“This has everything to do with it,” a Muslim protestor in Ferguson answered when we asked him about the protest’s connection to Gaza. The night before, we witnessed Dr. Mauricelm-Lei Millere, alongside Black Panther delegates and gang members, maintaining peace within the movement before we were all tear gassed. “Civil unrest. The same oppression here is going on there…Palestinians are peaceful people. We support peace.” Then we mentioned the importance of a righteous ruler and community, asking how we can do our part as citizens to ensure something is done, to which he triumphantly replied, “Look around. You got races of people working together. We don’t have division. We got unity. And THAT is righteous. Unity is righteous. In unity there is strength, strength to make the right decisions.”
As the situation in Ferguson, MO escalates, people are beginning to associate the brutal scene with the civil conflicts that Iraq, Syria, and Bahrain are facing today. However, the biggest parallel being made to the Mike Brown protests is the clash between Palestine and Israel. Even I, after seeing the violence in Missouri first-hand, have caught myself confusing the war-like images of it for other violent, non-domestic issues commonly seen on the news. In both situations, the struggle to secure the basic human rights of its citizens is apparent. The military-grade weapons, vehicles, and gear that have been used by Israel against innocent Palestinian populations mirror the ones seen on the streets of Ferguson.
A common civil unrest in these areas has promoted an uprising against the despots who suppress their citizens’ ways of life and take away the standard of living they are entitled to. In fact, protestors facing Israeli opposition in Gaza are even tweeting in unity with those in Ferguson. “Oppressed people stand with oppressed people all around the world…” It is important to know that the injustice in Ferguson is being felt at an international level. Now the United States patrol system, by putting its faults in center stage for the entire world to see, can become more aware of what it has to do to fix itself. However, this raises the question, why are countries like Palestine, with much bigger problems than ours, more concerned with our internal conflict than we are with theirs?
— فلسطين i (@iFalasteen) August 14, 2014
The Middle Eastern skirmish has served as more of a big brother than a counterpart for the demonstrations in Ferguson, sending experienced support and advice through all sorts of mediums. Protestors in Palestine were tweeting to those in Ferguson about advice on how to deal with tear gas. Palestinians have even signed a statement in solidarity with Ferguson rioters in their moment of turmoil and revolt, showing their awareness halfway across the world. Yet, the struggle against police brutality and racial profiling in the United States is far less severe than what the Palestinian citizens experience from Israeli subjugation on a daily basis. This continues to be overlooked by many Americans today because, let’s be honest; most aren’t really interested in knowing exactly what’s going on over there. In the grand spectrum of things, the glass bottles we saw protestors in Ferguson throw into police lines were far more effective than the stones kids and other civilians are using to combat Israeli forces in Gaza. Furthermore, the rubber bullets and menacing armored vehicles implemented by Missouri State police to disperse crowds are not likened to the actual bullets and titanic mass of Israeli tanks that occupy every corner of Gaza. Of course, Palestine has small militant groups, like Hamas, with greater weaponry, but those are not the ones engaged in peaceful protest. Another amenity available to Americans that is not found in Palestine is a relatively stable government. This is of utmost importance because as long as the people in Ferguson are aware of their constitutional rights and abide by them, they have the upper hand when it comes to rallying for justice. Laws are set by Israel as well but are not as strongly enforced; for example, the settlement of Israelis in Palestine is strictly forbidden but is rarely persecuted. Or how about the cease-fire set out that was issued just recently? That didn’t last very long. First the Missouri State Police and now the National Guard are breaking rules as well by taking away the people’s right to protest, but this makes it easier for us, as citizens, to show the world how wrongly the situation is being handled. Civilians and reporters have been threatened at gunpoint and harassed by the police for practicing their rights, including a 90 year-old Holocaust survivor and activist for the Free Gaza Movement who was arrested yesterday. “Unfortunately, in Palestine and Israel there is no freedom of speech. Protestors and people who demonstrate peacefully end up dead and injured every single day. We have that right in America where we can do this. The reason I’m outraged is because the police did NOT let us do this” Bassem Masri, who was campaigning for the Free Gaza Movement in Ferguson, pointed out. To get a better idea of the hiatus of casualties separating the two forces in the Middle East: 1,182 Israelis, 131 of which were children, have been killed by Palestinians and at least 8,928 Palestinians, 1,997 of which were children, have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000. As the death toll rises, as does the unnerving tension between the two, fueling the social revolt. Over 28, 000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed and 5, 271 prisoners taken. The Israeli number for both of those statistics still remains zero. Ironically, the oppressive forces on both sides of the Atlantic are funded by the United States. Yes, the United States is still allied with Israel after knowing the overwhelming truth about how they are treating the people of Palestine. The tear gas cans used to disperse protestors and reporters in Ferguson that my colleagues and I experienced while at the scene might as well have been tested on Palestinians; they were the same ones, made and distributed by the United States. In fact, we send about $8.5 million in military aid to Israel, per day.
— مريم البرغوثي (@MariamBarghouti) August 14, 2014
The situation in Ferguson has hit close to home for most people, serving as an eye-opening reminder of the universal pervasiveness and danger of an unjust system. By educating ourselves as Americans on the reality of these atrocities at a global scale, we can begin to sympathize and understand what we must do to cure the world of this disease. Social injustice is a worldwide issue and has been prevalent through all of history. However, targeting such a big issue starts from public unrest when things like this get out of hand. Neither Gaza nor Ferguson can be characterized as a war-zone, the two opposing flanks are heavily uneven; one side carrying the bulk of the manpower, gun power, and political power while the other has little more than willpower.
In Gaza, the Palestinian people were disturbed by the loss of innocent lives while fighting for their land, whereas in Ferguson, the same effect, the unjustified loss of a life, culminated in people fighting for the cause. Although many parallels can be seen between the two insurrections, the gravity of the Gaza conflict outweighs Ferguson. It is in the hands of the American to control the issue at hand domestically before it can reach out to these external conflicts, but hopefully when all is well we can begin to reach out. Awareness is key. Action is necessary.
“Unity is righteous. In unity there is strength, strength to make the right decisions.”