Originally published by Ma’an News Agency on December 18, 2014.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Nearly 100 students at Birzeit University in the central West Bank on Wednesday took part in a solidarity event with the African-American community in the United States in the wake of spiraling rates of deadly police violence there.
Entitled, “Similar Struggles: Racism in Palestine and Abroad,” the event was organized by the Right to Education Campaign at the university and featured lectures from professors as well as a number of students who recently returned from a tour of the United States where they visited Ferguson, Missouri — the site of months of protest against police violence — and met with community organizers across the nation.Organizers said the activity was one of the “most successful” events organized by the campaign, highlighting how the topic spoke directly to the experiences of Palestinian students.
“Following the uprisings of Black communities across the US, a lot of us here in Palestine began to see the similarities between these communities’ oppression by the militarized state and our own oppression as Palestinians under Israeli colonialism,” organizer Deema al-Saafin told Ma’an in an emailed statement.She said that the event was part of an effort to “create and sustain solidarity with other struggles,” adding: “We aimed to emphasize that change begins with liberating the mind first, and to build solidarity we need to actively resist derogatory terminology and stereotypes between each other and the way we address other people of color.
“She said the event featured three professors, Ahmad Abu Awad, Rana Barakat, and Hanada Kharama, who addressed racism as an ideology, the institutionalization of racism, and how racism becomes embedded in linguistics, respectively. In addition, students who took part in the recent Right to Education tour shared their experiences meeting with activists from communities of color in the United States and “how deeply connected our struggles are against the same systems of oppression,” al-Saafin said.
Another organizer, Reema Asia, stressed that the event was important for educating students about struggles faced by their peers abroad: “Through the discussion that took place, the students at the university will have a better understanding of the situation of Black communities not just in America, but around the world. You simply cannot be an ally to a people without having an idea of what it is they are fighting against.”
Al-Saafin told Ma’an that the event was part of the larger effort of building solidarity through knowledge, and that the Right to Education campaign hoped it would help bolster their work to create linkages between the struggles faced by Palestinians and other marginalized communities around the world.
“We hope that this event and those in the future will emphasize the fact that as Palestinians and as students, we have to actively fight injustice everywhere … Our liberation is simply incomplete without the liberation of all oppressed peoples,” she said.