressley — who are drawing on their support for the Black Lives Matter movement to denounce Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians. While there have been past Black Democrats who were openly critical of Israel — figures like former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney — the current crop of Black representatives are more robust in numbers and far more influential within the party and its base.

…Black solidarity with Palestine stretches back to at least the late 1960s, when Israel’s victory in the Six Day War transformed the country’s image in the eyes of Black American thinkers. While Israel was once seen as the product of a just national liberation movement, the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula soured leading Black activists on the Jewish state. In the eyes of the Black left, Israel had asserted itself as a colonial power unjustly oppressing the Palestinian people.

Famously, in a summer 1967 newsletter, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), one of the most prominent civil rights groups in the country, published an article portraying the Zionist movement as one that dispossessed the Palestinian inhabitants of their land using tactics of “terror, force and massacres.” Malcolm X, the renowned Black Muslim minister, visited Gaza in 1964, and penned an essay that year linking Zionism to European imperialism. In 1970, the Black Panther Party stated, “we support the Palestinians’ just struggle for liberation one hundred percent.” More here.

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