In an interview Christiane Amanpour conducted with Houston Police Chief on CNN, Art Acevedo stressed that kindness and solidarity should lead the way during these dark times, not ignorance.
Houston Police Chief @ArtAcevedo: “Let me just say this to the President of the United States, on behalf of the police chiefs of this country: please, if you don’t have something constructive to say, keep your mouth shut.” pic.twitter.com/z5AJpOO0RO
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) June 1, 2020
But will Acevedo agree that this kindness must include breaking the chains of complicity empowering racist ideologies from white-supremacy to Zionism? Will he feel the Palestinians’ immense pain and push to end Israeli and US military collaboration for the sake of all people at the receiving end of their brutality? Will he cut ties with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the deadly exchange of military services they manage between the US and our oppressor Israel?
His words will be merely a performance act if this kindness that he advocates for is not translated into meaningful change.
In December 2018, grassroots organising efforts, using Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) tactics, succeeded in forcing the Vermont State Police, Northampton and Massachusetts police chief to pull out of a police exchange program with Israel, managed by the Anti-Defamation League. This example should be reproduced all over the USA and beyond.
Connecting our struggles for a world revolution
To my black brothers and sisters from Palestine to the USA, your enemy is mine, and my enemy is yours. We must connect our struggles and build meaningful solidarity between us to resist our allied oppressors as a united front.
This means we need to understand each other’s struggles, unlearn imperial thinking that distorted our outlook to the world, connect the dots, and fight this multifaceted common enemy. Zionist systematic erasure of Palestinian natives and US institutionalised racism that targets natives and people of colour communities empower each other. We have to understand that oppression does not exist in a vacuum but is enabled through military, economic and diplomatic collaborations. Breaking this collaboration between them will serve our collective liberation.
Palestinian artist Lina: “no wonder that US police are so brutal in their methods, when they have given & received training from the Israeli Occupation Forces who terrorize Palestinians daily. As Palestinians, we should be 1st to reject all types of oppression.” #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/c0YMkdhtcC
— ShahdAbusalama (@ShahdAbusalama) May 30, 2020
Any state founded on colonialism, genocidal dispossession of indigenous peoples and slavery is fundamentally insecure. Methods of repression and coercion used against people demanding justice is their expression of their desperation to maintain the status quo. The US repression of #BlackLivesMatter protests and Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinian resistance is an expression of this fragility that is rooted in their foundational problems. But it is ultimately down to the people if they submit or resist.
The successful anti-apartheid movement in South Africa teaches us that no oppressors ever voluntarily change. They have to be forced into changing through internal and global resistance. And just like the apartheid regime in South Africa, we need to understand how such supremacist powers do not exist in a vacuum, but are enabled, funded, and normalised by an international apparatus of violence, greed, ignorance and submission. If we unite to break this chain wherever we see it, we will eventually prevail.
Palestinian revolutionary Ghassan Kanafani reminded before Israel killed him in 1972 at the age of 36: “Imperialism has laid its body over the world… Wherever you strike it, you damage it, and you serve the World Revolution.” Kanafani was assassinated together with his 17-year-old niece Lamis. Both could have lived if they weren’t Palestinians.
Remember again, that those same Zionist killers, who dispossessed, imprisoned, killed and maimed Palestinians for 72 years, are the biggest recipients of US military ‘aid’, paid by US taxpayers. They also offer military training to many US police departments, and those techniques that brought about the lynching of George Floyd are widely used against Palestinians in the occupied territories, including children. Many of us stood in utter shock after a video that went viral of Al-Tamimi child being forced into a chokehold by an Israeli solider and fought off by Palestinian children and women.
In fact, at least 100 Minnesota police officers attended a so-called counterterrorism training conference in Chicago and Minneapolis, hosted by the Israeli consulate and the FBI. “There they learned the violent techniques used by Israeli forces as they terrorise the occupied Palestinian territories under the guise of security operations,” Steve Sweeney wrote for the Morning Star. Connect the dots.
From Palestine to Minneapolis, racism is a crime
Few days after the murder of George Floyd Minneapolis, the Israeli occupation army killed Eyad Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian, near Al-Asbat Gate in occupied Jerusalem’s old city on the morning of 30 May 2020. His disability makes him like a 7 year old child, and he has hearing and speech difficulties. He was on his way to Elwyn school for disabled people. Israeli soldiers saw him holding a ‘suspicious object,’ they thought it was a gun- he held a cellphone. When they ordered Eyad to stop, he started running out of fear, like a child. The penalty was death sentence. Do you know how many times they killed him? 10 times! 10 bullets. Let this sink in.
