Freedom Bound: Resisting Zionism & White Supremacy

Since Trump came to power, we have seen a very open alliance between Zionists and white supremacists. White supremacist leader Richard Spencer has described himself as a “white Zionist,” while many pro-Israel groups have been careful about criticizing the anti-Semitism of administration officials or even whitewashing it because the White House is supporting Israel. This alliance becomes all the clearer when we look at the shared histories and values of the United States and Israel.

Both the United States and Israel are European settler colonial states built on the exclusionary ideology of white supremacy. Both states have a white ruling class that maintains its grip on power through the ongoing exploitation, killing, and displacement of Black, brown, and Indigenous communities.

Zionism and the US empire, both manifestations of white supremacy, collaborate closely to achieve shared goals. Israel’s racial hierarchy is maintained through massive US military and diplomatic support, while Israeli and US police trade practices on population control and repression of resistance under the framework of the War on Terror. The US backs brutal Arab regimes in order to serve its imperial interests, which coincide with Israel’s interests in the region, and both states play a role in suppressing liberation movements worldwide.

Chants like “from Ferguson to Palestine, end racism now” and “from Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go” are not slogans; they are shared realities that emerge from a common experience under racist, settler colonial regimes. Freedom Bound: Resisting Zionism and White Supremacy is a collection of resources to sharpen our analysis and commitment to standing with communities resisting every day. Let us learn and build together.

For further reading: The Nakba and Anti-Blackness

The parallels between the United States and Israel run deep. Both countries were founded as European settler colonial outposts, created through the ethnic cleansing of native peoples in order to gain control of maximum land and resources for a white ruling class. European settlers arrived in both Turtle Island (the pre-Columbian name for North America) and Palestine not to live in harmony with the native population, but to replace them. Through systematic dispossession, forced relocation, and massacres, native populations were killed and exiled, their holy sites desecrated, and their communities terrorized by military occupations. 

The colonization of Turtle Island and Palestine are not things of the past. They continue today through policies including surveillance, containment, military checkpoints, police brutality, mass incarceration, displacement, theft of water and other natural resources, environmental destruction, desecration of burial sites, and cultural erasure and appropriation.

US and Israeli state and corporate actors collaborate closely to achieve their mutual colonial goals. US and Israeli police exchange tactics and weapons to repress native peoples and other communities of color. The same corporations that profit from Israel’s occupation and apartheid wall are vying for contracts to expand the US/Mexico border wall. The parallels continue; both walls bisect lands and families, and both Palestinians and native communities in Arizona are surveilled with technology from Israeli military corporation Elbit Systems. Israeli occupation profiteer and global oppressor G4S Systems was contracted to provide security services for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) threatening the lands, water, burial grounds, and sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux and other First Nations.

Many Palestinians and First Nations are standing together against the common colonial agenda of their occupiers. When the Standing Rock Sioux tribe water protectors rose in powerful resistance to DAPL, US police used tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, sound grenades, and water cannons against the Standing Rock water protectors. Those weapons are all too familiar to Palestinians protecting their lands, water, sovereignty, and burial grounds from Israeli colonization. Palestinians in the US and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) National Committee in Palestine issued powerful statements of solidarity with the Standing Rock resistance, and the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) organized a cross-country solidarity caravan to Standing Rock, publishing an inspiring statement:

…As Palestinians in the United States, we are exiled from our homeland while living as settlers upon Turtle Island. It is imperative that we demand recognition of the rights of Native nations and their people while building movements together with one another so that we can strengthen our collective call for justice. We call for an end of the Dakota Access Pipeline. We demand that the United States honor the treaties as the supreme law of the land and payment of governmental reparations.

Water is life for all of us.
Free the land.
Free the people.
Long live International Solidarity.

Activists in solidarity with Palestine and Standing Rock in Portland, Oregon and other cities have organized successful municipal divestment campaigns against corporations complicit in Israeli occupation and DAPL. The national #NoDAPL divestment campaign is drawing from lessons learned from BDS organizing. Increasing numbers of First Nations tribe members are traveling to Palestine to build cross-struggle solidarity and joint resistance. The recent #WorldWithoutWalls delegation included members of the Tohono O’odham tribe who will be cut off from their lands by the expanded US/Mexico border wall, just as Palestinians are divided from their lands by Israel’s apartheid wall.

Watch “From Palestine to the Pipeline” webinar with Indigenous and Palestinian organizers about their time at Standing Rock and their shared struggles against settler colonialism, genocide, displacement, and the environmental destruction to homelands.

Artwork by Palestinian artist Leila Abdelrazaq

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On August 9, 2014 Mike Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, MO by a police officer. His murder and the lack of an indictment against his killer highlighted the epidemic of police brutality and militarization against Black communities in the United States. Mike Brown lifted the Black liberation struggle into the public eye again. Black Lives Matter became a rallying cry across the country and protesters took to the street, often met with militarized police responses and tear gas.

The brutal response of the state to protesters was familiar to Palestinians. Palestinian American activist Bassem Masri, who was very involved in the Ferguson protests, wrote in his piece In Ferguson, I am reminded of Palestine: “On those terrible nights in Ferguson when the police were attacking peaceful civilians with tear gas, Palestinians under Israeli occupation offered advice on how to deal with the effects of the gas. Facing violence from an occupying force, whether in Palestine or Ferguson, forges a mindset that demands resistance and standing up for one’s community. When the police used military tanks and checkpoints to imprison the residents of Ferguson, I was reminded of life in the West Bank where I saw the Israeli military use the same tactics of repression.”

That same summer, Israel had launched yet another military assault on Gaza, killing more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children. As Steve Tamari wrote then: “On my first trip to Ferguson, one day after the worst police violence, I was drawn to a black man waving the Palestinian flag. “Hey, that’s my flag,” I said. Right on cue, he responded, “This is our intifada!” During the first national march on Ferguson on August 30, our banner “Palestine Stands with Ferguson” got lots of attention from residents and supporters. We were deeply moved by our reception.” As events unfolded in Ferguson and photos of the militarized state response to protests were disseminated across the world, Palestinians began sending Twitter messages to activists in Ferguson in solidarity and giving practical advice about how to deal with state repression tactics such as tear gas.

The events of the summer of 2014 rekindled joint struggle efforts between the Black and Palestinian liberation movements that continues to grow. In October 2014 USCPR helped organize a Palestine contingent to the Ferguson Weekend of Resistance as part of our commitment to challenge oppressive structures that sustain injustice anywhere, make clear we that challenging militarization and injustice abroad is incomplete without confronting and dismantling those systems at home in the United States, and to stand against all forms of racism and bigotry.

From the video project “When I See Them I See Us” released in October 2015: “In the course of resilience against the merciless edge of state-violence, protesters in Ferguson held up signs declaring solidarity with the people of Palestine. In turn, Palestinians posted pictures on social media with instructions of how to treat the inhalation of tear gas. Organically, an analysis emerged highlighting similarities, but not sameness, of Black and Palestinian life, and more aptly, of their survival. This critical moment was built on a rich historical legacy of intellectual production on, as well as movement building between, Black and Palestinian communities. During the Baltimore protests against systemic deprivation and sparked by the murder of Freddie Gray, Palestinians recognized the protests as an uprising and a number of Black protesters renamed their convergence an intifada, bridging the struggles against state-sanctioned violence from the bottom up. Since the devastating attacks on Gaza and in Ferguson, the assault on Black and Palestinian bodies has continued unabated. As we mourn the lives of Tanisha Andersen and Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Ali Dawabshe and Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Nadeem Nowarah, we are making connections between the systems of violence and criminalization that makes Black and Palestinian bodies so easily expendable.”

In 2015 over 1,100 Black activists, artists, scholars, students and organizations signed a solidarity statement with Palestine: Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US, including the political imprisonment of our own revolutionaries. Soldiers, police, and courts justify lethal force against us and our children who pose no imminent threat. And while the US and Israel would continue to oppress us without collaborating with each other, we have witnessed police and soldiers from the two countries train side-by-side. US and Israeli officials and media criminalize our existence, portray violence against us as “isolated incidents,” and call our resistance “illegitimate” or “terrorism.” These narratives ignore decades and centuries of anti-Palestinian and anti-Black violence that have always been at the core of Israel and the US.”

