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Israel: the checks and balances
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Another week, more devastation.
Apologies for the delay, I was traveling—I am technically on my book tour (insane)—and so I was just in Toronto, a city I deeply love, presenting Survival Takes A Wild Imagination at Type Books (I signed a stack of my books at Type—pls go find them!) and as a result, I’ve been experiencing extreme exhaustion from all the roving emotions, experiences and spaces I’ve been navigating. Though it’s rewarding to have a mic in this current moment, using it as a space to speak about Gaza, imperial violence and grief, it has also been a devastating task to keep doing this work in this current moment and to remain collected. I want to scream but somehow I have to keep channeling it into something other, something nutritious for us all, I can’t let the sadness eclipse me. So I keep going, with God’s resilience; I feel moved by rage, and the only way to process it is to sublimate it.
Nonetheless, it’s been somatically challenging, more than anything, to process this much grief and anger… After all communication was cut off in Gaza a few days ago (it’s back now, thank God) my nervous system totally went to shit. Every day is a new day of caution. What will the Israelis do next? Will they firebomb and obliterate Gaza to a pulp? How many more children will be killed? It’s nauseating waiting for information to fill in the gaps. If it wasn’t so maniacal, and thus resolutely evil, it’d be triggering, but seeing the full-blown international Islamophobia campaign is quite telling more than anything. As if many of us aren’t Muslim children who grew up after 9/11 and the Iraq War, who now work in the very media or academic institutions that are against us. You can’t silence us all, and truth, I believe, always prevails. Cultural amnesia can only exist for so long. Especially when it only profits a few.
What is so interesting about the boldness in the creation of modern nation-states is that a sense of nationalism (or supremacy) makes people forget they will die one day. I think we abstract death, out of fear, so we don’t have to confront ourselves, and our actions, yet that confrontation of death must come one day. None of us are owed anything in this lifetime. We must humble ourselves to understand that. As Tongo Eisen-Martin writes “Don’t put a shoe on my shoulder and call it a hand.” Many of us see through the glaring white supremacy that so many of us have to face in our jobs, in our connections with others, I mean… it’s not shocking to me that when push comes to shove many white people will choose oppression over us… because a lot of us have been tracking those inconsistencies for a long time. For the last few decades, I have been studying the dance of imperial invention and mythology, so that one day I could explicitly name it.
Many of us have to decolonize but also repair the damage of our ancestors. In order to restore ourselves, this is the action that is required. And in order to do that, we must face ourselves. I think as a Muslim, I have forever faced death because the faith itself constantly reminds you of your own. Not just in a fearful way, or at least it doesn’t have to be, but, rather, in a way where you are encouraged to centralize Allah in your entire concept of being, and therefore even death is merely a blip in the eternal connection between you and source, and that is the pure pursuit of a Muslim, to gain that connection with Allah. This doesn’t mean that all Muslims prescribe to this, many don’t, but I think it’s allowed me to welcome the realities of the Anthropocene, knowing that being Muslim makes me responsible to my Earthbound community, precisely because death is constant, and what better way to live a life than to be in service.
Also, the better I am at depicting the truth of these times, the more likely I, and others committed to the pursuit of telling the truth, are able to consider solutions, futures, and utopic envisioning… We can’t despair because we have a new world to build, and we can’t keep lying to ourselves with conviction, because the planet keeps taking the toll of this blow. Genocidal denialism in the year of our lord 2023 is kind of a weird Black Mirror moment, don’t you think? I’m haunted by the words of Mashrou’Leila lead singer Hamed Sinno, “What a cruel, evil world you’ve created for yourselves to rule over.”
As we face mass ecocide, we mourn the vast loss of land that has been devasted through the carnage of colonization. Many of us understand that we are reaping as a society what European colonizers sewed over the last 500 years. But it’s also coming to an end, because the Earth can’t contain this kind of militarization, and many of us understand the dire realities of what stands before us. Do we go back to the land, or do we turn against it? Every act of colonization, so forcibly removing people from their ancestral lands, which is happening right now, is an act against the Earth. Never forget that. How pathetic that history keeps repeating itself.
