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

Make sure to explore the other tracks of the curriculum: Not That Complicated and Together We Rise.

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


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.

Deborah Cowen. Queer and Trans Community Defense, “No Pride in Gentrification” Community Forum, Toronto. April 7, 2016.

The displacement of people is an enduring injustice across the globe. Whether due to violent conflict, climate change disasters, development projects benefiting corporations over humans, or colonization, people are being forced from their homes, communities, and lands.

Displacement in both Palestine and the US stem from the colonial mindset of those in power , which necessitates “civilizing” a land of “savages.”  According to this model, local communities are replaced rather than lived alongside as the displacers recreate a land in their own image.

Moderated by Sandra Tamari of the Adalah Justice Project, the Resisting Displacement from Jerusalem to St. Louis: Stories of Colonization and Gentrification webinar helps draw connections across borders while acknowledging that each context is different, and shares lessons about resisting the oppressive systems forcing people from their homes and lands. Ingrid Jaradat highlights Israel’s colonization of Jerusalem and attempts to Judaize the city by displacing its native Palestinian population, and Sheila Rendon shares her personal story of being impacted by gentrification in St. Louis, Missouri through eminent domain.

Eminent domain is a tactic commonly used to advance gentrification. It refers to the power of a state to claim private property for public use. This often happens through the state using symptoms of its own neglect, such as crumbling infrastructure, as a pretense to displace communities. States will use the cover of public use to seize properties to sell to private developers for large profits that are not then used to invest in community needs, and/or to set up public redevelopment campaigns such as parks that do not necessarily address the direct needs of communities. The new housing that developers build tends to not have enough low-cost options. Or the redevelopment projects drive up rents and property taxes and lower income communities are forced to move away. Thus the people’s whose properties the state seized for public use can no longer afford to live in their own communities. This very much advances the goal of gentrification, which is to replace lower income communities, often Black and brown, with more affluent residents. Entire communities are eventually pushed out of their neighborhoods, which often occurs hand-in-hand with increased police violence as government policies ostensibly aimed at making cities safer for their new, more affluent residents translate into more neighborhood policing.

In Jerusalem, Israel is attempting to create an Jewish demographic majority through the forced displacement, dispossession, and continuing impoverishment of thousands of Palestinians in the city. One of the main tools of colonization in occupied East Jerusalem are Israeli land and planning laws that legalize the confiscation of large amounts of Palestinian land for public needs, and the denial of permits to Palestinians to build or repair houses in an effort to push them out of the city. Almost 200,000 Israeli settlers live on stolen Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, while the apartheid wall separates about 140,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem neighborhoods like Kufr Aqab, Qalandiya, and Abu Dis, from the rest of the city. Palestinian Jerusalemites are also denied access to basic infrastructure: only 59 percent of the 324,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem are connected to the city’s official water grid.

For Palestinian Jerusalemites, Israel’s Kafkaesque system of residency status is a powerful tool of dispossession by the state. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the residency status of roughly 15,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem, and in March 2018, a law was passed that grants the Israeli interior minister full power to revoke the Jerusalem residencies of Palestinians over allegations of “breaching allegiance” or “loyalty” to the Israeli state. Israel’s actions in Jerusalem are a microcosm of its colonial Zionist project across Palestine.

Watch Resisting Displacement from Jerusalem to St. Louis: Stories of Colonization and Gentrification to learn more.

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.

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. Read their Statement of Commitment to Joint Struggle with the Palestinian People.

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. They include 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. 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.

Zionism impacts not only Palestinians, but people across the region and world. The most glaring example is how the Zionist settler colonial project extends beyond Palestine. Israel’s military occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights continues in parallel to its occupation of Palestinian lands, both defined by the forced displacement of the majority of the native population and construction of illegal settlements.

Israel’s ability to maintain its settler colonial project depends on the complicity and active support of other oppressive regimes. Concurrently, the US backing of brutal regimes in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere is intimately connected with the “special relationship” that Israel enjoys with US imperialism. Through US support to such regimes, Israel’s domination in the region is ensured.

Israel has also built economic and political power by exporting the strategies and tools developed repressing Palestinians to dictators, colonial regimes, and apartheid states across the world. Israel has armed and trained violent regimes from Apartheid South Africa, to Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe), to Central and South America, to North Africa and Southwest Asia, including the Middle East.

