The past month has been challenging for us all, to say the least. The genocide we are witnessing in Gaza touches the fullness of our emotions, from sadness, anger, and even moments of despair. Oppression is worse than slaughter, Allah says in the Qur’an (2:217), and we are witnessing both, in Palestine, Sudan, the Congo, and other places near and far.
We remain heartened by trusting in Allah, believing in Him and believing Him for His promise that victory will come for Palestine and all oppressed nations and peoples at the time He has planned. “Indeed in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction” (13.28).
We must remain patient, grateful and steadfast in our worship and our actions for justice. We ask Allah for forgiveness for our moments of impatience and despair, the times when others feel the sharpness of our tongues unjustly, the times we turn away from our hearts and lose our conviction. Only in His Mercy will the victory be granted.
We know the power of the written word in these times, so we called out to our warriors of the pen to offer their writings on Palestine. Throughout this month we will be sharing their works with you all. We begin with an editorial from our sister Nailah Dean that reminds us Palestine is all of our struggle.
Two Sides of the Same Coin: Why the Fight against White Supremacy and Zionism* are shared by Black Americans and Palestinians
By Nailah Dean
For the last two weeks, my Instagram feed has been filled with images of dead babies covered in white powder, mothers wailing over lifeless bodies wrapped in sheets, and doctors going into shock when they learn their loved ones are lying dead on the gurney outside their operating room. The unrelenting scenes of death and destruction showcase a disregard for human life. I believe these images have been one of the driving forces behind the huge numbers of people who have taken to the streets to protest for Palestine.
As someone who joined the masses in demanding an end to the bloodshed, I am reminded of the movement that happened during the summer of 2020. I remember feeling a similar sentiment of horror and disgust when viewing the video of George Floyd’s murder under the knee of a police officer. The world, who shared and re-shared the haunting video, was incensed by the officer’s callous nature and blatant disregard for Mr. Floyd’s humanity.
On a continent away, Palestinians in the West Bank were quick to empathize. Just a few days later, a Palestinian artist in Bethlehem painted a massive portrait of George Floyd on the bleak wall that separates the West Bank from Israel. In an interview, the artist Taqi Spateen said he wanted Americans to know that Palestinian people understood what it meant to fight for freedom because they “know what it’s like to be strangled every day.” What he meant was that like Black Americans who are subjected to undue violence from police, Palestinians are also subjected to excessive violence as people living under an apartheid regime.
The parallel experience of Black Americans and Palestinians is one defined by racism, white supremacy and state-sanctioned violence. This became even more apparent to me when I learned that police forces in the United States are being trained by Israeli Defense Force (IDF) leaders. Under an Atlanta-based program called GILEE, Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange program, U.S. police officers train on the ground with IDF members. On their website, GILEE officials state the goal of the partnership is to gain insight on strategies to improve homeland security, public safety and community policing practices. But a closer look at the IDF’s approach to policing reveals the methods they utilize are far from harmless police training. Their tactics are discriminatory and include racial profiling, mass surveillance, and arbitrary detention, which are often used to control Palestinians.
Amnesty International reports high numbers of Palestinians who have been subject to mass arrests, torture of detainees, and use of excessive force, like knee-on-neck, on peaceful protesters. By comparison, police forces in the U.S., like those in Atlanta, are employing similar tactics to control Black communities. Modeled after one of Israel’s command and control centers, Atlanta created a Video Integration Center where they collect and monitor footage from a network of more than 5,300 public and private cameras. It appears these new tactics have created more harm than good, as the numbers of fatal police shootings increased significantly in Atlanta in the last few years.
As such, the need to speak out against Zionism, which was founded on ideals rooted in white supremacy, is obvious. For decades, Black American and African civil rights leaders have recognized the need to call out Zionism for the ethnocentrism and racism it is, by advocating for a liberated Palestine. Malcolm X, the revered Black American Muslim civil rights leader, was one of the leaders who witnessed the apartheid practices in Palestine.
During a trip to the Gaza Strip in 1964, Malcom toured refugee camps and hospitals, witnessing the displacement of Arab Palestineans by the Israeli government. The trip inspired him to write a letter to the Egyptian Gazette titled, On Zionist Logic, in which he professed his unwavering support for Palestinians and declared that Zionism is colonialism in disguise. After teasing out why he believed the creation of Israel was a continuation of European imperialism, he ends his letter with a simple conclusion, “In short the Zionist argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine has no intelligent or legal basis in history.”
Similarly, Nelson Mandela, who spent twenty-seven years in jail for fighting against South African apartheid and later became President of South Africa, was not shy in speaking about his support of a free Palestine. He recognized that the state of Israel and the government of South Africa were both settler-colonial nation-states where only the settlers received rights, while the Indigenous peoples were made into second class citizens. In speaking to a UN body on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People about his support for Palestine in Pretoria in 1997, he said,“But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Just as these prominent civil rights leaders have supported the liberation of Palestine, which includes an end to occupation, so too must we unite to advocate for their freedom. Palestinians want the violence to end. They want the border walls, check points, extreme surveillance, and arbitrary arrests to end. Palestinians want to live in a world where they won’t have to wake up to a settler in their backyard attempting to take their homes. And most of all right now, they want a ceasefire, water, electricity and food.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, people of all backgrounds came together to condemn white supremacy and racism. Just as brown, black, and white people from across the U.S. and across the world, called for an end to policies that influence police brutality upheld by systemic racism, we must come together again to call for an end to the current genocide of Palestinians.
*Zionism was established as a political movement in 1897 to create a Jewish state in Palestine, where Jewish people historically originated from. It continues as a nationalist movement defined by some as rooted in settler-colonial ideologies that maintain a racial and ethnic hierarchy. This article from Jewish Voice for Peace provides more information on understanding the origin and interpretations of the term.
Nailah Dean is a lawyer by day and writer by night. She writes about the difficulties of finding love and marriage from the perspective of a Muslim woman. Her work has appeared in Al Jazeera and Insider. She is a recipient of the 2023 Hurston/Wright Fellowship and winner of the 2021 MFest Short-Story Competition. Nailah is currently working on a novel.