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Interview with BDS activist Willie Burnley Jr: "I can't be okay knowing that people who fight racism are labeled racists."

Interview with BDS activist Willie Burnley Jr: "I can't be okay knowing that people who fight racism are labeled racists."

Willie Burnley Jr. is a socialist, writer, political cameraman and founder member of BDS Boston (Boycott Divest and Sanctions), which primarily organizes around race and environmental regulation. Willie traveled to Palestine for a complete of 10 days with a delegation of Palestinian Witnesses. The Liberation Information interviewed Willie to study extra concerning the circumstances on the bottom and the links between america and Palestine.

Liberation Information: How lengthy have been you in Palestine and the place did you go?

Willie Burnley Jr .: We have been there ten days and went in all places. We spent most of our time in East Jerusalem. There are additionally many cities, villages, and towns surrounding Jerusalem. We went to the occupied Syrian Golan. We went to the Lifeless Sea in the West. We went to the Ahava manufacturing sites particularly. They are beauty corporations that make wrinkle removers and take minerals from the Pink Sea, which in apply makes it lose its salt. It modifications the world and deprives it of its id. Additionally it is opposite to worldwide regulation as a result of they do within the Occupied Territory, take away Palestinian assets and use them for a wealthy company that markets itself as Israel.

What did you do in these locations?

Principally we went round and talked with dozens of groups, activists and NGOs like UNRWA, Grassroots Jerusalem and alQaws (the most important Palestinian LGBTQ group). We met somebody from that group and discussed what happened to them. We met Omar Barghout, the founder of BDS. We also met Bassem Tamim, the father of Ahed Tamim.

In Hebron we noticed probably the most divisive militarism in elements of the occupation. Hebron is split into two elements. It's all busy, however it's occupied in several ways, relying on which part of the town you're in. For instance, some elements of an ambulance can’t enter with out their permission prematurely, in order that they actually can't get in, because that's exactly what an ambulance is. job. Somebody informed us the story of an previous lady who collapsed and needed to decide her up because ambulances couldn't decide her up. They tried to transport her via a checkpoint on the other aspect of the town the place ambulances might come via. An Israeli occupation pressure soldier on the checkpoint stated: "No, this checkpoint is closed, you can't come through." The lady died, however the soldier stated "No". In order that they needed to walk around to satisfy the ambulance, it took two hours, and by the point they arrived at the ambulance, the lady was lifeless.

I saw so many instances. Plenty of youngsters whose mother and father have been killed. We went to the prison now run by [Palestine Liberation Organization]which was a former jail for Palestinians, including youngsters. We have been shown the torture methods used by the IDF, resembling strain positions to put prisoners, and compelled prisoners to remain in the rain for hours or at positions the place they have been typically kicked and bagged. A number of them.

What drove you to travel to Palestine and could you combine it with the work you probably did in Boston?

Photograph: Willie Burnley Jr. Photograph: Used with permission.

It's been a journey of doing for me. Through the years I organized a number of Palestinian solidarity with the varied teams, comparable to [Jewish Voice for Peace] and, if not now. I'm making an attempt to make BDS Boston my most important focus. I used to be originally fascinated by Palestine in 2014. I used to be a [Washington,] D.C. with Politico at their budding Institute of Journalism. In 2014, Politico principally organized a competition for college kids of colour historical past around the country. They provided to fly us out, give us money and colleagues. I was like "f ** k it, yeah". I used to be certainly one of 12 college students throughout the country who received picked. In the future we have been behind the scenes at DC's Meet the Press, and there was loads of news that day. What caught my attention was the warfare in Gaza in 2014, which the Israelis referred to as the "Guard Edge." For the primary time I noticed really massive differences between victims. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed whereas Israelis suffered virtually no losses. Israel had a huge media presence, whereas Palestinian officials have been only heard by way of Skype. Earlier than that, I was trapped in what the Israelis want you to consider – that it's a sophisticated state of affairs or that it has to do with spiritual differences, but that yr I actually decided to attempt to discover out where my sympathies have been lying. Immediately it turned very clear that it was with the Palestinian people.

I have learn and arranged quite a bit up to now two years I’ve been really to go with the Offline Eyewitness, which is a gaggle, which I did in the long run we find yourself forward. By the point I travel, I want to study which corporations have been involved in the occupation and find concrete objectives that I might set back so that I had the material to affect the battle that is happening on the ground. However once I arrived, it turned less "this company or that company" … and extra because we heard people, interacted with them, and noticed how a lot magnificence there was in the nation. It was concerning the hospitality and kindness of the Palestinians, from youngsters to the aged to the occasional streets.

