There is long history of the black resistance movement in the US standing with the cause of Palestinian liberation, drawing the connection between their shared experience of oppression and resistance against European colonialism. It is a little known fact that in 1964, Malcolm X was one of the first African American leaders to meet with the newly formed Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) where he commented that: “The argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Palestine has no intelligent or legal basis in history.”
This interesting piece of history will underpin a public conversation between visiting international journalist, poet and author, Dr Maytha Alhassen and South African poet Natalia Molebatsi at Wits University on Thursday. The event “Malcolm X and Afro-Palestinian Solidarity” is a build-up event to this year’s 14th Israeli Apartheid Week campaign from the 12-18 March 2018.
Speaking to VOC Drivetime this week, Dr Alhassen said she will draw from her dissertation research on the history of Black American delegations to Palestine, Malcolm X’s visit to Gaza and the experience of Black Lives Matter activists to Palestine in 2015.
“Sometimes this information is just confined to the ‘Malcolmologists’, scholars in the study of Malcolm X,” she said.
“I think the fact that the trip was not included in the biography of Malcolm X or in Spike Lee’s film in 1992, this is a new space for people to encounter Malcolm X and his writing that was prolific in 1964. This was not the only thing he wrote or said in terms of his critique of Zionism and his support for Palestinian liberation.”
According to Liberation newspaper, some of the strongest support for the Palestinian liberation movement from Black leaders and organizations came during the radical upsurge of the 1960s and 70s. Malcolm X was regarded as a fierce opponent of Zionism. He famously polemicized against it in “Zionist Logic,” an article published in The Egyptian Gazette in 1964.
In the document, Malcolm X notes the parallels between the subjugation of Palestinians and Africans. He pointed out the strategic value of Israel to world imperialism.
“The ever-scheming European imperialists wisely placed Israel where she could geographically divide the Arab world, infiltrate and sow the seed of dissension among African leaders and also divide the Africans against the Asians,” he wrote.
But the focus will be on contemporary African American writers and their outlook on black identity and politics. Molebatsi, in particular, has been credited with having been responsible for introducing the work of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison to the post-apartheid generation.
“These writers are humanists, cultural workers, Pan-Africanists and human rights activists. It’s important for their work to be known around the world, especially young people. South Africans should learn about South African writers but they should have a broad perspective on people who speak on Pan-African issues, like Malcolm, Alice and Toni.”
With “Afro-Palestinian solidarity” as this year’s theme, Israeli Apartheid Week will focus on both Israel’s apartheid policies against the Palestinians as well as the regime’s discriminatory policies against Africans. The campaign will also highlight the African community in Palestine and will host events, such as this one on the 1st of March 2018, that celebrate the historic support and solidarity that African liberation struggles and countries received from the PLO and the Palestinian people during the 1970s and 1980s.
The discussion, hosted by Wits University’s International Relations Department, the Embassy of Palestine, BDS South Africa and the Wits PSC will take place at Wits University on Thursday 01 March 2018 at 18h00 (Graduate Seminar Room, East Campus). The event is open to the public. VOC