According to the Yale Review of International Studies, since 1967, more than 800,000 olive trees in Palestine have been destroyed. This is 14% of the Palestinian economy. I keep thinking about all the systemic ways Palestinians have been humiliated and disconnected from their land and that any nation that shows an obsession with militarization, as Israel has, is never considering how to shepherd the soil, they are simply thinking of how to build more capital, extract more capital, and so the only thing they’re interested in protecting is money. This essay entitled “Oppressive pines: Uprooting Israeli green colonialism and implanting Palestinian A’wna” speaks about the use of Israeli green colonialism, and the apartheid state’s misappropriation of environmentalism to eliminate the Indigenous people of Palestine and usurp its resources and argues that Israel primarily establishes its green colonialism to “(1) justify land grab; (2) prevent the return of Palestinian refugees; (3) dehistoricise, Judaise, and Europeanise Palestine, erasing Palestinian identity and suppressing resistance to Israeli oppression; and (4) greenwash its apartheid image.” Like the whole campaign that IDF soldiers wear vegan boots, Mondoweiss reported in 2019 that, “Make no mistake: Israel is using veganism as a calculated facade to justify its military’s program of terror, gloss over its occupation of Palestine, and appropriate regional culture and traditions that predate Israel by hundreds if not thousands of years.” Then, after reading about Israeli property law I’m beginning to understand how significant an obstacle it is for Palestinians to successfully establish rights to property or land left behind due to being forced to flee or for those who were banished during the Nakba, that’s over a million people who can’t return to their own ancestral lands, but if you’re Jewish, no matter where you’re from, you can have ownership to ancestral Palestinian land, and you can do whatever you want with it like bulldoze olive and lemon trees, heritage trees to the Palestinians.
“The Absentee Property Law provides that if a person is an “absentee”, any property that he/she owns, or has a right to, located inside Israel automatically becomes “absentee property” and therefore owned by the State, not taking into account the forced expulsion and ethnic cleansing that forced people to be absent. In 2012, B’Tselem published a comprehensive report on how Israel seized Jordanian lands, and the Ottoman rules of the land, in order to justify land grabbing and building settlements, which Israel vehemently defends as a right.
It’s no coincidence that the manufacturing of Israeli arms and weapons is a huge industry and one that is defended, again, as a necessity under the same banner as “Israel has the right to protect itself” yet these are the very mechanisms of apartheid. Speaking of apartheid, today I found out that there is a movement of South African Afrikaners who converted to Orthodox Judaism and moved to Israel, and as Haaretz reports, many of them moved specifically to West Bank settlements. Michelle Alexander, the writer of The New Jim Crow, recently said in a talk that a friend of hers, who worked in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, went to Palestine a few years ago and returned saying the situation was much worse in the occupied territories than it had been in South Africa.
Then of course, Israeli weapons helped the genocide in Rwanda, and Times of Israel in 2016 reported “In addition to the Rwanda case, Mack (attorney Eitay Mack) has filed a number of Freedom of Information Act requests over the years to reveal the details of Israel’s arms sales to countries that were in the midst of a genocide at the time of the transaction, including Bosnia, Chile, Uganda and Guatemala.” Mack also worked to prevent Israeli arms sales to South Sudan, which feels important to note given the current escalation of genocide in Sudan in the last few months.
In fact, in a report entitled, “Israel’s Heart of Darkness in the Congo,” for the International State Crime Initiative, Mack wrote:
So how does Israel come into this? In 1963, after the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected prime minister of Congo, who was murdered by Mobutu, the “Congolese government requested Israel to help re-organize the Congolese army. Israel was asked to train a unit of paratroopers, and in July-August that year over 200 Congolese soldiers were trained by Israel in a paratrooper course, headed by General Mobutu.” Over the years, I’ve often heard of how the United States had a hand in destroying and toppling every democratically elected official throughout the Global South. Why? Because, and let me be very clear, the United States is a war-mongering nation. How else do you explain Biden wanting to send $106 billion dollars to Israel to fight children and terrorists with handmade bombs who were born in a concentration camp? War mongering, because it brings them capital. Yes, mass Palestinian death brings Israel and the U.S. a lot of money.
According to The Intercept, “The U.S. Army is quietly moving ahead with construction at Site 512, a classified base perched atop Mt. Har Qeren in the Negev,” in Israel “to include what government records describe as a “life support facility”: military speak for barracks-like structures for personnel.” And if you didn’t know, the U.S has almost a thousand military bases all over the world. There’s a reason I used the word “war-mongering” because I also found out that Lloyd Austin, who is the current Secretary of Defense, which means he’s second in defense after the president, sits on the board of and has investments in Raytheon, one of the world’s largest weapon makers, and also the company that provides Israel with it’s Iron Dome… you know, the main thing Israel protects its borders with. I mean… you can’t make this shit up.
For the last few decades, they’ve forcibly removed more than a million Palestinians from their homes, yet the latest assault on Gaza clearly proves there’s a desire to remove Gaza off the map. Over two million people don’t matter, they’re terrorists, they’re unworthy of life. The amount of Israeli and American politicians I’ve seen quip the genocidal mouthpiece, “There are no innocent civilians in Gaza” when more than a million of them are literal children it makes you wonder… what do all these countries have to gain out of obliterating Gaza off the map?
We must bear witness, that is the bare minimum of what I can do. Yet how does one metabolize all of this? The enormity of the time, and the call to action we are all being asked to participate in, is the biggest call to the fight for liberation I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Yet, violence lives in so many of our bones, that it haunts us and terrorizes us. What we have seen and what our ancestors have seen are overlapped and concurrent for many people alive today. The children of colonization are reckoning with their realities, their ancestral lineages that were terminated and destroyed without consideration, but they’re also seeing their family members today get genocidally eradicated. According to Time Magazine, multiple families have been wiped off the public record in Gaza. “While there’s no legal or technical definition of what might constitute an “entire family,” Omar Shakir from Human Rights Watch says it’s usually when “an air strike might hit a home and everybody in that home is killed.” In some cases, it might refer to an immediate family, while in others, it may be talking about the larger, extended family. Amnesty’s documentation (in Gaza) refers to cases where an entire nuclear family has been erased from the civil registry.”
How do you sit with that? Entire families from the civil registry.
Of course, this is still happening not just in Palestine. In the Congo (a record 6.9 million people have been displaced recently) in Sudan (An estimated 9,000 people have been killed and another 5.6 million forced to flee their homes during the conflict, according to the United Nations) in what they’re calling “silent genocide” which is occurring, right now. We still have the plight of the Rohingyas looming with almost a million people displaced; with the recent mass deportation of Afghans from Pakistan. The Global South is facing such deep economic, social and ecological peril right now and all of these realities have been borne due to capitalistic and colonial greed. But we must not forget, we the people of the Global South are united, we are linked. All our histories, our survival, and our liberation are united.
How do countries that were abundant in natural resources (think of how much is being mined out of Congo right now, how many trillions of dollars of resources have been taken out of Africa ALONE in the last hundreds of years to this day…) like how is it morally acceptable that Africans don’t have control or have ownership over the resources of their own land? What do Europe, America, the UK, and Israel get out of stifling, controlling, and creating war? Everything. They get to strip the land of its natural resources for the pockets of a few WHITE people, not the millions of people who deserve that wealth, who deserve to enjoy the abundance of their land, who deserve not to be impoverished due to colonial, white greed. Instead, we’ve justified the extraction with the creation of the Western capitalist world. But, in good conscience, we can’t continue to participate in these unjust systems. We have to, en masse, resist these systems. Another world is possible, it just demands our creativity and our desire to change.