Once we have been in Bethlehem, I walked down the road and had a digital camera all the time. We handed this man, who had the entire household with him on this shifting truck in the midst of the street, and he was like, “Take a picture of me!” And he repeated it. I took a picture of him with my Canon digital camera and he was very grateful and then he drove off, very glad. He won’t ever see the picture! But we walked down the street and everyone would say "Hello" to us. Although most people spoke Arabic and we will say that they do not converse fluently [English] everyone left the street to greet us in both Arabic and English. Seating for me there was such a cheerful expertise, despite the fact that I’m mild militarized locations one of the visible actuality.

What’s your relationship to the Battle of Palestine?

Personally, I feel very much involved in the battle that [in Palestine] is occurring as a black man in the USA. There is a long historical past of solidarity between blacks and Palestinians – from Angela Davis to Nelson Mandela, Marc Lamont Hill to Ilhan Omar. I draw loads of connections and similarities between these two experiences, especially relating to colonial rule and apartheid.

What are the similarities between the Palestinian occupation and segregation and racism in Boston and all over the place. Stateside?

The top of the Tufts Police Department truly went to Israel throughout what the JVP calls the "Deadly Exchange" choice. The program will permit police, ICE, CIA, FBI and other federal businesses to go to Israel to study alleged "counter-terrorism" methods. There was some extent where we drove someplace within the desert the place we noticed this mockery of a Palestinian village that was not the best city. It was utterly mistaken. We have been advised that the Israelis go there for training at occasions, but the US army goes there as a result of it is just like the villages in Afghanistan. So we saw these extremely direct links between Palestine and US imperialist overseas policy.

outdoors the police I am very nervous concerning the disappearance of their constitutional rights based mostly on the activities of Israel. Germany just lately banned BDS in follow, saying that "if you support BDS, you cannot have a government office." Israel is seemingly making an attempt to realize one thing comparable in the UK right now, and I consider that the 27 states of america have additionally handed something comparable. . I don’t consider that there is a legally constitutional method by which you may deny BDS help until it’s absolutely justified to rationalize that BDS is inherently anti-Semitic, which I don’t consider. Israel has had success everywhere in the world with their message: "You can't criticize us, you can't boycott us, you can't actually use your morals to try to fight colonial colonialism." I'm fearful about the way it will have an effect on not only the freedom of expression and the BDS group, but we even have the power to arrange and to protest publicly.

There are so many direct links to the police with the event [here and in Palestine] and as a human being you already know concerning the protest tradition and preventing for my own rights, I can’t comply with it. I can't be okay knowing that people who fight racism are referred to as racists.

What are a few of the concrete issues people informed your delegation to help or return to the USA as an activist and organizer?

The Palestinian eyewitness gave precedence to returning and telling these stories. The difference is that American media tends to help extraordinarily militaristic, violent and racist regimes. So little of the Palestinian narrative will get into our conversations, so people stored telling us, “If you come back, tell your friends and family every part. Write tales about this stuff. Ensure the world knows we are preventing. "It's the most important concrete thing that is actually given to us.

Clearly, some corporations and corporations make suggestions. There were issues I didn't know concerning the totally different settlements. There are those settlements that really solely source assets from the Palestinian Territories for Israel. and who would truly go to the Palestinian state, if it existed, we saw the alternative ways by which the occupation truly passed off, disadvantaged the Palestinians of their wealth, and gave that wealth to the Israelis.

How do you see this expertise affecting your organization and your personal life?

A couple of years ago, I went again to school as an alum as a result of Angela Davis was having a conversation and she or he stated something about this, regardless of why. we are preventing, we must ensure that we embrace Palestine. I feel there are so many issues we will study from this wrestle and the BDS name. The Palestinians do not get enough credit score for it, however they have built a whole lot of international coalitions with the black group. My dream is to face shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians as they lead their own sovereignty. As organizers in america, we should study to construct an anti-colonial, anti-war and anti-racist movement. We need to get a very good give attention to corporations that are positioned in their very own repression. I see the liberation of Palestine as being constructed to unite people to fight all these evils that are at present in command of the whole world. I feel we will do the identical thing right here if we are sensible sufficient and use it for instance.

Any last thoughts you need to share?

Earlier than I left, I expected to see dangerous issues. I expected to deal with very disagreeable feelings and truly did. However something I didn't anticipate was kindness, hospitality, kindness … all this stuff. People are dancing with us. They gave us so much meals and opened their houses to us. It's something I can't pay off, except perhaps by respecting the work we’ve got to do.