Letter: There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle

    People in the United States often see Palestine as a "foreign affairs" issue; we see ourselves as disconnected from what is happening outside of the country, and we may believe what happens in Palestine does not directly affect us. In fact, we are connected to the occupation of Palestine through both Northwestern University and the United States. The U.S. is Israel’s largest source of foreign "aid," which primarily funds their military which maintains the occupation and enforces the system of apartheid. Northwestern holds investments in corporations that profit from the continuing occupation, and students in solidarity with Palestine have suffered numerous instances of harassment on campus while misrepresentations of our solidarity abound.

    In this way, Palestine is absolutely relevant to all of us living within the boundaries of the U.S., especially because our borders were imposed through colonialism and are still policed with violence. We must have conversations about the myriad of ways in which we are all affected differently by the occupation of Palestine. We must think critically about the ways in which living in the U.S. and being at Northwestern make us complicit in Palestinian suffering. We must also understand how all oppressions are interlocking and intertwined with Palestinian resistance.

    For too long, Palestinians have been drowned out by the sounds of F16’s and by mainstream media outlets that propagate narratives of a "two-sided conflict." For too long, we have seen the Palestinian body count rise at the hands of the state of Israel, spoken of only as “unfortunate casualties” and “collateral damage.” Silence is not an opinion, it allows oppression. Being intentionally and actively in solidarity with Palestinians is essential. Critical voices worldwide are becoming more and more cognizant of how racism and Islamophobia against Palestinians have been institutionalized by the state of Israel and perpetuated around the world. This past year has only made that clearer; from Chicago to Mexico City to London to Algeria to South Africa and all over the world, people are showing their solidarity with the Palestinian people. The whole world is watching. In fact the whole world has been watching for quite some time. There is a long history of the entire Global South making connections between oppression around the world and the occupation of Palestine, and exemplifying true solidarity with Palestine because of those connections.

    We can draw specific connections between the U.S and apartheid in Palestine by examining the foundations of police brutality, prison technology and border militarization in the U.S. Understanding these connections is foundational to building solidarity.

    During the Summer and Fall, the U.S. saw communities in Ferguson and New York City mobilize against state-sanctioned violence when officers killed two black men with impunity, followed by many more killings of Black men and women. This disregard toward Black bodies and life is not surprising given the training that the St. Louis and New York Police Departments received from Israeli security forces. In Israel and the U.S., police operate under racial paradigms that mark Black and Palestinian lives as criminal and expendable. The very strategies of policing that enact violence upon Palestinians are exported to the U.S. through training programs and used against other bodies of color.

    Without a doubt, the prison-industrial complex also employs and perpetuates this racialized violence. G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, provides services and equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall and the Israeli military and police. Within the U.S., G4S provides prison technology and also commits human rights violations, including imposing violence against migrants within detention centers. Cherrell Brown, a community organizer who recently traveled to Palestine with the #BlackLivesMatter delegation, said that she saw many parallels between state violence against Blacks and Palestinians. She stated, “This is not to say there aren't vast differences and nuances that need to always be named, but our oppressors are literally collaborating together, learning from one another – and as oppressed people we have to do the same.”

    In this way, we have to understand how settler colonialism at the Mexico-U.S. Borderlands and Palestine are also a part of a larger picture of power relations between the U.S. and the state of Israel. For instance, Palestinian suffering is exported to the U.S. by way of the Israeli-based company Elbit Systems, which tests it technology on Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. The West Bank and Gaza have served as a “laboratory” for these technologies to be as “tried and tested” as they claim in their promotional videos. Along the Mexico-US border, Elbit Systems is responsible for deadly weapons and surveillance systems employed against migrants.

    This means that occupation profiteers, especially in Israel and the U.S., rake in millions from racism and displacement. We have to pay attention to violence in Palestine because we cannot ignore that technologies of racial profiling, colonial policing and border security from Israel will continue to be adapted to further control Black and indigenous lives throughout the U.S.

    On January 27th, Cinthya hosted a workshop titled, "'Because We Do Not Live Single Issue Lives': Solidarity with Palestine." The workshop covered the prison-industrial complex and border militarization as “sites of solidarity” with Palestine, along with issues of gender/sexuality and colonialism at large. This workshop provided an overview of these issues and their relationships to Palestine. This workshop is a reminder that our struggles do not happen in isolation, and that our oppressors are very much in conversation with each other, trying to pit us against each other.

    Audre Lorde states, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. Malcolm knew this. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone. We are not perfect, but we are stronger and wiser than the sum of our errors.” 

    True solidarity is not a campaign where marginalized experiences are exploited for credibility, or sought out as a way of adding diversity to a pre-formed initiative. True solidarity is a commitment to imagining a new way of being where profit does not require exploiting and oppressing other people.

    We must support divestment from G4S, Elbit Systems and other corporations which profit from and export Palestinian suffering to the U.S. We support #NUDivest because there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle. As Northwestern students within the U.S., we live within the belly of the beast and we cannot afford to fight issues without solidarity.

    Cinthya Rodriguez, MEChA de Northwestern

    Sarah Oberholtzer, Inspire Media

    Lucero Segundo, MEChA de Northwestern

    Heather Menefee, NAISA


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