Palestinian Americans Take the Lead

Against the Current No. 213, July/August 2021

Malik Miah

Hundreds participated in the May 16 Nakba march and rally in Dearborn, Michigan. Barbara Barefield

LED BY PALESTINIAN Americans and especially young organizers, support for resistance to Israeli occupation is growing, as solidarity from other groups such as the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired them to stand up.

Many American Jews have joined the protests, including supporters of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Supporting full equality for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, JVP is the only major U.S. Jewish group to support the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

Marches and rallies in solidarity with Palestine have stretched from California to New York. May 15 marked the 73rd anniversary of al-Nakba or “catastrophe” in which more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven from or left their homes during the war that created the state of Israel.

A rally held in Santa Rosa, the heart of California wine country, was sponsored by the North Bay Coalition for Palestine. Reported by the local Press Democrat, speakers called for justice.

Voices from Marchers

“We are here because we are human beings who care about the suffering of other people,” said Therese Mughannam. She was born in Jerusalem before the British withdrew from Palestine and the creation of the Israeli state.

Protesters in many cities showed up with handmade signs, marching and chanting through megaphones their solidarity with the Palestinian community. As reported by CNN, one protester said: “I definitely feel that the tide is turning in the American public. I feel that we have a lot more support from individuals that are coming out to our protests, that are joining us. They have begun to see Palestine and the liberation of Palestinians as another social justice cause that they should be concerned about.”

Another Palestinian activist added, “I’ve seen on social media like a huge shift of support towards Palestinians. I think what’s really different this time is that people’s communities have grown and expanded and so have our definitions and concepts of liberation. I just want people to know that Palestinians are human beings just like anyone else in this world and we deserve our right to self-determination.”

Adil Abbuthalha, 23, grabbed his camera and made his way to downtown Sacramento, California on May 16, motivated to march the streets of the state’s capital in solidarity with Palestinians, he told CNN.

“As a Muslim, our prophet teaches us that humanity is like a body — when one-part hurts, the rest of the body hurts,” he said. “The unity we saw, regardless of religion or ethnicity, it speaks volumes for the people in Palestine.”

Demonstrators filled the steps leading to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Black and Brown Coalition of PHL told CNN that protesters marched from Rittenhouse Square Park to the museum. Many Palestinians had participated in the Black Lives protests in 2020.

Supermodel Bella Hadid, of Palestinian heritage, attended a  New York City protest. “The way my heart feels. To be around this many beautiful, smart, respectful, loving, kind and generous Palestinians all in one place… We are a rare breed!!,” a caption on one of Hadid’s Instagram posts read. “It’s free Palestine til Palestine is free!!!”

Rehma Mohamed, 26, joined a big protest in Dallas, Texas. She said she’s never seen a turnout like this before. “I’ve attended every Palestine protest in Dallas, and even during the war in 2014 … the turnout was only in the hundreds.”

Febi Ramadhan, 27, and his wife, Annisa Mawarni, 25, took to the streets of downtown Chicago and posed for a photo with handmade signs.

“I was saddened and enraged by these continuous acts of violence, and I participated in the rally in downtown Chicago to fight together with Palestinians against this pogrom until the liberation of Palestine actually happens,” Ramadhan told CNN.

BLM Stands with Palestinians

Black Agenda Report (BAR) senior columnist Margaret Kimberley wrote of the freedom struggle: “There aren’t many issues which clearly and unequivocally delineate right from wrong. The question of justice for the Palestinian people and their right to be protected by international law is one which gives no wiggle room for ifs, ands, or buts. Israel’s apartheid system is of such long standing and is so brazen that millions of people feel not only outrage but an insult to their own personal integrity and now speak up though they once demurred.”

;“We understand that the liberation of Black people in the United States is tied to the liberation of Black people all over the world, and tied to the liberation of oppressed people all over the world,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter.

“Being in solidarity with the Palestinian people is something that’s been part of our work as Black Lives Matter for almost as long as we’ve been an organization.”

Reuben Telushkin, a Jewish African-American and organizer for JVP, attended the mass rally and march of the Arab-American community in Dearborn, Michigan on the day of Biden’s visit. Telushkin was quoted by Julian Borger in The Guardian (May 21, 2021) about how Palestinian and Black activists linked up around the Black Lives Matter actions.

“People were connecting in the streets, connecting online and so pre-existing solidarities were deepening,” as well as politicizing previously uninvolved folks.

In the Ferguson, Missouri 2014 protests, “Palestinians were demonstrating their solidarity by sending tweets to protesters in Ferguson about how to treat teargas.”

Blood on Biden’s Hands

President Biden, like former presidents Trump and Obama, has come under protest and pressure from Palestinian American and their allies because of the U.S. government’s total support to the criminal acts of Israel.

Biden’s pledge to defend Israel’s “right of self-defense” over occupied people who have no air force, no real military for protection from Israeli bombs, is like saying that slaveholders had a “right of self-defense” as they beat and lynched slaves who dared to revolt.

Biden has blood on his hands. But some in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, led by Rashida Tlaib from Detroit, the only elected Palestinian congresswoman, have begun speaking out about Israel’s oppressive system.

Historically in South Africa, apartheid wanted Blacks separated into Bantustans. Today’s eviction of Palestinian homeowners in Jerusalem, leading to the current resistance and war, is a continuation of the historic Zionist goal to remove and replace Palestinians from all the land Israel occupies.

Protests will continue. The example of the 2020 mass protests against police violence lives on.

The truths about Israel and U.S. policy are beginning to be told because of the resistance shown by Palestinians around the world. Self-determination and in the end a secular democratic state can be won.

July-August 2021, ATC 213

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