Israel & Palestine flags

Hostilities are hopefully coming to an end, with both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict acquiescing to a 72-hour ceasefire. As the sand of despair in the Middle East slowly settles, I felt inclined to reflect on a trend I’ve seen online during this political divergence that I felt needed addressing.

Since July 8, 2014, when the conflict arose, making headlines around the globe, my social media feeds were jam-packed with people and public figuresmost of themmillennials,” like myself—who felt the need to lash out and have an opinion about a conflict many of them were personally not affected by or don’t have much knowledge about.

Even more puzzling is that the outrage about the conflict, now in its fifth week, which is accompanied with taciturnity and utter silence about other horrific atrocities like the various incidents proceeding in Syria in regards to the 170,000 civilian casualties that have occurred. Or, the incident where a blockade has rendered 18,000 besieged Damascus-based Palestinians to starve in a Yarmouk refugee camp.

The same individuals that are incensed by the conflict are also hushed about the brutal decades-long Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet where upwards to 1.2 million Tibetans are estimated to have been killed in an act of unprovoked aggression; approximately 90% of Tibet’s monasteries have been destroyed, with the country constantly being ranked as one of the most oppressed regions in the world.

It should come to no surprise that there are bloody conflicts all over the world, but what gets more clicks?

Are people even outraged that the UN Security Council has sounded an orange alert for South Sudan, stating that the ravaged country faces perhaps the worst humanitarian crisis since the 2011 East Africa drought? Or that UNICEF has reported that over a third of the population could be in serious danger of famine due to a military skirmish between factions? Where is the hashtag revolution?

So, why is this conflict attracting so much attention from the African-American community? The comments posted throughout various social media feeds have often geared toward a staunch pro-Palestinian position, with many of these people relating what is happening in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to European colonialism and genocide. Terms such as these are tossed around too lightly and interchangeably. Platitudes are a dangerous thing in a time where social media is changing human interaction and generating a marketplace of philosophies that, without proper and factual research, could divide a civilization. Yes, in the U.S. there is such a thing as the First Amendment that grants citizens of the world the right to speak and voice their opinions and digressions, but it could become an opiate of the masses without citing sources and double-checking information.

Sure, recent polls like the Pew Research survey show that most black and Hispanic Americans still support the country of Israel by more than a 2:1 ratio, but if you take the elements of religious doctrine out of the equation, philosophies and standpoints change. What happened to the once prominent worldview of the most venerated black civil rights activists who advocated, with zeal, the importance of the Zionism movement? Taking a stance among the likes of Edward Wilmot Byden, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. without contention, Malcolm X said in 1964, “Pan Africanism will do for the people of African descent all over the world, the same that Zionism has done for Jews all over the world.” Fifty years later, there seems to be less of an allied front.

There is a younger, Internet-savvy generation who has taken it upon themselves to produce extreme opinions about the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of race and much of the dialogue springs from the language of the autocrat and oppressor that says Israel is in fact a colonial state bent on ethnic cleansing. However, one can argue that there’s an unconscious regard to whiteness, which has been superimposed on and attached to Jewish identity that has found a way to be exploited as fodder by the masses that trivializes the rich histories of all involved. By doing so, from the younger black perspective, it may seem as if Israel is a colonial state.

While the occupation of the West Bank is internationally regarded as illegal, it must be reminded that Israel is a legal creation of the United Nations, just as many other nations such as South Sudan. Furthermore, border disputes are not that uncommon. While Palestinians do have the right to live freely and fully in an autonomous, unoccupied territory, it must be recapped that the struggle of African-American people and the Palestinians are not a shared experience. It is easy to identify with the Palestinian people from the perspective of the oppressed, however, they are apples and oranges.

The Palestinian civilians are displaced and caught in a riptide of a religious and geopolitical dissension between both sides of the conflict, being held as a ruse to further conflict.. But we should not forget history: The Palestinian civilians were not kidnapped or sold from their land to serve as slaves and treated as inhuman. It is true that many suffer from unwarranted arrests and their homes have been subject to police raids and home inspections by military forces, but they cannot be juxtaposed to what is currently happening in the West with the unmerited Stop & Frisk laws affecting New York City. That is too a dangerous assumption. There’s a difference between searching and seizing people you have conflict with for security reasons—such as the case in Gaza and the West Bank—and probing and penalizing black persons because of their ethnic and cultural heritage. This is an enduring conflict between two religious and political parties, both guilty of horrible atrocities against each other, with justifiable and licit concerns that should not be obscured and overshadowed by half-truths and propaganda.

Perhaps it’s human nature to attach ourselves to things, almost at whim, to what we distinguish as the oppressed. But we must have an understanding of both sides before throwing our opinions in the gauntlet. Scrolling through newsfeeds, I encountered some of the most explicit and sometimes hateful reactions for one side based on a meme or new story that buried lede with nebulous and questionable sentiment. I admit, I went blue in the face speaking about the conflict to people who immediately had an opinion without knowing the facts and was even chastised for clarifying false data with scoop based in legitimacy.

