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A call for Jews to stand against colonialism, in solidarity with Palestinian, African and oppressed peoples!

by Jesse Nevel

This presentation was presented at a Palestine teach-in event organized by the Hands Off Uhuru Fightback Coalition on October 14, 2023. 

It is an honor to participate in this teach-in today, as a member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, the organization of white people working under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party and Chairman Omali Yeshitela. As the mass organization of the African People’s Solidarity Committee, our work is to win other white people like ourselves to stand in solidarity with African and oppressed peoples and their struggles for liberation. I appreciate the call and opportunity today to speak to white people like myself who are also Jews. 

I was raised in a Jewish family, and therefore, like most Jewish people, I was raised in an environment where I was taught that to be Jewish is to be loyal to Israel, to defend Israel right or wrong and that to do anything otherwise is to betray your own people, even to hate them, by becoming a so-called “self-hating Jew.” 

For more than half a century, it is true that an overwhelming majority of Jews have supported Israel. But it is also clear that today the anti-colonial struggle has shattered the absolute unity of the Jewish population with the Israeli colonial-settler state. I saw a video from earlier today of hundreds of Jews in New York who came out to say, “Not in our name.” 

This is good. We salute this. We applaud this. I am here to speak to all of those Jews, including in Israel, where many Jews in this country, including myself, have relatives who live there. 

What the anti-colonial struggle is calling on us to do is yes, to question and criticize the actions of Israel, but also to do more than that. As Jews, we have a responsibility to completely oppose the colonial-settler state of Israel built on stolen and occupied Palestinian land. As Jews, we have a responsibility to unite unconditionally with the right of Palestinians to resist, to fight, to struggle, to do whatever is necessary to win their total liberation. 

We have to deal with this question because the explanation given for the existence of Israel to begin with and its ongoing violence against Palestinians is that it is being done for the protection of Jews–to secure the interests and safety of the Jewish population. 

This means that literally, not figuratively, the carnage, brutality and genocide being carried out by the Israeli military as we speak is being done in our name as Jews, under a Jewish white-and-blue flag with a Jewish star of David by a government that calls itself the Jewish state. There’s no way around it.

Nazi Holocaust as justification

In making this argument, the first thing that will inevitably be invoked is this idea promoted by the colonial ruling class and the Israeli government that the creation of the State of Israel was necessary because of what happened to the Jews in Germany, in what is referred to as the Nazi Holocaust.

The idea that the Nazi persecution of European Jews made the Israeli settler state necessary begs the obvious question: Who was it who put the Jews in the gas chambers of Germany? Was it Palestinians? No, it was not. It was white people. It was other Europeans. 

If the persecution of European Jews by other Europeans justified the existence of a Jewish state for Jewish protection, then why did the Jews, as the Chairman has posed the question, not take Frankfurt or Berlin? 

How did it make sense for Jews to protect ourselves from Europeans, Nazis, by going to Arab people’s land and stealing their land and committing genocide against them and creating a colonial settler state on their occupied land? 

It doesn’t make sense. Because the truth is, the creation of the Jewish state was not done as a form of self-defense against European imperialism and colonial white power. 

It was done by a sector of European Jews, with the full support of the colonial powers, as an avenue through which a sector of the European population could integrate into European imperialism; to advance our own interests within the colonial mode of production, at the expense of the Palestinian people in a system built on the backs of African people. 

As Chairman Omali Yeshitela teaches us, this question of the so-called “Holocaust” and its weaponization by the imperialist ruling class, however, is even deeper than that. 

Not only is it used to justify the torture and extermination of the Palestinians, but it is also used, as Chairman Omali Yeshitela has stated, as an ideological tool of imperialism to silence Africans, Arabs and other colonized peoples’ voices when they struggle against their oppression. 

Colonized people victims of genocide for centuries

It goes back to the very origin of the word genocide, a term created by a Polish Jew, named Raphael Lemkin, after the Second Imperialist World War and the Nazi persecution of Jews in Europe and adopted by the legal definition of genocide by the Untied Nations. 

There was no word for genocide when King Leopold in Belgium slaughtered 20 million Africans in Congo, or when tens of millions of Indigenous people on this land were slaughtered by European settlers and forced onto concentration camps euphemistically referred to as reservations. 

There was no word for genocide when thousands of Africans lynched, hanged from trees, burned alive, tortured and mutilated by white terrorists in the U.S. for over a hundred years. 

When Africans went to the United Nations to use Lemkin’s definition of genocide to charge the U.S. with the crime of genocide against Africans in the U.S., Lemkin himself denounced them, accusing Paul Robseon and others of being agents in a Russian conspiracy. 

This is the same bogus accusation levied against Chairman Omali Yeshitela today for doing the same thing. 

The experience of European Jews at the hands of other Europeans is elevated in the colonial historical narrative to the ultimate crime committed by humans against humans. In some schools in Florida it is even illegal to compare anything else to it. 

I believe it is important for Jews to publicly reject this notion, which permeates the ideological foundation of the Israeli settler state. 

