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Ferguson Anti-Police Brutality Protesters Take Historic Trip To Palestine
“The goals were primarily to allow for the group members to experience and see first hand the occupation, ethnic cleansing and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians, but also to build real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation.”
January 13, 2015 - Recently, a number of representatives from the Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter and various Ferguson anti-police brutality protesters made history through a solidarity trip to Palestine. The purpose of last week’s trip was to connect with activists living under Israeli occupation.
The 10-day trip to the occupied Palestinian Territories, specifically in the West Bank, was organized to show a link between oppression emanating from the Israeli State as well as that which victims of police brutality are experiencing in America.
Ahmad Abuznaid, the legal and policy director of the Dream Defenders, as well as the co-organizer of the delegation, explained that the trip was all about making connections, and seeing beyond single-issue causes.
“The goals were primarily to allow for the group members to experience and see first hand the occupation, ethnic cleansing and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians, but also to build real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation,” Abuznaid said. “In the spirit of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and many others, we thought the connections between the African American leadership of the movement in the US and those on the ground in Palestine needed to be reestablished and fortified.” Furthermore, he said that the American activists hoped to collaborate and teach organizing and protest strategies that have worked well in the United States, to their Palestinian brothers and sisters.
“As a Palestinian who has learned a great deal about struggle, movement, militancy and liberation from African Americans in the US, I dreamt of the day where I could bring that power back to my people in Palestine. This trip is a part of that process.”
The co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Patrisse Cullors commented that the first thing that came to mind when she saw the divisions between Israelis and Palestinians was apartheid. “This is an apartheid state. We can’t deny that and if we do deny it we are apart of the Zionist violence. There are two different systems here in occupied Palestine. Two completely different systems. Folks are unable to go to parts of their own country. Folks are barred from their own country.”
Activist Cherrell Brown said there are numerous parallels between the violence perpetrated by the State of Israel against Palestinians and the police violence from the U.S. government which has taken so many African American lives. “So many parallels exist between how the US polices, incarcerates, and perpetuates violence on the black community and how the Zionist state that exists in Israel perpetuates the same on Palestinians. “This is not to say there aren’t vast differences and nuances that need to always be named, but our oppressors are literally collaborating together, learning from one another – and as oppressed people we have to do the same,” she concluded.
A complete list of the delegates who made this trip include five Dream Defenders (Phillip Agnew, Ciara Taylor, Steven Pargett, Sherika Shaw, Ahmad Abuznaid); Tef Poe and Tara Thompson from Ferguson/Hands Up United; journalist Marc Lamont Hill, Cherrell Brown and Carmen Perez of Justice League NYC; Charlene Carruthers from the Black Youth Project; as well as poet and artist Aja Monet; Patrisse Cullors of Black Lives Matter; and USC doctoral student Maytha Alhassen.
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Coalition of more than 40 NYC community groups calls on City Council to cancel delegation to IsraelJanuary 12, 2015
A coalition of more than 40 New York City community groups held a press conference outside City Hall on Monday calling for the City Council to cancel a planned delegation to Israel. A diverse group of speakers addressed the city’s progressive politicians, asking how they could reconcile their opposition to racism and state violence at home with support for Israel’s policies against the Palestinians.
Around 50 people gathered in the near-freezing rain for the event, which was introduced by Brandon Davis of Jewish Voice for Peace. Davis denounced the “flagrant disregard for justice” displayed by the delegation, “in our streets” as well as in Palestine. A recurring theme of the remarks that followed was the link between the current movement to end racist policing in U.S. cities and the struggle against Israel’s apartheid in Palestine. Connections were mentioned between the New York Police Department and the Israeli security establishment, including the opening of an NYPD branch in the Sharon District police headquarters at Kfar Saba.
Organizations that have joined the campaign include the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the Direct Action Front for Palestine, and Jews Against Islamophobia. The Council’s nine-day trip, scheduled to begin on February 15, is sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation of New York.
City Council members participating in the delegation to Israel are Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mark Treyger, Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, David Greenfield, Rafael Espinal, Darlene Mealy, Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Corey Johnson, Ritchie Torres, Andrew Cohen, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich, and James Van Bramer...
Speakers at the press conference wondered how informative such a visit could really be. Would the Council tour the West Bank separation barrier, asked criminal defense attorney Bina Ahmad, or Gaza’s ruined homes and schools? How could those who have taken a stance against domestic discrimination, she demanded to know, go on to contribute to normalizing systematic racism against an entire people — “gross hypocrisy,” in her words. Ahmad, who works with the Legal Aid Society in Staten Island and represented police chokehold victim Eric Garner, analogized Israel’s occupation of Palestine to the NYPD’s presence in communities of color.
Donna Nevel of Jews Against Islamophobia criticized Council members for publicly opposing anti-Muslim discrimination and then visiting Israel under the auspices of the JCRC, which fervently backed Police Comissioner Ray Kelly after the revelation of NYPD spying on Muslim communities. “It is clear that the JCRC has helped undermine the basic civil rights and liberties of our city’s Muslim residents,” according to a letter from the anti-Islamophobia coalition to the Council, “and we hope that you agree with us that it is a most inappropriate organization to lead such a trip.”
Other speakers emphasized the unprogressive nature of a trip that would entail crossing an international picket line. CUNY activist Conor Tomás Reed mentioned labor groups around the world that have heeded Palestinian civil society’s call for a boycott.
There is no difference as both represent dangerous, extremist and irrational progressive revolutionary subversionist activity.