Still, after the shooting, they declared a state of emergency in the occupied Old City of Jerusalem, looking for a gun of their fantasy and found none. During that time, medics were barred from entering the area as poor Eyad was bleeding to death. Let this too sink in.
If you cried for the pain of many black mothers over losing their children for being black, you should cry for Eyad’s mother.
“What’s his fault? they killed him in cold blood! he’s my only son ..”#Watch | The mother of martyr Eyad Hallaq mourn her son that have been shot dead by Israeli occupation police in occupied Jerusalem!#IsraeliCrimes pic.twitter.com/shYpW6zS5r
— Palestinians abroad (@PalesAbroadE) June 1, 2020
Listen to her crying with dignity as she demands: “I want justice for my son from the state of Israel.” But will justice be served? Palestinians The aged wrinkles of her face are emboldened with bitter tears over too many young lives being killed systematically and for no reason, for the mere reason of being Palestinians.
The shocking killing of Eyad Hallaq needs to be seen in the context of how Zionist Israeli forces are historically indoctrinated to treat Palestinian lives and bodies as “disposable.” This is part and parcel of a consistent Zionist policy of keeping as few native Arabs as possible on as minimal land as possible, informing Israeli settler-colonial practices against the Palestinians, since the inception of Zionism and pre-state building until today. If this is not racism, then what is it?
Fighting racism entails the understanding that Zionism is racism, and as siding with the oppressed as well as opposing the genocidal colonisation of indigenous peoples, means standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation.
As Angela Davis said, we need to stop accepting what we cannot change, and change what we cannot accept! She herself offers a great example of solidarity and organising across struggle, and we learn from her history of a trend of Palestinian and Black solidarity that became especially powerful during the Civil Rights Movement.
Angela Davis spoke of the Palestinian captive resistance and solidarity with her during her imprisonment in US jails in the early 1970s and beyond, and that’s why she adopts Palestine as her own struggle. My father who was detained by Israel in January 1972 and sentenced to 7 lifetimes for no crime, was amongst those freedom fighters behind Israeli jails who extended a letter of solidarity to Angela Davis which she remembers to this day and reflects on in her talks and writings.
“Palestinian activists have long supported Black people’s struggle against racism. When I was in jail, solidarity coming from Palestine was a major source of courage for me. There has been this very important connection between the two struggles for many decades”
Dr Angela Davis pic.twitter.com/TGK1fs84bm
— Jewish Voice for Peace (@jvplive) June 15, 2020
Being Black shouldn’t be a death sentence. Being Palestinian shouldn’t be a death sentence. Racism, colonialism and all oppressive and discriminatory structures must be abolished if we were to create a just world.
This article was originally published on Electronic Intifada on 16 April 2020.
Palestinians like me, living outside our country, fear that the coronavirus pandemic could be the latest nightmare to befall our loved ones back home. As of now there are more than 12,000 confirmed cases in Israel, around 350 in the occupied West Bank and 13 in Gaza, my home.
Having grown up in Jabaliya refugee camp, I know that the types of prevention measures imposed in Europe or the United States cannot be applied in Gaza. “Overcrowding and a lack of living space characterize Jabaliya camp,” as the UN notes. “Shelters are built in close vicinity and there is a general lack of recreational and social space.” Big multi-generational families live under one roof. Houses are separated by shared walls or narrow alleys. Residents are within earshot of their neighbors’ conversations and privy to their daily routines. Social or physical distancing is next to impossible.
There are 114,000 people living in Jabaliya refugee camp, but a similar situation can be found across Gaza, where 70 percent of the population are refugees.
In total, two million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, under a tight Israeli blockade for 13 years. Half the population are children. Living conditions are already dire, after three major Israeli military assaults since 2008, along with the impact of the siege. Basic infrastructure and services, including electricity, education and healthcare are already far from adequate.
In 2018, the UN specifically warned of the risk of an epidemic in Gaza due to the degraded sanitation system, and the fact that 97 percent of the water supply is unfit for human consumption. Health experts and human rights organizations are now sounding the alarm that a major outbreak of COVID-19 would be catastrophic, and have called on Israel to lift its restrictions on bringing vital supplies into the territory.
The current crisis offers states and corporations, driven by the desire to accumulate power at the best of times, a unique opportunity to expand and consolidate their control.
Citing the coronavirus emergency, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has authorized the deployment of surveillance technology normally used for “counterterrorism.”
