If U.S. Congressman Jamaal bowman (D-NY), really believes that Palestinians have the right to dignity “self-determination” and that the “occupation must end,”He must then review his recent votes in Congress as well as other decisions regarding Palestine. These are calling into question his progressive bona fides.
Bowman traveled to Israel recently as part of a congressional delegation with J Street, a liberal Zionist lobby organization. There, he met with Naftali Bennett, an ultra-right-leaning Prime Minster. He voted in favor of U.S. taxpayers funding Israel’s Iron Dome military system to the tune of $1 billion and is a fierce opponent of the Palestinian civil society’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is modeled after the nonviolent component of the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa.
These actions have sparked outrage among some chapters of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and within its BDS/Palestine Solidarity Working Group. formally calling on the DSA’s National Political Committee to expel him from its ranks. They insist that Bowman is violating the group’s political platform on Palestine.
Regardless of which way the DSA’s deliberations on Bowman might go, he has thus far shown himself to be another progressive congressperson who betrays those values in regards to Palestine. He is abandoning the principled stances of prominent Black- or Palestinian-led organizations like the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political RepressionThe Chicago chapter of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network.
Black liberation movement organizers in this country and their Palestinian counterparts have been committed to unity and joint struggle for decades. Despite government repression, constant monitoring, and other attempts at thwarting their organizing and activism, these organizers continue working together to expose and eliminate racism, sexism and white supremacy, both here and abroad. Many Black activists, artists, writers, academics, and artists have shown an unwavering commitment for the liberation and preservation of Palestine.
After the police-perpetrated shooting death of Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, hundreds of Palestinians from all parts of the U.S. converged on Ferguson to join the Movement for Black Lives protests. The Palestinians were there in solidarity, of course, but also because they understood that the struggle against police crimes here holds many parallels with — and is entwined with — the struggle against Israeli military crimes against their people in Palestine.
But Black-Palestinian unity began long before Ferguson. The relationship dates back as far as the 1960s, when the anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist movements were in place. Black Panther Party and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) condemned Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine. And in 1973, Black union workers in Michigan’s auto plants supported their mostly Arab immigrant co-workers who walked off the job and demanded that the United Auto Workers divest from Israeli state bonds.
These principles of joint struggle can also be seen in the relationship between Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Chicago Chapter of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network. Both organizations recognize that Black-Palestinian unity rests on the understanding of the fact that both the resistance to Israel and the Black liberation struggle at home are blows to U.S. empirealism. It is a relationship that is mutually beneficial. Interconnected, interrelated and determined each otherWe are all fighting the same enemy.
The U.S. has supported the colonization and occupations of Palestine and Iraq, and has caused destruction in the Arab World. The same imperial force which attacks Arabs abroad has militarized the police of Black communities. Black people and Palestinians/Arabs both are subject to the same surveillance, repression, criminalization.
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and its Black community have stood in solidarity with Palestinians for many years. They participated in fighting the Muslim Ban and defending Arabs and Muslims against post-9/11 targeting and repression. They also demanded that legislators support them. billsThat promote Palestinian rights and justice Rasmea Odeh. The Chicago chapter of U.S. Palestinian Community Network is a part of the Steering Committee for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. It has mobilized hundreds to support police accountability through Civilian Police Accountability Council; justice and support for Black families who have been injured, tortured, or killed by the Chicago police. These groups come together with great care and intention, sharing a common vision for a just society free from white supremacy and racism, settler colonialism, and patriarchy.
Bowman, in contrast, has met with the Israeli Prime Minister and voted for the Iron Dome. He is also supporting the racist, apartheid enforcing country of Israel. Instead of using Congress to reduce the violence and harmful conditions that continue to devastate the daily lives of Palestinians living under apartheid regimes, Bowman is doing the opposite. Instead, he should follow the instructions of Black people and the institutions they have on the ground. These directives are clear on how the partisan efforts of legislators in D.C. often serve as a barrier and reproduce the inequalities Blacks face in the U.S.A. and abroad.
If Bowman really wants to uphold progressive values and if he is concerned about Palestinian national rights, including self determination, then he should listen and learn from the people of his district as well as the Black liberation movement. He should support BDS, reject the apartheid regime in Israel and vote against U.S. assistance to the racist nation.