Archive for Palestine

We Must Go Back To Coalition Building And Stop Cannibalising Ourselves

Posted in Culture, Friends, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 23/11/2012 by arabrhizome

During the latest onslaught by israel against the besieged people of Gaza, most of the online pro-justice community was focussing on spreading information about the death, injury and destruction brought by israel on the tiny strip of land, as well as showing solidarity and organising local protests & actions. However, unlike the onslaught in 2008/2009 there is a strange oppressive atmosphere around the pro-justice community this time around. It has been there for a while, but I felt it most acutely during this past week. I am not interested in pointing fingers, or calling out particular people, because that would only contribute to that atmosphere.

No what is more important, in my opinion, is to talk about it and try to figure out a way out of it. I understand where the motivation to be careful and to be suspicious of those who come to the pro-justice movement originates. We have been stung before. Some very unsavoury characters tried to associate themselves with the Palestinian cause, some people used Palestine as a career opportunity and then left never to mention it again. I get it. I think that there is nothing wrong with being careful and being vigilant. However, we must be careful not to let that become our default setting. We must not let the movement cannibalise itself.

I have been speaking to many people in the twitter community about this for the past few days. Many feel the same way. They do not all feel like they can say anything openly, and that’s very problematic. We cannot have people in our movement feeling like they cannot express themselves freely because of an atmosphere that makes them feel they will be chastised and ostracised if they do. That is something, I think, we can all agree on. I am not trying to speak for them, but I’m hoping that by writing this we can all have an open and honest discussion of what has been a set of worrying trends.

There has been an upsurge of snark and ad hominem attacks on some people who seem genuine and who are doing a great job reporting the facts from Gaza, I am thinking of Harry Fear in particular here. I enjoy snark as much as the next person, however, when it is used to undermine allies it becomes problematic. Particularly when there doesn’t seem to be any reason for that attack. All it does is that it makes those who initiate the attack seem bitter and jealous.

I do not want to be seen as a fan boy or someone who wants to stick his flag on the Harry Fear ship and go down with it. If there are clear, reasonable, and cogent arguments that show him not to be a genuine ally, then I would be the first to criticise him and call him out. However, I haven’t seen any. All I’ve seen are ad hominems calling him a white saviour, an oppression tourist, a white messiah, and chastising him for appearing on media outlets.

The first three attacks are completely and utterly unsubstantiated. Harry has been very careful not to make any white savioury comments. He has been an activist for Palestine for a while, as attested by the many Palestinians who know him. He has also done a very good job spreading information and amplifying the voices of Palestinians during the onslaught. More importantly, many Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom are ones we have all been getting information from, trust him & share their information with him. It seems to me that if he is good enough for Palestinians in Gaza being bombed he should be good enough for us.

On the third point, about him appearing on media outlets and seeming to be constructing a career out of this. I do not get that criticism at all. I repeat he seems genuine and a good ally. What is the problem with him, remember he wants to be a journalist, having a career thanks to his great reporting. If we are to go down that route then many of the great allies we have who aren’t Palestinians must be chastised in the same way. For this criticism to have any consistency then every non-Palestinian journalist, or activist, who gets work talking about Palestine must be chastised, and that would be ridiculous. Otherwise, that argument doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Let us remember that the BDS call explicitly calls for coalition building. This means that we cannot retreat within ideological rigidity. Everyone won’t agree with everyone within the movement about everything. However, we can all agree on the three central demands voiced by the BDS call.

We must have red lines. Any form of bigotry must be rejected without any qualms. Just because someone calls themselves an ally of the Palestinian people does not mean they have carte blanche to say or do anything. However, we must be careful not to draw red lines beyond that. People are coming to this movement with years of propaganda talking points intrenched within them. We must help them overcome this. Not through snark or rejection. But through understanding, open discussion, and education. The facts are on our side, rationality is on our side, if this is not enough to get through to them, then by all means snark away.

We must be an open movement that welcomes allies no matter where they come from. There are many people who come to the pro-justice movement with great enthusiasm and filled with honest genuine passion but who might not be up to date on all the subtleties of the arguments and different views that have been built up over the past six decades. I am not trying to rework the zionist “it’s complicated” argument here. I’m just pointing out that there is a plurality of voices within the pro-justice for Palestine movement and not everyone knows them all and the different arguments they advance.

Talking to some of my friends about this atmosphere we remarked on the fact that it must be very difficult for people who are just coming into the movement, unlike how it was when many of my friends came into it. It must be very hard for them to know what they can and can’t do. What they can and can’t say. What their role should be. Or even what they must read to learn more about a given issue. We need to be there to help them. We need to respond to, educate, and welcome them. I’m not saying that we need to become Kumbaya singing hippies, but we must make sure that our movement doesn’t become an exclusive club. Those who are appalled by the crimes of israel but aren’t educated well enough must feel like they can express those feelings and find a community that supports and educates them.

