Laura van Rij interview with Sari Nasir

July 17, 2018

 

Laura van Rij (LR): What is your connection to Lifta?

Sari Nasir (SN): I was born in Lifta in 1938, but in 1948 we were kicked out of there. I remember how they drove us out. They told my father: ´you better take your family away because we don´t want to happen to you what happened to the people of Deir Yassin´. I think the Deir Yassin massacre frightened many of the people of Lifta.

LR: Did they leave everything behind when they fled?

SN: Most of the things, except for the key. I rememberthat my mother wouldn´t leave, we had to force her. She was forced to leave. She cried, I remember her tears. And I remember she said: ´please, let me close the doors´. They told her that we would only go away for a couple of days, that we would come back. I have childhood memories of fleeing to the other side of Jerusalem. How bombs would fall and how people would be injured, blood all over them.

LR: Where did you stay in Jerusalem?

SN: I remember my parents had a hard time finding a place to sleep, to get us children under one roof. We found a room in the Indian hospice in Jerusalem, in the old city. My uncle asked if his children could stay there as well, but they could not. That was why the families were scattered, they could not stay together. Half of them went to Ramallah, others Jerusalem, Damascus, Lebanon…

LR: How was Lifta before 1948?

SN: Lifta was a traditional village, and a very tight community. Usually if a girl married someone from outside the village, they would say she became a stranger, they didn´t like this. They wanted her to stay in the village. The families were traditional extended families. My family, for instance, was big, five boys and five girls.

LR: What do you tell your children about Lifta?

SN: We tell them how we left and how we look forward to going back. If you ask children in the diaspora now where they are from, they say I am from Lifta. My children, who are in the United States, still want to go back. The younger people are more enthusiastic about Lifta, they read about it, write about it… They are proud that they are from Lifta. The Israeli´s made a mistake by thinking the Palestinians would forget. The Palestinians are here to stay, no matter how they try to change the landscape of Palestine. We are more attached to it than ever, we remember it more than ever.

LR: Do you ever visit Lifta?

SN: Oh yes, I went several times. I went to my house and my grandfather´s house. I tried to remember how scenic Lifta was, very scenic. I remember that I went with my grandfather to the common place of the village, a room for the men to go and sit at the end of the day, and talk about what is going on.

LR: Was it like a coffee house?

SN: No, it was like a guesthouse. It was close to my grandfather´s house. I would go there and sit with my father and grandfather. In winter they had a stove to heat the place. I would fall asleep while listening to their talking and at the end they would wake me up and we would go home.

LR: Do you remember the shooting in the coffee house?

SN: Yes, I remember that. It was in 1947 I think. I saw it with my own eyes. The coffee house was right on the main road in Upper Lifta. Men would go there to talk and smoke the shisha. My grandfather used to go there a lot, but for some reason he didn´t go that day. I was there with my uncle when suddenly cars came, we heard shooting. I looked and many men were running away. Others ran and fell, and people were shouting. My uncle told me to stay away, he didn´t want me to see dead people, but I insisted. I wanted to see. Many were killed or injured… It was a message I think, that we should leave. They used this method to try to drive us out. And they did.

LR: How were the relations with the Jewish people before 1948?

SN: We were friends. I played with Jewish children; we would eat at each other’s house. But look what happened then. They started preparing themselves to take over, the Haganah and others, the Stern gang… You know, there are many images that crowd my memory.

LR: If you could return now, you would go immediately?

SN: Of course, immediately. Even my children who are in the States would come back. Palestine has become a legend, a symbol that people attach themselves to because it is collective.

LR: It would be a very difficult life in the beginning. 

SN: Yes, very difficult. You have to rebuild everything, but at least you are on your land. You are in the land that belongs to you. Wherever Palestinians go, they suffer. They are always singled out as strangers, as foreigners. You know it´s really painful to think about what happened and what is happening. There is nothing one can do about it now. But we always hope for better days.

