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Palestinians, Blacks, and Jews Living in a World of Trauma

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According to Colorlines, in a report by Seth Freed Wessler, the pro-Israel lobby is procuring black support. Faced with legitimate claims that Israel is an apartheid regime, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee -- or AIPAC -- is "recruiting black students as moral shields to make the case for Israeli impunity."

The most prominent pro-Israel lobbying group is reportedly courting students at historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, and predominantly Latino institutions. And its goal is to build a coalition of black elites who will proclaim that Israel is not racist, as they attack pro-Palestinian rights groups in the U.S.

As survivors of slavery and Jim Crow and beneficiaries of a civil rights movement, African-Americans have much to contribute to helping bring justice to the Mideast. But these students should not allow themselves to be used by AIPAC to assist Israel's right wing-controlled government and promote warfare and suffering. Dr. Martin Luther King's human rights legacy against racism, militarism, and economic exploitation simply would not allow it.

There is evidence the new AIPAC initiative will fail, as it should. A new Pew poll found that blacks and Latinos -- along with millenials, women and liberal Americans -- are more likely to blame Israel for the current violence.

We are all witnessing the blockading, bombing, displacement and erasure of Palestinian Arabs, also oppressed people of color, out of existence. What is framed by the Netanyahu regime as a war on terrorists -- Hamas -- is in reality war crimes, a policy to keep Gaza on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, with Israel counting minimum calorie requirements, and a land grab to control the extensive natural gas reserves found off the Gazan coast.

Meanwhile, the destruction of power plants, mosques, hospitals, schools, UN shelters and cultural institutions in Gaza, the wholesale slaughter of civilians, including hundreds of children, with thousands wounded and half a million homeless, has every appearance of a lynching -- complete with revenge killing for the murder of three Israeli teens, and picnicking Israeli spectators cheering the bombing of Gaza. This is the latest chapter in a 47-year-old occupation that the occupiers apparently have no intention of ending.

No one should underestimate the role of collective trauma in Israel and Palestine. For the Palestinians, the trauma is blatantly clear, as they are denied their basic rights, the right to self-determination and to ownership over the land they call home. Further, they are prisoners, unable to travel and crippled by an economic blockade imposed by Israel, hence the tunnels. With no hope for a better life, their punishment is for failing to cooperate in their oppression, daring to resist, and refusing to accept their captivity quietly. Meanwhile, Hamas is the creation of such harsh conditions, and was encouraged by the Israeli secret service as a counterweight to Yasser Arafat's PLO.

As for Israelis, their nation was founded amid the genocide of the Holocaust. Israel is a homeland for Jews, who were victims of white supremacy for centuries, including pogroms, and more recently the Nuremberg laws and the ghettos and death camps of Nazi Germany. This powerful narrative has defined Israel's self-proclaimed role as an underdog, a victim under siege, surrounded by hostile forces.

However, with the fiftieth largest economy in the world, and over $3 billion in aid annually from the U.S. -- its pusher and its accomplice -- Israel is not a helpless victim. As the largest military power in the Mideast with a nuclear arsenal, Israel is no David, it is Goliath. And unfortunately, with a colonial Bantustan system of occupation for the Palestinians, Israel is pharaoh.

With its extremist right in the political mainstream, Israel practices apartheid. Israeli Arabs face discrimination and second class citizenship in their own country, as evidenced by the 6-month suspension of Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian Israeli Knesset member and a vocal critic of the occupation. Over 1,000 Palestinian Israelis were arrested during Operation Protective Edge, and rightwing Israeli protestors commonly chant "death to Arabs" and physically assault Palestinians.

Contrary to IDF propaganda and AIPAC talking points painting the Israeli government as morally superior and acting in the spirit of international humanitarian standards, Israel arrests and tortures Palestinian children in custody and uses them as human shields, according to reports from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF. One of those children was Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, an American from Tampa who was arrested and beaten by Israeli authorities while attending the funeral of his abducted and slain 16-year-old cousin Mohammed.

And then there is the open talk among Israeli officials of genocide against Palestinians. For example, Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, recently called for the ethnic cleansing of the Gazan population, and placing them in concentration camps. Ayelet Shaked, another Knesset member, called Palestinian children "little snakes" and called for genocide against the their mothers, while Retired Israeli Major General Giora Eiland, the former head of Israel's National Security Council said there is no such thing as an innocent civilian in Gaza. A number of prominent rabbis have also called for biblical retribution and mass murder of Palestinians, including the bombing of civilians.

In addition, Israel has a black people problem, including reports of segregated preschools for sub-Saharan African children in Tel Aviv, and discrimination against Ethiopian Jews, many of whom were forced to "convert" to Judaism and undergo HIV testing. Ethiopian immigrant women were injected with the birth control Depo Provera as official policy without their consent.

Further, Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to African refugees and migrant workers as "illegal infiltrators" who must be expelled, and "threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state."

And over half of Israeli respondents in a non-scientific online survey said they wanted to give President Obama an envelope containing the Ebola virus for his 53rd birthday.

Meanwhile, mental calisthenics are needed to justify the slaughter of children in Gaza, and some have suggested that Israel has lost its soul. Eran Efrati, 28, an IDF combat veteran-turned-activist, articulates the trauma guiding Israel and its policy of occupation.

Efrati -- who was recently arrested for speaking out against the use of illegal weapons and revenge killings by the IDF in Gaza -- said that his grandmother, an Auschwitz survivor, would regularly wake up screaming from nightmares about the death camp. Efrati joined the IDF believing he was doing so to prevent a second Holocaust -- "never again." When he heard the screams of a Palestinian woman whose child was murdered by his fellow Israeli soldiers, she sounded exactly like Efrati's grandmother. Then, he realized he was on the wrong side of history and could no longer be the same person, so he decided to resist the occupation.

These are things black students must know about Israel when AIPAC knocks on their door.

African-Americans must choose a side -- the side of peace and justice and an end to the occupation. Millions of African souls lying in the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, perished in the Middle Passage, demand no less. This means working with Israeli and Jewish peace groups, Palestinian civil society and their progressive allies in the U.S., and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.

Like Palestinians and Jews, black people are the victims of hereditary, intergenerational trauma they continue to experience. All three groups have been dehumanized as the "other," the bogeymen that will destroy if they are not destroyed. And all of us know what it is like to be trapped in the ghetto and have the walls close in on them, and all know how it feels when the lynch mob comes. The Occupation represents the cycle of trauma that refuses to let go, the unlearned lessons from the past.

"Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding," Dr. King said. "Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers."