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In Ferguson, I am reminded of Palestine

Acting in Faith  |  By Bassem Masri , Oct 28, 2014
Palestinians in solidarity with Ferguson

Palestinians in solidarity with Ferguson

Photo: US Campaign to end the Occupation

Note: This guest post is by Bassem Masri, a Palestinian who has been very involved in the Ferguson protests and has documented the events with Live Stream. He was arrested this week and interrogated and writes in the post below powerfully about the ways that the police presence in Feruguson resembles the police presence in Palestine. All photos in this post are courtesy the US Campaign to end the Occupation Tumblr page. - Lucy

As the son of immigrant small business owners from Palestine, I was taught to believe in the American dream of freedom, liberty and the white picket fence. This past summer has shattered this belief. The dream doesn't apply to certain people in our society.

Palestinians support FergusonWhen Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson my people in Gaza were being slaughtered by Israel in Operation Protective Edge. The timing of the two events woke up a lot of people. When Mike was killed, much of the media started demonizing him and the protestors, often the same sources that blamed Palestinians for their own deaths in Gaza. People naturally saw the connections.

For over 66 years, mainstream America has maligned and dismissed Palestinians’ own accounts of our oppression. Now that the same kind of repression is being experienced at home, more and more black Americans see the connections and understand the Palestinian struggle. When I showed up to protest in Ferguson and introduced myself as a Palestinian, people there immediately met me with respect.

Palestinians support FergusonOn those terrible nights in Ferguson when the police were attacking peaceful civilians with tear gas, Palestinians under Israeli occupation offered advice on how to deal with the effects of the gas. Facing violence from an occupying force, whether in Palestine or Ferguson, forges a mindset that demands resistance and standing up for one’s community. When the police used military tanks and checkpoints to imprison the residents of Ferguson, I was reminded of life in the West Bank where I saw the Israeli military use the same tactics of repression.

Palestinians (including Quaker Sandra Tamari) in solidarity with Ferguson at a rally in St. LouisWhile the wall of segregation and inequality in Palestine is a physical one; the wall in Ferguson is invisible to those who wish to turn away. Only blacks in St. Louis understand their own situation. They face constant harassment and the fear of being detained without due process or basic dignity. When I stand with the people in Ferguson, I regard them as Palestinians. Our common goal is to live in peace and to not fear for our children's lives when they are walking down the street.

Since the day of Mike Brown”s death, I've been tear gassed, shot at with rubber bullets, and physically assaulted by the police. On September 27, I was arrested and taken to jail. I believe the police targeted me simply because I stand with Ferguson and have been documenting the events there with live stream.

From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation is a crimeRacism drives the violence we see in both Palestine and Ferguson. In the United States whites’ fear of black people is often subconscious. In Palestine, anti-Arab sentiment is prevalent and open. The Israeli occupation soldiers have no contact with the Palestinians they control except behind guns.

Until all our children are safe, we will continue to fight for our rights in Palestine and in Ferguson. Our goal is to dismantle apartheid regimes wherever they exist. That is the most important link between Palestine and Ferguson, and it is the link that will make both struggles stronger.

About the Author

Bassem Masri is a Palestinian American who grew up in St. Louis and Jerusalem and has been documenting the protest movement in Ferguson since Michael Brown's killing.  

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Lucy Duncan works with other AFSC staff to foster strong relationships between AFSC and Quakers.

Lucy is AFSC’s Director of Friends Relations. She has been a storyteller for 20 years and has worked with Quaker meetings on telling stories for racial justice and of spiritual experience. She attends Green Street Friends Meeting (PhYM) and lives with her son and partner in a Quaker cemetery.

Christina is the Friends Relations Fellow this year who works closely with Lucy. She was born and raised in London, England and has a background in copywriting. Christina currently lives in the Wissahickon section of Philadelphia.