By Zakiyyah Muhammad
MEMPHIS—Activists and supporters peacefully gathered in downtown Memphis in support of Palestinian civilians in Gaza on Oct. 13. The Palestinian American Community Center, Memphis Voices for Palestine, and the Black Lives Matter chapter of Memphis were the organizations represented at the rally.
Demonstrators led chants such as “Free Palestine!” and “Gaza don’t you cry, Palestine will never die!” Many attendees waved Palestinian flags and adorned the Palestinian keffiyeh. While corporate mainstream media is spinning the narrative that the recent atrocities between Israel and Palestine erupted with Hamas, history shows that such a claim is not true.
Since 1948, the state of Israel has held an illegal occupation of Palestine and has since built a militarized-apartheid state that vigorously discriminates and devalues the lives of Palestinians, activists and observers argue. Palestinians have suffered the loss of ancestral lands and their lives at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces as well as loss of access to its own borders, and loss of basic human dignity that many in the West take for granted such as running water and electricity.
“I personally have a lot of family in Gaza that are currently homeless because of the bombings, and the blockade that’s happening,” Sheikh Anwar Arafat of the Palestinian American Community Center in Memphis told The Final Call. “Israel [has] cut off all food, water, electricity, fuel, and my family right now is living in that darkness. They’re literally going from home to home trying to find a safe place.”
Sheikh Arafat explained, “You would think that a civilized society with all of this technology and things that we enjoy, the luxuries, that we could allow this to happen while we’re watching it, and why do we allow it? God only knows, it’s because we have this blind support for an illegal occupation that’s been going on for 75 years,” he said.
One of the pro-Palestinian activists, who requested to be anonymous, explained that Israel has been increasing their attacks on Palestinian civilians. “This year alone, at least one Palestinian was killed every single day this whole year,” the activist told The Final Call.
Currently, Israel is demanding 1.1 million Palestinians evacuate to the south of Gaza. When asked about the impact of the siege of Gaza on women and children, the activist said that there are Palestinian babies that are connected to incubators.
“What should a newborn in an incubator exactly do? How should the mother take that newborn across a four-hour drive?” the activist said.
“Why is the international community asking us to talk about the other side at all right now as we speak? We denounce any violence against a group of civilians. But what we are trying to say is, why do you not care about the continuous massacres that have been taking place for 75 years?”
Nabil Bayakly, vice-president of Memphis Voices for Palestine, shared that “the concept of ‘Stand with Israel’ is ‘stand with genocide and with extermination.’” Mr. Bayakly was born in Kumasi, Ghana, and stated that his ancestors were Turks. He has lived in the United States since 1979. “When you have war (that) means you have two armies facing each other. But when you have American F-16s and F-35s and bombs and tanks and all that and bombing into civilians, that’s not a war. That’s a genocide,” Mr. Bayakly told The Final Call.
He talked about events he said happened over the summer between Israeli settlers and Palestinians. Mr. Bayakly said that Israeli settlers have been going into Palestinian villages, terrorizing them, “destroying property and killing people.”
Mr. Bayakly recommends that the community of supporters need to start learning “how to use the political capital through the government” and the need to get organized overall.
“I feel it is the same cause as the African Americans that are here in the United States is the same cause as the Indigenous people that are here in Turtle Island. It is the same cause for all the Black, Brown, and minority, everybody, all the minorities all over the world.”
When asked about the silence of some Muslim nations when it comes to the plight of the Palestinians, Sheikh Anwar said that “they’ve let them down.”
“If we truly claim to have a brotherhood, a faith, a brotherhood in humanity, and you let this happen to your brothers and sisters, you’ve let your brother down and that’s exactly what they feel. This hasn’t deterred [Palestinians’] spirit. They know that God is on their side.”