Freedom, Bound is an artistic and historical account of the shared struggle for collective liberation. Inspired by and rooted in the rich legacy of Black-Palestinian solidarity, this multi-media experience considers solidarity both as shared lived reality, and as political choice made time and again throughout history. Through data visualizations and a transhistorical gallery of artifacts, the visitor is invited to consider the inherent interconnectedness and timeless resonance of shared resistance to oppression.

The Myth of Citizenship framework highlights the systems of structural oppression in place in the United States and Israel, and explores the role that the construct of citizenship plays in furthering this oppression. The US and Israel portray themselves as democracies in which citizens have equal rights, but this has always been a myth. In both countries, dangerous ideologies of supremacy are entrenched in state institutions and the law, perpetuating inequality and injustice.

Watch the “Debunking the Myth of Citizenship” webinar, featuring Adalah Justice Project, The Red Nation, Black4Palestine, and the Jews of Color and Sephardi/Mizrahi Caucus to learn about the legal, political, and economic construction of citizenship in Israel and the US.

By definition Israel’s commitment to  being a Jewish state necessitates codifying discrimination against Palestinian citizens as non-Jews in its laws. Israeli nationality does not exist, but a Jewish nationality – separate from citizenship – does. This means that national-citizens, i.e. Jews, are afforded greater rights under the law than citizens-only, i.e. Palestinians, who face a regime of institutionalized discrimination embodied in more than 50 discriminatory laws. Thus by their very existence, Palestinian citizens of Israel threaten Israel’s Jewish majority and are considered threats to, rather than members of, the state.

Israel’s Jewish citizen majority is not organic: it was artificially created by the expulsion of the Indigenous population and is maintained by denying citizenship to about half the people living under Israel’s control, namely Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

This discrimination dates back to Israel’s founding and the Palestinian Nakba. Between 1948-1967, Israel imposed military rule on its Palestinian citizens, severely limiting their freedom of movement, livelihoods, and expression, while simultaneously passing laws to transfer Palestinian land to state ownership or control, all in all seizing 73% of all Palestinian land. Today Palestinian citizens may no longer live under military rule, but they are still treated as a fifth column, as exhibited by the state’s brutal response to protests demanding their rights (most notably the killing of six protesters at the 1976 Land Day protests and the killing of 13 in September of 2000).

Learn more:

Palestinian Citizens of Israel 101

The Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel

Hobbesian Citizenship: How the Palestinians Became a Minority in Israel

Readings on Citizenship and Nationality in Israel/Palestine: Structures of Identity, Difference and Democracy

We, sons and daughters of the Palestinian Arab people who remained in our homeland despite the Nakba, who were forcibly made a minority in the State of Israel after its establishment in 1948 on the greater part of the Palestinian homeland; do hereby affirm in this Declaration the foundations of our identity and belonging, and put forth a vision of our collective future, one which gives voice to our concerns and aspirations and lays the foundations for a frank dialogue among ourselves and between ourselves and other peoples. In this Declaration, we also set forth our own reading of our history, as well as our conception of our citizenship and our relationship with the other parts of the Palestinian people, with the Arab nation, and with the State of Israel. We further present our vision for achieving a dignified life in our homeland and building a democratic society founded upon justice, freedom, equality, and mutual respect between the Palestinian Arabs and Jews in Israel. We also put forward our conception of the preconditions for an historic reconciliation between the Palestinian people and the Israeli Jewish people, and of the future to which we aspire as regards the relationship between the two peoples. –Haifa Declaration

Palestinian citizens of Israel are not alone in facing discrimination. In a state built to maintain the interests of the white, Ashkenazi ruling class, Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews and Jews of color are only tolerated insofar as their existence maintains a Jewish majority, or serves to whitewash Israeli war crimes by with a facade of inclusion and democracy.

Learn more:

Unruly blog of the Jews of Color Sephardi/Mizrahi Caucus

Ethiopian Refuseniks– Video series with Ethiopian Jewish-Israelis who are currently refusing to do reserve duty in the Israeli army and claiming that there is institutional racism against their community.

