Opinion

Letter to the editor: The Palestinian struggle reflects injustice to people of color everywhere

For communities of color,

Last April, students of color unanimously passed a resolution in their shared governance body to demand a divestment from companies engaged in human rights abuses through PRIVATE PRISONS, ARMS MANUFACTURERS, BORDER WALLS, AND FOSSIL FUELS. People of color suffer at the hands of oppressive government policies and racist ideologies. From the police occupation of Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in the United States to the occupation of Palestinian land. It is a contradiction to be against the injustices done to the First Nations and fail to recognize the occupation of Palestinian land. We feel it is needed to shout our truth once more. This time, specifically to our sisters and brothers of color, because support for Israeli occupation is against the interests of communities of color.

Over winter break, 24 student leaders across campus, including elected members of student government, accepted a free trip to Israel funded by a non-university, pro-Israel organization. This trip intentionally distracts from human rights abuses in Palestine by portraying the issue of stolen land and human rights abuse as “complicated.” In line with the lack of acknowledgment of militarization and police brutality in Black, Brown and Indigenous communities within the United States. These sorts of trips deliberately leave out objective facts in Palestine — from demolished homes to hospital bombings to heavily armed soldiers keeping families under constant surveillance.

The historical injustices done to the First Nations in the United States is comparable to Israel’s 70-year occupation of Palestine. The stealing of land and resources from First Nation tribes mirrors land grabs in Palestine, where Israeli forces demolished over 400 villages. An estimated 7 million Palestinians have been displaced due to the occupation and 700,000 ethnically cleansed since 1948. This brutality and genocide parallels the millions of Natives killed by the impact of United States settler-colonialism. Solidarity is not only standing up for First Nations in their struggle to control their water rights at DAPL, but to also stand with Palestinians who disproportionately have their water siphoned away. Native communities have faced erasure of their rich history and culture. Palestinians and Natives alike have had their futures carved out with little say in the process.

In the United States, the War on Drugs was code for an actual war, where Black and Brown lives were and are disproportionately policed and incarcerated compared to their white counterparts. Police departments are weaponized to occupy and target predominantly Black communities. In 2008, Black and Latinx folks made up 58 percent of the prison population. Furthermore, racial profiling tactics such as stop and frisk are used against people of color in the United States: Meanwhile Palestinians are subject to similar profiling called “security checks” at military checkpoints. The vast disparities in incarceration in the U.S. mirror those of Palestinian children, who often suffer indefinite detention and coerced confessions.

These systems of racist policing are quite tangibly interlinked. For instance, “over 9,000 American officials have trained with israeli police and military units on responding to civilian protests and terrorism.” Palestinians are racially and systematically targeted with similar tactics that u.s. police officers use against Black and Brown bodies. The same American-made tear gas canisters used against Palestinian protesters were used against Black protesters in Ferguson. In fact, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney learned police tactics with the Israel Defense Force and sent deputies to police protesters at Standing Rock. Violence against our communities are part of the same system of control and state-sponsored violence. From the Black body shot down by state officers in Madison to the Palestinian ripped from their home by similar force and brutality.

We share these stories not only to highlight the intersectionality of our struggles but to emphasize that failing to call out Israel’s atrocities undermines the oppression of communities of color. This free trip is designed to “complicate” a clear issue of human rights abuse. Accepting a free trip to Israel dismisses a narrative from Palestinians. Accepting a trip to Israel can do no justice to the erasure of land and ancestral roots. The very acceptance of a trip to Israel and flying into the airport minimizes the daily struggle of Palestinians who do not have the right to fly or enter into Israel and are instead subjected to checkpoints and a long process of land entry from Jordan. We must realize that our action impacts lives. Solidarity with Palestine is standing in solidarity with communities of color.

Therefore, we ask people of color at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and elsewhere, to hold yourself and your peers accountable and to move forward together in truth and solidarity. We request you pledge to listen and support the Black, Brown and Indigenous people in their struggles and reject a trip to Israel. By signing your name, you pledge not to support a state that abuses the Indigenous population.

These words are written by and for us. It is for us not to let those who oppress forge our truth or sell us their version of our truth. In this institution as underrepresented populations of Black, Brown and Indigenous groups the administration has made it clear our voices hold little sway over maximizing profit. However, together we will shout our truth, fight for our freedom and stand against the oppression inflicted onto others.

Sign this petition for justice and accountability.

In Truth & Solidarity,

Ana Marin

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Atzlan (M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison)

Lucero Serna

M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison

Cayana Amaguana

M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison

Patricia Castillo

M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison

Karina Ovalle

M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison

Marcel Bogucki

M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison

Melina Recalde

M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison

Pablo Aquiles

M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison

Anakassandra Cavero

M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison

Mindy Navarro

M.E.Ch.A De UW-Madison

Collin Ludwig

Wunk Sheek

Michael Williams

Wunk Sheek

Tashya Chevalier

Wunk Sheek

Grace Armstrong

Wunk Sheek

Nesha Ruther

Students for Justice in Palestine

Zahiah Hammad

Students for Justice in Palestine

Shaadie Ali

Students for Justice in Palestine

Elizabeth Haberland-Ervin

Students for Justice in Palestine

Omer Arain

UW Divest

Carmen Goséy

UW Divest

Omar Jandal

UW Divest

Razan Aldagher

Muslim Students Association

Tyriek Mack

UW BlackOut

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