The University of Maryland played host last week to the Reverend Graylan Hagler, a “self-declared advocate of non-violence,” who compared the plight of African-Americans in the US to Palestinians in the so-called “occupied territories.”
His appearance was co-sponsored by the UMD chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine, African Students Progressive Action Committee, the Muslim Alliance for Social Change, and four other student groups, according to The Diamondback.
Hagler said the government’s response in Ferguson, Missouri following Michael Brown’s shooting was akin to that of Israel against the Palestinians, noting how “oppression can be universal.”
“The tear gas that was used in Ferguson is also the tear gas that’s used in the occupied territories of Palestine,” Hagler said. “Whenever something happens to a brown person or a black person by the dominant culture, in other words, a racist act, somehow we got to prove that it is a racist act.”
“It’s like seeing the actual faces instead of some person talking to you about it, seeing the faces, seeing the kids, seeing women, refugees on that screen,” said Shivam Shukla, a sophomore computer science and environmental science and policy major. “It’s really powerful. … It’s a real thing that’s occurring.”
Throughout the video, black people and Palestinians shared stories of discrimination. They held signs with messages of solidarity, such as, “Free all political prisoners” and repeated the phrase, “When I see them, I see us.”
“Oppression and systems of oppression are never changed, they’re just tweaked,” said Hagler, who has been a pastor for decades in cities such as Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Senior public health science major Lea Widemann said she was eager to hear Hagler speak about Palestine and its connection to Ferguson.
“I think one of the most important things is to dissolve the barriers that our oppressions were erected on,” Widemann said. “Even though we’re not Palestinians … this issue is inherently tied to our freedom and the same goes for the Black Lives Matter struggle here in the U.S.”
Hagler’s analogy isn’t something new; according to The Tower, he makes the comparison to his largely African-American congregations. Though he preaches non-violence, Hagler has said “violent reaction has its merits” and that “progressives or liberals should not ‘tell people what tools they should use in order to gain their own freedom.’”
He’s also has
railed against Israel’s treatment of Ethiopian Jews and African migrants, and asserted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March speech to Congress constituted a racially-driven “slap in the face” to President Obama. Netanyahu, he said, was “disrespecting a black face in the White House.”
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