Fact Check

Did Malcolm X Say the Palestinian Struggle is 'Blistering Battle' for 'Fundamental Human Rights'?

The civil rights leader had spoken for the “Arab cause” many times.

Published Jan 13, 2024

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Claim:
U.S. civil rights leader Malcolm X said the Palestinian struggle is “not just a cry for justice. It’s a blistering battle for the most fundamental human rights that every living soul on this planet should inherit by birthright. It’s an unyielding resistance against the oppressive suffocating grip of occupation and the callous denial of the most basic human dignity. Just as the civil rights movement in the United States fought against the chains of racial discrimination, so too do the Palestinian people.”
Context

While Malcolm X spoke out in support of Arabs in Palestine and called Israeli Zionism a “new form of colonialism,” we were unable to find evidence of him saying the above quote.

In late 2023, as the Israel-Hamas conflict escalated and Israel bombarded Gaza, many online began to share a quote allegedly by U.S. civil rights leader Malcolm X, in an attempt to connect the Black liberation movement of the 20th century to the Palestinian struggle.

According to numerous posts and an article in lifestyle magazine GQ Middle East, Malcolm X allegedly said the Palestinian struggle is “not just a cry for justice. It’s a blistering battle for the most fundamental human rights that every living soul on this planet should inherit by birthright. It’s an unyielding resistance against the oppressive suffocating grip of occupation and the callous denial of the most basic human dignity. Just as the civil rights movement in the United States fought against the chains of racial discrimination, so too do the Palestinian people.”

A longer version of the quote appeared on an Instagram post, which added the following:

Never forget my friends that the Palestinians, much like African Americans in the United States, have been subjected to a heart-wrenching history of suffering and torment. The birth of Israel in 1948 brought forth the mass expulsion and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their ancestral homes, and this is a historic injustice that continues to haunt the lives of Palestinians to this very day.

The situation in Palestine serves as a brutal reminder of the consequences of colonialism and the ruthless dispossession of Indigenous people. It is an agonizing reminder that the fight for justice knows no borders, and we must stand united in solidarity with all oppressed peoples whether they reside in the United States, South Africa, or anywhere around the world. Let’s be unequivocally clear. Advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people is not synonymous with denying the rights and security of the Jewish people. To fight for justice and Palestine is not an assault on any particular group, but an unwavering stand against the policies of a Zionist state that has for far too long stripped Palestinians of their rights. We must remember that numerous Jewish voices also resound in the calls for justice and peace in Palestine, and their voices must not be silenced. In our relentless pursuit of justice for the Palestinian people, we must also acknowledge that it is in the best interest of the entire world to seek a just and enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a pursuit in the name of peace, stability, and the dignity of all mankind.

TikTok videos from late 2023 shared what appeared to be audio recordings of Malcolm X saying sections of the statement above.

While Malcolm X indeed spoke out for what he described as the “Arab cause” in Palestine, we found no evidence among his many speeches and writings that he made the above statement. We reached out to a number of experts and archives. Some of them were unable to trace this exact quote, but we will update this story if we learn more. Until then, we rate this claim as "Unproven."

We were unable to find variations of the quote in the books, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” “Malcolm X: Collected Speeches, Debates & Interviews,” and “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” among others.  

But we know Malcolm X built ties with the Arab world and expressed support for Palestinians toward the end of his life, visiting Gaza in September 1964 and meeting with Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leaders. In the 1950s, he was among the first prominent Black activists to speak out for the “Arab cause,” according to NPR.

The 2019 paper "“Spirit in Opposition”: Malcolm X and the Question of Palestine” for Social Text Journal, written by Hamzah Baig, a researcher at University of California Santa Barbara, argued “the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X’s border crossing and concomitant efforts to forge ties with Arab-world liberation movements explicitly rendered Palestine a referent of the Black Radical Tradition.”

