Posted on December 19, 2023

Black American Solidarity With Palestinians Is Rising and Testing Longstanding Ties to Jewish Allies

Noreen Nasir and Aaron Morrison, Associated Press, December 17, 2023

Cydney Wallace, a Black Jewish community activist, never felt compelled to travel to Israel, though “Next year in Jerusalem” was a constant refrain at her Chicago synagogue.

The 39-year-old said she had plenty to focus on at home, where she frequently gives talks on addressing anti-Black sentiment in the American Jewish community and dismantling white supremacy in the U.S.


That all changed when she visited Israel and the West Bank at the invitation of a Palestinian American community organizer from Chicago’s south side, along with two dozen other Black Americans and Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith leaders.


Wallace, and a growing number of Black Americans, see the Palestinian struggle in the West Bank and Gaza reflected in their own fight for racial equality and civil rights. The recent rise of protest movements against police brutality in the U.S., where structural racism plagues nearly every facet of life, has connected Black and Palestinian activists under a common cause.

But that kinship sometimes strains the more than century-long alliance between Black and Jewish activists. From Black American groups that denounced the U.S. backing of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory to Black protesters demonstrating for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, some Jewish Americans are concerned that support could escalate the threat of antisemitism and weaken Jewish-Black ties fortified during the Civil Rights Movement.


According to a poll earlier this month from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Black adults were more likely than white and Hispanic adults to say the U.S. is too supportive of Israel — 44% compared to 30% and 28%, respectively. However, Black Americans weren’t any more likely than others to say the U.S. is not supportive enough of the Palestinians.

Generational divides also emerged, with younger Americans more likely to say the U.S. is too supportive of Israel, according to the poll. Even within the Jewish American community, some younger and other progressive Jews tend to be more critical of some of Israel’s policies.

Black American support for the Palestinian cause dates back to the Civil Rights Movement, through prominent left-wing voices, including Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis, among others. More recent rounds of violence, including the 2021 Israel-Hamas war and now Israel’s unprecedented bombing campaign against Gaza shown live on social media have deepened ties between the two movements.


Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, invited Wallace and the others to take part in the trip called “Black Jerusalem” — an exploration of the sacred city through an African and Black American lens.

They met members of Jerusalem’s small Afro-Palestinian community — Palestinians of Black African heritage, many of whom can trace their lineage in the Old City back centuries.

“Our Black brothers and sisters in the U.S. suffered from slavery and now they suffer from racism,” said Mousa Qous, executive director of the African Community Society Jerusalem, whose father emigrated to Jerusalem from Chad in 1941 and whose mother is Palestinian.

“We suffer from the Israeli occupation and racist policies. The Americans and the Israelis are conducting the same policies against us and the Black Americans. So we should support each other,” Qous said.


Over the last decade, however, Black Americans and the Palestinians have also found growing solidarity.

In 2020, the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer resonated in the West Bank, where Palestinians drew comparisons to their own experiences of brutality under occupation, and a massive mural of Floyd appeared on Israel’s hulking separation barrier.

In 2014, protests in Ferguson, Missouri, erupted after the police killing of Michael Brown, a Black teenager, which gave rise to the nascent Black Lives Matter movement. While police officers in Ferguson fired tear gas at protesters, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank tweeted advice about how to manage the effects of the irritants.

In 2016, when BLM activists formed the coalition known as the Movement for Black Lives, they included support for Palestinians in a platform called the “Vision for Black Lives.” A handful of Jewish groups, which had largely been supportive of the BLM movement, denounced the Black activists’ characterization of Israel as a purportedly “apartheid state” that engages in “discrimination against the Palestinian people.”