Black Palestinians

Hat tip to May for the video and to Sahar for the article:

I had an interesting conversation with my 10th grade class. I learned of the diverse heritage of some of my Black students, two sisters had a Moroccan Berber grandmother who migrated to America in the 60s. And we had an interesting conversation about the origins of Berbers in Morocco and Algeria. My Palestinian student said he saw a number of Black Palestinians.

Rami Nashishibi wrote a thoughtful article on the African Palestinian Connection recalling his experience with the African Palestinian Communicy:

…Throughout my stay, I spent most of my free time around the Al-Aqsa Compound and with the Palestinian Africans, learning more about their history and lives.

Currently some forty African Palestinian families live inside the old city, many of whom reside within 50 feet of the center. Upon talking with Adam, the center’s young director, one gets a sense of how proud the community is of its identity. “Many of our ancestors were pious Muslims who came from across Africa to defend Al-Aqsa from military conquest,” I was told by Adam and others in the center. “They stayed and married and their children grew up here. “We are as Palestinian as anyone else but we also remember and our proud of where are great grandfathers came from and sometimes visit or stay in touch with our other family members in Africa.” Aside from the various wars which brought Muslims from Africa to safeguard the sanctity of its Muslim Holy Sites, other Africans settled in Palestine after spiritual pilgrimages to the land’s various holy sites, including of course the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Many Palestinian Africans have heroically managed to retain their presence in this incredibly important and highly symbolic space even while the oppressive closure policies of the Israelis makes life increasingly difficult in all kinds of ways….

What really struck me was the final paragraph of his article where he argues that Arab Americans should acknowledge the African heritage in their cultures:

As an American Muslim who has spent more than a decade organizing or living on Chicago’s South Side, I can’t help but feel that the larger Palestinian American community has not celebrated the African part of our identity in the way that we should. Failing to do this has prevented segments of the Palestinian community from making more of a connection to the African American legacy and its struggles against institutionalized racism and white supremacy. Making that connection is imperative, particularly during opportune moments like Black History Month. Most African Americans residing in urban communities only interact with Palestinians through the presence of liquor stores or other exploitative businesses and a growing number of community activists have emerged as increasingly resentful of their presence. By embracing and celebrating their own African heritage during Black History Month, Palestinian and other Arab Muslims may grow to make more meaningful connections to the larger African American community, its rich legacy and its on-going struggles.

Check out the article and video.

10 thoughts on “Black Palestinians

  1. I’m an African-Canadian convert to Islam who traveled Palestine in ’08 & ’09. I was pleased to see a significant Black Palestinian population in East Jerusalem and in Jericho near the Dead Sea. I was thinking of returning and completing a photojournalistic piece about Afro-Palestinians. I’m glad you called attention this this…


  2. Really interesting video. I knew there was a sizeable African community in Palestine/Israel but had never heard their voices. Pretty tragic that the young woman encounters racism.
    Seems like Palestinians have A LOT of social issues like race and sex to work on before they can even think of any future state of their own. Would be very keen to learn and see more about the Africans of Palestine/Israel.


  3. Mr C,
    I think it is unfair to use that as an excuse for denying Palestinians a right to a state. Israelis also discriminate against Black, Mizrahi, and Sephardic Jews. In addition, there are issues within the Orthodox community regarding the treatment of women.


  4. I didnt say they dont deserve a state of their own, just that there is alot to sort out on a social level during the process of or before they accquire one. Yes, there are also many problems within Israeli and Jewish society also…..infact, the middle east as a whole has much work to do.
    Africans being in the Middle East isnt new. It pre-dates the Arab Slave Trade. The Nubians, Egyptians, Sabeans and Aksumites all had territories in the Middle East and some of the first settlers of the Levant came from Africa (The Horn of Africa I think).


  5. I agree with Mr C in that some Arabs need to realise that their condition will never change until they change their own selves, as Allah states in the Qur’an. A lot of the oppression that Arabs are facing in their lands does not make many of them wake up to their own issues, but at least with the younger generations it appears things may be changing. It is odd when Arabs complain day in and day out about the dhulm of the Jews yet seem to forget the dhulm on their very own doorsteps. The PLO also had a lady who was a Black Palestinian.


  6. I have yet to see a picture of a black Palestine brother or sister in our media n black I mean dark skinned like Africa.we in African continent must know that our people are there also.why are the world media hiding these facts.the only pics of black Palestinians I saw was by the late legendary great scholar from America DR KHALID AL MANSOUR.


  7. @azmuth – haven’t you seen Rula Jabreal ? She’s Afro-Palestinian as is Fatima Bernawi.
    What makes you think these things are being hidden ?

    @Margari – I agree with your response to MrC. I think part of the problem is that people in the west project a lot of their morals, biases and values onto other parts of the world. In MrC’s case, it sounds like he’s judging Palestinians based on his own (western) understanding of race and racism. That’s not to say that the MENA is some sort of colourblind utopia but there does seem to be a pattern of people (online especially) who will try to use the argument that Arabs are racist and practise/practised slavery to deny Palestinians any humanity. I can remember looking online the last time Gaza was being bombed and as well as a lot of outrage, there was a lot of conversation from various African Muslims about how much worse they have it for being Black and Muslim, victim blaming (trying to imply that by being linked to Arabs, Palestinians deserve to be killed because of bad things some Arabs do/did). The same people are often throwing around derogatory terms about black folk like ‘adoon’. What are your thoughts on this ?


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