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We are fighting for Palestinian liberation

Speech to Pasadena Palestine teach-in

Tempest member Denée Jackson draws connections among Jewish, Black, and Palestinian experience and liberation, arguing for solidarity across multiple marginalized identities.

In early December, the Los Angeles branch of Tempest Collective co-organized a Palestine teach-in at All Saints’ Church with Pasadena City College’s Anti-War Club, Middle East and North African Students’ association, and other campus and community allies. The event drew around 70 attendees at its height, featuring presentations from Tempest members, Anti-War Club students, and a local Palestinian community member who came from Gaza. We publish here an edited transcript of Tempest LA member Denée Jackson’s speech on centering solidarity with Palestine from the position of intersecting identities.

I want to begin by sharing my identities to position myself in this conversation. I’m biracial—Black and white—queer, Jewish, working-class, and a woman. Intersectional solidarity is important to me. It’s life for me and for my people who identify with multiple marginalized identities. Many of these identities, as some of you may know already, have been weaponized by Zionists in their propaganda to support the genocide of Palestinians. So, what I’m going to be talking about today is solidarity, and I will begin by talking about Black solidarity with Palestine.

In the 1960s, Black liberation struggles were fighting for basic human dignity, which Black folks have never had in the United States. There were many movements going on at the time, such as the Civil Rights Movement.

I want to quote Martin Luther King Jr., who has been weaponized by Zionists to say that he supports Israel. And indeed, he was once in support of the State of Israel and had a trip scheduled with a delegation to the Holy Land. It was interrupted by the Six-Day War, and so he canceled his trip. Later he was quoted in an interview saying that Israel should “give up the land” back to the Palestinians. Today, we have all kinds of social media to figure out what is happening on the ground in Palestine. In 1967, that wasn’t the case. But once he learned about what was happening and raised his political consciousness, King knew better. He knew that solidarity with Palestinians meant land back. Also, the Black Panthers used an image of Leila Khaled, who was a fighter for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. I highly recommend reading her biography. The Panthers used her image to articulate their politics around the global struggle against colonial powers, because they knew that it was the same colonial powers that oppressed folks all over the world.

I also want to share a victorious example of Black-Palestinian solidarity. In Detroit in the early 1970s, Palestinians and other Arab Americans took inspiration from the League of Revolutionary Black Workers to create their own organization. In 1973, they went on strike to pressure the United Auto Workers (UAW) to divest from Israeli state bonds. Today, the UAW is the largest union to sign on to a ceasefire resolution, building on this legacy of workers’ solidarity for Palestine.

We know Black folks in the United States were stolen from their ancestral lands, just as Palestinians have been displaced from theirs. Neither group has ever been given equal opportunities in life, and similar structures of oppression are shared between Black and Palestinian peoples. So, I want to talk about abolition as a step toward liberation led by Black people in the United States, which also means applying abolitionist principles to a free Palestine.

I want to call in a couple of books that have really helped to define my identity as a pro-Palestine abolitionist: Mariame Kaba’s We Do This ’Til We Free Us and Angela Davis’ Freedom Is a Constant Struggle.

So, first, what is abolition today? Abolition is completely eliminating systems of surveillance, policing, and imprisonment. It’s not just “don’t give them any more funding,” but completely destroying them because we know that policing and prison are death-making institutions and they serve to reproduce violence, even though we’re taught that they are supposed to promote safety.

Surveillance companies and punitive tactics in the United States operate the same as those in Israel. Israel is central to the militarization of police forces globally, and in the United States, police chiefs to campus police have been trained by Israeli forces.

We also know that reformist alternatives to prisons don’t work: house arrests and probation-these are not unlike the harsh carceral systems in Gaza that also limit life. So, again, we need complete elimination. This is one aspect of abolition, but the other important piece is building up new institutions with love. We advocate for safe housing, youth programming, training up street medics, first responders, and transformative justice practitioners. We create these things at the same time as we abolish those things. And a lot of the time it’s trial and error. We try and fail, and we try again, because we know that anything is better than this current system that we have right now.

So when we apply this to Palestine, we need to remember that we are fighting not just for a ceasefire and an end to the ongoing violence. We are fighting for Palestinian liberation. It’s about building the structures that would support life in Palestine, too. And this is what differentiates our vision—the abolitionist vision—from the Democrats’ vision, which waters down what ceasefire means (if they even talk about ceasefire at all). We’re talking about liberation.

As a Black Jewish person, I also want to make a connection to Jewish solidarity with Palestine, and how Zionists are not for Jewish liberation, whether for Jews in Israel, Jews in the diaspora, and especially for those of us with multiple marginalized identities. I want to draw one parallel to pull in why we will never win liberation under capitalism and colonialism. In the United States, settlers armed white folks to protect property, particularly human property—enslaved Africans—and then created the police force to also protect their property and therefore their capital. And after the Holocaust, when Zionists settled in occupied Palestine, Israel also armed Jews to massacre Palestinians—thus committing atrocities that they themselves had experienced only a few years earlier.

They militarized Israelis to first steal property with lethal force and then protect their property with lethal force. And today they’re arming settlers in the West Bank to shoot and displace Palestinians. Zionists turned Jews into murderers and said you can only be free if you oppress and kill other people. That is not liberation. Anti-Zionist Jews today are crying “Not in our name.” Not in our names should Zionists have ever been allowed to steal Palestinian land and murder Palestinians. As a Black person with ancestors who were enslaved in the United States and a Jewish person with ancestors who came to New York to survive the Holocaust, I will absolutely never support genocide against any humans in my name.

A note about solidarity in general: Solidarity is not transactional. It’s not showing up for someone just because they showed up for you, or showing up for someone with the expectation that they must show up for you in the future. Solidarity is the principle that I want life for myself, I want my basic needs met and safety, and maybe I even want to thrive. And therefore I want that for every single human because I know that my liberation is completely bound to theirs.

James Baldwin wrote to Angela Davis, “If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.” History teaches us this is true. This is what imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism do: they create hierarchies of life and dispose of people who are at the lower rungs of these hierarchies, particularly poor people, people with disabilities, people of color, and people who live in places where capitalists want to extract natural resources.

I would like to end with hope. Mariame Kaba says, “Hope is a discipline.” We have to practice it, especially when it’s not easy at the moment. We have to have hope that change is possible. We have to build independent grassroots organizations, which I see us doing—and we can do more. We have to divest from this two-party system. Democrats will never win us liberation. We have to boycott and divest from U.S. corporate entities that support Israeli occupation. And we have to have hope that we will free Palestine.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Featured image credit: “Palestine sunbird standing on a fence,” Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

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Denée Jackson View All

Denée Jackson (she/her) is a bi-racial (black and white) queer woman with Jewish ancestry. She is based in Los Angeles and has organizing roots in Tucson. She's a member of the Tempest Collective, Black Lives Matter LA, and Jewish Voice for Peace in LA; she also practices transformative justice in community settings.