On Sunday May 16th, Dearborn, Michigan hosted its second string of protests against Israeli apartheid. It was 1:45pm, 15 minutes until the event started, but a line of 15 cars lined the entrance waiting to be let in. The sun was at its peak, melting the colors of black, red, green, and white, painting the cement with a Palestinian flag. You could hear “Demme Falestini,” encouraging the revolution that was about to take place. But in the corner where Congresswomen Debbie Dingell was walking, the sound of a Palestinian-American mom’s powerful pleas for Palestine could be heard. The mother, Rohnda Mohammad, confronted Dingell on backing out of H.R. 4391, titled “The Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act” which was proposed in 2017.
Mohammad approached Dingell with the intention of a conversation, but Dingell held a sour tone as she defended herself with her progressive record. As if her past engagements would comfort the Palestinian children disembodied and buried. Mohammad recognized this defense as a strategic conversation shift and screamed “55 [Palestinian] children have died today.” For those who wish to witness this exchange, you can watch the link of the video here. And it certainly shouldn’t be the end of the conversation.
To continue the conversation, I interviewed Rohnda Mohammad, allowing her to share her thoughts on Israeli occupation, Palestinian activism, and the relevancy of Black Lives Matters.
Muslim Girl: What historical context should the general public know about the Palestinian crisis and Israeli occupation?
Rohnda Mohammad: Following World War II, Britain and France lost their superpower status and could no longer hold onto annexed land, including Palestine. Palestine became under the control of the United Nations and was geographically split into an Israeli state and an Arab state. Neither party were satisfied with the place borders and when the plan was approved, the 1947-1948 War erupted. However, on May 14, 1948, the primary national founder of the Israeli state, Ben-Gurion, declared the establishment of a Jewish state. This led to the 1948-1949 war which resulted in Israeli victory and the annexation of Palestine into three regions: the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
MG: What is the Palestinian movement? What does it stand for?
RM: The Palestinian movement is the right to return. The right for Palestinians and all minorities displaced from their homeland to return to their roots and reclaim their lost identity. And it is the collective engagement from all communities that create a unified representation of the Palestinian crisis abroad. This movement is a beacon of hope that brings all the injustices of the oppressed to the forefront.
MG: What is the United States government role in Israeli apartheid? How does the Palestinian movement hold the United States and its politicians accountable for foreign engagement in Israel?
RM: Israel has violated multiple conducts of international law- the harming of Palestinian children being one of them. The United States fuels Israeli apartheid by providing monetary assistance that allows the Israeli government to retain its oppressive power. It has justified previous agendas on the bases of democracy, but there is no democracy in apartheid. Which means the US government has been funding agendas abroad to strengthen its superpower status while neglecting domestic issues.
What about Flint? What about the disproportionate policing on immigration? The US government, specifically the democratic party, needs to understand the Arab-American community is tired of being abused. Minorities put Biden in power and minorities will take him out.
The Palestinian movement is identifying those who support Israeli apartheid and those that are indifferent to the Palestinian crisis and holding them accountable. I didn’t intend for the conversation with Representative Dingell to happen as it did, but I had to speak my truth. There is no room to be quiet or hesitate, the time to speak up is now.
MG: What can the general public do to support Palestinians? What kind of activism is needed?
RM: The general public needs to educate the youth and speak up on the injustice to stop the annexation of Palestine. Local and state representatives need to recognize the Palestinian crisis as a humanitarian crisis. This can be done through attending protests, sending letters, and posting on social media. All of these actions need to be executed at top capacity, the momentum cannot be lost. The narrative is changing, and Israel can no longer continue its façade.
MG: How should one respond when accused with anti-Semitism when advocating for Palestinians?
RM: Resistance is not terrorism, just because you are anti-Zionist, doesn’t mean you are anti-Semitic. The media has made it easier to conflate Semitism with Zionism and divert the narrative away from the Palestinian, but we must put focus our attention and separate these terms.
MG: How does the Palestinian Movement parallel with the Black Lives Matter Movement?
RM: The oppressive framework that exists in Black America, is the same framework working against Palestinians. The segregation, disproportionate policing, discriminatory legislature, and diaspora is a part of the Palestinian and Black experience. If you cannot see one movement, you cannot see the other. We are appreciative of the BLM movement because this movement started the roll call of accountability that has been translated into the Palestinian movement.
MG: You have used the phrase “We the people,” before. What is the importance behind this phrase?
RM: The importance of this phrase is “We the people,” means everyone. This fight against oppressive regimes doesn’t fall back on anyone community. We will educate, advocate, and represent the experiences of minority populations hand in hand.
The Palestinian crisis needs to be at the forefront of all platforms. Social media timelines are starting to revert back to normal content, we cannot let this happen. Momentum needs to be sparked over and over again. If you are aware of the Palestinian crisis, turn yourself into a platform for education. We need to hold ourselves accountable because dismantling Israeli apartheid can be fought abroad.