So I gravitate between extreme sadness and complete resolute rage almost every day. However, I do not allow any of these feelings to encompass me. When I find the feelings to be overwhelming, I focus on using myself as a channel for the highest good and information. I scream at protests, I funnel my urgency to educate myself and others, I organize, I divest, I boycott, and I uplift voices on the ground. I read, I learn more, I read, I learn more. I shut up and listen to people far smarter than myself.
With regards to Palestine, there’s actually A LOT I want to write about in terms of all the things that I’ve been researching, processing, and reading. There’s also so much that’s ever-changing about this situation that I think it’s important to give updates. At the same time, I thought it might be useful to begin with some queries and concerns that I’ve personally had with what I’m seeing online so I thought I’d use this place to clarify those issues.
I’ve been seeing people tell others to stop saying “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free,” because they claim that the statement insinuates that Palestinians (or those of us who are fighting for Palestinian liberation) want to eliminate the Jews by saying that.
Firstly, this is a Zionist talking point.
In order to justify occupation, we have been told that anything about Palestinian liberation is immediately, thus, about the extermination of Jews, when this is simply not true. This video from Sim Kern will explain it as well, but basically, “From the River to the Sea” refers to the River Jordan (West Bank) and the Mediterranean Sea (Gaza). In between that space is where 7 million Palestinians live under Israeli rule. From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free, is a demand against apartheid, it’s a plea for human and equal rights, it’s a call for liberation from under the shackles of occupation. It’s literally a cry for freedom…
So, why are a people who are fighting for their liberation so threatening to so many? Is it, potentially, that those who are offended directly profit from those who are being silenced? As Rashid Khalidi, Michelle Alexander and Ta Nehisi Coates recently deliberated, as a part of PalFest’s urgent programming, But We Must Speak: On Palestine & The Mandates of Conscience, the fact that so many institutions are threatened by Palestine shows the power and strength of the movement. Always challenge anyone who wants to silence a call for liberation. It’s fascist to control and silence a desire for freedom, and I see so many people participating in this. So, these are the very aspects of society where we must ask ourselves, do we want to live in a world that allows for this kind of shutdown of people who are merely asking to be free? And if so, what does that say about us?
I’m well aware that Muslim countries have sadly fallen into a lot of anti-Semitic tropes in the last hundred years or so, however, before the 19th Century, anti-Semitism was not a dominant factor in Muslim societies. Mark R. Cohen who is an American scholar of Jewish history in the Muslim world, is known for his article “The New Muslim Anti-Semitism,” which states that Muslim anti-Semitism was a recent development, not a foundation of Islam. Unlike in European and Christian societies, where Jewish folks were not welcome, nor safe. Plot twist!
I have always been raised with Jewish people around me, so it’s often surprised me through the years to hear this rhetoric that we don’t get along when within my own family and family friends, within the structures of my own life, it was a different reality—not only do we all get along, we love each other, and many of my Jewish friends are my family. It also goes without saying, that Jewish people are closest in their spiritual praxis to Muslims, and in fact, Jewish and Muslim relations, art, culture, and astrology were very interlaced and interconnected during the Golden Age of Islam (the 8th Century to roughly 15th Century). It’s important to understand the context here and not to participate in the mystifying of this situation in order to justify occupation.
Many of us have to understand that things we’ve been told by the people in power who deemed to protect us have not told us the truth about others and ourselves. The Israeli dream is predicated on a Palestinian nightmare. How do you kill off people? You villanize them. You make them unworthy of life, you make their very call to freedom, threatening to your livelihood…
In 2018, Mark Lamont Hill was fired from CNN. Why? While speaking in a meeting at the UN, marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Hill said: "We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grass-roots action, local action and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” When he was asked to rescind his comments, accused of being an anti-Semite, he refused and explained that the “river to the sea” phrase dates to the early 20th century and "has never been the exclusive province of a particular ideological camp", adding “[t]he idea that this is a Hamas phrase is simply untrue.”
