How the murder of Palestinian teen Ali Abu Aliya underscores the joint struggle with BLM

How the murder of Palestinian teen Ali Abu Aliya underscores the joint struggle with BLM
Comment: For Palestinians and US communities of colour, racism is the enabler of violence and oppression. We must unite in our resistance to this common enemy, writes Hiba Rahim.
7 min read
14 Dec, 2020
A mural remembering George Floyd and Palestinian nurse Razan Al-Najar in Bethlehem [Getty]
Confining people to such a degree of poverty and struggle that it quells the opportunity for resistance is an age-old strategy for control. We see this both in America's Black community, and halfway around the world, in Palestine. 

From slavery, to Black codes, to Jim Crow, to present day disenfranchisement and police brutality, the United States has set in place a vicious slew of barricades that has prevented many in the Black community from finding prosperity and success. 

Similarly, in Palestine the draconian Israeli government has established literal and ideological roadblocks aimed at the subjugation of a people who have long been resisting occupation and fighting for liberation. This power tactic severely restricts the time and means people have to focus on matters other than survival; discontent is silenced by hunger, joblessness, and the battle to stay alive. 

Countless Black and Palestinian parents are forced to talk to their children about what to do - and what never to do - if approached by law enforcement. For them, that encounter could mean unwarranted arrest, false imprisonment, or even death. And the lack of accountability enjoyed by murdering aggressors from US and Israeli law enforcement communities allows for the continuation of such tragedy and control. 

Two weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio, 23-year-old Casey Goodson was shot in the back and killed as he entered his home in a case of mistaken identity. That same weekend in Palestine, 13-year-old Ali Abu Aliya was shot in the stomach and killed by Israeli police while at a protest against a new illegal settlement in their district.

When those children are Black or Brown bodies, the fortifications designed to protect the innocent, the vulnerable, and the weak, are overlooked

Humans, and children in particular, are granted special protection under international law. But when those children are Black or Brown bodies, the fortifications designed to protect the innocent, the vulnerable, and the weak, are overlooked. In the United States, Black children have died for carrying a pellet gun, or walking with a hood on, or for allegedly whistling at a white woman. It's a list of seemingly endless tragedies.

After centuries of violence, police brutality, white supremacy, and murder, our great Constitution has failed at offering protection to those who many argue were intended to be stifled. Perhaps, then, it is more befitting to say that it has succeeded.

But why has "international law" been lurking in the shadows of America's subjugation of minority groups, particularly People of colour? Why has it not risen to the defense of the oppressed? There is a huge discrepancy between the façade of the United States as a beacon of liberty, equality, and justice for all, and the reality of what has taken place in its borders since its genesis.

And while America is swift to reprimand only select countries guilty of violating international law with intensities ranging from gentle wrist slaps to chokeholds, who would dare to hold the US accountable?

No one.

We have learned from history that change in this country must come from a grassroots level.

Read more:  EU calls for probe into killing of 13-year-old Palestinian by Israeli forces

Most recently, it was the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013 after the murder of Trayvon Martin that jolted this nation into a renewed awareness of prejudice and social injustices. And the people began to mobilise, again. Joining forces with BLM were many community organisations, faith leaders, and activists - socially conscientious groups and individuals whose energies fused into a powerful, influential movement. There was something in this alliance of forces that catapulted the mission forward. After all, a fist is more powerful than a finger. 

As BLM grew in the racial and ethnic diversity of its members, the plight of other groups was heard and highlighted, and even stronger coalitions were forged. Many members of BLM drew parallels with struggles of other groups fighting for liberation, namely, the Palestinians.

In 2014, Palestinians in Gaza faced the worst massacre in recent times by the occupying Israeli forces. That summer, as the BLM movement continued to gain momentum in the face of police brutality in America, cries of "From Ferguson to Palestine" grew into a deeper sense of the overlapping tragedies between these two oppressed peoples.

When Mr George Floyd was killed by a knee-on-neck chokehold, Palestinians immediately recognised this as a long-standing Israeli tactic of subjugation, and sometimes, death. Slowly, media outlets began highlighting the fact that hundreds of US police officers are trained by Israeli law-enforcement agents.

Every day, we see Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians that mirror the breaches of both the US Constitution and of human dignity faced by African-Americans. The scene of a "random" traffic stop, driver pulled out of the car and killed, or even shot while still in the car; officer exonerated, is common in the US and Israel against both people. Think A.J. Crooms, 16, and Sincere Pierce, 18. Think Ahmed Erekat, 27.

Breonna Taylor, 26, was murdered while sleeping in her bed.

Change scene to Palestine and we read this New York Times headline: "Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed 65-year-old Palestinian man in his bedroom in this tense city early Friday, in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity."

Every day, we see Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians that mirror the breaches of both the US Constitution and of human dignity faced by African-Americans

Justice has not been served in either case, and it will rarely be delivered because the people are fighting systemic racism and oppression. 

When the momentous civil rights achievements of the 1960s saw segregation signs taken down, it did not integrate people's minds and hearts, and it certainly did not reverse a legal system designed to oppress and suppress. 

In Palestine, people remain resilient in the face of Israeli apartheid. Efforts to control and debilitate Palestinians infiltrate every aspect of life, beginning with the building of a wall that far predates the attempt we saw in the United States, forcing the Palestinian people to resist. 

In both cases, the international community continues to empower, endorse, or at best, ignore these influential players. The EU has called for an investigation of Ali Abu Aliya's death - just like it has called for the investigation of hundreds of deaths and human rights violations before. In the US, officer after officer continues to be exonerated in the most disgusting display of immunity that is the norm in this nation. 

In order for there to be change, the people must come together. Organise. Mobilise. Resist. And this is happening at unprecedented levels. Right now, it is more critical than ever that groups understand the connection between injustices in America, and abroad. 

In the US, we must better understand and support global struggles

From the US to Israel and around the world, today we are still facing the most enduring pandemic in human history: racism. In the Black community and for the Palestinian people, racism has been the enabler of rape, of murder, of castration, of humiliation; it has been the force behind wrongful incarceration, mass incarceration, disenfranchisement, inherited poverty, and poor education.

Dominance and oppression have been the modus operandi of those in seats of power. That can change, but it will require a broader moral consciousness, coalition building, and working together at points of intersectionality while not disparaging areas of difference.

Palestinians must recognise the Black struggle as their own. That is already underway with influential Palestinian groups like Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, the Palestinian BDS National Committee, and others issuing unwavering solidarity for Black Lives Matter and Black liberation. 

In the US, we must better understand and support global struggles. We must lift one another up and find seats at the table of change. And as Shirley Chisholm famously said, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."

We must be masters of our own destiny. But we need to do it strategically, together. That way, the scales that decorate the image of America will finally be at a point of equilibrium. Justice will prevail, and Palestine will be free. 

Hiba Rahim works for the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organisation. She is a graduate of Florida State University's International Affairs Master's programme.

Follow her on Twitter: @rahim_hiba

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.