More than 1,000 African-Americans have signed a letter reaffirming black solidarity with the plight of Palestinians and endorsing resistance to Israel and its products, known as the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
In the letter, the activists “reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.” The text was signed by high-profile names such as scholar Cornel West, 1960s activist Angela Davis, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.
The proclamation arrives a little more than a year after the 2014 conflict in Gaza. Sparked by the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel, Tel Aviv responded with a weeks-long campaign of airstrikes and ground-based attacks. Referred to by the black activists as “last summer’s Gaza massacre,” the offensive took the lives of more than 2,200 Palestinians – many civilians – and several dozen Israelis.
The activists went on to make several connections between what Palestinians and the black community have been going through. It even drew a parallel between US police and Israeli soldiers, noting they have trained together.
“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,” the statement reads. “Soldiers, police, and courts justify lethal force against us and our children who pose no imminent threat.”
Additionally, the statement criticized officials from both the US and Israel, as well as the media, for “criminalizing” the existence of blacks and Palestinians and referring to their movements as “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,” the letter reads. “We recognize the racism that characterizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is also directed against others in the region, including intolerance, police brutality, and violence against Israel’s African population.”
The activists came out in support of the BDS movement, which seeks to increase pressure on Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians by boycotting Israeli goods, institutions, and by pushing for sanctions against the country. One of the organizers of the statement, Kristian Davis Bailey, also highlighted companies such as Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar for “enabling the occupation,” Al Jazeera reported.
Motorola, for its part, said it wants to see the situation in the Middle East resolved peacefully.
“Motorola Solutions has a comprehensive set of policies and procedures that address human rights, which are designed to ensure that our operations worldwide are conducted using the highest standards of integrity and ethical business conduct, applied uniformly and consistently,” Kurt Ebenhoch, head of communications at Motorola, said in a statement to Al Jazeera.
Aside from pledging their support for BDS, the activists urged US and African-American institutions to join the movement. It also called on America to end all diplomatic and economic aid to Israel.
“We’re at a crucial moment in the global struggle against racism, in which the black and Palestinian struggles play a crucial role,” said Bailey in a press release. “We wish to send a loud and clear message to Palestinians, as well as the governments of the US and Israel that now is the time for Palestinian liberation, just as now is the time for our own in the United States.”