Black Panthers and Palestine | Political Perspective

Jan-04-2011 21:28

The original Black Panther party’s position on Palestine’s quest for freedom.

1960s photo of Black Panther founder Huey Newton, right, with Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale.
1960s photo of Black Panther founder Huey Newton, right, with Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale.

(SALEM, Ore.) – There seems to be a clear parallel today between the FBI’s arrest of inert bomb suspects; alleged ‘terrorists’ with Muslim ties, and the extremely prejudiced persecution of the Black Panther Party in the 1960’s and 1970’s.


The Black Panthers distributed
material like this, seeking an end
to illegal drug use in America.

I sought to learn what this famous revolutionary group’s position was in regard to the movement to free the people of Palestine from Israel’s illegal occupation. To be clear, in this case, we are not talking about the New Black Panther Party.

This article is about the original organization; one that battled police brutality and overt racism while feeding the poor and building pride and unity in the Black race and even fighting illegal drug use during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

I contacted the Black Panther Party via email and inquired of their position over Palestine and Israel. I received contact back from David Hilliard, a founding member and Chief of Staff of the Black Panther Party,

He suggested that I read Huey Newton’s “On Peace In The Middle East” in his book To Die For The People. Newton is a co-founder of the Black Panther party who was murdered in 1989. Excerpts tell a story I almost could have predicted. Naturally, Newton had a large degree of sympathy for the Palestinians. He also cared about Israel, peace, and the need for people of different cultures to coexist.

The man convicted of killing Newton was, conveniently for the image of those who opposed the Black Panthers, a member of another group, Black Guerrilla Family, which reportedly has ties to modern day gangs like the Crips and Bloods. Personally, with history being what it is, and knowing that police were involved in the process, we probably never learned the real facts behind the death of Huey Newton.

We do know police suggested Newton had a gun when in fact there was no evidence of that. Police statements and ‘truths’ are created to result in convictions. There is not a proper check and balance system that addresses the dishonest and illegal tactics of law enforcement agencies in America, for the most part they police themselves.

Many times throughout American history, when the US federal government wants to remove a challenge, they do it with the class of East Germany’s notorious police, ‘Stasi’. They kill the people that disagree with them. The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover called the Black Panther party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” which may rank among the most ridiculous statements ever made by a person of his capacity. The problem is that the Black race had a voice, and the mission was to simply silence it.

From Wikipedia:

As the Black Panther Party was beginning to gain a national presence, the government began a crackdown on the party and its activities. Huey P. Newton was arrested for an alleged murder, which sparked a “free Huey” campaign, organized by Eldridge Cleaver to help Newton’s legal defense. Newton was convicted for voluntary manslaughter, though his conviction was overturned in the 1970s.

You have to appreciate that the Civil Rights movement was barely out of its infancy when the US federal government went on the attack, murdering and imprisoning members of this group. The truth is that the Black Panther party rose from the ashes of a nation that had never upheld its end of the bargain for African-Americans; people robbed from their own nations and enslaved during a terrible period that ended only one hundred years earlier.

I am not advocating violence in this article; nor am I saying that I fail to understand why violence was and sometimes is inevitable. The Black Panther Party set out to end police brutality, which is a purely noble goal. There were serious problems; horrible racism in the almost all-white police ranks in cities like Oakland, and it reach a point where police officers were often followed by armed Black Panthers whose goal was to aid African-American victims of police brutality and racial prejudice. Wikipedia explains that, “Both Panthers and police died as a result of violent confrontations. By 1970, 34 Panthers had died as a result of police raids, shoot-outs and internal conflict.”

Huey Newton was the Minister of Defense of the Black Panthers. He believed that the plight of the Palestinians was well understood in the Black community since the latter has suffered persecution and thus finds it easy to identify with the suffering of others.

In his Palestinian solution, Newton appeared to have built in the acceptance of Israel.

He noted: “We have respect for all people, and we have respect for the right of any people to exist. So we want the Jewish people and the Palestinian people to live in harmony together. We support (the) Palestinians’ just struggle for liberation one hundred percent. We will go on doing this, and we would like for all of the progressive people of the world to join in our ranks in order to make a world in which all people can live.”

Another leader in the Black community, Malcolm X, was critical of the role the US played in subsidizing Israel.