Read the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN)’s pamphlet “Israel’s Worldwide Role in Repression,” excerpted below:

“Israel exports weapons, technologies, training, and techniques of violence for use by governments and corporations against populations around the world…

Israel uses U.S. aid to fund its ongoing occupation of Palestine and Syria and its military campaigns, which in turn serve as an laboratory to develop weapons, surveillance technology, and tactics of population control that are then marketed across the globe…

Israel’s unique skills in crowd control, forced displacement, surveillance and military occupation have resulted in placing it at the forefront of a global industry of repression: it develops, manufactures, and markets technologies that are used by armies and police around the world for purposes of repression.”

Zionist groups have also played an active role in promoting the racist narrative that Palestinians, Arabs, and/or Muslims are terrorists and extremists. This narrative bolsters Zionist efforts to falsely paint Israel as the only democracy in a backwards, uncivilized region, as an attempt to whitewash its war crimes. Over the decades, this has contributed to the Orientalist and Islamophobic analysis of Arabs and/or Muslims which underpins US policies such as the War on Terror – a campaign that includes the invasion and bombing of Muslim-majority countries, torture, targeted killings, extraordinary rendition, criminalization of Muslim American communities through FBI surveillance, entrapment, and Countering Violent Extremism programs, in addition to other harmful policies that violate international norms and human rights.

Other resources:

Watch our webinar with the Palestinian Youth Movement-USA to learn more about the the global impact of Zionism.

<p>Women shout slogans during the International Women's Day march in Qalandiya, West Bank on March 8th, 2014. Around 400 women and supporters marched to the Israeli checkpoint holding signs and shouting slogans against the occupation, calling to boycott Israel. The demonstration was dispersed by Israeli forces with tear gas and shock grenades.</p>

“Fundamentally speaking, feminism cannot support racism, supremacy and oppressive domination in any form.” – Mariam Barghouti

Intersectional feminism is a framework that holds that women’s overlapping, or intersecting, identities impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination. Intersectionality rejects the idea that a woman’s experience can be reduced to only her gender, and insists that we look at the multiple factors shaping her life: race, class, ethnicity, disability, citizenship status, sexual orientation, and others, as well as how systems of oppression are connected. This framework has been developed and pushed by Black women whose particular oppression is often erased due to the lack of intersectional analysis.

When we look at the world through an intersectional feminist lens, it becomes clear that Palestine is a feminist issue. Palestinian women face oppression and violence at the hands of Zionism, and are disproportionately impacted by the structural violence of Israeli apartheid. Understanding this disproportionate impact lies at the core of understanding Palestine as a feminist issue, writes David Lloyd:

“Israel’s war against the continuance of Palestinian life targets women in every sphere. Certainly it targets women as potential or actual agents of the reproduction of life itself, as mothers and as caretakers, but it also targets women as reproducers of social and cultural life, as if the targeting of women—as so often in colonial regimes—were understood to be the royal road to the destruction of indigenous social and political life. Living under Israeli occupation or within the borders of its racial state has been devastating for all Palestinians, but is especially destructive for Palestinian women.”

State violence is both racialized and gendered, an understanding that the feminist network INCITE! Women and Trans People of Color Against Violence has worked under for decades, and why Palestinian women scholar activists like Nada Elia push to end the idea that Zionism is a feminist issue.

Palestinian women face deliberate, systematic violence from the Israeli apartheid regime. They are denied their freedom, access to education, economic opportunities, freedom of movement, and their reproductive health. They are subjected to gender-based violence at the hands of Israeli soldiers and while they are held as political prisoners in Israeli prisons. They are disproportionately impacted by the displacement and poverty that are a direct result of Israel’s ongoing occupation.

A major aspect of the violence Palestinian women are subjected to is political violence. As defined by feminist theorist bell hooks, political violence is when a state or other powerful actors leverage gendered violence to achieve political goals and frighten women from joining political movements. Political violence is regularly deployed by Israel against Palestinian women in the form of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment (read the stories of Lina Khattab, Mariam Barghouti, Ahed and Nariman Tamimi, and Israa Jaabis), sexual violence enacted and threatened against Palestinian women prisoners (read the story of Rasmea Odeh), blackmail, or the endangering of Palestinian survivors and victims of domestic and sexual violence by Israeli officials.

No, You Can’t Be A Feminist And A Zionist

The fact that there is even a debate about the compatibility of Zionism and feminism highlights the importance of intersectional feminism. In the words of Jaime Omar Yassin, “If gender is shared by all racial groups, feminism cannot be Zionist, just as it cannot be neo-Nazi—feminism that doesn’t have an understanding of how it intersects with racial and ethnic oppression is simply a diversification of white supremacy…Is it possible to openly call for the death of women in a neighboring state, to support a political and economic regime that without a doubt contributes to their subjugation both at the hands of Israel, and in Palestinian society, and still be a feminist?”

Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour said it best: “You can’t be a feminist in the United States and stand up for the rights of the American woman and then say that you don’t want to stand up for the rights of Palestinian women in Palestine…You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”

To be a feminist, you must stand with Palestinian women as they fight for freedom, justice, and equality. As long as Palestinian women are forced to give birth at checkpoints or shackled to a prison bed; miscarry at massive rates during Israeli airstrikes; are having their homes destroyed; have their reproductive health and children viewed as demographic threats; are prevented from studying abroad by the Israeli blockade; are stoned by Israeli settlers and harrassed by Israeli soldiers as they walk to school; then Palestine is a feminist issue.

So-called feminism that claims to define what a liberated woman looks like while leaving out the majority of the world’s women who are of color, many of them facing the violence of war and colonialism, is racist, not liberatory. In the words of bell hooks: “As long as women are using class or race or power to dominate other women, feminist sisterhood cannot be fully realized.”

In spite of the violence that they are subjected to, and systematic efforts to silence them and limit their political engagement, Palestinian women are – and have always been – significant players in the Palestinian resistance movements.

  • Khalida Jarrar – member of PLC, political prisoner
  • Haneen Zoabi – Member of the Knesset
  • Mariam Barghouti – writer
  • Dr. Mona el-Farra – physician, human rights activist
  • Hanan Ashrawi – member of PLC, first spokeswoman for PLO
  • Fadwa Barghouti – organizers around political prisoners
  • Amal Alh’jooj – organizer in Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Naqab
  • Haneen Maikey – Director of alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society
  • Suad Amiry – author, architect, founder of RIWAQ
  • Fayrouz Sharqawi – Grassroots Jerusalem
  • Abir Kopty – journalist
  • Maisan Hamdan – community organizer with Urfod, Refuse, Your People Will Protect You
  • Falastine Dwikat – organizer and poet
  • Khulood Badawi – organizer, political analyst
  • Laila El-Haddad – author


Co-authored by Nada Elia

“You cannot have queer liberation while apartheid, patriarchy, capitalism and other oppressions exist. It’s important to target the connections of these oppressive forces.” – Ghaith Hilal, AlQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society

All systems of oppression reinforce one another, and none can be fought in isolation. One cannot advocate for queer and trans people in the US while supporting Israel’s daily aggression against queer and trans Palestinians, whose oppression is compounded by multiple marginalized identities.

Oppression becomes compounded because state violence—including militarism, occupation, the proliferation of prisons, and economic neocolonialism— is both gendered and racialized. In cases of settler-colonialism, such as Palestine and Turtle Island (present North America), Indigenous women, and queer, trans, and gender non-conforming folks—and especially those at the intersections of those identities— bear the brunt of the nexus of these systems of oppression. It is impossible to seriously address sexual and intimate partner violence within communities of color without addressing those larger structures.

As we struggle for freedom, justice, and equality together, we can work to liberate our own minds by “queering our politics”: shifting our thinking away from seeing the world through binaries: white supremacy, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression operate by defining one right and “normal” way of being (straight, cisgender, white, male, Christian, able-bodied, etc.) contrasted with everyone else, who is “Othered.” The forced assignment of people as either male or female (sex), or either man or woman (gender), are examples of these oppressive binaries, which are scientifically ungrounded. Audre Lorde Project’s Cara Page and AlQaws director Haneen Maikey speak on queering and decolonizing political struggle in their panel Queer Anti-Colonial Struggle from the US to Palestine.


Artist: Micah Bazant, Source:

As Israel tarnishes its international image with continued and systematic violence against the Palestinian people, Israel is working hard to do PR damage control. Brand Israel, a campaign by the Israeli foreign ministry, prime minister, and finance ministry—in consultation with U.S. marketing experts—aims to re-brand Israel as progressive and modern instead of militaristic and based on a system of ethno-religious supremacy.

Pinkwashing is a component of Brand Israel. Pinkwashing refers to Israel’s campaign to distract from its egregious violations of international law and the human, civil, and political rights of Palestinians by shining a bright light on its supposed cultural liberalism and its supposed fun, fabulous, and gay-friendly culture.

Pinkwashing juxtaposes a falsely progressive image of Israel with a racist portrayal of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim societies as backwards, repressive, and intolerant. This is part of a long-standing colonial logic that uses racist, orientalist portrayals to justify Western colonization as a way of “saving” and “freeing” the colonized, who are too “uncivilized” to rule themselves.

