Since October 7th and the increased violence against Palestinians, it’s important to reorient ourselves in the longstanding history of Palestinians and Black Americans being in solidarity with each other throughout our various struggles over the last decades. To many Black Americans today, the connection between Black liberation and Palestinian liberation may seem distant, but historically, we have organized, resisted, and theorized alongside each other.
With this history in mind, solidarity and being daring in our convictions for one another is just as important today. So in this series, we’ll break down different historical examples of Black and Palestinian solidarity.
In 1964, Malcolm X penned an essay to condemn zionist logic.
In the early 1960s, Palestinians were grappling with the consequences of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, which had led to the displacement and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, creating a significant refugee population. These conditions resonated with many Black Americans, who were engaged in the Civil Rights Movement and confronting the legacies of slavery and segregation. They saw parallels between the struggle for Palestinian independence and their fight for civil rights, both rooted in a history of oppression and a desire for self-determination.
Additionally, the U.S. government’s alignment with Israel during the Cold War, which was seen by some as supporting an oppressive state, further fueled support for the Palestinian cause among Black activists. These factors, along with cultural exchanges and high-profile visits, such as Malcolm X’s 1964 trip to the Middle East and North Africa, deepened the ties between the two communities and contributed to increased Black support for the Palestinian cause during this period.
In 1964, The Palestinian Liberation Organization was established primarily as a response to the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians resulting from the creation of Israel in 1948. The organization aimed to represent the Palestinian people and their desire for self-determination. Malcolm X was one of the first Civil Rights era figures to meet with PLO.
The Aljazeera piece “The Nakba did not start or end in 1948” states…
Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians from a 1.9 million population were made refugees beyond the borders of the state. Zionist forces had taken more than 78 percent of historic Palestine, ethnically cleansed and destroyed about 530 villages and cities, and killed about 15,000 Palestinians in a series of mass atrocities, including more than 70 massacres.
In 1964, Malcolm X wrote and published the seminal essay “Zionist Logic”. Malcolm X, a prominent opponent of colonialism and exploitation in its various forms, was critical of how Judaism, Zionism, and colonialism were mixing to continue a dangerous precedent that related very much to Black Americans and Africans. The essay states near the start…
The modern 20th century weapon of neo-imperialism is “dollarism.” The Zionists have mastered the science of dollarism: the ability to come posing as a friend and benefactor, bearing gifts and all other forms of economic aid and offers of technical assistance. Thus, the power and influence of Zionist Israel in many of the newly “independent” African nations has fast-become even more unshakeable than that of the 18th century European colonialists…and this new kind of Zionist colonialism differs only in form and method, but never in motive or objective.
The United Nations passed crucial resolutions during this period, including Resolution 194, which affirmed the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral lands, offering an international framework for the Palestinian cause. This era also saw the emergence of various Palestinian resistance movements, including Fatah, which played a pivotal role in the ongoing struggle against Israeli occupation. Throughout the early 1960s, the living conditions in Palestinian refugee camps continued to be a source of concern, underscoring the enduring hardships faced by Palestinian refugees.
In the broader context, the Six-Day War of 1967 marked a significant turning point, as Israel’s swift victory resulted in the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, further complicating the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. These early 1960s events and developments set the stage for the protracted and multifaceted struggle for Palestinian self-determination, with ongoing ramifications that continue to shape the political landscape of the region.
Malcolm X’s Visit to Gaza
During his final visit to Palestine in 1964, the renowned Black nationalist leader explored the Gaza Strip and received a warm welcome from the Palestinian poet Harun Hashim Rashid. Malcolm X’s journey in the region encompassed visits to refugee camps and hospitals, where he bore witness to the dire circumstances facing Palestinians who had been displaced due to Israel’s establishment. This profound encounter motivated him to compose a letter for the Egyptian Gazette, titled “Zionist Logic.” In this correspondence, he fervently expressed his steadfast support for the Palestinian struggle, drawing a direct correlation between Zionism and colonialism. He urged African leaders to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian quest for freedom.
In the 1960s, several notable African American radical figures, such as Kwame Ture, Eldridge Cleaver, and Robert F. Williams, engaged with the Middle East and North Africa, exploring the intersections between the African American struggle for civil rights and anti-colonial movements in the region. In 1964, Malcolm X’s visit to Gaza and the Middle East stood out as a pivotal moment.
While specific visits to Gaza by these individuals may not be extensively documented, their presence in the region exemplified a broader trend of African-American activists engaging with global anti-colonial and revolutionary movements. Eldridge Cleaver, for instance, lived in exile in Algeria during the late 1960s, contributing to the narrative of African-American engagement with the world during a transformative period in history.
What are Malcolm X’s arguments against Zionism?
Throughout the piece, Malcolm X takes the time to note many of the European and colonial influences on the setting up of Israel. He notes how Israel was placed a in region to strategically divide up the Arab world, which has been written about extensively since.
Israel controls access to the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aqaba, which is strategically important for trade and maritime transportation. Additionally, it has access to the Mediterranean Sea, which provides an advantageous position in the region. Israel’s influence was, however, opposed on various fronts. The Arab League, an organization founded in 1945 and comprising Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa, played a central role in the Arab-Israeli conflict during the 1960s.
The Arab League expressed strong solidarity with the Palestinian cause and considered the Palestinian issue a central element of Arab identity and national aspirations. In 1964, the Arab League played a pivotal role in establishing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was intended to represent the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination. The League’s member states recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, giving it a platform to seek international support. In 1965, the Arab League instituted a formal economic boycott of Israel, which included member states and, in some cases, non-member states. The boycott was aimed at isolating Israel economically and diplomatically; a historical tie to the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement of today.
Moreover, Malcolm X notes how Israel’s presence in this region heightens a colonial tactic — weaponizing the conditions that people in surrounding countries face as a rationalization for increased Israeli alignment. In his words, Malcolm X states….
And the continued low standard of living in the Arab world has been skillfully used by the Zionist propagandists to make it appear to the Africans that the Arab leaders are not intellectually or technically qualified to lift the living standard of their people…thus, indirectly inducing Africans to turn away from the Arabs and towards the Israelis for teachers and technical assistance.
In conclusion, understanding the history of Black and Palestinian solidarity is essential for appreciating the interconnected struggles for justice and self-determination. Malcolm X, through his life and actions, exemplified the power of solidarity as a unifying force against oppression.
Beyond his staunch fight for Black liberation, Malcolm X’s post-1964 journey, including his transformative travels through the Middle East and North Africa, expanded his global perspective. He witnessed firsthand the plight of the Palestinian people and recognized their struggle as parallel to that of African Americans.
His advocacy for Palestine, like his championing of civil rights, underscored his unwavering commitment to justice, equality, and the shared fight against colonialism and imperialism. As we reflect on the legacy of Malcolm X and the history of Black and Palestinian solidarity, we find inspiration in his belief that the struggle for freedom and self-determination is a universal cause that transcends borders, races, and backgrounds, reminding us of the enduring importance of forging connections in the pursuit of a more just and equitable world.
For more resources on the ongoing genocide against Palestinians and how to learn more…
Israel and Apartheid (Youtube)