Palestinian Studies

2023 Workshop

Derek Ide

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Houston
Faculty, Miami University (Regionals)

On “Long Histories” of Solidarity: The Palestinian Revolution, al-Hadaf, and Black Anticolonialism

 In the wake of the 2014 murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) released a statement urging Palestinian solidarity with the Black struggle in the United States. This statement argued that “long histories” of solidarity existed between the two movements. In the past decade, some scholars have begun to elucidate these “long histories” (Lubin, Feldman, Fischbach, etc.), but nearly all of the scholarship produced has been from the perspective of Black internationalists engaging the question of Palestine. On the contrary, very little research has delved deep into the question of how different Palestinian actors and organizations understood the Black revolution in the United States. This essay seeks to open that conversation by utilizing two major publications, the PFLP’s Arabic-language weekly al-Hadaf and their English-language subsidiary the PFLP Bulletin, to derive a better understanding of how the PLO’s second-largest party understood and engaged with the Black Power movement. During the time of the PFLP’s emergence, Black organizations like the Black Panther party had attached themselves to the “internal colony” thesis (from 1966-1970), a thesis upon which their internationalist commitments were based. Adherence to the internal colony thesis likewise committed Black revolutionaries to the Palestinian and other anticolonial causes. Yet, major debates continued to exist in Black political circles, including whether the struggle was an anticolonial one or required a different set of theoretical frameworks and activities to emerge victorious. But for those actively committed to anticolonialism as praxis, they viewed themselves as in an active alliance with other anticolonial movements, foremost among them the Palestinians. This history is increasingly well documented. What has not been established yet, however, is whether Palestinians themselves, especially leading Palestinian organizations, understood the Black revolution in the United States as one with a definitively anticolonial character. Because of the PFLP’s emphasis in al-Hadaf on both military strategy and theoretical clarity on pressing questions of the day, assessing how, when, and in what way they addressed the question of the U.S. Black Power movement will provide one piece of this hitherto unanswered puzzle. In order to unravel and flesh out the PFLP’s understanding of the anticolonial terrain, this essay will juxtapose the PFLP’s treatment of African anticolonial struggles on the continent with their engagement of the Black revolution in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. By doing so, it intervenes in the historiography by adding much needed Palestinian voices, who in the discussion of “Afro-Arab imaginaries” have thus far remained largely objects of interaction by U.S. actors instead of historical subjects unto themselves.

Derek Ide is a visiting instructor of history at Miami Regionals (Middletown campus) and a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Houston. His dissertation explores the intersections between Black Internationalism and the Palestinian Revolution during the Cold War. His broader research and teaching interests include anticolonialism, anti-imperialism, internationalist solidarities, and hidden histories of the Cold War.