The final point I want to make is about how many people who have been fighting for justice in Palestine for years, if not decades, feel like they are sidelined and feel like they cannot trust those who they are fighting with to bring justice in Palestine. This feeling is particularly true of non-Palestinians who have consistently stood in solidarity with Palestinians. Some of them at great cost to their personal life, losing family, friends, & loved ones in their pursuit of justice. They were ready to give up those relationships because of their principled stance with the Palestinian cause. They should have found a new family, new friends, and new loved ones within the movement. Instead many feel like they are not welcomed anymore.

I had a private conversation with a friend about this very subject, I will try to protect this person’s anonymity in my writing. That friend’s words were the catalyst that pushed me to write this post. If that person cannot feel safe within our movement then we are definitely doing something very wrong. That person started by asking me whether the “language of justice” within our movement  is “towards a goal, or the goal itself?” In other words, are people truly fighting for justice or just for their family/dignity/people/country/sect. My answer was clear, we’re fighting for justice. There can be no dignity for a people or a country if justice isn’t the end goal.

The person then explained that they had given up their country/family/people/even dignity in their fight for justice, but that they feel like many in what should be their new family are busy backstabbing each other and would not hesitate to backstab them. This particular comment felt very painful, but I unfortunately had to agree. There has been a move towards ideological purity, which means that a small disagreement can lead to very damaging and personal attacks.

The most important point made by my friend about the subject is that the family of choice, which we need to be towards each other, seems to have been undermined by ideological rigidity and purity. The words that hurt the most, but that I think we all need to hear were: “My zionist parents are more likely to stand by me than some ideological purists who I think of as comrades. And with whom *I* will stand nonetheless, because I know what loss of either type of family is like.”

This is an important issue for our movement and its future. We shouldn’t dismiss the feelings of the members of that movement who feel like they have become potential targets because they do not fit a rigid ideological mold. Our tent must be a broad tent. It must accommodate those who seek justice, even if we do not agree on the finer points of a given issue. We must rebuild the solidarity within our movement and strengthen our ranks, otherwise we will find that people will start leaving the movement because of the psychological strain they feel.

We should not dismiss the concerns of those in our movement who feel like they are being edged out because they happen to be privileged in one way or another. It has been my experience that the vast majority of them are actively fighting against their privilege in order to achieve justice. Many are doing everything they can so that their privilege is dissolved and that those who do not enjoy their privilege can in fact live in a just society.I am not saying that they need to be mollycoddled, but they shouldn’t feel like they are not welcome either. They are trying to show solidarity with us, we must not reject them, we must not let our movement become exclusive, and we must not allow those who want to voice their disagreement on certain issues feel like they cannot.

I hope this post is taken in the spirit it was written in. I am trying to open a dialogue. I am not interested in shaming anyone, or silencing anyone. I am in fact trying to show that there has been a lot of silencing happening. Many people feel like their voices are not being heard. Many feel like they cannot be open about their feelings. This needs to be addressed. Thank you for reading.

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Read The Article

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 30/05/2012 by arabrhizome

So the article I co-wrote about the pogrom in tel aviv last week has been published by CeaseFire Magazine. Here is the link to it. Please read it and if you like it share it. I’m really proud of that piece. It did take some work but the final product is worth it. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from people about it. Please feel free to add a comment here about it or on the article itself. I spent a good portion of my day publicising it. Anyway, I need to go eat a little bit and then get ready to sleep. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

KristalNacht in Tel Aviv?

Posted in about the blog, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 23/05/2012 by arabrhizome

Tonight saw some of the worst violence against Africans in israel. A mob of israelis attacked businesses owned by african migrants or refugees as well as ones that employ them. There have also been some reports of attacks against people. This all happened in South Tel Aviv. I’m in the process of gathering information and trying to get a piece published about it. The anti-african rhetoric has been growing in israel. The interior minister calling them infiltrators, and saying that they should all be locked up. The prime minister said that Africans are a notional security threat against israel, threatening its security and national identity. The news from tonight is very clear, what happened in Tel Aviv was a pogrom. No doubt about that. Anyway, as I said I will be gathering information and trying to get something published soon. If not I’ll just put it on here. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

Remembering Qana

Posted in Lebanon, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 18/04/2012 by arabrhizome

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the first Qana massacre perpetrated by the israeli armed forces in South Lebanon. During the murderous war of 1996 launched by israel and termed operation Grapes of Wrath, which on a side note makes me unable to actually read the book because I get so angry when I see the title, israeli forces shelled a UN compound in the village of Qana on the 18th of April. The compound was being used as a makeshift refugee camp for South Lebanese citizens who had been displaced by the israeli attack on their homes. That shelling killed 106 civilians and injured 106.

