In October, I saw Angela Davis, lifelong freedom fighter, feminist philosopher and author from the US, speak at an online event called ‘Black Feminist Writers and Palestine’, organized by the Black Women Radicals advocacy organization.
Davis led with what is at stake in the world today. Reflecting on her own visit to Palestine, she reminded us of the piercing words of her friend June Jordan, the late Jamaican-American poet and activist: ‘Palestine is a litmus test, especially now.’
Echoing Jordan, Davis said: ‘Our relation to Palestine says a great deal about our capacity to respond to complex contemporary issues, whether we’re talking about imperialism, settler colonialism, global racism, transphobia, homophobia and the climate...’.
Since Hamas’s 7 October attacks on Israel, and what scholars and activists have called a genocide in Gaza, we have seen how necessary this kind of response is.
Airstrikes on schools, medical facilities, and refugee camps, allegations of the use of white phosphorus, cutting off water and power, as well as access to medicines and food have been part of the collective punishment inflicted upon Palestinians.
Kalundi Serumaga, a social and political commentator in Uganda, once wrote ‘Illegitimate power cannot rule legitimately, and remains permanently insecure, in crisis and in need of self-validation.’
Across Africa, the response of governments to what has been happening in Gaza has also been mixed. In the first weeks of the bombardment, pro-Israel Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and the DRC regurgitated the old Western line about ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’.
But we have seen firm responses from others, including South Africa, Libya, Algeria and Chad. In November, South Africa’s parliament voted to suspend diplomatic ties with Israel.
The same applies to Israel’s occupation and treatment of Palestinians. Many colonial powers and Global North governments have continued to prop up this generations-long injustice and arm Israel, ignoring the voices of millions around the world who march against them.
Apartheid can be defeated
Colonial era power systems like the UN Security Council are exposed as impotent while Palestine burns. But as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said: ‘Apartheid Israel can be defeated, just as apartheid in South Africa was defeated.’
Generation after generation, pan-African elders and Black feminist thinkers and activists have been unafraid to stand with Palestine.
The Global Majority knows too well that it can not be assumed that the world will value your humanity, and that history does not start and end with who began this round of fighting. That’s why millions of people have taken to the street across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
It can feel quite helpless, this world. As the images from Gaza spread to all corners of the globe, the powerful seem not to be moved. We must then ask, when the dead can’t be at peace, how will the living?
Read more about the realities of occupation, apartheid and resistance on the ground in Palestine and Israel in NI544 - Palestine: From Occupation to Uprising - July/August 2023 available from the Ethical Shop.