Despite their vastly different histories and lived experiences, pro-Palestinian activists in recent years have attempted to conflate the struggle of Palestinians with the struggle of Blacks in the United States. While the comparison might seem apt on the surface, it’s not only ridiculous, but insulting.
Black people were forcibly brought into and subsequently built this country. Today, black people are three times more likely to be killed by the police than white people are — and 1 in 3 black victims are unarmed. Around 250 black persons per year are killed by the police, and 99 percent of these killings to not result in the police officer being arrested. 46 percent of black children live in poverty, more than triple the percentage of white children. In contrast, fewer than 9,000 Palestinians have died in the last three decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and that includes convicted terrorists and militants.
Pro-Palestinian activists need to stop culturally appropriating the Black American experience for their personal gain. No, the Palestinians are not facing the same injustices that Black Americans have faced, and are still facing, in the United States. No, the Palestinians do not share a narrative with Native Americans. And no, Israel is not an apartheid state.
Ahed Tamimi is not the Palestinian Rosa Parks. In December 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting peacefully in a bus seat, in protest of segregation laws in Montgomery, Alabama. Tamimi was arrested for assaulting an IDF soldier in a PR stunt. When she was taken into custody and charged with a violation of the city code, Parks did not physically assault the police officers who were arresting her. Parks was minding her own business, riding on the city bus on her way home from work, when she was forced from the bus and taken into police custody. And yet she did not fight back. What would have happened if Ahed Tamimi were Black in America? She would have likely faced violence and possibly even death.
What is most upsetting about the comparison between Parks and Tamimi is the way in which Parks’ bravery has been co-opted by a group of people claiming to be activists, denigrating the legacy of someone who engaged in activism while facing life or death situations. When the claim is made that Palestinians are experiencing situations similar to those felt by Black people during enslavement, Jim Crow and the current seriousness of violence, the history and reality of all of the lynchings, rapes and false imprisonment of Black people in this country is diminished.
Black Americans have struggled to form communities that are self-governed. Historically, when such communities existed, White Americans have destroyed them. We have never been offered a chance at independence and autonomy, aside from the ridiculous offer of 40 acres and a mule. The many chances of Palestinian statehood and self-government negotiated by world leaders have been met with all the contempt of spoiled children. Unwilling to compromise and all too comfortable with self-inflicted victimhood status, the Palestinian leadership has crossed a line when they attempt to culturally appropriate the struggle of my people for their own gain.