For Palestinians, the pandemic is not a temporary emergency but represents continuity. The occupying power has imposed a never-ending situation of emergency that dates back to 1948, when the creation of Israel uprooted 800,000 native Palestinians from their homes. During the Nakba, our grandparents assumed they would return in a couple of weeks. Today, we observe the birth of a fourth or fifth generation in refugee camps.
Moreover, the use of electronic surveillance by Israel to spy on and blackmail Palestinians is nothing new. What is new here is the use of technologies tested on Palestinians against the privileged Israeli Jewish population who were previously largely shielded from such intrusion.
And while the pandemic is a boon for companies and states seeking to expand their power, it is in the short term a blessing in disguise for Netanyahu. Until a few weeks ago, he was counting his last days as prime minister and facing imminent trial on corruption charges. But for him, the pandemic could not be more timely: a state of emergency which he can manipulate and use to maintain power.
While all focus is on the pandemic, attention is diverted from Israel’s continued military repression of Palestinians. In March alone, Israel detained more than 350 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and Gaza, including 48 children and four women. Meanwhile, prisons where Israel holds some 5,000 Palestinian political detainees, are – like prisons around the world – turning into hotspots for coronavirus. Israeli jailers and at least one released Palestinian are among confirmed cases. At least four other Palestinians were potentially exposed to the virus during interrogation by an Israeli prison worker. This has pushed detainees and their advocates to call for urgent international action to save them from Israel’s systematic policy of medical neglect in its prisons.
It is clear that the “emergency response” to the new coronavirus does not mean a suspension of Israel’s systems of oppression.
In the midst of the crisis, it is hard to think ahead. There’s no doubt that many measures being applied are necessary to save lives, as perhaps a third of the world’s population is under some form of lockdown. But decisions made in these extraordinary times could permanently shape the post-pandemic reality.
Education has gone virtual. Only essential workers are permitted to go to work, while others work remotely and untold millions have lost their jobs. In addition to expanding surveillance via mobile phone, drones are being used to monitor streets and ordinary people are acting as informants against those they suspect of breaking the rules.
When the health emergency is over, will all this become the new normal?
Wartime metaphors are in vogue. President Donald Trump has appointed generals to prominent roles in the US government’s response to what he calls an “invisible enemy.”
Maybe this language helps alert people to the severity of the threat, but such comparisons sound horrible to survivors of actual wars – including wars that these very leaders have supported or fueled.
Although many countries and companies make fortunes from the business of war, war is ugly. It destroys life and human relations. The laws and conventions that people are used to in peacetime do not apply in war zones. This pandemic is nothing like a war.
During a recent Skype call with dispersed family members in Gaza and Europe, we all joyfully watched as my youngest sister, Tamam, a refugee in Brussels, rushed to her balcony to join her neighbors applauding the efforts of health workers.
This triggered traumatic memories of us huddled together in our home in Gaza, with other families who had escaped neighborhoods under heavy Israeli fire. We sat around a battery powered radio in a blackout, the floor shaking beneath our feet, listening to explosions, houses collapsing and people dying.
Then, we were scared to even look out of the window.
Our family has been shaped by such memories, including my mother giving birth to me during a military curfew on Jabaliya camp. If you broke an Israeli curfew, you risked your life, not just a mere fine.
A chance to reflect
This pandemic is a chance for reflection for people born in safe places, who are used to taking their rights for granted.
Even under lockdown, many still have access to healthcare, housing, education and freedoms that others facing the same pandemic do not.
COVID-19 exploits and exacerbates existing inequalities, globally and within societies.
The virus provides an opportunity to question and challenge power structures such as capitalism, colonialism and imperialism, which produce this uneven vulnerability. While some commentators have asserted that the coronavirus is a great equalizer, this is clearly not the case.
My family in Palestine hopes that this pandemic reminds people of how connected we all are. We should learn from others who have suffered with life’s uncertainties for as long as they remember because of man-made inequalities that make some people visible as others are rendered invisible.
We should be united for each other’s welfare, not warfare. We should learn from Cuba’s model of solidarity, as it sends doctors to coronavirus-hit countries, while the US tightens sanctions and pressures countries to reject Cuba’s aid.
The virus is teaching us that we can be asymptomatic but deadly to each other, especially the vulnerable. And we are learning that as long as the virus exists anywhere, no part of the world is truly safe.
In short, caring for and helping each other is not just a value to aspire to, but a necessity for our collective survival.