Palestinian Justice Syllabus
by Abaki Beck and Sarah Dillard
“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. This year alone, 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 Dillard. Abaki Beck is a young American Indian writer and the founder of POC Online Classroom. Sarah Dillard is, among other things, an editor, a podcaster, and a Palestinian American.
[Last edited May 16, 2017.]
Photo Archive: Before their Diaspora, Institute of Palestine Studies, Rashid Khalidi
Interactive: Timeline of Palestine’s History by Palestine Remix/Al Jazeera
Quick Facts: The Palestinian Nakba, Institute for Middle East Understanding
Article/Interactive: A Century On: Why Arabs resent Sykes-Picot by Al Jazeera
Article: Mandatory Palestine: What it Was and Why it Matters by Noah Rayman
Historical Document: The Palestinian Mandate, Yale Law School
Video: Israel and Palestine conflict explained by Jewish Voice for Peace
Resource: 8 Things You Need to Know about Gaza by Jewish Voice for Peace
Resource: The Nakba Factsheet by Jewish Voice for Peace
Article: The Structural Roots of Israeli Apartheid by Noura Erakat
Article: The Nakba, 65 Years of Dispossession and Apartheid, Institute for Middle East Understanding
Resource: Everything you Need to Know about Israel and Palestine, Vox
Book: Orientalism by Edward Said (link to introduction and first chapter)
Article: British White Paper, 1939, Yale Law School
Article: Balfour Declaration, 1917, Yale Law School
Article: Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native by Patrick Wolfe (in Arabic)
Article: How the US is Bankrolling Israel by Chase Madar
Article: Why Does the United States Give So Much Money To Israel? by Emma Green
Article: Newt, the Jews, and an “Invented People” by David Remnick
Article: Zionism is Not Judaism by Ahmed Moor
Article: What We Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Nakba, Donna Nevel
Article: Can You Be a Zionist Feminist, Linda Sarsour says No by Collier Meyerson
“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
Book: State of Exception by Giorgio Agamben. University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (January 15, 2005) Chapter one here.
Book: The State and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories by Partha Chatterjee
Book suggestion: The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich; 1 edition (March 21, 1973)
Article: The Nakba and Anti-Blackness by Noura Erakat
Article: On growing up in Ferguson and Palestine by Naomi Shihab Nye
Interactive: 24 Hours in Gaza by Al Jazeera
Interactive: Destroyed Palestinian Villages by Palestine Remix/Al Jazeera
Article: Beyond the Walls by Al Jazeera (following prisoners released from Israeli jails)
Article: The role of prisoners in Palestinian society by Rana Shubair
Article: Flint and Gaza: Water Crises of Colonialism, The Nation
Article: Israel: Water as a tool to dominate Palestinians by Camilla Corradin
Article: Water Resources in the West Bank, EWASH Advocacy Task Force
Article: Anti-Semitism has no place in Palestine Advocacy by Yasmeen Serhan
Article: A timeline of Palestinian mass hunger strikes in Israel by Zena Tahhan
Article: Why are Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike? By Ramzy Baroud
Article: More Than 1,000 Palestinian in Israeli Prisons go on Hunger Strike by Merrit Kennedy
Solidarity & Connections
Article: From Ferguson to Palestine: The Resurgence of Black-Palestinian Solidarity by Kristian Davis Bailey
Video: When I See Them I See Us by Black Palestinian Solidarity
Resource: Deadly Exchange, a campaign by Jewish Voice for Peace on police violence
Book suggestion: Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis. Haymarket Books, February 2016.
What you can do
Resource: A Guide to Difficult Conversations About Israel and Palestine by Jewish Voice for Peace
Resource: Anti-Apartheid Framework Training Curriculum by Noura Erakat
Resource: Introduction to BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), BDS Movement
Zine: BDS: What it is, why it matters by Leila Abdulrazaq
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.
Project: We are Not Numbers, a Palestinian storytelling project
Resource: Palestinian Profiles, Institute for Middle East Understanding
Resource: Palestinian-American Profiles, Institute for Middle East Understanding
Article: From Generation to Generation by Karma Nabulsi
Article/interview: Life-Affirming Narratives: Author Randa Jarrar Talks Arab-American Identity and Survival by Stephanie Abraham
Book suggestion (Graphic Novel): Baddawi by Leila Abdelrazaq
Book suggestion (Poetry): Born Palestinian, Born Black by Suheir Hammad
Book suggestion (Fiction): A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar
Book suggestion (Fiction): The Inheritance of Exile by Susan Muaddi Darraj
Book suggestion (Fiction, children’s): Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
Book suggestion (Poetry): Words Under the Words by Naomi Shihab Nye
Book suggestion (memoir): Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family by Najla Said
Resources for Additional Exploration
Jaddaliya, ezine produced by the Arab Studies Institute
Mondoweiss, a news website focused on Israel and Palestine
Palestine Square, Institute for Palestine Studies
Rachel Corrie Foundation, a grassroots organization focused on dialogue named after a woman crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer