From the River to the Sea to Every Mountain Top: Solidarity as Worldmaking
Palestine Liberation Organization
transnational solidarity
african americans
civil rights
Black power
Martin Luther King Jr.
Angela Davis

This essay questions a key takeaway from the Ferguson/Gaza convergence that catalyzed the current wave of Black-Palestinian transnational solidarity: the idea that “equivalence,” or a politics of analogy based on racial or national identity, or racialized or colonial experience, is the sole or primary grounds for solidarity. By revisiting three recent spectacular moments involving Black intellectuals advocating for Palestine—Michelle Alexander’s op-ed in the New York Times criticizing Israeli policies, CNN’s firing of Marc Lamont Hill, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s initial decision to deny Angela Davis its highest honor—this paper suggests that their controversial positions must be traced back to the post-1967 moment. The convergence of Black urban rebellions and the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war birthed the first significant wave of Black-Palestinian solidarity; at the same time, solidarities rooted in anti-imperialism and Left internationalism rivaled the “Black-Jewish alliance,” founded on analogy of oppression rather than shared principles of liberation. Third World insurgencies and anti-imperialist movements, not just events in the United States and Palestine, created the conditions for radically reordering political alliances: rather than adopting a politics of analogy or identity, the Black and Palestinian Left embraced a vision of “worldmaking” that was a catalyst for imagining revolution as opposed to plotting coalition.

Author biography: 

Robin D. G. Kelley is the Gary B. Nash Professor of U.S. History at UCLA and author of several books, including Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2002) and Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). He is currently completing The Education of Miss Grace Halsell: An Intimate History of the American Century.