With the intersection of the George Floyd protests, the pandemic, and the upcoming 2020 US Presidential election, I’m finding myself thinking back a lot to my time in Palestine in 2014, when the Ferguson uprisings intersected with some of the worst bombing Gaza has ever seen from Israel. I already wrote down some of these thoughts in a previous post. But since then, I’ve been going back through my writings when I was 19 years old and in Palestine, volunteering as a musician through an NGO and sponsored by UC Santa Cruz.
It’s been a while since I’ve gone through them, and my first instinct was to edit and tear down a lot of what I wrote. Although my Palestinian identity has always sharpened my political lens, I feel these writings reveal some dissonance on my part. I’ve always been supportive of liberation for Palestine, but in looking back I also see many unintentional excuses made on behalf of Israel as I interacted with Israeli institutions in different ways. Rather than nuke my writings (many of which contain important and fond memories), I want to leave them up as a show of process from a well-intentioned but somewhat naive mindset to one that is decisively and unapologetically anti-racist, anti-colonial, and pro-Palestinian. I’m not really wanting to write a whole post on this, so here are some bulleted clarifications:
- This blog was created as a condition of receiving sponsorship and funding from UC Santa Cruz to volunteer in Palestine in 2014. Even as they funded my 6-week trip, they remained invested in Israeli, even after BDS was symbolically passed at UCSC in 2014.
- Being endorsed by a university didn’t protect me from defamation, interrogation, and strip searches. These are tactics used to intimidate and silence people who would criticize governments and institutions. At the time I was 19 year old woman and student; nothing could have justified these techniques being used against me when my only crime was writing, talking, and peacefully participating in a university’s democratic process.
- Anti-Zionism ≠ Anti-Semitism. As a teenager, I struggled with finding the balance between fighting systemically violent governments and supporting human rights for everybody. The language around Zionism, ant-Semitism, Palestinian identity, and American identity is often contradictory, even though when broken down to basics, fighting for human rights for Palestinians is fighting for human rights everywhere. This is in conflict with propagandist Zionist rhetoric that criticizing Israel is the same as criticizing Jewish identity.
- In the global context: When you protest the racist institutions in the US, like the police and the prison industrial complex, you’re inherently resisting those systems globally – in Israel, and in any other place the US military has touched down and controlled in some way. Undoing these systems makes life better for everybody living them: not only Black people and Palestinians, but Indigenous people, Latinx, White people (of course), and so many others affected by this brand of imperialism. Nobody benefits from living in countries where violence and incarceration is a first response to complex issues.
- There is no excuse for Israel, ever. Not until Palestinians can live freely on their own land. You can believe in human rights and dignity for everybody, including Israelis, while still understanding that Israel as it currently stands carries out the same patterns of segregation, imprisonment, and genocide that occur in all white settler colonial projects worldwide. The same way there was no excuse for apartheid South Africa, the Jim Crow South, and the genocide of Native Americans, there is nothing that can be said to defend Israel as the nation it is now.
- In the same way that rioting and looting does not invalidate the George Floyd protests, resistance to violence in the Gaza strip does not invalidate Palestinian struggle. Slavery is violence, police brutality is violence, incarceration is violence, military occupation is violence, colonizing land and annexing it is violence, and forcibly removing people from their homes is violence. I am glad to see Israelis and Arabs protest Israel’s recent illegal decision to annex the West Bank at a time that the whole world is protesting the murder of George Floyd; these struggles have many similarities in my mind.
- In some ways, I am worried about the outcome of the 2020 election, and in other ways, I feel it will change very little. The leftward shift of public opinion in this country is a result of a long history of violence that didn’t begin and won’t end with Trump. The violence won’t end with his deposition, but neither will the protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, for the citizens in Gaza and the West Bank, for anybody that is hurt by militarized police and incarceration and land-stealing. Injustice is injustice. Change is slow, but it continues.