In 1964, after his visit to Gaza, Malcolm X published an article in the English-language, Cairo-based Egyptian Gazette, titled, “Zionist Logic,” in which he described Israeli Zionism as a “new form of colonialism.” He wrote:

Did the Zionists have the legal or moral right to invade Arab Palestine, uproot its Arab citizens from their homes and seize all Arab property for themselves just based on the “religious” claim that their forefathers lived there thousands of years ago? Only a thousand years ago the Moors lived in Spain. Would this give the Moors of today the legal and moral right to invade the Iberian Peninsula, drive out its Spanish citizens, and then set up a new Moroccan nation [...] where Spain used to be, as the European Zionists have done to our Arab brothers and sisters in Palestine?

However, despite Malcolm X’s documented support for Palestinians, Baig told Snopes via email that he had not encountered such a quote over the course of his research. He suggested that the TikTok videos may have used a “voice generator program to generate the audio,” but he was “not 100% sure.”

We also reached out to Michael Fischbach, a professor of history at Randolph Macon College and author of “Black Power and Palestine: Transnational Countries of Color,” via email. Fischbach described being “suspicious” of the above quote, mainly because the language and topics mentioned were too modern:

First, I did try to find all possible references Malcolm X made to the Palestinians and never came across this. Second, the language does not sound like something he would use. For example, in the early 1960s people did not use the term “African American.” Malcolm himself started using “Afro-American” instead of “Negro” or “Black” but not “African American.” Third, this alleged quotation speaks kindly of the Civil Rights movement which, although he made peace with people like MLK later in his life, doesn’t exactly sound like something he would say. Fourth, Malcolm (and others) in the early 1960s spoke of “Arabs” or even “Arabs of Palestine” but did not use the term “Palestinians.” That word started to be used later on. Finally, I myself have never read something where he praises Jewish allies in the struggle. Maybe he did.

Fischbach added,“While it reflects [Malcolm X’s] attitudes, I doubt the authenticity of this quotation.”

However, there are many speeches and writings that we have not yet been able to access and await more information.

Sources

“A Visual History of Black-Palestinian Solidarity.” Middle East Eye, https://www.middleeasteye.net/discover/palestine-black-lives-matter-solidarity-pictures. Accessed 10 Jan. 2024.

"African American and Palestinian Solidarity: The Long History of Struggle Against Oppression." GQ Middle East. 23 Nov. 2023, https://www.gqmiddleeast.com/culture/african-america-palestinian-solidarity. Accessed 10 Jan. 2024.

Baig, Hamzah. "“Spirit in Opposition”: Malcolm X and the Question of Palestine." Social Text, Sept. 1, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-7585050. Accessed 10 Jan. 2024.

Marable, Manning. "Malcolm X : A Life of Reinvention." New York : Viking, 2011. Internet Archive, http://archive.org/details/malcolmxlifeofre0000mara. Accessed 10 Jan. 2024.

“Michael R. Fischbach.” Randolph-Macon College, https://www.rmc.edu/profile/michael-r-fischbach/. Accessed 10 Jan. 2024.

Sandeep A. Atwal, Organization of Afro-American Unity. "Malcolm X Collected Speeches, Debates And Interviews 1960-1965." 2000. Internet Archive, http://archive.org/details/malcolm-x-collected-speeches-debates-and-interviews-1960-1965.

X, Malcolm and Alex Haley."The Autobiography of Malcolm X : As Told to Alex Haley." Internet Archive, http://archive.org/details/the-autobiography-of-malcolm-x-as-told-to-alex-haley-malcolm-x-alex-haley-1992. Accessed 10 Jan. 2024.

Wang, Hansi Lo. “The Complicated History Behind BLM’s Solidarity With The Pro-Palestinian Movement.” NPR, 12 June 2021. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2021/06/07/1003872848/the-complicated-history-behind-blms-solidarity-with-the-pro-palestinian-movement. Accessed 10 Jan. 2024.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.