I recently started looking into the “Exodus of Jews from Arab nations.” I hadn’t read much about what had happened, historically, yet the idea of a Jewish “exodus” from Arab lands didn’t feel correct or aligned with the Muslim world’s stance for hundreds of years prior, especially as Jews have always been seen as people of the book. There is a lot of history reporting the coexistence and cross-pollination of Muslim and Jewish cultures, in fact, Mark R Cohen writes about it a lot, and this is his field of specialty.
So in the last few weeks, as I started doing my research, I realized there’s a lot of context that anti-Semitism in Arab countries started, no surprise, with European intervention, especially in places where Europe was a colonizer of Muslim lands. No doubt the Europeans orchestrated tension between Jews and Muslims in order for Muslims to be colonized. This is from Wikipedia, which I never try to reference, but this paragraph is very succinct:
“France began its conquest of Algeria in 1830. The following century had a profound influence on the status of the Algerian Jews; following the 1870 Crémieux Decree, they were elevated from the protected minority dhimmi status (which is what they were in Muslim societies) to French citizens. The decree began a wave of Pied-Noir-led anti-Jewish protests (such as the 1897 anti-Jewish riots in Oran) which the Muslim community did not participate in, to the disappointment of the European agitators.”
This paragraph is from their document, “Jewish exodus from the Muslim world,” which is definitely worth reading!
So the Muslims were suddenly faced with a continued rejection of their once-upon-time allies, who were no longer fighting a common enemy (the Christians) and instead countries like France, incentivized Jewish populations to turn on their Muslim counterparts. “During less than half a century of colonization, the equilibrium between Jews and Muslims in Morocco was upset, and the Jewish community was again positioned between the colonizers and the Muslim majority.” The situation in colonial Libya was also similar. The Italian influence in Libya was welcomed by the Jewish community, increasing their separation from the non-Jewish Libyans. This stoking of the Europeans is what created anti-Semitism in Muslim societies, and according to Mattias Küntzel “National Socialist propaganda contributed to the transfer of racial antisemitism to the Arab world and is likely to have unsettled Jewish communities.” Not to mention in countries like Morocco, who is a French protectorate, it was the Vichy regime during World War II that passed discriminatory laws against Jews.
Then, of course, there’s the contribution of Zionists, who after the creation of Israel, relied on Jewish populations to move to this new Jewish homeland, which further antagonized Arab-Jewish relationships. This time, in order to incentivize Israel, the Zionists needed to present Muslim and Arab lands as inferior, or anti Semitic. The idea of a Jewish homeland has to be sold, in order to do that they have had to demonize Muslims, as they are still doing now.
The same thing was done in India by the British, a favored colonial tactic, where the Hindus were better liked by the British, and so the tension between Muslims and Hindus, who also for centuries co-existed relatively well, was stoked by the oppressor in order to create unstable living conditions after the British left. The same thing happened in Rwanda as well with the Tutsis being favored by the Belgians, this tension turned the Hutus against the Tutsis and resulted in almost a million murdered in just a hundred days. But this rage is just one for the colonizer. They turned us against each other so we would never come for them.
This is bigger than Palestine or Israel, this is about who gets to have power and who doesn’t, on a larger world scale. Here’s the gag though, even according to Hamas’ own charter, it states: “Hamas does not wage a struggle against Jews because they are Jewish but wages a war against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”
According to the Wilson Center, after their charter was revised in 2017, this is Hamas’ clear stipulations: “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. However, without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.” The charter also attempted to distinguish between Jews or Judaism and modern Zionism. Hamas said that its fight was against the “racist, aggressive, colonial and expansionist” Zionist project, Israel, but not against Judaism or Jews.”
Considering that much of Hamas is made up of orphans whose families died in Israeli airstrikes, I want you to think of the restraint they are showing that the Zionists have refused to show the Palestinians in the last over 75 years, despite occupying their land. Can you see the actual image of Palestinians emerging through your own corrupted idea of what Palestinians are and what they stand for?
