SUPER UW was excited to share last evening with both the ISO and UW’s African Student Association hosting long-time Seattle activists and freedom fighters Aaron Dixon, Gerald Lenoir, and Jesse Hagopian. All three recently returned from the African Heritage Delegation to Palestine spoke not only of that recent experience but of the important history of African American solidarity with the Palestinian struggle from SNCC in the early 1960s to the Black Panther Party. “Zionism in Palestine and racism in America” they reminded us share “U.S. Imperialism in common.”
“Jim Crow, Apartheid, are alive and well in Palestine,” Gerald, one of the leaders of Seattle’s anti-South African-Apartheid movement, declared. Drawing on his history of solidarity organizing he remembered “we were calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions of South Africa,” he went on “I am proud to say I was part of that movement and proud to be a part of the current BDS movement.” Recalling that anti-Apartheid movement spanning the 1950s to the 1980s, Gerald described boycotts of banks invested in South Africa as well as petitioning the UW board of regents to divest university funds from South African companies profiting from Apartheid. “We know that with persistence and organizing BDS can bring a country to its knees,” he concluded.
This work will not be without challenges, and Jesse highlighted the important role of people of color in the Palestine Solidarity movement. In his opening remarks he warned against the new strategy of “blackwashing” taking its place with “pinkwashing” and “greenwashing” as ways to obscure the bloody reality of Israeli occupation by positioning prominent African American leaders as supporters of Israel.
Aaron Dixon, the founder of Seattle’s Panther Party, described their visit to Palestine in damning terms. He witnessed, he said, a “diabolical” situation as well as the strength of the Palestinian people. “They don’t need our sympathy, they know they’re going to win.” Dixon reminded us that U.S. tax dollars fund the military technology used against Palestinians. He was struck, he added, by the parallels not only between the Palestinian struggle and the Civil Rights era in the United States, but our current reality of mass incarceration and stop and frisk policies, “our struggle is so connected, its our empire at work” here and there. He ended, “it’s going to be a fiercer fight than even we had for South African freedom,” he urged us to join the fight.
Video and Photographs of the event are posted below.