By Michael Paul Williams, Richmond Times-Dispatch
The message on the protest signs and face masks, “WE CAN’T BREATHE SINCE 1948,” succinctly expresses the shared history of oppression between African Americans and Palestinians.
“I can’t breathe” were the dying words of Eric Garner and George Floyd — one man killed in a New York City cop’s chokehold; the other murdered beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
The year 1948 is when Israel officially was declared an independent state, launching the Arab-Israeli War and the exodus from Israel of more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs, who forcibly were displaced and fled from their homes. What ensued is described by Human Rights Watch, which recently declared in a 213-page report issued last month that Israel has crossed the threshold into crimes of apartheid.
“Israel has maintained military rule over some portion of the Palestinian population for all but six months of its 73-year history. It did so over the vast majority of Palestinians inside Israel from 1948 and until 1966. From 1967 until the present, it has militarily ruled over Palestinians in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory], excluding East Jerusalem. By contrast, it has since its founding governed all Jewish Israelis, including settlers in the OPT since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, under its more rights-respecting civil law.”