Israel Or Palestine? Do Black People Have A Stake In the Conflict?

July 31, 2014  |  

There has been an interesting discussion brewing on social media about the extent in which black folks, specifically, should involve themselves in the protests over the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

For those who are in need of a quick catch-up when it comes to the conflict, here is a brief yet effective summary – although I would suggest doing your research. For the rest with a more fluent understanding of the origins of the conflict, I’m curious to hear where you stand on the issue?

In terms of mainstream media, there does appear to be a clear bias in favor of Israel, and indirectly, the U.S. government’s justification of why Israel’s aggression is warranted. On the other hand, some media outlets that cater to a predominately African American audience have leaned in favor of Palestine. Well, most black voices anyway. One such dissenting voice is Kola Boof, novelist, womanist and probably the trillest person on the Internet.

Seriously, this woman gives zero fucwitables. Anyway, a native of Sudan who watched her family be murdered in the name of religious conformity, Boof has been especially agitated lately about Black Americans who an unwavering support of Palestine as well as the community’s peculiar kinship with the Islamic world in general. In a series of tweets and Facebook posts, Boof writes about how the black blogosphere has been holding constant vigil over how many bombs Israel is dropping on Palestine and yet they have been dormant and virtually missing in action about the inhumane and sometimes deadly treatment many black Africans face within the Middle East and in North African Islamic countries.

More specifically, she writes (and reprinted with her permission) on her Facebook Page:

I think Black American people tend to see Anti-Blackness and Racism as strictly WHITE and European phenoms. They don’t seem to know the intricate cosmology of say, ASIAN racial historical hatred for Blacks. They tend to think that ‘other colored people’ are in solidarity with them and don’t harbor the same racial animus that Whites do towards Blacks.

Personally, I think the lust for Light skin and “Good Hair” (the look of Arabs and other Colored groups) creates this myopic delusion by virtue of historic AA Colorism…..the underlying feeling that they’d rather be related to THOSE lighter/slicker haired colored people instead of the Charcoal Blacks in Sudan for instance. They imagine (romanticize) a bond with those other Colored people and try to claim “People of Color” as an Pan-African view totally ignoring the actual history of say INDIA where the caste systems prohibited and outlawed Blackness.”

Boof is not the only black writer as of late to go against the grain and question black folks’ alliance with the Palestini cause, and more indirectly, the Middle East. Blogger and grad student Chloe Valdary writes for about her angst in watching pro-Palestine student groups on college campuses “pilfer” the legacy of the black civil rights movement for what she calls “a repugnant agenda.” She also alleges that many black civil rights leaders had – all in her words – been zionists, including Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, A. Phillip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., so I guess all black people have to be zionist – or else they will not be considered black anymore…I don’t know.

But she further writes:

You see, my people have always been Zionists because my people have always stood for the freedom of the oppressed. So, you most certainly do not get to culturally appropriate my people’s history for your own. You do not have the right to invoke my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes and you do not get to feign victimhood in our name. You do not have the right to slander my people’s good name and link your cause to that of Dr. King’s. Our two causes are diametrically opposed to each other.

Your cause is the antithesis of freedom. It has cost hundreds of thousands of lives of both Arabs and Jews. It has separated these peoples, and has fomented animosity between them. It has led to heartache, torment, death and destruction.”

There is little debate about the agitation, oppression and violence against black Africans throughout the Middle East throughout history. And if there is debate, let me show you this link, which offers a quick read on the history of the Islamic slave trade in Africa. Or perhaps this recent article by Saad Salloum, which highlights the failed and tragic story of a Black Iraqi, who fought to get anti-discrimination laws on the books in hopes of protecting the former 400,000 descendants of black slaves (enslaved by Islamic traders) from the rampant racism – only to be assassinated. Yes, while black Americans in particular were petitioning and protesting against the U.S. government on behalf of the Iraqis, many of those same people were complacent in the bigotry of their own Black countrymen.

Or you could consider how during the time that Black America, or in particular, Louis Farrakhan, was getting misty-eyed about Muammar Gaddafi being overthrown, just a couple of years before that, he was inking deals with European nations to help them in their quest to stop Europe from turning black. Most of those Africans who ended up in Gaddafi’s care were abused and beaten. And now that tensions in that region have cooled a bit, a report by Amnesty International shows how even to this day, thousands of sub-Saharan Africans in Libya are still subjected to horrid conditions, discrimination, arrests and eventual indefinite detention, including children.

From Saudi Arabia to even Palestine itself, it would seem that the plight of the black African (insulted with the term Abeed) in the Middle East and North Africa is indeed a burdensome one. However, the Islamic world isn’t the only place harboring anti-black sentiment.

It was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who once called the 60,000 African migrant workers ‘infiltrators’ and a threat to Israel’s Jewish social fabric. Not to be outdone, it was the far-right Israeli politician, Miri Regev, who called African immigrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, a “cancer” to the society. And despite being the first country to recognize South Sudan, Israel continues to harass and deport South Sudanese migrants, including children, back to conflict zones.

Also, strong anti-black sentiments were also witnessed a great deal during the 2012 protest for a stronger Israeli immigration policy, which left dozens of African migrants seriously hurt. And earlier last year, the Israeli government finally owned up to giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrant women birth control injections, which in many instances led to sterilization and which many suspect is why the Ethiopian Jewish population in Israeli has declined by almost 50 percent over the last 10 years.

So as we see, life for a black person on either side of the debate, is pretty messed up. However, Kristian Davis Bailey writes in a post for Ebony entitled, Why Black People Must Stand With Palestine, another reason to consider alliance with the Palestinian cause is this:

I learned how the police brutality African Americans and other minorities face in the US is directly tied to violence in Palestine. Since 2001, thousands of top police officials from cities across the US have gone to Israel for training alongside its military or have participated in joint exercises here. Just weeks before Oakland police violently broke up an Occupy rally, they had trained with repressive forces from Israel and Bahrain. In Georgia in 2006, a 92-year-old black woman was shot and killed by Atlanta police who had participated in an exchange program with Israeli soldiers on counterterrorism and drug enforcement. Our governments literally share resources and tactics with each other that directly harm our respective communities.”

Proving once again that an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. And it goes without saying that those “injustices” everywhere else, always seem to eventually find themselves at the foot of black people. Still, a part of me is wondering if black folks are just choosing to support those who hate us the least and whether or not it would be in our best interest to not have an opinion at all?

Honestly, I don’t know which side of this debate I will land, but what say you? Should black folks in particular choose sides in the Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip or should we hang back and let people work it out for themselves?


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