I remember this massacre very well, as that was the first attack by israel on Lebanon I remember. I was in Lebanon during the 1982 invasion, but do not remember that as I was two years old. This one however, is a very clear memory. I remember visiting friends when the first images from Qana were shown on television. An image that is etched into my memory, and which I recall everyday, is that of the little girl’s lifeless body being held to the camera. The child was missing half her head. She had been torn apart by the hellfire rained on that refugee camp by “the most moral army in the world”.

That little girl became a symbol for me, and probably everyone else who saw that photo, of the savagery of israel and its army. This was one of many massacres perpetrated by the israeli army in Lebanon. In fact, Qana would witness another massacre 10 years later when a civilian building was bombed and destroyed during the 2006 war. However, that massacre holds a special place for me. It is the first that I remember as an almost adult. I remember everything about it. I remember all the gruesome photos and videos that were taken there. Children, women, men, killed in a place where they were supposed to be safe, a UN compound.

Of course, that wasn’t the last time a UN compound was targeted by israel. In fact, UN compounds seem to be some of their favourite targets, along with schools, mosques, civilian buildings, hospitals, ambulances, power plants, and bridges. They basically like targeting civilian infrastructure. That is always very high on their target list. But returning to that particular massacre. I remember how I felt that day. I remember the amalgamation of anger, sadness, feeling of helplessness that I felt. I also remember the sense of determination it gave me. My anti-zionism was reinforced that day. I would never shift from that ideological position after witnessing that callous mass murder.

I will never forget the images from Qana. Those responsible must be brought to justice and tried for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN and Amnesty international both conducted independent investigations of the massacre. They both found that the evidence contradicted israel’s story. However, thanks to the US’s continued support the criminals are still free. This shows why we all need to do what we can to keep up the pressure on israel. Our governments have failed to hold israel responsible for its many crimes. We as citizens of the world must join the Palestinian led non-violent call for BDS against the state of israel until it complies with international law and human rights.

Remembering Deir Yassin

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 09/04/2012 by arabrhizome

Today is the 64’th anniversary of one of the first, although not the first, massacres in Palestine perpetrated by zionist terrorist groups against unarmed civilians. Deir Yassin was a village that was attacked and 254 villagers, and the rest were forced out of their homes which were destroyed. This is one of the many similar actions undertaken by zionist groups in 1947-9 in order to ethnically cleanse Palestine and establish israel as a majority Jewish country. In the days, weeks, and months following the massacre of Deir Yassin Palestinians were forced out of their ancestral homes en mass. The number of Palestinians forcefully expelled is estimated at 800000, half of which were expelled before the establishment of israel.

Today we must remember this horrible day. It is unfortunately not the worst massacre that Palestinians suffered, nor was it the first or last. Deir Yassin should remind us that zionism is racist, supremacist, and murderous ideology that is responsible for great injustice and unspeakable crimes. We must fight against it with all our power. The greatest weapon we have is BDS, boycott Divestment, Sanctions, which is a non-violent call to boycott israeli products and put pressure on israel until it complies with international law and human rights and respects the rights of Palestinians. I ask you all to read the call and join the struggle for justice.

Day Two In Algeria

Posted in about the blog, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 10/01/2012 by arabrhizome

So it’s day two here. Not much to talk about. Me and my dad did some admin stuff I came here for. I was able to get some reading done but not much. In other news, I’ve been called a fake activist, a traitor, and someone who doesn’t care about Palestine because I refuse to accept that we should use ableist language to insult someone even if we disagree with their politics. This led to a good discussion with some other pro-Palestine activists about the way in which some in the movement have been using this type of tactics to delegitemise many in the movement. I will blog about that, maybe tomorrow if I get some work done. Anyway, must go now. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.

Bye Bye 2011

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 30/12/2011 by arabrhizome

I thought I’ll write my post saying good bye to 2011 tonight, as I don’t know if I’ll be able to write more than a few words tomorrow. I thought that I would very creatively write a review of 2011. I know no one is blogging about that. I’m the only person in the world who’s ever thought of reviewing the year that’s just passed. Being serious for a second, I thought I’d write about my perspective on the year, with a mixture of personal and not so personal stories that made this year what it was for me. So, let’s start at the beginning.

