FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Being Black Palestinian: Solidarity as a Welcome Pathology

by

Last year, I wrote an article that made many readers unhappy. As soon as it was published, I began receiving messages of abuse and angry, threatening calls.

I hesitated about reporting the threats to the local police in Washington State and, in the end, I resolved to file the unpleasant experience under a burgeoning folder of ‘controversies’ caused by my writings. The title of the article was: ‘I Can’t Breathe’: Racism and War in America and Beyond.

As a Palestinian columnist and a book author over the past 20 years, it has not been entirely easy working in the United States. Nor has it been possible to be embraced by the mainstream while raging against mainstream ideas, constant appetite for war and unthinking support of Apartheid Israel.

George Orwell once wrote: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. With time, and with no other alternative, I have decided to comfort myself with that sage realization.

Having been born in a refugee camp in Gaza, I am the descendant of a generation of refugees and peasants, who once dwelled in a Palestinian homeland before it was brutally vanquished in 1948 and ‘miraculously’ became Israel.

For the better part of a whole century, generations of Palestinians have experienced every form of oppression that the twisted human mind is able to conjure up: massacres, ethnic cleansing, destruction of property, rape, unremitting war, siege and all the psychological torment that often accompanies such devastation.

In fact, being survivors of a perpetual injustice has, at least for many of us, become the main frame of reference through which we can understand the world, and ourselves.

As a refugee, I have always remained absorbed and totally committed to expose the suffering of refugees, wherever they are. But I am just one of an ever-growing movement of Palestinian intellectuals, artists, academicians and justice activists the world over.

Our shared experience and unrelenting fight for freedom and justice has molded us into a unique breed, where solidarity with others have become so innate, an uncontrollable urge, a pathology even, although a welcome one. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual.

Surprisingly, some of the anger that followed my writings on the subject of Palestinian-Black solidarity came from pro-Palestinian ‘White’ readers. One even went as far as disowning the Palestinian cause altogether. ‘Let Black people free your country,” he wrote, along with a few profane phrases.

Honestly, good riddance. There must be no racism in the Palestine solidarity movement anyway, and any solidarity that is conditioned on isolating Palestinians from the fight for human rights anywhere in the world is unworthy and unwelcome.

The truth is, I was not trying to score cheap political points by espousing justice for 12-year-old Tamir Rice, or Eric Garner or, more recently, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. These, among hundreds of other who are killed every year in the ongoing drama of police violence, come from the most economically and socially disadvantaged segments of American society. They hold little political influence and are rarely known for their powerful lobbies in Washington DC.

Yet, siding with them, however strategically useless such a move may appear to some, is the only moral path to be taken. I, like millions of Palestinians, know precisely what racism is, what oppression feels like, how being economically underprivileged and politically disadvantaged are often the inception of anger – and even counter-violence.

My people have been living that vicious cycle for a century and, for me, not to take a moral stance in solidarity with any oppressed group anywhere in the world is denying the very foundation of my being, the collective drive that keeps millions of Palestinians standing strong and moving forward.

There is an unmistakable sense of being permanently exiled that is shared by many Palestinians, regardless of their political backgrounds. That sense is both real and figurative to the extent that, with time, it has morphed into a culture, a mode of thinking and perspective.

Being ‘out of place’, the title of Edward Said’s powerful memoir is not unique to a single Palestinian individual, but to a whole nation. Even in our homeland, there is little sense of continuity; things can change so very quickly: by bombs, bulldozers or military orders.

To adapt, Palestinian culture – although rooted in a long history of uninterrupted existence that exceeds a millennia – has been quite fluid; culturally and geographically, as well. With the prolonged ‘exile’, our political identity surpassed time and place. Thus, identifying with Black or Native Americans, the refugees of Syria, the victims of South African Apartheid or the Rohingya of Burma is hardly an act of political expediency, but a natural moral inclination. A culture even.

Edward Said had convincingly articulated the concept of ‘global perspective’ that made the Palestinian struggle part and parcel of a global fight for social justice. For Palestinians, the lines have become truly blurred between their political identity, their own culture and that of a much greater fight with loftier goals.

“In the case of a political identity that’s being threatened, culture is a way of fighting against extinction and obliteration,” Said wrote.

“Culture is a form of memory against effacement.”

In a recently released poetry collection that I co-authored with two brilliant Palestinian poets, Samah Sabawi and Jehan Bseiso, what is Palestine merged into a much larger array of global struggles against injustice.

In the poem, written after the death of Herman Wallace – a Black man who was incarcerated in solitary confinement for 41 years on the basis of what many believe were trumped up charges – I attempted to include the old fighter’s struggle as part of my people’s own ‘memory against effacement.’

“.. My fist will rise from the charred earth; in a painting by Naji Ali,

Through the thick walls of Louisiana State Penitentiary

In the streets of Hanoi,

Amid the rubble of a Gaza mosque.

Even on my dying bed.

I have many names.

But my face is always my face.

On my forehead stitched the memory of pain.

I smile still.

And teach my son to never hate

Because hate is not love

And love is freedom

I am a Palestinian

My name is Herman Wallace

And I will always die free.”

Suddenly, being Palestinian and Black was the most natural feeling. It was not a calculated decision, but an innate feeling driven by the common struggle for justice and a shared history of pain.

More articles by:

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Douglas Valentine
The Real Man’s Ten Commandments
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail