by Netfa Freeman, published on Black Alliance for Peace, November 17, 2023
From Haiti to Puerto Rico and from the Congo to Baltimore, African (Black) people suffer from colonialism. Current atrocities happening to the people of Gaza and the West Bank clearly show the colonial reality of life and death in Palestine. What we see daily in Palestine is a project to completely replace the indigenous population with a settler population. The attempt to exterminate the Palestinians is being carried through collusion between Israel, the U.S, the European Union, and all western powers. This is nothing less than a genocidal campaign to occupy Gaza, and slaughter Palestinians trapped in the world’s largest open air prison. Clearly Palestine is a colony born of a Zionist imperialist project. What is not so clear are the ways that Zionism extends into African (Black) communities like Baltimore.
Zionism is a political movement with a racist western imperialist ideology. The Zionist movement was initiated with an 1895 pamphlet entitled Der Judenstaat written by an atheist Jew named Theodor Herzl. Herzl was a Jewish Austro-Hungarian journalist and political activist, known as the father of the Zionist movement. Herzl’s objective was to obtain a land base that could be utilized as a “Jewish” state with political and economic power. In 1897, Herzl convened the first Zionist conference in Switzerland to launch the official program of Zionism, the Basel program. By 1917, the global Zionist campaign manifested in Switzerland as the Balfour declaration, named for the British Secretary of State for foreign affairs, Arthur Balfour. This declaration designated Palestine as the place for Jewish people to escape anti-Jewish fascism rising across the European continent.
The establishment of the Zionist colonial state in Palestine was championed by Britain after World War II. The Zionist movement co-opted Judaism and used it to justify the theft of Palestine from the Palestinians. By 1948, the occupation of Palestine by Western European Jews had become solidified with the Nakba (the great catastrophe). During the Nakba, 750,000 Palestinians were violently removed from their lands and homes. Today, large segments of Palestinians are displaced in a global diaspora (more Palestinians live in Jordan than Jordanians). Palestinians who remain are relegated to specific territories within occupied Palestine; primarily the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Gaza Strip. These Palestinians are prisoners in their own land, living in the racist, settler colonial, murderous apartheid state of Israel.
USA & Israel: Policing the World
Sharing Police Tactics Between the U.S. and Israel
In Gaza, Palestinians are subject to over policing, constant surveillance, indiscriminate beating, incarceration, unjust killings, and unusable water. Baltimore and other U.S cities align themselves with these practices, they fund the Israeli occupation by paying Israelis to train the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). The Original Americans (Indians) are locked on reservations. They are subject to over policing, constant surveillance, indiscriminate beating, incarceration, unjust killings, and unusable water. They are directly policed by the FBI and live the legacy of millions slaughtered by this settler colony called the United States of America. Reservation is another word for Open Air Prison, Concentration Camp, Gaza or Bantu Stand. It is all the same thing.
Policing in the U.S. has a history of racial bias against the colonized people within its borders. Anti-Black racism in this country still reigns in local, state and federal institutions. Like the obscene incarceration rates of the Palestinians, the U.S. prison industrial complex incarcerates African (Black) people at over five times the rate of white people. Today, militarized state violence practiced by the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) on the people of Baltimore is the the Deadly Exchange Program, which brings together ICE, FBI, police, border control and Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), to share and promote discriminatory and repressive tactics and policies in both countries. Thousands of cops participate in security conferences and workshops with Israeli law enforcement, the IOF, and security officials in the U.S. Baltimore law enforcement officials, along with hundreds of others from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington state, as well as the DC Capitol police continue to travel to Israel for training.
There is a solid partnership between the U.S. and Israeli governments to exchange methods of state violence and control over civilians including mass surveillance, racial profiling, and suppression of protest and dissent. Training through the Deadly Exchange Program places Baltimore police in the hands of racist systems that have racked up human rights violations for years. Last May, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates welcomed Israeli Police and thanked them for their annual police unity tour, with the promise to “strengthen” their “partnership.”
Elijah Cummings Youth Program
Recruiting African Youth to Zionism
Baltimore City spends $8,959,736 each year in Israeli military efforts. But exchanges between Baltimore City and Israel also happen in less overt and more insidious ways with African (Black) youth. For the past 25 years, through the Elijah Cummings Youth Program founded by former Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), hundreds of African (Black) high school students in Baltimore travel to Tel Aviv to “bridge gaps between the Jewish and black communities” and create “open-minded future leaders.”
Since 1998, the program has funneled Baltimore youth into a two year fellowship, with the goal of strengthening the relationship between African (Black) people in Baltimore and the Baltimore Jewish community This three stage process includes “Leadership Development, The ‘Israel Experience’ (two summers inside of the occupying state of Israel), and Community Service.”
For two summers, students are hosted by The Yemin Orde Youth Village, a youth village named after the ‘father of the Israeli Occupation Forces,’ British Major General Orde Charles Wingate. At the end of the program, students return and meet with Zionist policy makers in the U.S. capitol, Maryland State House, and Baltimore City Hall (in addition to working within nonprofits, churches and synagogues in the city). The goal is to create the next generation of Africans that think anti-Zionism is equal to antisemitism and hatred for the Jews.
October 2023 marked 25 years of the Elijah Cummings Youth Program which is being continued, posthumously. For the recognition of the 25 years of this program, Maryland’s first Black Governor, Wes Moore, gave the keynote speech for the event aligning with the general sentiments expressed following the Al-Aqsa Flood, standing with “the right of Israel to exist,” dismissing the settler colonial foundations of Israel’s existence. This, ultimately, is the purpose of the youth program, to normalize conditions of settler colonialism for unsuspecting Black youth.
The youth program does not teach students about the 75-year colonial occupation of Palestine and Gaza, imposed by intolerant, Zionist Israeli leaders. From the Nakba to the present day, the failure to teach the students in the program what has been done to Palestine is by design, in order to support Zionist propaganda—as the only true origin story of Palestine. This propaganda is used to legitimize the theft of land, homes, assets, and basic human rights from the Palestinian people.
Settler Colonialism and Their Victims
People often ask why African (Black) people in Baltimore or the U.S, should concern themselves with Zionism and Palestine. The fact that the police and military who oppress both the people of Palestine and the people of Baltimore are collaborating should be enough to explain why we should be concerned. More importantly, Palestine is a settler colony just like the U.S, which has uprooted the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. Both the U.S (Baltimore) and Palestine (Gaza) are lands occupied by western Europeans claiming to flee religious oppression. In both cases their intent was to exterminate the native people and take their lands as their own. Furthermore, the Palestinans are prisoners in their own land. Africans in America have been stolen from our land and held captive in a foreign land (U.S). We have the same enemy and should fight side by side to defeat colonialism, settler colonialism, neo-colonialism, Zionism, capitalism and imperialism.These enemies are the global, white supremacist, capitalist, Axis of Domination. Africans and Palestinians have the same objectives and aspirations. We all want unity, freedom, dignity and self-determination. It is imperative that Zionism is smashed, from Baltimore to Palestine.
Banner photo: Israeli police forces arrest a Palestinian protester in Jerusalem (courtesy Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)