A case of joint struggle across borders – the case of Palestine

Mon, 2012-07-16 10:45

by Lee Gargagliano & Sara Kershnar, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN); Rabab Abdulhadi, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED); Nina Farnia, National Lawyers Guild (NLG)


Excerpt from NY Times advertisement posted November 1, 1970

We, the Black American signatories of this advertisement are in complete solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters, who like us, are struggling for self-determination and an end to racist oppression. We stand with the Palestinian people in their efforts to preserve their revolution, and oppose its attempted destruction by American Imperialism aided by Zionists and Arab reactionaries.

We state that we are not anti-Jewish. We are anti-Zionist and against the Zionist State of Israel, the outpost of American Imperialism in the Middle East. Zionism is a reactionary racist ideology that justifies the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homes and lands, and attempts to enlist the Jewish masses of Israel and elsewhere in the service of imperialism to hold back the Middle East revolution.

We demand that all military aid or assistance of any kind to Israel must stop. Imperialism and Zionism must and will get out of the Middle East. We call for Afro-American solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation and to regain all of their stolen land.

Introduction – Expanding Joint Struggle In the U.S.

As people working to improve dire conditions in our varied communities here in the United States, it is vital that we build alternatives that meet the needs of our communities and reflect the other world that we think is possible. To that end, we believe that struggles outside of the United States are as relevant to our lives as our own everyday issues, even though the former may seem a world away. We believe that the oppression of communities here in the U.S. is caused by the same corporations, the same geopolitical interests and the same political forces that are driving apartheid in Palestine, war throughout parts of Asia and Africa, and the suppression of social movements throughout the world.

While our immediate needs and interests may differ, we are part of the same struggle. From the shared history and continuing colonization of indigenous lands and ethnic cleansing of indigenous people in North America and in Palestine to the shared interests of Israel and the US in promoting US imperialism and wars in the region (in this moment focused on Iran), our realities are inextricably tied together. It is with this in mind, that we feel it is imperative to send a strong, diverse U.S. delegation to World Social Forum-Free Palestine.

While we understand how their struggles mirror our own, we often have a hard time seeing how struggles elsewhere have an impact on our daily lives, work and movements. Even when we do see the connections, we often do not have the time, capacity or resources to identify concrete ways to address the relationship between our struggles at home and those elsewhere in the world. In reality, we often don't have enough time to connect with other social movements in the United States, much less thousands of miles away.

This is the goal of the diverse array of organizations that are part of the USSF-initiated cross-movement delegation to the World Social Forum (WSF)-Free Palestine in Porto Alegre, Brazil. We are committed to developing a program that the diverse social movements involved in the delegation can: 1) Participate in the delegation as part of joint struggle with Palestinians and others most directly impacted by Zionism, in an effort to build long-lasting relationships with movements throughout the world and develop joint activities that link our movements after we leave Porto Alegre; and 2) Advance the goals and strength of our own movements and communities.

This work is essential not only because the issue of Palestine is a critical struggle for global justice in its own right, but also because the collaboration between the US, Israel, and other Zionist institutions in relation to the global arms trade, perpetual war, ecological destruction and exploitation of resources, population control, mass incarceration and suppression of popular grassroots movements has profound implications for all of us. These implications are not mere analogies; rather, it is often the very same corporations, governments, and strategies that we here in the United States are struggling against.

At the most basic level the US government provides Israel with over 6 billion dollars in monetary and military aid. This money is sorely needed to meet our communities’ basic needs here in the U.S., but the destructive impact of U.S. aid to Israel goes beyond this. Israel spends U.S. aid to fund its ongoing occupation of Palestine, which it uses as a laboratory to develop weapons, surveillance technology and tactics of population control that are used against Palestinians. These same weapons, technologies and tactics are then sold back to the U.S. through Israel’s multi-billion dollar Homeland Security industry and serve to aid in the repression of communities in the U.S. In effect, this money is used to target and suppress dissent generally, and the activities of Arab and Muslim communities, other communities of color, and in particular Black communities. In 2008, Israel brought in an additional 2.7 billion dollars through their Homeland Security Services industry. A mainstay of the Israeli economy, the following is quote about this industry from an Israel government website:

Israel has more than 300 Homeland Security (HLS) companies exporting a range of products, systems and services.… No other country has such a large pool of experienced former security, military and police personnel and no other country has been able to field test its systems and solutions in real-time situations.

Click here to view a presentation by members of IJAN, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the Center for Constitutional Rights in March of 2012 that provides more background on some of these connections.

Impact of the U.S.-Israel relationship on communities & movements in the U.S.

Extrajudicial Killings of Civilians and Assassination of Political Leaders As documented in the recent report from Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, extrajudicial killings is a common strategy of repression of both the United States and Israeli governments.

Every 40 hours in the United States one Black woman, man or child is killed by police, and by a smaller number of security guards and self-appointed vigilantes… More than two years ago, on New Year’s Eve, police killed two innocent men: Oscar Grant in Oakland, Adolph Grimes in New Orleans and shot Robert Tolan in a Houston suburb. Based on research started in 2009 after those murders, we learned there were a lot more killings that had not yet been uncovered. Then, after Trayvon's murder, there was a huge public outcry and a few headlines about more killings. More grieving families and more calls for investigation. Further research became urgent and it demonstrated that Trayvon's death was not an isolated tragedy. Between January 1, 2012 and June 30, 2012, at least 110 Black people were killed by police and their “deputies”.

In the United States there is also a long history of assassinations of Black political leaders. Similarly, Israel has a long history of assassinations of Palestinian leaders and intellectuals as well as extrajudicial killings of Palestinian civilians. This is more than just shared strategies – Israel and the US arm and cross-train each other. Through programs like the Law Enforcement Exchange Program, municipalities across the US send members of their police force to train in Israel. Both in the United States and elsewhere in Latin America, Central Asia, Africa and the former Soviet Republics, the most repressive police tactics are exchanged between Israel and notorious police, military and intelligence forces.

For example, in New Orleans, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the Louisiana National Guard was trained by the Israeli military in crowd control. Similarly, the Oakland Police Department was trained by Israel prior to its violent crackdown on the Occupy movement – using the same weapons and tactics used by the Israeli military to repress demonstrations and civilians alike.

Militarized Borders and Detention and Deportation of Immigrants Israel has played a central role in supporting racist governments to control borders for over half a century. During the South African anti-apartheid struggle, companies wholly or partly owned by the Histadrut helped build an electronic wall between South Africa/Namibia and neighboring African states to prevent anti-apartheid guerillas from crossing the border. This was a precursor to the Israeli Apartheid Wall in the West Bank of Palestine.

In these neo-liberal times, repression in Palestine and repression in the U.S. are often perpetrated by the same private corporations. Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms company that is building the Apartheid Wall in Palestine is the same corporation contracted to build the “Wall of Death” along the US-Mexico “borders”. Meanwhile, G4S, a British corporation and the largest private prison firm in the world is the target of a campaign by the BDS movement for its role in collaborating with the Israeli Prison Service. In the U.S., G4S (formerly Wackenhut) is involved in supporting U.S. targeting of im/migrants with a contract to transport immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. These are but two instances that have exposed how corporate interests supporting the occupation of Palestine are also involved in repression in the U.S.

In Israel today, African refugees are being scapegoated, targeted with vigilante violence and rounded up and deported. In spite of many pro-Israel organizations’ spearheading campaigns to “Save Darfur,” purportedly in solidarity with the Sudanese, the state of Israel is now targeting these same African refugees en masse. Last year, Israel began deporting the children of migrant workers (even those children who were born in Israel)—further revealing the settler colonial and racist logic that views anyone who is not Jewish (and especially children) as a demographic threat.

Surveillance of Social Movements and Communities

In addition to corporate and state entities, many organizations that provide political and economic support to Israel also collaborate with the U.S. government on racial profiling of communities of color, particularly Muslim and Arab communities, and surveillance and targeting of social justice organizations. In 1993 a suit was filed and won against the Anti-Defamation League (an organization that ostensibly combats anti-Semitism, but expends most of its energy promoting Israel) based on proof that it had hired intelligence agents with police and government ties to compile confidential information on Arab American, African American, Native American and progressive groups. The over 1,000 organizations that the ADL spied on included opponents of the South African Apartheid Regime, the United Farm Workers, the Vanguard Public Foundation, Labor Council/AFL-CIO, NAACP, MADRE, Greenpeace, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. The information gathered by the ADL was then shared with the U.S. and South African governments.

Today the ADL trains U.S. police in counter-terrorism and provides surveillance information to the U.S. and other governments. Since 2003, the ADL program has brought 115 law enforcement executives from across the country to Israel for intensive counter-terrorism and population control training. In 2010 alone, the ADL trained over 10,500 law enforcement officers. Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security gives over $15 million a year to similar organizations in the U.S. to collaborate on training and surveillance of police, private security officers and community members. A key focus is the surveillance of and propaganda against Arab and Muslim communities. However, this is not limited to Arabs and Muslims; rather the civil rights that are being eroded and the technology and methods being used have significantly impacted communities of color, particularly African American communities, immigrants and activists.

The Zionist movement is also invested in shifting the international political arena. The American Jewish Committee is the organization within the Zionist movement that is tasked with lobbying for and pushing an imperialist global political agenda that is consistent with Zionist objectives. Iran has been the primary focus of the international Zionist lobby for several years now. Israel continues to threaten attacks on Iran, while American and European politicians have instituted destructive sanctions that limit the Iranian peoples’ access to basic foodstuffs, medical supplies and technology. Indeed, there are many ways to destroy a country. And while Iran will not likely be destroyed, the international political rhetoric targeting Iran operates in concert with Israel’s threats of war, aggressive sanctions, and the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to put great pressure not just on the Iranian government, but the Iranian people as well.



Growing numbers of communities, movements, and individuals are speaking out and taking action against Israel’s violations of civil and human rights, international law and common decency. In San Francisco, a huge outpouring of support from the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in San Francisco came together against the collaboration between the Center for Asian American Media and the Israeli consulate on the Israel-China film festival. In response to Israel’s targeting of African refugees, immigrant justice groups in the U.S. including Priority Africa Network and Black Alliance for Just Immigration started a petition to pressure Israel to respect the rights of African migrants and drew the connection to Israel’s colonial rule in Palestine. And in March, the Movimiento Estudiantil ChÃican@ de Aztlán endorsed the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. In turn, Palestine continues to inspire and provide its own lessons of resistance to movements across the Global South. Following the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, Palestinians in Gaza collected funds to send over. We are increasingly witnessing joint organizing efforts that reflect the understanding that all of our liberation is bound up together.

It is from this vantage point that we are working to build a U.S. delegation to the World Social Forum Free Palestine, a delegation that reflects the diversity of our movement. We encourage all organizations to join the delegation as endorser and send delegates to Brazil. Please send an e-mail to wsfpalestine@ussf2010.org for more information about how to get involved in this exciting effort.