Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.
Incidentally that means that some 1% of Muslims in Gaza are Africans, in part or in whole, and are fairly recent arrivals, rather than any kind of native residents of the land.
That’s not surprising since the “Palestinians” are mainly Arabs from the region who moved in. That goes triple for the Arab Muslims who usually followed the Christians and then took over places like Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Al-Monitor met with political activist Samah al-Rawagh, 33, at her home and asked her whether she experienced any discrimination due to her skin color. She made light of the matter. Yet, when her father Ahmad al-Rawagh, 80, recounted incidents he had experienced involving racism, Samah was shocked. “That’s the first time I’ve heard such stories from you,” she said.
“I struggled a lot to overcome the difficulties caused by the color of my skin. I always had to doubly prove myself at school, at work and in life, because I’m dark-skinned,” Ahmad said.
He said that they are originally from Sudan. His ancestors came at the beginning of the 20th century and lived in Palestine — in a village called Roubin, neighboring Jaffa — until 1948, when they were forced to migrate to the Gaza Strip. “But I never felt that I did not belong here. Palestine is the homeland I have always known, and is a homeland to about 10,000 other dark-skinned people in the Gaza Strip.”
10,000 is a lot of people proportionately speaking. There are more Afro-Turks and Afro-Iraqis, but 10,000 Arab Africans in Gaza alone suggests that they came as part of a massive emigration.
There are no clear historical sources that speak about the African minority in Gaza, but there is an oral history passed down by families from one generation to the next. Journalist Ali Bakhit, 28, said that he learned from his great-uncle that his family originally comes from Ghana.
“Africans first entered Palestine during the Islamic conquests, specifically when Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab entered Jerusalem, accompanied by a number of Africans. African communities from Chad, Nigeria, Sudan and Senegal came in the late 19th century, either for worship or to participate in the resistance,” Bakhit noted in an interview with Al-Monitor.
So we’re talking about conqueror settlers settling down. The Africans are the most obvious ones. But the rest were foreign settlers of a conquering empire as well displacing the indigenous Jewish inhabitants.
But there’s also slavery and more recent Ottoman empire building and military colonists.
According to Gaza Through History, a book by Ibrahim Sakik, wealthy families in the Gaza Strip participated in the slave trade hundreds of years ago. Another book, Delighting in the Wealth of Gaza’s History, notes that some of the residents of the Palestinian village of Berbera were dark-skinned people who came from Morocco.Al-Monitor asked multiple historians about the African minority, yet most of them noted that there were no books dealing with their history. “The majority of families with dark skin in Gaza originate from Sudan and Egypt, many of them came to work in the Ottoman Empire’s army hundreds of years ago,” noted Palestinian historian Salim Moubayed, speaking to Al-Monitor by phone.The “black neighborhood”.
Next to the Rawagh family’s home there is an entire area on Jala Street inhabited by dark-skinned Gazans. The people and taxi drivers refer to it as the “black neighborhood” or the “dark-skinned neighborhood.”