Earlier this month, a group of organizations including Black Youth Project and the Dream Defenders—both leaders in the movement for black lives—released a video that seeks to highlight similarities between black Americans’ and Palestinians’ struggles against state violence. “When I see them, I see us,” various Palestinian and black activists and artists say as still images of people who have been killed at the hands of police or other armed forces fill the screen. “We are not statistics. We are not collateral damage. We have names and faces.”
In explaining the intent of the video, one of the its creators told Al Jazeera America, “Here were two groups of people dealing with completely different historical trajectories, but both which resulted in a process of dehumanization that criminalized them and that subject their bodies as expendable.” Another person behind the video’s production said that Israel and the United States “strengthen their state power by convincing much of the public that uprisings in Ferguson and Gaza are signs of pathological criminality, as opposed to critical actions of resistance against state powers that actively engage in historical genocide.”
Talk of solidarity between human-rights struggles happening in different parts of the world may appear as mostly symbolic—the province of consciousness-raising online campaigns like the video, sign-on letters, and statements of support from celebrities with high profiles. But the same day that the video launched online, one of the women it features was in the midst of her own struggle and surrounded by a showing of black-Palestinian solidarity. On Wednesday, October 14, Rasmea Odeh stood outside a courthouse in Cincinnati after her attorney argued before the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that she had not received a fair trial in federal court in Detroit late last year and is being denied her right to remain in this country as a naturalized citizen. Rallying around her were about 100 people, including representatives from black organizing circles in Chicago and members of Cincinnati’s Black Lives Matter contingent, who stood shoulder to shoulder with members of Chicago’s Arab immigrant and Arab-American communities.
Odeh is a 68-year-old woman who in October 2013 was arrested at her home in suburban Chicago and charged with lying to obtain her citizenship. The federal government claims that she had deceived immigration officials during her application process in 2004 because when asked whether she had ever been incarcerated, Odeh replied that she had not. In fact, Odeh had spent 10 years in prison after being sentenced to life by an Israeli military court for her alleged involvement in the bombings and for her involvement in a Palestinian organization Israel deemed illegal. She was released after a decade as part of a prisoner exchange and moved to Jordan, where she lived until immigrating to the United States in 1995. During this incarceration, Odeh says she endured various forms of torture, including rape, and that she gave a false confession as a result. According to her supporters, Odeh is one of the first Palestinian women to speak about the Israeli military’s use of rape as a form of torture.