For the Sake of Our Friendship (Won’t you please give up your settler ways?)"This is a time to stop pleading for human rights and to start demanding justice. We need to identify and attack the root causes of the oppressions we face that continue to divide us internally as a movement."
-Shining Soul, “No Mercy”
Thanks to US investments in Israel, Gaza today is hyper-visible. Our war-mongering media are of great assist as well. I am proud to be a part of communities that already were aware, already fighting and already pushing the gauntlet when it comes to our colonial world: Gaza is nothing new.
But, I discovered, someone I care about is quite lost in the talking points of the conflict. We have a banter which I am at last replying to—as an activist and as a friend. I cannot believe that we don’t see eye-to-eye on an essential concept about our modern world. I am taking the time to break down our conversation so far (recap), illustrate my frustration (vent), and push my argument one last time (insist)—something more Tumblr appropriate than Facebook (though I can’t format long posts the way I used to).
Before I begin, I openly disclose that, while I have many Jewish and Israeli family members, I was raised in a community full of Palestinians. I speak Arabic (ya, kaifich?), but know no Hebrew (something I’d like to change one day). Further, in my position as a passing white person (made white by the French colonization of an Amazighen line), I feel obligated to spend time and energy educating frfr white folk about settler culture. I acknowledge and understand my frustration is not but an inch of the mile many walk every day. (Gosh, still haven’t posted my essay on passing… Dammit.) Perhaps, in fact, because of my privilege, I have no right to give up—I certainly want to salvage a friendship if I can.
While support is welcome, this can also be fuel for fire. I know so many people who are tired of educating white folk and would read this critically, or righteously, for their own empowerment. More power to you.
From here on out my post will be addressed to the friend in the banter with me:
It all started with your status update: “If you’re pro-Palestinian, you should be anti-Hamas. It’s that fucking simple.”
I like it but, with detail, reply: “All crimes, all forms of terrorism [are wrong].”
You conclude, after a while: “Hamas causes these conflicts time and again.” As if Hamas starting a particular fight (I won’t get into the nuance of allegation) exempted Israel from acting criminally.
At this point, believing that you are a good-hearted person who is just confused about the core definition of this conflict, I attempt a teach-in on settler culture. I attempt to illustrate how that culture colors Hamas’ actions in a *whole other light.* I grant all Jews the right to live without threats of terrorism, but I grant that to Palestinians and First Nation folk everywhere *the same.*
I note that “every First Nation everywhere maintains the fury, the hatred, and the contempt that Palestine has toward Israel.” Then I close stating: “We need to be humble about, responsible for, and critical of the impacts of our colonial lives. We need to mediate instead of war. We need to uphold human rights for everyone, everywhere.” (Folks who’ve read previous posts of my blog will see these are lifetime positions of mine.)
Your response was thorough and incredibly defensive. When I say Israel, as a colony, will need to “eat some crow,” or more specifically, compromise land, water, and infrastructure (open borders) to make peace, you exhaust an entire reply on a list of aid Israel has given Palestine. Was the West Bank suddenly made fertile with that aid? As far as I know, most all of the arable land in would-be Palestine is occupied and settled by Israel:
(A better written summary of my argument could be found here: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/deafening-silence-proposal.html)
You make the case for “roof-knocking” time and again, as if a military giving you warning before blowing your home, school, hospital or place of prayer up makes that bomb somehow better, or humanitarian. Lena Khalaf Tuffaha speaks from experience: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10152632708518993&id=661563992
You were upset: “You don’t see any empathy in my statements? What could be more empathetic towards the Palestinians than my initial status?” —A complete lack of acknowledgement on your part that Israel terrorizes Palestine. “I’d love to hear Hamas’ case for self-defense,” you goad. “‘Mr. Obama, we need money to defend ourselves from the conflicts that we start! Also, did we mention that we hate your country’s guts, and use suicide bombers and human shields?’” —Way to avoid the issue of how beaten the Palestinian people feel, and ignore that self-defense for an oppressed people means something different than for a threatened colony.
The point of this whole conversation came to a head when you then wrote: “I’m not even going to address your ‘First Nation…’ sentence properly, because there’s simply no way you can factually back a sentence like that up. I will, however, address the final sentence of your eighth paragraph. It’s true that one doesn’t have to be an anti-Semite to think poorly of Israel, but it’s also true that one must think poorly if he/she believes Israel is a colonialist state.”
~Did you catch that y’all? We must think poorly if we believe Israel is a colonialist state.~
Did Palestine agree to become part of the British empire? Did Palestine agree to be made into Israel, forfeiting all closeness with natural resources, let alone cultural affinity with the land? When First Nation folk here signed treaties with Europeans here, did they agree to be so completely displaced? Have you seen the map of shrinking Palestine? How could it not translate displacement to you?
Your beloved people, my friend, made a homeland with no regard for the indigenous people. They shook hands with another colony and made room for themselves. If the Quakers found Europeans already on our soil here, made the case for their freedom and sovereignty, and were at last given a place to settle down, they would still be settlers of this Leni Lenape land. We here would still deserve the wrath of the Lenape. Further, Israel went through all of the motions of policing their settlements, militarizing their state, and creating a culture of imperialism. This is settler culture. This is nothing new; it is as familiar as the dawn to those of us who engage these issues.
Now, I make the case for everyone to put down their bombs and talk. While I understand Malcolm X “We will not be non-violent with those who are violent to us,” I don’t think anyone gets a seat at the table, let alone their rights restored, when they are kicking and screaming. I do not condone Hamas, or support them, but the struggle they embody is understandable. It is a huge part of our global narrative, and the very struggles Stateside.
So I say this to you: If you can’t address the fury of First Nation folk, if you really think there is the need to verify a widely expressed sentiment by native folk everywhere (you’ve seen the tee shirts that reclaim the term “Homeland Security,” right? http://www.cafepress.com/mf/23769392/homeland-security-indians_tshirt?utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=191466478&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=sem-cpc-product-ads&utm_content=search-pla&productId=191466478 Tip of the iceberg.), then I urge you to gain understanding of the world we live in. Ask for a day in the longhouse to discover for yourself what the Lenape think of you, or I, or our settler neighbors. Watch this: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8eW_MndajlE or read this: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=276798042504524&substory_index=0&id=100005229907964
Settler culture is insidious and everywhere. It is unintelligent to blind yourself to it, and I will indeed think less of you for taking a complacent stance. Idle No More is growing. Chief Shelley DuPaul will be in our city within a couple of weeks. Books abound on the subject of cultural imperialism. The resources are there for you to understand the Kashmiri, Irish, South Sudanese, Lenape, Mexican, Detroit, Palestinian link: Utilize them, if for nothing else but for the sake of knowing me and keeping me in your life.
Then report back.