Members of the Dream Defenders’ August 2017 artist’s delegation to Palestine in front of a Palestinian road closed by the Israeli military in Hebron.
The following is a reflection a member of Black4Palestine and the Dream Defenders following a June 2017 visit to Palestine. Read this and other reflections in our 2017 year in review newsletter.
In May, I traveled to Palestine for an international gathering to develop a shared strategy for fighting the Israeli weapons industry hosted by Stop the Wall and the American Friends Service Committee. The gathering was held during one of Israel’s largest weapons expos. There were representatives from South Africa, Bosnia, Colombia, Brazil, Palestine and the US - all folks fighting the occupation of Palestine and the impact of Israeli arms and weapons on the destruction of their local communities.
This experience made it clear that coming together in the face of an industry that makes money off of military occupation, death and destruction across the world is our only fighting chance at liberation. We literally cannot win without each other. Palestine has been at the forefront of building an internationalist resistance movement and has pushed and inspired me to build the Dream Defenders into an organization that is not only internationalist in our rhetoric, but in our strategy and daily organizing practice.
I had been to Palestine once before, and each I was overwhelmed with sadness and anger about the state of the occupation and the suffering and exploitation human beings are forced to face at the hands of the state and corporate elite. In the year between my trips, it was hard to imagine that things could get any worse, but they did.
It’s overwhelming to see human beings forced to endure so much, including the many lies that are spread about them in order to justify the killing of their children, the destruction of their homes and the stealing of their land and culture. To witness the power of Palestinians to keep fighting and resisting in the face of this inspires me to do more for our people everyday. The plight of Palestine represents both everything that is wrong about humanity and everything that is beautiful and possible about us too.
Our trip to Palestine took place four months into Donald Trump’s presidency. While we know that none of this starts or ends with Trump (or Netanyahu), Trump and Netanyahu are at the forefront of building economies that rely on perpetual war and the destruction of the planet. They are perpetuating a culture that presumes people are innately criminal and terrorist, and that war, death, and incarceration are the only solutions to the problems we face. Then, they profit off of this propaganda. The day after Trump was elected, all of the US stocks plunged except for the private prison corporations and the arms/weapons industry.
In the US, 8 major donors have contributed over $57 million since 9/11 to anti-Islam think tanks. These propaganda outlets create financial incentive and ideological justification for the “war on terror,” as well as anti-Palestinian sentiments. In the prison industry, even though crime is falling, the two biggest prison corporations in the US take in annual profits of $3.3 billion. This is also due to a well-funded lobbying and propaganda network that capitalizes on racism.
These prison companies are connected to the expansion of policing and militarization of communities around the world. G4S, a company that is profiting off of locking up Black people in the US, is also responsible for beating up indigenous protesters at Standing Rock fighting for our collective right to clean water, and is also responsible for detaining, torturing and deporting immigrants. This same company provides services and equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, police and the Apartheid Wall.
It is on us to resist the systems this society is rooted in - racism, imperialism, capitalism - and to end use of prisons, weapons, and war in the name of “security” and “peace.”
Coming back from Palestine after this experience made me realize we need to build a mass movement against the defense industry, a movement that fights the propaganda spread about our communities to justify the industry’s existence. On a fundamental level, we must help everyday people realize that they should not be scared of one another as human beings and that they must start looking up at the people who are profiting from our fear and suffering.
We cannot become complicit in the world they are building. We have a responsibility to envision a new world, and a new way of being in relationship with one another and the land which we stand upon. We must not only unite around the commonality of our oppression, but around a common vision for liberation. When we do this, the vision becomes larger than ending the weapons trade or police killings of Black people, larger than tearing down the wall between the US and Mexico or the wall in Palestinians. Our movement becomes a struggle rooted in a new vision for humanity.
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