No Man’s Land– This short documentary follows Moroccan Jewish activist and former Israeli Black Panther leader Reuven Abergel as he leads a tour of Musrara neighborhood in Jerusalem. Using the historical landscape of the city, Reuven recounts the history of the Israeli Black Panthers, a protest group started by Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East and North Africa struggling against Israeli state violence against their communities. In the process he also illustrates why he believes anti-Mizrahi racism in Israel is deeply connected to the dispossession of Palestinians.

Zionism from the Standpoint of It’s Jewish Victims

Between Mizrahim and Palestinians: The Tension Between Exclusion and Responsibility

The US, like Israel, is a settler colonial state built on stolen land through the genocide of the indigenous population and with the labor of enslaved Africans kidnapped from their homelands. Citizenship was never open to everyone. From 1790 to 1952, only “free white immigrants” could become naturalized citizens. Black former slaves did not receive citizenship until the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868, and it was not until the 1960s that the federal government passed laws to ostensibly guarantee the rights of its Black citizens.

Citizenship has also been conferred onto Indigenous peoples as a way to abrogate their rights as sovereign nations. The 1871 Indian Appropriation Act ended the US government’s recognition of Indigenous tribes, relegating them to the status of an “internal population” and removing roadblocks to the forcible seizure of their land. Half a century later, the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 unilaterally made all Indigenous peoples citizens in an attempt to assimilate them into the US political and socioeconomic system.

Learn more:

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine

Malice Enough in their Hearts and Courage Enough in Ours: Reflections on US Indigenous and Palestinian Experiences under Occupation

Today citizenship in the US and Israel serves to uphold a system of exclusion, as well as to maintain a hierarchy that positions white people at the top. The debates around undocumented immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers highlight how citizenship is deployed to deprive certain populations of basic human rights in the name of the law and national security. The widespread state violence meted out to Black, brown, and Indigenous populations through physical attacks, as well as grossly unequal access to state resources and protection, further exposes the myth of citizenship, illustrating how it has never guaranteed equality or justice for all.

Since Donald Trump became president, outraged liberals and progressives nationwide have protested his repeated attempts at a Muslim Ban targeting refugees, immigrants, Arabs, Iranians, Africans, and others based on their religion and national origin. The ban has torn families apart, put asylum seekers at risk, and further endangered countless refugees fleeing wars and famine. As Trump continues to expand the War on Terror in places like Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, there will only be more civilians killed and forced to leave their homes. There has been a lot of powerful calling out of the racism, xenophobia, and anti-Muslim bigotry behind this ban, which is all the more grotesque considering the role of U.S. interventions and militarism in creating the conditions from which people are being forced to flee.

Israel itself has been banning refugees since 1948. Israel was created and is maintained through the ethnic cleansing and ongoing exile of more than 7 million Palestinian refugees who are denied the right to return to their homes and lands — an inalienable right inscribed in international law — simply because of their religion and national origin.

Read Freedom to Stay, Freedom to Move, Freedom to Return, Freedom to Resist statement from Third World Resistance.

No Bans on Stolen Lands: Refugee Resistance from the U.S. to Palestine Webinar

From the US/Mexico border wall to Israel’s apartheid wall, and the nearly 70 other walls across the world, walls are ripping through people’s lives and lands, separating families and intensifying state violence, surveillance, repression, and exploitation. These walls are tangible monuments of militarism and domination, unilaterally defining and fortifying borders and state control.

Trump held up Israel’s walls as a model for expanding the US/Mexico border wall and was cheered on by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. And the connections go even deeper: the land split by the US/Mexico border wall is lined with towers patrolled by Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems, while Israeli companies Elta and Magal and occupation profiteer Caterpillar are vying for contracts to get their hands on the wall. So when people chant “from Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have to go,” it is more than just a slogan. It is a shared reality of colonization and corporate exploitation that translates to a shared struggle for collective liberation.