Examples of pinkwashing include Israel’s promotion of its capital, Tel Aviv, as a welcoming gay tourist destination, without mentioning that Tel Aviv is built on top of several Palestinian villages and is off-limits to most Palestinians who carry West Bank or Gaza Strip IDs (unless they are lucky enough to get a permit from Israel), and in exile, even if they are queer.

Another example is Israel’s touting of a long-standing policy of accepting openly gay and lesbian soldiers in its army. Of course, Israel fails to mention that those soldiers are still part of an illegal occupying army, and that a bullet fired by a lesbian is just as lethal as one fired by a straight man, and a bomb dropped by a transgender pilot onto a building where Palestinian families are attempting to take shelter is just as likely to kill them as one dropped by a straight man. And of course, Israel’s “gay friendly” army does not stop to ask the sexual orientation of its next victim before shooting or bombing. As Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions point out, “Israeli oppression, racism, and discrimination does not distinguish between queer Palestinians and heterosexual Palestinians.”

Many Palestinian couples—straight or queer—are systematically prevented from living together by Israel’s apartheid marriage laws and ID system. With checkpoints, an apartheid wall, incarceration, and racist laws, Israel’s apartheid system undermines Palestinians’ basic right to love freely at every turn. And of course, Israel’s occupation severely limits the ability of queer Palestinians to meet and organize together.

As articulated in Gay Rights with a Side of Apartheid: “Colonialism and dishonesty have always gone hand-in-hand. Nineteenth and twentieth century colonial powers sought to justify their imperial designs through a myopic denunciation of the circumstances of women in the colonised societies. These imperial countries pretended to ‘save brown women from brown men’ by dispossessing and disenfranchising entire peoples. Twenty-first century colonialism has evolved to justify occupation and apartheid as a new and improved ‘civilising mission,’ one that distinguishes itself as gay-friendly, while the downtrodden societies are represented as homophobic. On the other hand, Palestinian queer activism, and the non-violent Palestinian strategy of BDS, which seek equality for all people regardless of their ethnicity, sexuality, or religion, present the model for a queer state, which allows individual citizens to define themselves as they wish, without losing power, entitlement, or safety.”

Right-wing homophobes are some of the more vocal pinkwashers. A particularly illustrative example comes from the organization A Wider Bridge, the Israel advocacy organization that brings queer Israelis to the US, and queer Americans to Israel, to win over support for Israel from queer communities and progressive political bodies. Not only does A Wider Bridge partner with StandWithUs, a right-wing Zionist organization, but it is funded by individuals and organizations that finance bigoted anti-gay groups and agents and politicians in the Republican Party, including Donald Trump.

Ironically, contrary to the image of being overwhelmingly gay-friendly, a 2009 poll commissioned by Haaretz showed nearly half of Israelis consider homosexuality to be a perversion. Professor Aeyal Goss at Tel Aviv University writes, “conservative and especially religious [Israeli] politicians remain fiercely homophobic.” Many of these same leaders cynically weaponize queer struggle against Palestinians with pinkwashing, enlisting queer and progressives communities outside Israel in violence toward Palestinians.

Anti-Pinkwashing Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Activism

Credit: International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Challenging pinkwashing is part of answering the Palestinian call for BDS. Here are some inspiring examples of anti-pinkwashing campaigns:

  1. Seattle LGBT Commission: In 2012, the Israeli consulate funded a “Rainbow Generations” pinkwashing tour in the Pacific Northwest. Local queer activists exposed the tour as propaganda and got several events cancelled, most significantly at Seattle’s LGBT Commission. Check out the inspiring film to see how they did it and what happened.
  2. Creating Change LGBTQ Conference: In 2016, the Creating Change Conference included an event hosted A Wider Bridge. In response to outcry, the National LGBTQ Task Force cancelled the event, but later reversed their decision following backlash. Queer Palestinians and their allies showed up in the hundreds and shut down the Wider Bridge event. As of early 2019, when this was written, Creating Change has continued to exclude discussion of pinkwashing at the conference, prompting continued calls on the Task Force to #cancelpinkwashing.”
  3. Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival: In 2018, following global anti-pinkwashing advocacy, eleven artists pulled their films from the Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival (TLVFest) after they learned the obscured, deeper motivations of the festival.

Palestine As a Queer Struggle Webinar

As explained in the webinar below, Palestinian queers face the challenge of denouncing Israel’s violations of their human rights, even as they are engaged in decolonial struggle and a visioning of a future of full equality in Palestinian society. The agency of Palestinian queers, whether in the homeland or the Diaspora, is central to the Palestinian struggle, and takes on unique aspects as Palestinian queers navigate the complex layers of oppression.