This article is dedicated to the honor and memory of the Four Little Footballers: Mohammed Bakr (11), Ahed Bakr (11), Zakariya Bakr (10) and Ismail Bakr (9).
As I have seen the barrage of Twitter and Facebook photos of dead children in the streets of Gaza, I cannot help but to relate and be empathetic. As I have seen a host of graphic Instagram posts of charred arms and missing legs, I cannot help but to ask myself, why? Why has the slaughter of innocent men, women and children been going on for so long? Why are the innocent not receiving any justice? Why are the unarmed at war with masked mobs, assault rifles and heavy artillery? And who exactly is responsible for these mass killings?
In several cities throughout Palestine, particularly Gaza, innocent children and their parents can be playing in front of their homes or visiting loved ones in the hospital and, two minutes later, be blown to pieces without any just cause or notice whatsoever. The bullets that mutilate have no names; the bombs that dismember have no limitations.
After viewing such photographs daily over the last several weeks, I cannot help but to think of the reality of the 44 million Afro-Americans here at home.
Less than a month ago in Staten Island, husband and grandfather Eric Garner was viciously choked to death by a New York Police Department officer on live video. As Garner was surrounded by five police officers in broad daylight, he peacefully articulated his defense. Two minutes later he was on the sidewalk, dead, murdered without just cause or any notice whatsoever.
Such commonality reminds me of one particular and quite thought-provoking photo I saw posted on an Instagram thread. It was a double-framed shot that on one side depicted a 1930 public lynching of two Black men in Marion, Ind. As their lifeless bodies dangled in thin air, they were surrounded by “good white folk” smiling for the camera, enjoying their day’s kill of strange fruit.
The other half of the double-framed shot captured a small gathering of Israeli citizens seated comfortably on a hill. As entertainment, they had gathered under a nighttime moonlit sky to watch Israeli airstrikes light up the Gaza skyline. With beaming smiles and cheering hands, they were obviously enjoying the view of deadly bombs and destruction raining on the backs of Palestinians from above.
I was sure to save this particular photo to my Twitter “favorites” to remember the various ways in which the two groups share a violent strand of mutual oppression.
Yes, the history of African descendants in the Western Hemisphere is quite different from the history of Palestinians in what, historically, is considered North Africa. However, our experiences as two distinct groups devalued by the institutions of white supremacy and imperialism are very similar.
African descendants here in the U.S. and the Palestinians of North Africa are still battling the effects of colonialism, cultural appropriation and mass displacement as we speak. Our shared degree of state-sponsored death, racism and violent repression should be obvious.
The question is: What specific mechanism is responsible for such violence and mass killing?
Internationally, it is the military-industrial complex that reigns supreme — men and women in green, desert-tan and blue uniforms given the authority to kill innocent people with impunity; human instruments of hate, who are often paid quite nicely for such duties.
I should know. I served four years in the United States Army Reserves. And I can tell you from firsthand experience, the United States is not spreading democracy. It’s spreading violence, at home and abroad.
Abroad, such agents of the military-industrial complex are typically referred to as Marines, the Air Force or Navy Seals. Here at home, we call them sheriff’s departments, police officers and the FBI.
The U.S.-backed democracy that has slaughtered more than 1,900 Palestinians in the last three months is the same democracy that killed Oscar Grant and Amadou Diallo in cold blood. The democracy that has tortured Palestinian women, raping and severing their breasts from their torsos, is the same democracy that brutally beat 51-year-old grandmother Marlene Pinnock on the side of a California highway just one month ago.
The ghettos in Gaza aren’t much different from the ghettos in the Bronx, N.Y. The ethnic cleansing of Israeli apartheid serves the same purpose as the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws of the Southern confederacy. The forced evacuation of Palestinians from Jerusalem, Gaza and Hebron is the same thing as gentrification in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Washington, D.C.; and Durham, N.C.
When mosques and defenseless worshippers are blindsided by bombs and tear gas, I cannot help but to refer back to the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Four little girls were killed in that bombing, just as hundreds of innocent children have been killed in Gaza. The more you think about it, the easier it is to make the connections.
What we share is a catalogue of oppression — the constant banging of white supremacy upon our backs; the constant fear that when your children depart for school, there’s a policeman’s chance that one of them may not return. The extermination of thousands of innocent Palestinians reeks of the same stench as Black bodies beaten and badgered by police officers and Ku Klux Klansmen, right here in the United States.
I’m not saying that African Americans and Palestinians live the same daily realities. What I am saying is that we share the same oppression. What I’ve come to realize, brothers and sisters, is that both groups have a common enemy.
Now, let’s organize so we can defend ourselves, at home and abroad.