As black people and people of color, we have experienced how media is able to skew and distort fact from fiction. In an age where memes are being shared as rapidly as new germs, it is important to distinguish agenda and understand there are two sides of a story and reality is more complex than one picture can articulate. We’ve all seen the heartbreaking pictures and videos, and sympathize with the suffering of the Palestinian civilians in on Gaza, who are trapped in this tragic geopolitical conflict. Nevertheless, jumping on the bandwagon and sharing content that may not always be accurate does certainly elicit an emotional response, but it fuels antagonism and demonization of a whole country and people in the process.

This is a slippery slope that can surge and create an inimical atmosphere that can come to a boiling point of astronomical magnitudes like what is happening in Europe today. The proclivity to share without knowing the source could in fact be used as tool for violence, causing more hazard than its true intent ever imagined.

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  • This is a great article and the author has done a great job to offer his views. I don’t agree with all of the views in the article, but I respect the views of the author. First, we have to take an independent approach, but our people have a strong legacy of believing in anti-imperialism. I am anti-imperialist. In that sense, I will always advocate freedom for the Palestinian people. Obviously, the Palestinian peoples are not totally free when their homes have been bombed, when checkpoints exist, and when their own people have been killed. Obviously, Israeli civilians should never be killed, but the Western mainstream media readily minimize the pain of the Palestinians (who have been displaced, assaulted, killed, harassed, and mistreated) while expressing unconditional support for Israel. Many progressive voices have criticized the mistakes of China, but people just don’t want a pivot of Asia agenda which advances outright confrontation of China militarily. It is obvious that the West’s support of reactionary regimes for decades ought to be condemned.

    No nation is immune from critique, so we can critique nations without condoning imperialist policies. Malcolm X outright opposed Zionism. He never agreed with Zionism. We as black people should never worship neo-conservative propaganda. Many of our leaders have diverse views of Zionism. I believe that Israel should eliminate its discriminatory, apartheid legal policies. There may be many sides to a story, but there is only one truth. There is no justification of the Holocaust, but we have ignorant people trying to justify it with their “views” (which is total evil and ignorant). We should have sympathy with the oppressed while not viewing them as superior to us as black people. We can respect our interests as black people and respect the humanity of others at the same time.

  • Amy Obonaga

    I’m afraid Marcus, you have created a straw man argument. You state that Palestinian sympathizers believe Israel to be a colonizer but then state that it is not slavery. I do not know which FB posts you’re reading but I do hope it is one that knows the difference between colonization and slavery. For one to state that Israel is colonizer is not to say the Palestinians are slaves or are suffering under
    slavery. These are two different systems and are not to be conflated and if you
    prove that Palestinians have not been enslaved it does not mean they are not
    being occupied.


I’m not certain that it matters whether or not me or you are directly affected by the goings on in Palestine, but the racist polices in Israel do have far reaching tentacles. The treatment of asylum-seeking Africans is deplorable. A quick example (this is getting long) would be to discuss the racist sterilization policies suffered by Ethiopian women in Israel (and half-heartedly confirmed by the Israeli
    government itself). (Read an article written by David Sheen an Israeli-Canadian
    journalist about the one African asylum seeker from 2013-12 (who was oddly
    enough an albino–go figure)). Max Blumenthal writing for the Nation
    Institute discussed how police officers from the US were receiving training
    from former Israeli military forces in how to restrain ‘terror-civilians’ and
    counseled on how to use the racial profiling tactics they used on their own muslim
    population. Close to home indeed.

    You neglected to mention fear. It is fear that makes a young black man a target of the police here or guys like Zimmerman and fear is also used to justify why a solider uses a gun against a rock-wielding teenager. I believe this is one place where people find parallels.

As stated by truth seeker below, Malcolm X was not a proponent of zionism and referred to it as a “new kind of colonialism” and believed that they would
    “camouflage” this new form of colonialism with purchasing a better profile (read up on how Israel supplied Uganda with surveillance tech and weapons (to be used on other Africans?, Ugandans? and who knows who else?) in exchange for accepting the African asylum seekers they refused).

    I do hope my sources (AlJazera, the Nation Institute, and the NYT) supply some confidence that we are not all jumping on a “bandwagon” and that some of us do some research. In clumping a few over-zealous folks you have lumped us, and a perspective, into the same stereotyped portrayal of millenials as tech-wavy and not much else.

  • Me

    it’s ironic that the author says the media is able to skew & distort facts vs fiction, but the media in the us is run by jews. i personally don’t take sides on what’s going on over there, but i’m definitely not pro-israel. folks take the biblical chosen people title & turn a blind eye to centuries of warring. i just don’t believe there’s innocence involved in that conflict & i’m not going to give israel the benefit of the doubt just b/c of history that predates anybody living in this country.

    • Amy Obonaga

      Yes, what really bothered me was that he neglected to mention how the US political agenda has shielded the heinous actions of this nation. I also hope that my comment will alert him that those of us who sympathize with Palestine are not just jumping on a bandwagon and really have worked hard to get the best information available.

  • mim

    MMM Maybe people are less concerned w/ some of those other conflicts, because they are funding them w/ tax money?! Also big assumption that young opinionated people are uninformed.