In a call for the first Global Day of Action for a World Without Walls, migrant rights, feminist, environmental, peasant, labor, and other movements around the world joined with the Palestinian Stop the Wall campaign to issue this statement for a #WorldWithoutWalls, which read in part:

Walls have not only risen to fortify borders of state control but demarcate the boundaries between the rich, the powerful, the socially acceptable and the ‘other’… From India, to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, Western Sahara and Europe, the number of walls designed to forcibly define and seal borders has almost tripled over the last two decades [while] tens of thousands linger as prisoners of conscience or under illegal and inhumane conditions behind prison walls… Walls have become cornerstones in a world where wars, militarization and exclusion are to substitute justice, freedom and equality.

Israel has been a key actor in promoting a new global era of walls as part of its larger role in repression, surveillance, and militarization worldwide. Here in the US, one cannot reject Trump’s expansion of the US/Mexico border wall while defending Israel’s wall that likewise cuts off native people from their lands, separates families, and destroys lives. And vice versa: those around the world decrying Israel’s apartheid must look at the walls in their own backyards and support those struggling against them.

In February 2017, the staff and Steering Committee of the US Campaign for the Palestinian Rights traveled from San Diego, CA to the U.S./Mexico border to see for ourselves what is happening at the border.

In October 2017, grassroots leaders from Mexico, the U.S., and the Tohono O’odham Nation traveled through Palestine, connecting with activists in their fight for a World Without Walls.

In November 2017, Palestinian Stop the Wall campaign coordinator Jamal Juma’a and BDS National Committee South American liaison Pedro Charbel traveled to Mexico to join the Mexican Caravana against the Walls of Shame.

Interfaith dialogue and activism across faith communities has often played an important role in movements for justice. For interfaith work to succeed in pushing forward struggles for freedom, it must always be grounded in a commitment to dismantle oppression at a structural level, and not only focus on interpersonal relationships.

Unfortunately, within the context of organizing for Palestine, the use of interfaith relationships has all too often contributed to further denying Palestinian rights. The word for this is “faithwashing,” a tactic which attempts to whitewash Israel’s war crimes and improve its image through interfaith work that misrepresents and distracts from Israeli apartheid, rather than challenging it.

Faithwashing promotes the idea that the so-called conflict is rooted in centuries-old religious differences, instead of a settler-colonial project that continues to dispossess and oppress Palestinians daily. Within that contrived framework, Palestinians (essentialized to represent Muslims) and Israelis (essentialized to represent Jews) only need interfaith dialogue to find their way to a solution. This disingenuous framework whitewashes Israel’s deliberate denial of Palestinian rights and structural oppression enforced by governments, corporations, and other institutions. Faithwashing also erases the existence of Palestinian Christians, Druze, and other religious groups, as well as allows liberal Zionists to engage in misleading interfaith efforts in the name of social justice that are in fact meant to stifle organizing for Palestinian rights.

Examples of faithwashing abound. Interfaith dialogue that explicitly bans the discussion of politics in relation to Palestine, or that posits dialogue as an alternative to boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns, or other efforts to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes, is an example. Less overt faithwashing efforts include interfaith projects by groups that are actively involved in anti-Palestinian efforts. For instance, local Jewish Community Relations Councils across the country partner with progressive groups in the fight against the Muslim Ban, while simultaneously pushing state level anti-BDS laws that would criminalize nonviolent tactics being used to resist Israel’s 70-year ban against Palestinian refugees. Groups like the Anti Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee declare their support for Muslim American communities and call for joint Muslim-Jewish efforts against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, while doing advocacy on behalf of Israel that promotes Islamophobic rhetoric as a justification of Israel’s suppression of Palestinian rights.

In this political moment, it is critical that we are able to identify and call out faithwashing. At a time when we must band together to fight hate and the stifling of dissent, groups cannot be allowed to be Progressive Except on Palestine (PEP). The Palestinian movement for freedom, justice, and equality cannot be divorced from the movement for collective justice. As PEPs attempt to align themselves with the growing resistance to Trump’s policies and rhetoric, we must make clear that there cannot be a Palestine exception to collective justice.

Watch our webinar featuring American Muslims for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace’s Network Against Islamophobia to learn more about faithwashing, the connections between Zionism and Islamophobia, and the need for principled interfaith programs.

Here are some other resources.