Longtime local activist Jibril Hough addressed a vibrant but mournful crowd of more than 300 people at a pro-Palestinian rally in Uptown, the first of multiple rallies planned for Charlotte as Israel continues to shell the densely populated Gaza Strip in response to an attack by Hamas earlier in October.
While Hough is often found shouting to large crowds as he did to the hundreds of folks who showed up to First Ward Park before marching through Uptown on Sunday, speaking over the phone before the event he was a soft-spoken man with just a hint of Southern twang to his accent, belying his North Carolina roots.
“It is like therapy for our community. No one is speaking for Palestine,” Hough told Queen City Nerve. “The president and sports teams speak for Israel but not for us. Our purpose is to elevate our position and counter some of the narratives. There are Palestinians in Charlotte, some Christian as well as Muslim”.
He said he wants the public to have a better understanding of how we got here.
“This didn’t just happen, it has been happening for years,” he says.
He rejected the notion that he defends Hamas, as many on the right have claimed over the past week that pro-Palestinian rallies being held across the country and world are in support of Hamas attacks that killed civilians on Oct. 7.
Hough pointed out that the civilians in Palestine are the ones who are suffering now.
“This is not a war between the Israeli government and Hamas, it is Israel against Palestine from Gaza to the West Bank — against apartheid and genocide and 75 years of occupation,” he said. “We all have a right to self determination and self defense, but that also includes Palestinians. Military occupation is also an act of war and violates UN sanctions.”
When asked if he supports a potential two-state solution, he said that option has become unlikely.
“If you look at a map It is almost impossible, there is not much land left,” he replied. “Israel has made it impossible with these settlements. There is not much land to give back, how do you give back what was not yours?”
He feels that the Zionist movement — a nationalist movement that began in the 19th century as the fight to establish a Jewish nation and now exists as a movement to protect and consolidate said nation — is the driving force behind Israel’s actions. To Hough, the way the movement is used as justification for violent actions is relatable to white supremacy in America.
“It works like racism — one group thinking they are better than the other,” he said.
Hough hopes the rallies shed light on the local Palestinian population and inspire a better understanding. He said he wishes for an Israel that looks at Palestinians with “a just peace, and treats them with respect like they do their own citizens.
“I want people to have an open mind, an open heart. I just want people to reassess what they have been told,” he continued.
Hough said he will continue to organize pro-Palestinian rallies as the bombing of Gaza continues and a potential ground war begins, though he does not have any specifics scheduled at this time.
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