Palestinian Justice Syllabus

by Abaki Beck and Sarah K

“Palestine is love as deep as the oceans. Palestine is resilience. It's patience. It's joy. It's history. It's rich heritage. Palestine lives within us, in our young and in our old. 69 years later, we have not forgotten. Palestine will be free. Liberation is inevitable.”
-Linda Sarsour, Palestinian activist

This syllabus is a response to basic questions: Why do so few non-Arab or non-Muslim activists speak out against state violence against Palestinians? Why is it seen as controversial to advocate for justice for Palestinians? Why has justice for Palestinians not become a national movement in the same ways as the anti-South African apartheid or anti-police brutality movements?

The struggle for Palestinian justice is interconnected to struggles against settler-colonialism and state violence across the globe. Militarization, surveillance, and violence against Palestinians and communities of color in the U.S. are deeply interconnected. Not just theoretically, but literally: G4S, the largest security corporation in the world, funds prisons, checkpoints, and the wall in Palestine as well as prisons, security measures at schools, and immigration detention centers in the United States. Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) makes tear-gas used by both U.S. police forces and the Israeli Army - often used against protesters. Between 2009 and 2018, American taxpayers will finance $30 billion in military aid to Israel, which will help to bolster these systems of control. Despite these connections to existing movements against state violence in the United States, the movement for Palestinian justice remains marginalized. This needs to change. Justice for Palestine must become a normalized and inherent aspect of movements for racial and social  justice. This syllabus is an effort to engage others in the critical conversation on historic and contemporary violence against Palestinians as well as Palestinian resistance.

During the formation of Israel in 1947 to 1949, there was a violent and systematic displacement of indigenous Palestinians. Approximately 530 Palestinian villages were destroyed and over 13,000 Palestinians were killed. Eighty percent of Palestinians were expelled and eighty percent of land was stolen by Zionists, who had been promised land by Britain, Palestine’s previous colonizers. In the wake of the Holocaust, the UN partitioned post-British Palestine to create an "Arab State" and a "Jewish state." This plan led to violence and ultimately, the creation of Israel as it is today. This time period is known by Palestinians as the Nakba - “catastrophe” in Arabic. Today, Palestinians remain essentially undocumented in their own homeland, which has been stolen to make way for Israeli housing complexes or nature reserves (Airbnb even offers homes in illegal settlements as vacation spots). Palestinians face high rates of incarceration and abuse and many of these prisoners are held in administrative detention, without a right to trial. Families are literally divided both by expulsion from Palestine and by the Israeli wall. Despite the words of many American politicians, Israel is not a democracy, as Palestinians under occupation are not able to vote for fear that they, along with Palestinians living in Israel, would form a majority.

Sixty-nine years after the Nakba, there are more than 12 million Palestinians living worldwide, including more than five million registered refugees. The vast majority of Palestinians live outside of their ancestral homeland and are not permitted to return or even to visit. To understand Palestine is also to understand its diaspora, which includes generations of Palestinians who, unable to visit the country of their parents or grandparents, continue to fight for the Palestinian right of return. Meanwhile, the Israeli Law of Return guarantees Jewish people around the world Israeli citizenship should they want it, allowing them to settle on stolen land.

While this conflict is often framed as “Jewish” versus “Arab” or “Muslim,” we want to be explicit: supporting freedom and justice for Palestinians is not anti-Jewish. Critiquing state violence perpetrated by Israel is not anti-Jewish. As Yasmeen Serhan wrote in +972 Magazine, “Anti-semitism has no place in Palestinian advocacy.” Indeed, many strong advocates for justice for Palestinians are Jewish, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews of Color and Sephardi/Mizrahi Caucus and many others.

As within all marginalized communities, Palestinians in Palestine and of the diaspora have a strong history of resistance. For example, over the last four weeks, 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners have been on hunger strike to protest state sanctioned violence against prisoners. This syllabus not only highlights historical context, state violence, and Zionism, but resistance and personal Palestinian stories. These perspectives must always be included to center the lives of Palestinians themselves, not the violence perpetrated against them. With this perspective, as Linda Sarsour poignantly stated, liberation is inevitable.

This syllabus was compiled by Abaki Beck and Sarah K. Abaki Beck is a young American Indian writer and the founder of POC Online Classroom. Sarah K is, among other things, an editor, a podcaster, and a Palestinian American.

[Last edited May 16, 2017.]

Historical Context


Settler Colonialism




State Violence

“This appalling treatment of undocumented immigrants in the US and the UK compels us to make connections to Palestinians who have been transformed into immigrants against their will, indeed into undocumented immigrants on their own ancestral lands. I repeat - on their own land.” - Angela Y. Davis



Resource Access


Contemporary Activism

Palestinian Activism

Solidarity & Connections

What you can do


Palestinian Voices in Palestine and the Diaspora

“To avert madness, Palestinians reassembled their past and its ethos, and by emotional fiat petrified the image and the mythology of Palestine in their very consciousness in order to confront a reality that they were determined was to be temporary. Given the order of things and the fierce exigencies pressing on the collective spirit of a nation driven into exile, a Palestinian’s grip on Palestine was to become tighter no matter how long the ghourba endured. The vehemence of the Palestinian consciousness and the collages it carried with it were to be enhanced no matter how blackened the walls of reality were to become. And Palestine would be passed on to us, modified, redefined, embellished, to imprint itself on our sensibilities.” - Fawaz Turki, To be a Palestinian (1973), P. 4-5.

Resources for Additional Exploration