“Anti-Semitism” – A weapon against African and Palestinian freedom struggles

In the Dec. 3, 2023 #OmaliTaughtMe Sunday Study, APSP Chairman Omali details how anti-Semitism is used as a weapon against the just liberation struggles of African and Palestinian people.

I want to say that part of what this discussion helps us to understand or brings out in bold relief [is] this whole notion of free speech and how ridiculous it is because the colonized does not have the right to free speech. We do not have the right of free speech since colonialism has come into existence; and in fact, the notion of free speech is something that’s used against the colonized to advocate for the oppression and extermination of colonized people.

I remember that struggle that occurred in Paris when a magazine had put forth the most offensive kinds of visuals, cartoons, lampooning, and desecrating the Muslim religion and the prophet Muhammad; and how the assault on that had left some of the perpetrators of that aggression dead, they were killed. [It was said] that the slanderers were actually exercising their right to free speech in France; therefore the assault on them was something that was against free speech as well.

But the truth of the matter is that the Arabs, Palestinians, and Muslims of this most recent era, the advent of the colonial mode of production that started with the assault on Africa, [live in] an oppressive kind of existence. When we see what was happening with the slander, with this attack on the religion, the things that represent the essence of what many Muslims and Arabs would characterize as their identity, this is an ongoing consequence of colonial conquest.

Even in the territories that call themselves benefitting or exercising free speech, the slaves, the colonized, the ones who came into this relationship, not because of free will but because of conquest, have no right to exercise free speech. And when we fight back against this aggression, against certain expressions of this horror of colonialism, then we are characterized as horrible forces who are also working against the free speech of civilized Europe, in this instance, civilized France.

In the United States in particular, baseball and football teams [are] named for Indigenous peoples. Not only named for Indigenous people, [but] in most instances are caricatures [of] Indigenous people. These are people who suffered colonial conquest. And so to oppose this…slander and ridicule…[this is] being characterized as something that is an assault on the free speech of the colonizers, of the murderers, of the people who have put us in this situation.

In 1966, I was arrested in St. Petersburg, FL because the white people there had a mural on the wall of the city hall. This is the local government office that caricatured African people in the same way the Ku Klux Klan or any other white nationalist organization might do–in the same way that the contenders for U.S. president at this moment might do. And I’m saying this based on the kind of things they’ve had to say–both of them. (The two representatives, the two dominant political parties, or the dominant political party as in the iterations of democrat and republican.)

So here they are able to put this slanderous image of African people there. It was not just because they don’t like black people, it’s not just because they say this [is] how black people look. They did it because it’s representative of the relationship between white power and Black Power. It reminds everybody including the colonized that this is our station; it is a part of an ongoing colonization.

“We do not have the right of free speech since colonialism has come into existence…”

This whole free speech question is bogus, and the colonizer uses the question of free speech in a fashion to justify the ongoing colonial domination of those of us who are colonized, and when we strike out against colonialism, we are being characterized as somebody fighting against the right for free speech. There is no such thing as free speech for the oppressed and the colonized.

I want to say that we’ve seen such examples: Susan Sarandon, the actor, who spoke at Palestinian rallies in support of Palestinian peoples, and I really appreciated that, to see someone who has achieved the kind of legitimate stature as far as this system is involved and has become a certain kind of cultural icon. Some people had seen her as symbolic of the strength of women in terms of roles that she’s portrayed in movies. So she stands up, speaks in defense of Palestinian people, and she talks about how… Jews in the United States are now getting a sense of what it is finally for Muslims–how Muslims must feel based on treatment here in the United States.

The pushback was extraordinary; she came under fire in a very serious way. Her agency, the agent that represented her…abandoned her, dismissed her. I just saw recently she’s kind of retreated from that statement as have most other people who have come out and supported Palestinian people against the genocide, against the murder, against bombing hospitals, against destruction of whole communities, against starving children, against whole communities having the water and electricity cut off, and the ability to get food, starving an entire city. Some of them have spoken out, had the courage momentarily to stand up and speak out, and then we’ve seen them pushed back because they said something. They’ve been characterized as “anti-Semitic,” and “anti-Semite” and things like that.

[Sarandon] made that statement, she retreated from that, but here is the issue. The African People’s Socialist Party, we are materialists. We believe that there is a science of society that has brought us to an understanding of what we characterize as African Internationalism. It says something to us about how this social system came into existence. The genesis of the social system itself, and that it did not start with what has happened to Europeans, Jews or otherwise. It didn’t start there; this existing social system is something that came about as a consequence of an attack that was made on Africa 600 years ago.

I’m not saying that there was no oppression and exploitation before that. In fact, people sometimes remind us that African people were held under that so-called Trans-Saharan slave trade [which] existed for fifteen hundred years, that’s something like three times longer than the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. I’m not dismissing that, I’m not saying that that did not occur. What I am saying is that the existing social system did not exist for fifteen hundred years. This social system has locked everybody into it including Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Europeans, and Africans into a single world economy, a single kind of relationship iterating itself in various ways all around the world–that thing came into existence when Portugal first attacked Africa some 600 years ago. This is the beginning of this process. This is the thing that created the world economy that we are all locked into. It’s a devastating, cruel world economy.

It is brutal, and it didn’t start with what happened to Jews in Germany; it didn’t start at the point where Lipke decided that there should be something defined as genocide. It was pregenocide in the sense that what we characterize as genocide is something that was utilized, a law that was put forth after the creation of the United Nations, and at a time where the majority of African people did not even have a seat at the United Nations, had no play in the United States, most of the colonized people didn’t.

This thing called genocide is relatively recent in terms of the legal definition of it. The war that I’m talking about is one that according to Walter Rodney left a hundred million African people dead just in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. And some people say it’s twice that many Africans who are dead. The war that I’m talking about saw fifty million Indigenous people throughout the Americas killed during the time frame that Columbus left from the shores of Portugal and Spain to come to what is now called the Americas. Before there was an Americas, the people died; they killed so many Indigenous people throughout the Americas that it was responsible for the emergence of what was called the Little Ice Age where fifty million Indigenous people were killed.

The war I’m talking about saw countless numbers of Africans and other people including Arabs beheaded and heads stuck on stakes and Europe glorifying it. And the reason we’re having this discussion now about anti-Semitism and what happened to the Jews in the 1940s is because all of that history has been dismissed and liquidated and [is] standing on the graves, on global cemeteries that were created in the process of building this whole social system. When Jews were Germans, and Germany attacked what they now call Namibia, and the Herero and Nama people were almost destroyed, they were some of the same persons who were involved in the Jewish Holocaust, involved in killing Africans there. There was nobody saying anything.

The Germans didn’t say anything, the German Jews didn’t say anything–in many ways, participated in what was happening to Africans there. My point is not to cast blame on the Jews or anything like that. The point that I am making is that the history of this whole thing started a long time ago. As African Internationalists, we want to understand how the world got to be the way it is, how it got to kill the Jews, how it got to kill the Palestinians, how it got to this process of creating the destruction of Indigenous people who are all around the world. And that was through the emergence of a colonial mode of production that started with Portugal attacking Africa 600 years ago.

The Herero and Nama people in South-West Africa were subject to genocide and concentration
camps in Shark Island by Germany, who committed the Holocaust decades later. PHOTO: DER
SPIEGEL, PUBLIC DOMAIN, VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

There’s a refusal to talk about what happens to Africans all the time and what happens to us every damned day in public view. We detest the fact of the children being killed by these bombs in Gaza. Africans have always stood next to the Palestinians and next to the Arab Muslim people in Gaza. We’ve always been there from the very beginning. They killed Malcolm X because of that. They tried to destroy the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee because of that.

We have always been there, so there is no question about that. What has to be recognized is that the reason we are having this discussion now about what’s happened with the Palestinians, what’s happening with the Jews is because there has been a refusal, there’s been a dismissal of the war that’s been made against Africa, and African people. And that’s what we mean when we say, first of all, that this whole issue of the Holocaust, and anti-Semitism and things like that are used as a cover for all of imperialism, for what it’s done to the Indigenous people here in the United States–as it’s characterized now.

You can’t even see the Indigenous people on the streets of this country because they have been disappeared. You want to talk about what has happened? Look at the fact that you got Indigenous people living in concentration camps that they call Indian Reservations. There’s no protest that comes from anybody around that–nobody.

If you don’t hear anything happening in the damned synagogues about “let’s deal with what’s happening in the concentration camps because look at what happened to the poor Jews.” Nope, that’s not the statement. Because it’s being used to cover up what’s happened to us.

Look at what’s happening in Gaza, all the children being killed, and we hate that. And in St. Louis [MO] alone we have a situation where black children die every year during the first year of life–[enough] to fill fifteen kindergarten classes. Now how much does that total out when you stretch it out not just in St. Louis but all around this country? This is happening to us all the time but it’s normal.

The Jewish Holocaust by Nazi Germany was an expression of
colonialism. PHOTO: PUBLIC DOMAIN. VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

We are materialists. Jews are people who are subject to the same laws of social development as all other people on the planet Earth. And to the point that Jews allow themselves to be sucked into this process by a sector of the bourgeoisie that isolates them from the rest of humanity.

This is a really important discussion. People have lost their jobs and careers by calling it out. But we got to call it out. It’s important for us to become historical materialists. To say that this is how the world came into being. And this is what it’s going to take to make it go away. And Jews have the same responsibility as the rest of us to attack this social system.

The fact is, what happened to Jews in Germany was an expression of colonialism. The same colonialism initiated against African people in South-West Africa is now visiting upon its sector of the German population that are Jewish.

We’re gonna have to tell the Jews that you’re just like the rest of us. Roll up your sleeves and join in with the people in the destruction of colonialism. And that means joining under the leadership of the Palestinian people. Saying that “Israel must go” is not a statement of “Jews must go.” It’s about a State. It is an artificial entity that is imposed on Palestine. And Palestine cannot be free as long as there is an Israel.

Uhuru!

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