Supporting Palestine is not Anti-Semitic

When colonized people raise this question they inevitably meet the wrath of the colonial ruling class who label them an “Anti-Semite,” a distinction that can end careers and destroy livelihoods and in some parts of Europe, even land you in jail. 

In the year 2020, Chairman was invited to speak at a conference on reparations at San Diego State University. He was then disinvited, his freedom of speech trampled upon, when Jewish Zionist organizations on campus accused him of being an anti-Semite for his past remarks about Israel. 

They quoted something from the Chairman, so I found the full statement. Ironically, the statement that was used by these Zionists to ban the Chairman from speaking at San Diego State, to me, perfectly sums up the message that needs to reach the brains of Jewish people around the world.  

The Chairman said:  “However many Jews were killed in Germany, they killed them. They were not killed by Iranians. They were killed by white people in Europe. I truly believe that Jewish people have a responsibility to denounce the illegitimate state of Israel, to express solidarity with the just struggles of the Palestinians and other oppressed peoples [....] what killed the Jews was capitalism and other white people in Germany and other places. [...]So don’t put this thing about Jews on Palestinians and Iranians and black people and what have you because this is a mess about white people.”

Despite the best efforts of Zionist student organizations in San Diego, it is my intention to do whatever we can do to organize to bring this message from the Chairman to Jewish people everywhere. 

That is the message that we need to hear. It is time to turn our backs on white power. It is time to stand with the African, Palestinian and oppressed peoples of the world. 

Are we going to stand by and allow a government in our name, on our behalf, with our interests represented on their flag, to launch missiles and drop white phosphorus on Gaza, to push out 1 million people in a genocidal forcible expulsion, to reduce 400,000 people to homelessness, and with US weapons, to pulverize entire neighborhoods, destroy mosques and hospitals, to turn the open air prison of Gaza into a graveyard of Palestinian bodies?

It is time to move beyond white opportunism and forge a new, principled, revolutionary, socialist, anti-colonial stance of Jewish solidarity with Palestinian, African and colonized peoples. It requires that we go beyond sympathy and tears and take on our role in the struggle against colonialism. 

The Jewish voice must be for a free, independent Palestine. For the total and complete end to colonialism in all forms.  For the dismantling of the illegitimate Israeli colonial settler-state, and for the total emancipation of Palestine. Yes, one free Palestine, from the river to the sea, not a “two-state solution” where the enslaved are expected to live side-by-side with the enslavers. 

The Jewish voice must decry the Zionist thugs who abuse and pervert the memory of Jews killed in European concentration camps to justify another thousand holocausts against the Palestinian people, to sanction Israel’s heinous violence, torture, slaughter and extermination of the Palestinians.

No middle-ground in settler-colonialism 

We cannot equivocate on this. We cannot say “Oh, well I condemn violence on all sides.” That is to condemn the Palestinians and their resistance and to excuse and condone the Israeli violence of genocide. Full stop. That is what it means. 

We will not condemn the Palestinian resistance. We either unite with their right to resist or we don’t. The oppressor does not get to say, “I support your right to resist, but not that way. Not when you use that tactic.” That is not solidarity. 

When the Palestinians sent messages of solidarity to Africans rising up Ferguson in 2014, it was because of the recognition that Ferguson is Gaza. Palestinians are colonized. Africans are colonized in the U.S. and around the world. Indigenous people are colonized. 

America is the world’s largest open air prison, a prison of nations where African, Mexican and Indigenous people are held in a state of colonial captivity. Jewish people in the U.S. cannot walk over the bodies of Africans, Indigenous people or past their righteous resistance movements to give empty words of well-wishing to the Palestinians. 

For Jews in this country to truly unite with the anti-colonial resistance of the Palestinian people, no flight to Tel Aviv is necessary. We have a job to do right here in the belly of the beast.

The call to Jews is not a call for tears of sympathy for the Palestinians. No, it is a call to action to do our part in the anti-colonial struggle. That means organizing in solidarity with the African Revolution inside this country that puts us in unity with all of the colonized peoples of the world fighting the same enemy: colonialism. It means fighting for reparations to African people as an anti-colonial revolutionary demand. 

Some Jewish people will ask, if the Palestinians take back their land, what will happen to the Jews? Where will they go? What is being expelled from Palestine is colonialism. What becomes of the former colonizers will depend on our relationship to the struggle to destroy colonialism.

The question applies for white settlers here in North America, or in South Africa, or anywhere else. Our future will be determined by the stance we take. This is my message to Israeli Jews today: Let the Israeli government have to fend for themselves. Colonialism is on its deathbed. The future looks like a free Palestine, a free Africa and African people, a free Indigenous people. 

We can have a future, but not at their expense. We can have a future, but only in solidarity with the rest of humanity. That means we have to stand up, get organized under the leadership of the African Revolution and we have to fight. 

Victory to Palestine!  Victory to the African Revolution!  Unity through reparations!  Uhuru!