Greg Thomas: I have long been interested in the resonances between the Nakba and the Maafa – this is the Swahili word chosen for what is otherwise dubbed the “Middle Passage” in the history of African enslavement in the Americas, in North America specifically in this case. Both terms translate to the same thing: disaster or catastrophe. Both are used for enormous dislocating experiences that go on to define ongoing lives of struggle. Whenever I hear “Nakba,” I think immediately Maafa.
Katherine Franke: In August, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) – a collective of more than 50 organizations – issued a comprehensive policy platform, A Vision for Black Lives, in which they explicitly connected the struggle for racial justice in the U.S. to that waged by Palestinians. The blowback from both liberal and conservative Zionist organizations was swift and searing.
The Nakba Files spoke with Greg Thomas, Associate Professor of English at Tufts University (USA) and curator of the traveling exhibit “George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine,” which will run at Haifa’s Khashabi Theater from 28 October 2016 to 14 January 2017. Thomas is writing a book about George Jackson (1941-1971), a prominent member of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and a political prisoner who was assassinated by state authorities. The exhibit highlights connections between Palestinian and Black American experiences of captivity.
K-Sue Park: When Israeli jurists speak of their country’s “social contract,” they are tapping into a history that goes back further than thinkers like Locke and Hobbes and is instead grounded in agreements concluded by English settlers in North America.
Lauren Banko: The systematic exclusion of Arab migration from Israel/Palestine did not begin with the 1948 Nakba. Instead, it is rooted in specific understandings of race and nationality enshrined in the international legal agreements that laid the framework for the colonial state of the British Mandate of Palestine, the state inherited by the Zionist movement.
In Israeli political discourse, the issue of African asylum seekers and the question of Palestine are largely seen as disconnected from one another. Yet the contours of Israel’s asylum regime and, by extension, its anti-Blackness and mistreatment of African migrants, cannot be understood in isolation from the Nakba and its laws.
Noura Erakat: An anti-blackness framework urges us to think about other communities, besides native Palestinians, that intersect with the category of “black.” People of African descent have long been in Palestine/Israel, and their presence cuts across dominant categories: there are Afro-Palestinians (predominantly Muslim), Ethiopian Israeli Jews (whose mass migration begins to achieve momentum in the mid-eighties), and recently-arrived asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea (both Muslim and Christian). Such provocations unsettle a stark native-settler binary and illuminate broader implications for anti-racist commitments within the Palestinian liberation struggle.