In a recent statement, Florida-based human rights movement Dream Defenders expressed support for Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi, who has been in an Israeli military prison since December 2017. The statement exemplifies the intersection between Black and Palestinian liberation struggles, based on both groups’ experiences of structural racism and state violence.
Ahed Tamimi was arrested by Israeli occupation forces, after she slapped a heavily armed Israeli soldier, to try and prevent him from entering the family’s West Bank home. The incident received international attention, after a video of the event went viral on social media. While human rights advocates see Ahed as a symbol of resistance, much of Israeli and Western media have attempted to portray Ahed and her family as the perpetrators.
In contrast to other portrayals in the West, the Dream Defenders’ statement provides the necessary context to understand the incident, explaining that Ahed’s fifteen-year-old cousin had recently been shot in the face by an Israeli soldier, and that she was standing her ground against an army that had violently occupied Palestinian land for over fifty years. The statement also raises awareness about the plight of hundreds of Palestinian children who are “arrested and detained by Israeli soldiers and police who kick, punch, and beat them.”
In response to these policies, the statements’ 27 Black-American signatories – who are well-known academics and artists – are calling on all U.S. representatives to sign a bill that was recently introduced in the U.S. Congress, demanding that U.S. funding to Israel should not be used for the abuse of Palestinian children.
The Dream Defenders statement draws direct parallels between Palestinian suffering and the experience of Black Americans: “In the US, we know all too well what it’s like to be oppressed simply because you exist, because you refuse to give up your fight for freedom.” Recognizing the transnational dimensions of state violence, the statement critically notes how U.S. law enforcement trains “with Israeli soldiers, police, and border agents, utilizing similar repressive profiling tactics to target and harass our communities.”
The statement underscores how Palestinian and Black children face the danger of being imprisoned and killed based on their ethnicity. Alongside Ahed, it invokes the name of Trayvon Martin (who was shot by U.S. police), Mohammad Abu Khdeir (who was burnt alive by Israelis) and Khalif Browder (who committed suicide after being physically abused in a U.S. prison).
While Black solidarity with Palestine has existed since at least the 1960s, it has reached new heights in the last few years, most significantly since 2014, when Palestinians – who were being bombarded and attacked in Gaza by Israel – took to social media to advise Black protesters in the United States how to protect themselves against police brutality.
Dream Defenders itself emerged from protests against the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012. From its onset, the movement has included the Palestinian cause in its continuous advocacy for human rights.
Dream Defenders’ persistent dedication to justice represents necessary resistance against state violence. The group’s recent statement underscores how Ahed’s case is far from isolated, and that the United States and Israel continue to target Blacks and Palestinians beyond their borders.