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Building Coalitions Between Black America and Palestine: Reflections of a Katrina Survivor

I think that, if we are truly serious about a collaboration between Black America and advocates for a free Palestine, then pro-Palestinian groups in America need to make a serious commitment to being an outspoken ally on issues important to progressive Black folks. Ultimately, this is the work of coalition building. I believe it is important that advocates for Palestinian human rights are not just asking for support, but also offering it.

In talking about being against Israeli Apartheid, we should be also talking about apartheid in the US. We should talk about the ways in which funding is cut for social programs in the US while funding is increased for the Israeli military. We should talk about how Black people from New Orleans were dispersed throughout the US post-Katrina and are fighting for their “Right of Return.” We should talk about how Arabs in the US are recently facing some of the racial profiling that Black folks here have always experienced. We should talk about how the Bush administration shows its contempt for democracy at home by disenfranchising Black people, and how it shows its contempt for democracy in Palestine by refusing to speak to the elected Palestinian government.

And, in speaking about these issues, we should not just be paying lip service, but actually commit to working on this with our organizations. I believe the movement for ending the occupation of Palestine should start a project of giving its constituent organizations ideas, materials, and support for entering into coalitions with local, grassroots, people-of-color-led social justice organizations. Local groups organizing demonstrations or other events should invite grassroots Black leaders to be speakers. They should come out to protests and other events initiated by the Black community - not to recruit, but to show principled support.

Here in New Orleans, our Palestine solidarity group has incorporated solidarity with other local struggles as part of our core mission, and we always invite local organizers from grassroots organizations to speak at our events. We also hold cultural events where we have, for example, local Palestinian and Black youth doing spoken word or hiphop performances. We always draw links between local and international issues.

I know that Palestine activists at the US Social Forum have proposed a panel on Right of Return from New Orleans to Palestine. I think, overall, that the USSF offers a great opportunity for making these connections - it would be great if the Palestine movement at large also encouraged its member organizations to take part in the forum.

In solidarity.

Jordan Flaherty