In his view, European and American Christians were aiding the establishment of Israel in order to achieve economic gains in the Middle East. This ‘blood for oil’ thought is now a foregone conclusion, not that it resulted in any savings for the American public.

Malcolm X also noted the effect of American support for Israel on the Black community in rather harsh words, saying: “In America the Jews sap the very life-blood of the so-called Negroes to maintain the State of Israel, its armies and its continued aggression against brothers in the East.”

According to The Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 10, No. 2, Special Issue: American Blacks on Palestine.(Winter, 1981), pp. 37-49:

Historically, the Black advocates of Jewish causes have cited the following reasons for their support:

(1) The concern of Blacks with the prevention of the persecution of any minority;

(2) The democratic nature of Israeli society;

(3) The Jewish support for the civil rights efforts of Blacks in the United States, and

(4) Jewish aid in the development of Africa.

These positions were challenged by the pro-Palestinian Blacks. While they were willing to acknowledge that Black Americans should express concern over the persecution of minorities throughout the world, they denied that the Israelis were the oppressed in the Middle East.

Instead, it was insisted that the Palestinians, because of their oppression by the State of Israel were more deserving of Black support.

Also, it is important to note that Israel’s claim of being a democratic state was challenged. Instead of democratic, many Black leaders viewed Israel as a racist society which consistently pursues a policy of discrimination against darker Jews and Arabs. This is exactly the continuing pattern of today. It is also very clear that Israel, a land of mostly dark complected people, almost always has a spokesman on TV who is definably Caucasian.

Huey Newton was killed in the same neighborhood where he tried to set up social programs to help destitute blacks in the past, as a Black Panther. He also was involved in the Civil Rights movement. This era of politically oriented African-Americans was squashed by the FBI and the US government. Law enforcement agencies in America were along every step of the way. This period of advancement for the political ideals of those who were oppressed over race, was followed by urban blight and then, the introduction of drugs like ‘crack cocaine’. This was the final blow, and African-American communities were never the same again. They were set up for failure by the same people who once owned them.

One of my boyhood heroes, Skateboarding legend Stacey Peralta, reveals a good amount of this history in the documentary Crips and Bloods: Made In America. the critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker (Dogtown) worked with NBA star Baron Davis and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Stephen Luczo, in the production of this documentary that tells the story of the Crips and Bloods, two of South Los Angeles’ most infamous African-American gangs.

Greed, it is always greed, and really bad choices made by people who consider humans of a different color to be somehow less deserving.

Vietnam was a tragedy, but Iraq and Afghanistan are proof that as a nation, the USA is incapable of learning important lessons along the way. I would say it is completely due to the fact that Americans have not had a war on their own soil, and for God’s sake 9/11 doesn’t count. I for one do not believe a word of the Bush Administration story. It isn’t even a logical or bright lie, but it sure did get a couple of crippling wars underway.

The nation that the Black Panthers tried to save is not the same one that exists today, and Barack Obama has nothing to do with it one way or the other. As elated as we may have been with his election, I am not sure how much of an advantage Obama’s presidency represents for today’s Black American. In Oregon it means absolutely nothing.


Jerrin Hickman

Just today, I received an email from the mother of a Portland Massage Therapist named Jerrin Hickman who was convicted of murder. The witnesses are all felons bargaining for a deal by ‘ratting’ off another man. It sounds like there was very little evidence.

Terri Miller, mother of Jerrin Hickman, wrote, “Something is seriously wrong with our ‘justice’ system when ANY innocent person is convicted, sentenced, and sent to prison wrongfully. For families like ours, it is the most devastating thing that could ever happen; it is impossible to accept, so we continue to work to get our loved one back!”

African-Americans continue to struggle to receive equal justice, especially in the racially charged courtrooms of Oregon. But imagine what the challenges would be like in some southern states.

There has been little progress, and as this takes place, we learn the FBI is now spending millions to set up young men from places like Somalia and potentially place large numbers of civilians in harm’s way through alleged ‘terrorist’ plots that are solely orchestrated by American federal agents. It is embarrassing.

I always wanted to know what this progressive group thought of the terrible conflict in Israel and Palestine. I am glad to know the Black Panther Party took the time to evaluate the matter and weigh in; citing the need for Palestinians to be recognized, and also for the general peace that must exist for Israeli and Palestinian people.

Black Panthers and Palestine – Salem-News.Com.

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