The year started in a bad place for me. I had just gotten out of a long relationship and wasn’t feeling very good about myself. I had very little self esteem and was not able to get much work done. I felt slightly lost and was not sure what to do to get out of the hole I felt I was in. It was a difficult time and in many ways I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that. I am much happier today, not only because I’m able to be friends with my ex, which is brilliant, but also because I’ve moved on and I’m able to work again, which was another big problem this year.

That was another feature of the year. The clear lack of work. I kept trying and sometimes wrote some stuff, but it was never good enough. It wasn’t even slightly acceptable. However the more common occurrence was me spending most of the year sitting in front of my laptop trying to write but not being able to concentrate. This spell was broken at the end of November and the beginning of December. I was able to write a work in progress which went down very well. That gave me a great boost in confidence in the work department. But the year wasn’t all bad.

To remain within the personal for a bit this year also involved me discovering comic books and Dungeons and Dragons. Well if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know all about Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve met some great people through it and I’m enjoying the great adventure that Andy our Dungeon Master has thought of for us. I’ve also met some new friends who are really brilliant through Remi’s poetry reading. I hope that I’ll get to see more of them  in the coming year. Nothing like meeting some great activist, feminist, pro-Palestine, vegan, anti-capitalists. I can’t wait to hang out with them soon. That also speaks to the other great thing that happened in my world this year. I became a vegan. I have to say that I still feel like this was the best things I’ve ever done. But I’ve written a whole post about that, you can read it if you want to know more.

Another highlight of the year was the wedding of two of my friends. I am not a fan of marriage but if there ever were two people who can make the institution work it’s those two. It was a wonderful wedding, with lots of emotion and many laughs. I met some very interesting people and enjoyed their company. Hopefully I’ll get to see more of them this year. Congratulations again to Mike and Becky. It was a beautiful wedding and I wish them all the happiness in the world. That was definitely a great day.

But how can we talk about 2011 and not talk about the great upheaval that shook the entire world starting in a village in Tunisia in 2010 when a fruit seller set himself on fire out of desperation and in so doing started a movement in the arab world that we are still living through. First it was Tunisia, then Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. We’ve also seen protests in Kuwait, Saudi, Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan. Dictators fell others are still clinging to power, either through the help of Western imperial powers and their Arab lackeys, or through brute military force. We’ve seen what the West’s intervention in Libya has done, and so even though I fully support the Syrian revolution, I’m not happy to see it repeated in Syria.

The revolutions also moved to Europe, North America, South America, and parts of Asia. The occupy movement made a difference, apart from Occupy Wall Street’s refusal to show solidarity with Palestinians because of some zionist pressure. I point this out because it is important. There can’t be no justice without solidarity between all oppressed people. Occupy Wall Street’s refusal to show solidarity is a stain on their record and needs to be rectified. The rest of the movements showed a lot more solidarity, including occupy Boston, LA, Oakland, Chicago, and others. We also saw how much the US’s political system is sold to corporations. The incredible brutality with which the police responded to those protests, which was reminiscent of some of the worst dictatorships in the world, showed that at the end of the day Corporations mattered more to the US political system than the people.

There was also the riots of the summer in the UK. I saw many people who call themselves leftists, when faced with the actual raw reality of class warfare and the real anger caused by police brutality and economic pain, turned to fascist language about the rioters. I was shocked, but not surprised, to see how many arm chair activists are happy to abandon all of their supposed beliefs when the poor stand up, however clumsily, and are ready to adopt rightwing narratives. The riots showed that a large section of the British society are disenfranchised and feel completely disconnected from their communities. What we saw, in my opinion, is the result of Thatcherism and Reganomics combined with the clear police brutality felt by the youths of deprived areas in Britain.

Then there was Palestine. This year so much in the struggle for justice in Palestine. I can’t cover all of it, however, I’ll write about a few events that marked me. First there were the protests on Nakba. For the first time, Palestinian refugees from neighbouring countries walked to the borders of Palestine demanding their internationally recognised right of return. Israel responded the only way it knows how, with brutality and without any regards for civilian life or international law. They fired across international borders killing and injuring dozens. This year the BDS movement kept growing and becoming more and more mainstream. There was also much unnecessary death and destruction. Palestinian human life is still too cheap in the eyes of israelis and the world.

However, I am feeling optimistic. I believe that public opinion is changing. The world thanks to the incredible work of many activists who work very hard to bring the truth about the Apartheid state of israel and the brutal racist policies of the zionist state to the world. I trust that when people see and understand the deep injustice in Palestine they can’t but find themselves in the anti-zionist camp. What we also saw was that israeli propaganda and intimidation tactics aren’t working as well as they used to. As many have said, the truth is that the facts are anti-zionist. On this note, I hope you all had a very good year. It certainly was an interesting one. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.