7 reasons why the Palestinian crisis & the Black struggle for freedom are absolutely nothing alike

The “parallels” between the Palestinian plight and that of African-Americans have been made for decades, and this has always been spurious. Sadly, the exercise continues and seems to be growing as anti-Israel sentiment including global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) inexplicably gain credibility.

So, here are seven reasons why the Palestinian analogy to the Black historical struggle for freedom is hopelessly flawed (and down right offensive).


Beginning operations on May 1, 1950, the United Nations Relief Works Agency for the Palestinian people is the only UN relief agency that exists exclusively for one group — the Palestinians. At the time of its founding there were some 720,000 Palestinian refugees. Many of these people became refugees after refusing the offer to become Israeli citizens, and choosing to await the great victory over the Jews promised to them by the leaders of the Arab states.

Black Americans from slavery to Jim Crow to the civil rights era never had anything that vaguely resembled UNRWA or any type of international relief agency. We were also unsuccessful at being declared refugees — which surely would have led to reparations for 400 years of forced servitude.


The Palestinian Authority (formerly the Palestinian Liberation Organization – PLO) receives about $1 billion annually. This money comes primarily from American and European tax payers. The money is supposed to go to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian people which, as Dr. King said in 1968, “are part of that third world of hunger, of disease, of illiteracy.” Unfortunately, much of that aid goes to political and racial propaganda and programming, as Palestinian children are fed a constant diet of anti-Semitism and hatred for Israel. From curriculum to suicide bomber camps, Palestinian children are taught to hate Israel and the West — on our dime.

Black Americans received no international aid during centuries of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. Neither did we receive domestic aid.  The very term “forty acres and a mule” (what the US  government promised former Black slaves, but didn’t deliver) became code for, “what we never got.” Money to help fund our quest for freedom came almost exclusively from private donors including Black businesses and families, White abolitionists, churches, synagogues and other Jewish organizations and individuals.

3. ARAB STATES (Arab League)

In the Middle Eastern region alone there are multiple Arab homelands including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the oil-rich Saudi Arabia. They were the dominant force in the Middle East when Israel was reestablished in 1947-48, and used their combined military might to attempt to crush the nascent Jewish State. They failed. Now, not only will these states not take in the Palestinians who have been given official refugee status for three generations, these nations also have a horrible record of human rights abuses against their Arab-Palestinian brothers. They will not allow them to live as citizens, enroll in school, buy property or even repair their dilapidated dwellings. Palestinian refugees are being killed in Syria while you read this.

Black Americans had no Black nations to which we could turn for help or shelter. While we were enslaved in America, our continent had been colonized by the Europeans. Further, all of North Africa is currently being occupied by Arabs, who stole it from our people. But that’s another list.


Other than Nat Turner and a few rebellious slaves whom history has forgotten, Black victims of oppression never possessed the means to offer armed resistance to our oppressors during slavery. After slavery (and due to the legal right to purchase guns), Black Americans were able to arm themselves, but had no access to rockets, rocket launchers, IEDs or other explosives.

If Black Americans had been able to fight with weapons, you can be certain that blowing up our sons and daughters would not have been a strategic option. Ever. Under any circumstances.


Pictures of Palestinians throwing rocks at, or dropping boulders on unsuspecting Jewish motorists is quite strange to informed Black Americans (my grandmother would have called those rock throwers ‘hoodlums’). During the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s our ‘weapon’ was non-violent resistance. This was by choice and by necessity, as we were vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the White majority. We could not imagine what would have happened to our young men had they stood at ambush on the roads of Montgomery, Alabama or Jackson, Mississippi and thrown rocks at White passers by. We were lynched for simply breathing while Black.


The United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more than any other nation — combined. In fact, since 1975, over 40% of the UNHRC’s indictments have been against Israel. This imbalance is a result of the Arab states’ undue influence over the UNHRC, as they have worked in tandem with the enemies of the US to discredit and delegitimize the Jewish State. The UNHRC is a large part of the reason that even the casual follower of world events may view Israel in a negative light.

Not only did Black Americans ever have something like a League of Nations to condemn our enemies, the UNHRC further insults us by largely ignoring the suffering of African people in places like Sudan, Eritrea or Congo; or Egypt/Sinai where African slavery and organ harvesting is taking place. This disparity prompted former UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan to comment, “Since the beginning of their work, [the UNHRC] has focused almost entirely on Israel and there are other crisis situations, like Sudan, where they have not been able to say a word.”


Not only are there Arab members of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) and the Supreme Court, some of the individuals are actively working to destroy the Jewish State. They are very vocal anti-Zionists, and their speech (as well as their legislative action) are all protected by Israeli law.

Black Americans did not become a part of the legislative system until after slavery during Reconstruction. We were exclusively Republican by default, as the Democrats were the party of slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK. We never called for the destruction of America. We have a long, proud tradition of working within the American legal system to address violations of civil and human rights — for everyone. This process reached its zenith during the 1960s as Black leaders and lay people (led by Dr. King and other stalwarts) marched on Washington, D.C. demanding jobs, justice and equal treatment under the Constitution. 400 years of hard work resulted in Black people helping to make America the greatest democracy on earth.

There are many more than seven reasons why the Black saga and the Palestinian plight should not be compared, but I believe sufficient point has been made.

Lastly, I do not spurn the Palestinian fight for self-determination.  Every fight for justice is a righteous struggle. I would just say that, what made the Black historic struggle effective was our remembering who our enemy was — and who it was not. In the interest of defending Palestinian human rights, one may want to start with the main perpetrators: The Palestinian Authority and Hamas. But again, that is the subject of another discussion.

About the Author
Dumisani Washington is the Founder and CEO of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI), and the former Diversity Outreach Coordinator for the over 10-million-member Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Dumisani is a pastor, professional musician—graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music—and author whose latest book is the second edition of Zionism & the Black Church: Why Standing with Israel Will be a Defining Issue for Christians of Color in the 21st Century. He and his wife, Valerie, have been married 33 years and have six children and two grandchildren.