Question what you’re being told, and my God, please challenge these narratives of “bad Muslims” …All the Islamophobia is so embarrassing to witness simply because of how flat these interpretations of us all seem to be.
Hamas have been trying to give back the hostages for weeks but the Israeli government keeps denying them. Just yesterday, a few days ago, the hostages released another video where three of them are very angry at Netanyahu: “You were supposed to free all of us. You committed to free us all. But instead, we are carrying your political, security, military, diplomatic failure.”
To this Netanyahu responded it was “cruel psychological propaganda.” Insinuating that the hostages were simply forced to say these things, when it’s quite clear if you watch the video, that these demands are coming from them
Is it propaganda simply because it goes against Netanyahu’s own reality?
In the above video, Palestinian American storyteller Jenan Matari talks about how the language of the hostage video is quite fascinating because they’re only ever angry or accusatory toward the Israeli government, not Hamas! Imagine that…
I think it’s interesting, that as with the other hostages that came out last week, Hamas has been characterized almost as “kind.” When I wrote on my own IG stories that this was at the very least, important to note, someone retaliated by writing to tell me it was dangerous to present Hamas as kind, when I wasn’t saying that, multiple sources are. Yet when I go to google the hostage videos, all of the American, and British news organizations have clips where the hostages support the interpretation that the West wants to assume about Muslims. So the footage is “I went through hell.” Definitively.
Considering that I’ve been seeing this an lot recently “every Zionist accusation is a confession” it’s interesting that Netanyahu uses the phrase, “cruel psychological propaganda,” when he’s called out for his gross leadership. Language is really important. This is the same man who said last week Israelis are the people of lightness, while the Palestinians are the children of darkness. Pay attention to language, always.
If you didn’t know, there’s this documentary called Tantura that really is a must-watch so I’m embedding it here… but the flamethrower, the rape, I mean… the fact there are confessions of this by old Israeli men laughing whilst calling themselves murderers… it’s just interesting. No amount of greenwashing or pinkwashing will erase the reality that we are seeing right now. All the evidence is there, will you do the diligence of connecting the dots? Will you see there’s something big here in benefiting from dehumanizing Palestinians and Muslims and making us a savaged and murderous entity?
Ever since I was a child, I have been told about the men in my faith, and their ingrained barbarism that is to be expected, because Muslim men are violent, I have been told. You can sympathize with Adam Lanza, make TV shows about Jeffrey Dahmer, and films about Ted Bundy, can excuse your evil CEOs and white-collar criminals who bleed the poor of all they have, endlessly making space for the genocidal realities of this nation and others. Yet all we are asking for is that you see flawed Muslim men, and Arab men, as men, too. Complicated men broken and failed by a system, by an insistent blighting colonial force that chooses only to destroy and quash them… What do you think makes a terrorist? Just sheer will, not trauma?
Muslim men are men worthy of your compassion, worthy of your protection, your care, your consideration, they are worthy of you unlearning your horrendous racism and Islamophobia. The moment you realize we are just as human as you, that our blood is as potent as yours until you understand that “who you are looking at is also you,” as James Baldwin so rapturously declared once, until that moment, you will never really understand that your own humanity is predicated on whether you can understand and accept mine and others as equally as your own.
Today is a historic day. It’s the March to Washington, sixty years after MLK also marched to Washington, where he made his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. The Guardian, like a true Western troll, says 30,000 people are expected to go when I’m hearing numbers closer to half a million. You can’t silence us with misinformation, you can’t keep pretending as if we aren’t the majority. We are coming for our liberation and the reality is there’s nothing you can do to stop us now. We are far too strong.
Blessings to all those marching today, I march alongside you in Los Angeles. I believe in a better world, and like MLK, I too have a dream. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. In our lifetime.
November 4th, 2023
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