In an inspiring reminder that injustice knows no national borders, the people of Palestine have begun to reach out to Americans in support of justice for victims of police abuse.
Palestinians, many of whom are still picking up the pieces after the Israeli invasion into Gaza, that saw thousands killed and entire city blocks leveled, set aside their own struggles and stood with protesters in Ferguson and, more recently, with those in New York protesting the killing of Eric Garner by the NYPD. Hamde Abu Rahma, a Palestinian photojournalists captured some of moments and shared them on his Facebook page.
Hamde titled his photo essay “‘I can’t breathe’ #FromPalestineToFerguson” and the powerful gesture of solidarity is clear.
For Palestinians, the message of “I can’t breathe” strikes a very personal chord, not from choke holds like the one that killed Garner, but from breathing in tear gas – a tactic regularly used by Israeli forces to disperse protests or as crowd control.
In fact, Palestinians have so much experience with tear gas, that when police in Ferguson, Missouri, began using it on protesters this summer, people from Gaza were tweeting advice about how to avoid it and what to do if you get it in your mouth and eyes.
People in Gaza are tweeting information on how to handle tear gas to the citizens of Ferguson.
— Rabih Alameddine (@rabihalameddine) August 14, 2014
Always make sure to run against the wind /to keep calm when you’re teargassed, the pain will pass, don’t rub your eyes! #Ferguson Solidarity
— مريم البرغوثي (@MariamBarghouti) August 14, 2014
— Rana Nazzal رنا (@zaytouni_rana) August 14, 2014
To be absolutely clear, the decades long oppression and violence directed at the Palestinians by the Israelis (and backed by the United States government’s weapons) is not equivalent to the lack of police accountability Americans have begun to wake up to. While any loss of life is tragic, and America’s police forces have demonstrated for too often a willingness to use deadly force when it is not needed (particularly towards African-American men), the violence against Palestinians is hard to fathom.
It would be foolish to try to compare the two in terms of numbers or scale. Instead, it’s a reminder that no matter where you live, the threat of injustice and oppression is present. Standing up to face that threat takes courage, but is vitally important. It’s something that Palestinians know all too well, and Americans across the country are relearning once more.