Reaffirming Solidarity

We affirm our capacity as a department to make collective statements in support of a free Palestine and invite other African American Studies departments to do the same.
Reaffirming Solidarity

free Palestine

Reaffirming Solidarity

Yesterday, Inside Higher Ed published a report on the unprecedented levels of support for Palestinian liberation across the academy today. The article also mentioned administrative pressure to retract or individualize public statements and briefly summarized the fate of our department's solidarity letter which was removed a week after it was posted. The reason for removal had nothing to do with internal dissent. Rather, external queries about the strength of our democratic process doubted the possibility that a faculty majority in African American Studies denounces Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid in solidarity with Palestinians' struggle for liberation. It is not only possible but has been demonstrated repeatedly since Black Studies departments emerged in the late sixties. We are reposting the letter as a department to affirm our position and to note that our statement has been subject to a different level of administrative scrutiny, unprecedented for our department. There is a name for this kind of scrutiny: The Palestine Exception. Palestine Legal recently issued a report on the uses of bureaucratic interventions and procedural obfuscation to censor speech about Palestine from 2014 to the present. It is difficult to disagree with collective bodies who publicly denounce settler-colonialism and apartheid, especially amid a spectacle of racialized and gendered violence. It proves more feasible to quietly remove the power to make public statements by inventing new rules. We affirm our capacity as a department to make collective statements in support of a free Palestine and invite other African American Studies departments to do the same.

Original Statement-Posted May 18, 2021

The Penn State University Department of African American Studies stands in solidarity with Palestinians resisting a 15-year military blockade in Gaza, second-class citizenship in Israel, a 54-year long military occupation in the West Bank, and seven decades of violent dispossession in service of an apartheid state. Our solidarity with Palestinians comes at a time when Gaza, the most densely populated region of the world, has been rendered into a prison under relentless attack from constant bombardment by Israeli military forces, the seventh largest military in the world. At the time of this writing, the bombardment of Gaza has killed over 200 people, including more than 60 children. The bombing has targeted civilians and buildings housing international media, aimed at destroying documentation of asymmetric assaults. Gangs targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel show how the racialized policing of neighborhoods intensify with attacks on Gaza.  International media has now broken ranks with a tradition of minimizing racial violence in Israel to acknowledge the same. In the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Sheikh Jerrah, a decades-long process of ethnic cleansing is forcibly removing Palestinians from homes they have lived in for generations. These are not “evictions” – they are violent thefts designed to expand the borders of Israel through extralegal and bureaucratic means, denying Palestinians' right of return. Samera Esmeir reminds us that this moment is part of a process of "repeated dispossession"--as refugees from 1948 and 1967 struggle to maintain their homes in 2021, because they are "always available to colonial settlement, over and over again."

We recognize that the violence Palestinians face would not be possible without the financial and diplomatic support offered by the United States. The U.S. gives Israel more than $4 billion dollars annually and it has blocked United Nation’s resolutions condemning Israeli actions as war crimes. We know that the U.S. “special relationship” with Israel funds the formal exchange of militarized policing tactics which not only dispossesses Palestinians of their land and lives, but also targets Black people in the United States. The New York Police Department has an office in Tel Aviv, Israel, where its police officers draw on the Israeli model of counterinsurgency warfare to police Black and brown people in New York. Police departments across the United States, including Ferguson, MO have trained in Israel, and U.S. police forces increasingly use the military hardware that was previously used across the geographies of the U.S. War on Terror.

In January 2021, B’tselem an Israeli human rights organization called the “regime of Jewish supremacy” apartheid. The recognition of apartheid however is not new. It developed through the global solidarity movement to end apartheid in South Africa, not as a metaphor but a clear evaluation of shared settler-colonial tactics that restructure society through land dispossession, state terror and racialized incarceration. The commitment to end apartheid was not limited to South Africa but a principled analysis of apartheid as an unjust form of government that calls on those who have studied these systems to speak out

In calling for solidarity with Palestinians we are drawing on a history of anti-colonial solidarity between Black people and Palestinians that extends back to the founding of Israel, accelerating through exchange and mutual study in the foment of the 1960s. We recall the solidarity with Palestinians expressed by Malcolm X, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, June Jordan, and many others. Further, we join calls from the Black Lives Matter Movement to recognize that the struggle against state-sanctioned anti-Black violence is interconnected with anti-Palestinian violence and that Afro Palestinians have born the brunt of dispossession and rightlessness while also speaking out against police terror in Jerusalem. The Congresswoman from Ferguson, MO, Cori Bush, argues, “As someone who has been brutalized by police, I continue to stand in strong solidarity with Palestinians rising up against military, police, and state violence.”

African American Studies is rooted in a commitment to collective liberation. We express our solidarity with Palestinians across the diaspora because we believe your lives matter. We see you; we hear you; and we stand with you.