There is a rising tide of righteous and relentless resistance by Palestinians to Israeli apartheid and occupation, and Black people and others around the world are increasingly speaking up and actively standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their liberation struggle. It is a central moral mandate of the sacred teachings of our ancestors that we must bear witness to truth and set the scales of justice in their proper place, especially with rightful and righteous concern for the vulnerable, the downtrodden, the disempowered, and the oppressed. Thus, as Dr. Martin Luther King phrased it concerning the war against Vietnam, we are compelled to bring Palestine “into the field of our moral vision,” our moral concern and our moral commitment to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their liberation struggle. In this month of his coming into being, I pay homage to Haji Malcolm X, fierce freedom fighter and our noble witness to the world, who stood up early in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
Thus, as Israel wages another major terror campaign of indiscriminate bombing, brutalizing and killing at this point 263 persons including 63 children, we, as persons and a people, must avoid what Dr. King called the immorality and betrayal of silence in the face of the radical evil of unjust war, a brutal occupation and savage oppression. Indeed, we must continue to speak truth to the people and to power about Palestine and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their rightful resistance to oppression, removal and erasure. We must reject justification for this current carnage carried out in the name and false deceptive claim of self-defense which no aggressor can make. And we cannot really or rightfully do this if we take seriously and embrace the maze of myths created by Israel and its compliant and complicit guardian, the U.S.
This means setting aside all the illusions and lies offered and starting with the fundamental moral, political and historical reality that the problem we are to face and deal with decisively is not the Palestinian people, Hamas, or other convenient diversions, but Israel’s immoral, illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine. It is Israel’s denial of the right of the Palestinians to exist as a people, as a political and cultural community within their land and to have their own independent sovereign state secure from invasion and intervention of any kind.
Secondly, we must realize, expose and resist the U.S.’ key and complicit role in supporting, sustaining and justifying this structural and daily violence against the Palestinian people. Israel is a financial, military and political dependent of the U.S. The U.S. gives it $4 billion plus per year in military aid, as well as military secrets, intelligence, weapons, defense systems, and authorizations to pursue its settler, occupation and apartheid policies – openly as with Trump or with covered consent as with other U.S. leaders. The U.S. defends Israel diplomatically in the UN and other venues, vetoing virtually every majority Security Council criticism of its wars and terror campaigns against Palestine and the Palestinian people. It coerces and bribes other states to stop criticizing the immoral and illegal treatment of the Palestinians and paves the way for Israel to join its imperial projects in various countries. Not since Dwight Eisenhower has the U.S. government acted to reign in its ward and ally in its imperial and oppressive projects.
Thirdly, we must recognize the Palestinian liberation struggle is a legitimate struggle against an occupying power with a settler apartheid structure. Indeed, Human Rights Watch stated in a recent report that even before this latest attack on Palestine, Israel is “committing crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” That is to say, it is engaging in systemic and systematic racial/ethnic oppression affecting literally every aspect of the Palestinian peoples’ lives – from water and food delivery to marriage and moving freely in their own land. And as an apartheid state, like apartheid South Africa and segregated U.S.A., Israel has enshrined its supremacist will in law and also uses religious and racially supremacist references to justify its oppression.
It is important also to reject any oppressor’s false and deceptive claim of self-defense. It is a tired and tattered claim that the Biden administration and American politicians mouth automatically, expecting us and the world not to question it, let alone reject it. But Israel is an occupier and invader and there is no morality or international law that allows an invader and occupier to claim self-defense against the people they are oppressing. Indeed, morality and international law support the right to resist as UN Resolution 37/43 states specifically citing the Palestinian liberation struggle. Imagine someone arguing French people had no right to resist Nazi occupation, even if the Germans claimed self-defense and imposed collective punishment and executions of the Resistance forces.
There is a natural and human right to freedom and thus the right to resist those who deny it. With Palestine, however, American and Israeli propaganda has worked to delegitimize the right to resist for the Palestinians and others they are oppressing. Thus, they call the liberation struggle terrorism and freedom fighters terrorists. This is typical colonial, invader and occupier talk found in the French murderous and torturous attempt to suppress the Haitian liberation struggle and the British attempt to suppress the Kenyan Liberation Movement imprisoning 1.5 million Kenyans in concentration and torture camps. Israel has likewise imprisoned two million Palestinians in Gaza Palestine in what has been defined as the largest outdoor prison in the world – blockading them on land, air and sea. It is Orwellian double talk and reversal of moral and linguistic realities: calling truth, lies; liberation, terrorism; and enslavement, freedom.
Likewise, we cannot talk about “cycles of violence” without talking about the origin of the violence in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Nor can we honestly or adequately discuss the so-called “cycle of violence” without adding that its current augmented and advertised form began when Israelis moved to expel Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and from East Jerusalem, effectively erasing them from their own land in what is called elsewhere “ethnic cleansing.” Moreover, the recent violence, again by the occupier, begins also with the Israeli unprovoked and unjustifiable armed assault on worshippers praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites.
Clearly, we must move beyond the morally questionable position of “both sides” as if there is a moral equivalency between the oppressed and the oppressor and we must maintain that no person, nation or state has immunity from criticism or impunity from punishment. We must struggle to stop the U.S. from funding the occupation, apartheid, dispossession, and war crimes in its support of Israel. We must also, in our religious and political thinking, stop conflating and confusing ancient Israel as a moral ideal with modern Israel which is an occupying and apartheid state. Likewise, we must recognize the extreme imbalance between Israel, a military Goliath and the Palestinian people without an army, air force or navy or the weaponry or Iron Dome or the U.S. patron who provides it. And thus, they are defenseless against Israel’s rain of terror and destruction from the sky. Also, we must intensify the struggle to lift and end the inhuman blockade and occupation, the collective punishment and the dehumanization of the Palestinian people.
In this regard, the sacred teachings of our ancestors tell us that we must do good in and for the world and all in it. They teach us that the good we do for others we are also doing for ourselves. For we are building the moral community and world we all want and deserve to live in – a world of freedom, justice and human flourishing and where the equal dignity and rights of every person and people are neither denied nor questioned.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of Africana Studies, California State University-Long Beach; Executive Director, African American Cultural Center (Us); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture and Essays on Struggle: Position and Analysis, www.AfricanAmericanCulturalCenter-LA.org; www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org; www.MaulanaKarenga.org.