Recently, I read an article called the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Palestine Solidarity by Matthew Quest, which summarizes the Party’s commonality with the oppressed people of Palestine. The BPP provided free breakfast for children, media that told the real stories of marginalized people, organization against police brutality, and free community health clinics.
Before reading this piece I would consider myself willfully ignorant of the Palestine struggle. I thought there is so much work to do within the black communities that we cannot focus on anything else. Then I asked myself one simple question: how could I consider myself a true progressive if I ignored the injustices of others? For the first time, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King really hit home for me:
Moreover, I am cognizant of the inter-relatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.
The injustices facing the Palestinians share the historical baggage of the systemic and racial oppression of the black people in our country. If you need more information in regards to the oppression in our country please google mass incarceration, food deserts and the school-to-prison pipeline as a start. Here are 3 reasons why Black Panther Party (1966-1982) and Palestine Solidarity is a concept that is still relevant today:
1. History Behind the Oppression of the Palestinian People
After the conclusion of the Holocaust, which killed over 6 million Jewish people and displaced millions more, Jewish people wanted their own country. Britain promised Palestine as the national home for the displaced Jewish people. However, the promise was made without consulting the Christian and Muslim people who were already living in Palestine. Oh and Britain had absolutely no right to the land to even make the promise in the first place. Once Britain made this agreement in 1948, the Zionist movement worked relentlessly to carry it out. Zionism is a nationalist political movement that advocates for the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland which is defined as the historic Land of Israel (a.k.a Palestine). Proponents of Zionism view themselves as a liberation movement for Jewish people to return to their homeland, but negating that it was done at the cost of complete genocide of the Palestinians.
2. “We Are Against the Government that Will Persecute the Palestinian People” – Huey Newton.
Huey Newton, co-founder of the BPP, believed that Palestinian people were the pioneers of liberating themselves from their colonial oppressors. With Jewish refugees relocating to their “promise land” of Israel many Palestinians became ethnically cleansed as a result. Israeli military have been forcing Palestinians off their land for almost 70 years by death, bombings, bulldozing, fear and many other forms of persecution. Huey Newton made it clear that the Black Panther Party was not against Jewish People but they were absolutely against the government that persecutes the Palestinian people.
3. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) Solidarity Statement For Palestinians
At the beginning of this month, a collective group called the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), made up of over 50 domestic organizations that advocate for the liberation of Black People in America, released a comprehensive 6 pointed platform that demands power, freedom and justice for the Black Community. The platform also recognized Palestinians and their long struggle of being murdered, incarcerated and displaced by the Israeli government.
Back when the Black Panther Party showed their solidarity with the Palestinian community, they made it clear that Black Americans shared a history of colonial and racial oppression with both Jewish and Palestinian communities. Several Jewish organizations felt attacked by the BPP making the assertion that Palestinians suffered the same struggle as Jews and the black community.
Ironically in 2016, when the (MB4L) acknowledged that Israel is an apartheid state committing genocide against Palestinian people, several Jewish organizations in the United States condemned the entire platform for its stance on Israel. These groups claimed that the words “apartheid” and “genocide” were too harsh and would’ve been in complete agreement with the platform if the movement had left Israel out of it completely. I want to ask them, is an unarmed black person’s life lost at the hands of police brutality worth more than an unarmed palestinian’s life lost at the hands of the Israeli government?
With that being said, several Jewish organizations have made public statements denouncing the Movement for Black Lives and any individual or organization that supports it. Yet, in the same way Jewish organizations denounced the BPP’s public solidarity with the Palestinians in the era of the civil rights movement. Whichever wise person said history repeats itself was definitely not lying.
The Congressional Research Service’s estimate of US aid to Israeli (not adjusted for inflation) from 1949 through 2014 was $121 billion. The Palestinians do not have an army, airforce or a navy to protect themselves from the Israeli government. No matter how you flip the coin this is a war on unprotected people and our tax dollars are helping to fund it.
The BPP’s public solidarity with the Palestinians over 50 years ago is just as important as the Movement for Black Lives’ public solidarity with the Palestinians today.