Following the recent onslaught of brutal violence in Occupied Palestine, a noticeable shift in awareness has occurred among Americans. Increasingly, Americans have become aware of the unrelenting reality that Palestinians have endured and resisted for 73 years: a reality of settler colonialism, dispossession and apartheid.
The narrative surrounding justice for Palestinians has shifted in the United States, in large part, if not completely, due to the work of our Black siblings in advocating justice and liberation for all. Though solidarity between Black and Palestinian liberation movements has flourished for decades, this inextricable bond has been cemented in the year since the murder of George Floyd. Our Black siblings mainstreamed the call for liberation, employing the phrase “from Ferguson to Palestine.” The need for collective liberation has been amplified on the ground and via social media. In the digital age, borders will no longer serve as obstacles to our unity.
Recently, Zionists have misconstrued the phrase “from the River to the Sea” to indicate anti-Semitism, with students at Northwestern finding that phrase painted on The Rock to be offensive. Students who stand for equal rights for Palestinians have been harassed on campus and online. As an alumna, I assert that this could not be further from the truth. The phrase indicates the vision of a society ensuring freedom and equal rights for all — Jewish or Palestinian, Christian or Muslim. It is a land where people can travel without restriction, unlike the present system, which has been dubbed apartheid by Human Rights Watch.
A report by the NGO states that “Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity.”
Rather than the phrase “from the River to the Sea,” it should be the actions of a state that should be condemned as racist, when it deems people of my background less worthy of the right to exist than a Jewish Israeli.
Anti-Zionism is antiracism. It is the belief that no one should receive differential treatment under the law because of their religious or ethnic background. Anti-Zionism entails that people should not be forcibly removed from their homes simply because they are not associated with a certain religion or ethnic background.
As Black Americans declare that Black lives matter, a phrase that calls for the preservation of Black lives, they have been met with hostility from people. Such a declaration is an obligation when the power structure in our society privileges white lives in every possible way. Those who derail the conversation because it also makes them uncomfortable do so because it challenges the very bedrock upon which this nation was built.
As Palestinians proclaim that they, too, have a right to exist, these conversations about settler colonialism and apartheid should not be derailed. Anti-Semitism is abhorrent. Anti-Palestinian racism is abhorrent. These are two different topics. The diversion of the conversation regarding Palestinian liberation is deliberate. Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism; to conflate them is to conflate a political ideology with a religion. It is a fallacious premise upon which the attacks against our movement are predicated.
Our collective movement rejects anti-Semitism and has done so at every turn. Palestinians are the center of this narrative. We are the focus of our liberation. Derailing this narrative is akin to “All lives matter” rhetoric. We are focusing on a particular issue, an issue of life and death, at this moment in time. Palestinians should not be asked to stall their movement to condemn every form of bigotry while they are fighting for their lives and homes.
If the call for equal rights for Palestinians makes you uncomfortable, there must be a personal and collective reckoning as to why.