Israeli Annexationism, the George Floyd Lynching and the Need for a New Solidarity in the Face of Global Racialization
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
The objective of annexation of Palestinian territory is not new for the Israeli political establishment. One can convincingly argue that it accompanied the very foundation of Israel (1948) and was contained in the conceptualization of Israel as a settler state from the inception of colonization. Yet, the more full-blown efforts at annexation accompanied the Israeli victory in the 1967 war between Israel and the alliance of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. From the cessation of the open military conflict, the Israeli political establishment under the Labor Party and, later, under the Likud, has moved the settlement process such that annexation became a slow-moving albeit nearly inevitable outcome.
Israeli annexationism has met with verbal opposition from governments around the world. There has been, however, little in the form of penalties held against the Israeli government by those same governments for these illegal maneuvers. The global anemic response to continuous Israeli aggression, however, resulted in a 2005 Palestinian-based boycott/divestment/sanctions movement as a means of bringing nonviolent pressure on Israel in favor of an end to occupation and apartheid, and respect for international law.
The support by the United States for Israel’s flouting international law is regularly, and wrongfully, attributed to the alleged oversized impact of the so-called Jewish lobby on U.S. politics. This view, even when pointing to the particular role of the Zionist (rather than Jewish) lobby, can fall prey to anti-Semitism, missing the strategic significance of Israel for the United States (and Western Europe); the role of Christian Zionists and their theology; domestic politics; and, rarely discussed, the history of the United States as a settler state.
In 1846, after a 10-year “cold war,” the United States provoked a hot war of aggression against Mexico. Driven by the pseudo-religious ethos of “Manifest Destiny,” the white settler republic sought expansion and the appropriation of land from the First Nations (Native Americans) and Mexicans. Despite the fact that the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848) was supposed to guarantee rights for the annexed Mexicans, and actually declared them to be “white,” the annexed peoples, both Indigenous and Mexicans, were subjected to immediate suppression and, as time went on, experienced forms of genocide and racist segregation.
It is important to start with a war from 172 years ago in considering the response of the U.S. political establishment to Israeli annexationism. The fact of the war of aggression against Mexico and other forms of U.S. annexationism historically situates a current view held not only by the bulk of the U.S. political establishment but also by many in the populace – particularly, but not exclusively whites. In a nutshell, the United States was founded on the politics and practice of annexation, both preceding the war of aggression against Mexico, as well as following that conflict.
The proposed annexation of much of the remaining, though occupied, Palestinian territories, and the relative silence in U.S. political circles speaks to the “othering” of the Palestinians, not only by the Israeli political establishment but also by the white core of the “united settler states.” Thus, the response to this annexation must include a shrill sounding cry that Palestinian lives matter.
“Othering” in a white supremacist context is not limited to a white/black binary. White supremacist national oppression – as we experience in the United States – creates a temple of oppressions in which the racially oppressed are sometimes treated hierarchically, and other times treated as a murky black, brown, yellow, red mass, each group near indistinguishable. “Othering,” or the racialization of populations, renders the lives, histories, cultures and experiences of the racially oppressed to be irrelevant. This is why the cry of “Black Lives Matter” resonates internationally. Fundamentally, there is recognition among the racially oppressed that “Black,” to borrow from the late South African revolutionary Steve Biko, is not a phenotype but is the “color” of the racially oppressed.
What had been a slow-moving annexation of Palestinians has been an effort to remove the Palestinians from history. For the U.S. political establishment, and for much of white America, this is not remarkable because the Palestinians stand in the way of settler (in this case, Israeli) destiny, much as the First Nations and the annexed Mexicans stood in the way of white Manifest Destiny in the 19th century.
That Palestinian lives should matter is irrelevant to most Israelis and certainly to the Trump administration and their followers. But it also irrelevant to a larger – though shrinking – segment of the U.S. population. The common experience of Israel and the United States in the construction of a settler state, efforts to remove the indigenous populations and subordination of other populations of color resonates for much of white America. How, in other words, can the United States proclaim its opposition to the strengthening of a racist settler state when it followed such a course?
The opposition to “othering” is one piece that the Palestinian movement and the Black Freedom movement share in common and lays the foundation for genuine solidarity. It is not, however, just the Palestinian and African American movements, but the reality of the common, yet distinct struggles of the racially oppressed to regain our history and legitimacy, to win equity and gain self-determination for oppressed nations, that provides the foundation for a new international solidarity – indeed, for a new International.
It is, therefore, not surprising that Palestinians demonstrated in opposition to the lynching of George Floyd and in support of the protests and rebellions that followed his death. Palestinian solidarity accompanied solidarity in France, Britain and many other locations where those who fly the “black star” of opposition to racist and national oppression – in opposition to “othering” – have risen in resistance.
Protests in the United States were ignited not by one event but by the fusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic collapse, systematic lynchings, the demagoguery of the Trump administration and an environmental catastrophe. Around the world the Floyd murder was the match and the U.S. protests represented the fuse that burned towards the dynamite. In each situation, whether Jerusalem (Al-Quds) or Paris, those who have been the victims of incessant and systematic racist and/or national oppression, or those who have lived lives under increasingly oppressive political and economic inequality, concluded that enough was enough. The murder of George Floyd became enough.
An Emancipatory Vision
That the Israelis will carry through with their annexations, there is little doubt. But what is also of little doubt is that the Palestinian people will not be rendered invisible. To make “Palestinian lives matter” more than a slogan, will necessitate a truly global movement against Israeli apartheid.
For the movement for Black Lives to be a fully emancipatory effort, it must also go global, beginning with a domestic recognition that the struggles of the racially oppressed can all operate under the “black star” of resistance to racist and national oppression. The movement must, of course, see the global solidarity responding to the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests as a cry of support. It also must see this solidarity as a request – an insistence, perhaps – that our shared interests in opposition to racist and national oppression, opposition to outrageous inequality and our stand in opposition to austerity, lay the foundation for a common program, shared demands and an emancipatory vision.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the executive editor of globalafricanworker.com and a past president of TransAfrica Forum.
Caption: North Carolinians rally in solidarity with BLM and Palestinian liberation.