A historical conjecture of solidarity has arrived at Ohio State’s campus. For the first time in OSU’s history, a Black-Palestine solidarity resolution, Issue 2, has been submitted for undergraduate students to vote on. Issue 2 calls upon OSU to revoke and end its investments in companies complicit in the occupation of Palestine — such as G4S, Caterpillar and HP — as well as its investments in private prison companies — such asG4S, GEO and CoreCivic. If you find personal stake in the fight against racism, imperialism and settler-colonialism, voting “Yes” on Issue 2 is in your best interest.
For a thorough rundown of the campaign and how each of these companies operate to fuel the propagation of racist hate and profiling globally, look to OSU Divest’s website. This piece will focus specifically on why voting “yes” on Issue 2 is a vote against anti-Black racism, arguing that prison divestment and divestment from the Israeli occupation go hand-in-hand.
As argued in Ava DuVernay’s widely acclaimed documentary “13TH,” the prison system — federal and private — is an extension of the economic institution of slavery. Prisons are where seemingly old horrors of plantation slavery are repackaged. Inmates are stripped bare of their constitutional rights, paid a pittance (if anything at all) for the labor they are forced to do and subjected to torture and violence. Private prisons play a gargantuan role in lobbying for legislation that furthers and worsens the racist practice of mass incarceration, motivating the OSU Coalition for Black Liberation to begin the school year with the intention to push forth a prison divestment campaign. In homage to the long history of Black-Palestinian solidarity — by virtue of how intricately linked the oppression and exploitation of the two groups are — we joined OSU Divest in putting forth a divestment initiative that targets corporations that welcome and depend on oppression and exploitation of both groups.
Countless radical figures, scholars, artists and writers of the Black freedom struggle have expressed unconditional solidarity with Palestine — Muhammad Ali, Alice Walker, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Talib Kweli, Cornel West and many more. Most of these people have signed the Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine. The Movement for Black Lives, the policy platform put forth by Black Lives Matter, also expresses such solidarity. Recently, activists from BLM, the indigenous-people led Standing Rock protesters and Palestinian activists have shown solidarity with one another. For decades now, solidarity between Black people and Palestinians has been organically forged, serving as a testament to the commonality of the oppression of Black people and Palestinians.
Most clearly, both Black people and Palestinians suffer from state-sanctioned violence. BLM, the most recent upsurge of resistance against police brutality, grew widely from the growing consciousness and discontent surrounding the state murders of black people by police. In the early moments of this resistance in Ferguson, Missouri, protesters decrying the murder of Michael Brown were tear-gassed by the Ferguson police. Once news of this went viral, Palestinian activists — who were accustomed to dealing with the same brand of tear gas as those in Ferguson, deployed by Israeli Defense Forces — tweeted at those in Ferguson remedies to being teargassed. This tells us two things: state-sanctioned murder and brutality relies on the same tactics of repression and violence globally, and that this repression is so great that solidarity between the two groups, Black and Palestinian, is organic in nature.
Calling for the rights of Palestinians and the rights of Black people in the U.S. are not mutually exclusive. These two things are intricately tied, with the fates of both groups reliant on whether the two can work together in solidarity, and whether those who are moved by the atrocities that both groups are subjected to polarize or join us in the fight.
If you are against racism, you must be anti-occupation and anti-mass incarceration. If you are against imperialism, you must be anti-occupation and anti-mass incarceration. If you are against racism and imperialism, vote “Yes” on Issue 2, but do not let your engagement stop there — join the Divest campaign in our fight against oppression at home and abroad.
Sarah Z. Mamo
Fourth-year in African-American and African Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Member of International Socialist Organization and OSU Coalition for Black Liberation. Organizer with OSU Divest