The interview is for the project “It’s all about people – Narratives from Lifta” done by Laura van Rij as part of her M.A. in public history at The University of Amsterdam.
Interview location: The children´s and community center of Jabal Nazzal, Amman, Jordan
June 26, 2013

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In Jerusalem we have the latest chapter in colonialism

June 18, 2018

 Originally posted at The Guardian December 12, 2017

By Karma Nabulsi 

Donald Trump’s intervention is not a mere aberration. It’s part of the continuing story of injustice in Palestine

One hundred years ago, on 11 December 1917, the British army occupied Jerusalem. As General Allenby’s troops marched through Bab al-Khalil, launching a century of settler colonialism across Palestine, prime minister David Lloyd George heralded the city’s capture as “a Christmas present for the British people.”

In a few months’ time, we mark another such anniversary: 70 years since the Palestinian Nakba of 1948, the catastrophic destruction of the Palestinian polity; the violent dispossession of most of its people with their forced conversion into disenfranchised refugees; the colonial occupation, annexation and control of their land; and the imposition of martial law over those who managed to remain.

The current US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel bookends a century of such events: from the Balfour declaration in November 1917 to the partition plan of 1947; from the Nakba of 1948 to the Naksa of 1967— with its annexation of Jerusalem, the occupation of the rest of Palestine, further mass expulsions of Palestinians including from East and West Jerusalem, and the invaders’ razing of entire ancient neighborhoods in the city.

Donald Trump’s declaration could easily be read as one more outrage in his growing collection of chaotic and destructive policies, this one perhaps designed to distract from his more prosaic, personal problems with the law. It is viewed as the act of a volatile superpower haplessly endorsing illegal military conquest and consolidating the “acquisition of territory by force” (a practice prohibited and rejected by the UN and the basic tenets of international law). And it is seen alongside a long list of domestic and international blunders.

However, this analysis obscures what happens each day in occupied Palestine, and hides what will surely happen next—unless governments, parliaments, institutions, unions and, most of all, citizens take measures to actively resist it.

Leaders across the world appear incapable of naming what is taking place in Palestine, so their received wisdom on the cause and nature of the conflict, along with the “consensus solutions” they offer, prove futile. This century of events instead should be understood as a continuum, forming part of an active process that hasn’t yet stopped or achieved its ends. Palestinians understand it: we feel it in a thousand ways every day. How does this structure appear to those who endure it day in, day out?

Patrick Wolfe, the late scholar, traced the history of settler colonial projects across continents, showing us that events in Palestine over the last 100 years are an intensification of (rather than a departure from) settler colonialism. He also established its two-sided nature, defining the phenomenon— from the Incas and Mayans to the native peoples of Africa, America, and the Middle East—as holding negative and positive dimensions. Negatively, settler colonialism strives for the dissolution of native societies; positively, it erects a new colonial society on the expropriated land: “Colonizers come to stay: invasion is a structure, not an event.”

After the British marched into Jerusalem in 1917 and declared martial law, they turned Palestine into an Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OETA). Declaring martial law over the city, Allenby promised: “Every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer of whatsoever form of the three religions will be maintained and protected.” But what did he say of its people? Allenby divided the country into four districts: Jerusalem, Jaffa, Majdal and Beersheba, each under a military governor, and the accelerated process of settler colonialism began.

At the time of the military takeover, Palestine was 90% Christian and Muslim, with 7-10% Palestinian Arab Jews and recent European settlers. By the time the British army left Palestine on 14 May 1948, the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people was already under way. During their 30-years rule, the British army and police engineered a radical change to the population through the mass introduction of European settlers, against the express wishes of the indigenous population. They also suppressed Palestine’s Great Revolt of 1936-39, destroying any possibility of resistance to what lay ahead.

Once any individual episode is understood as part of a continuing structure of settler colonialism, the hitherto invisible daily evictions of Palestinians from their homes assume their devastating significance.

Invisible too has been the force driving the expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Without a framing of settler colonialism, the notion of the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, of “spiriting away” the native Arabs “gradually and circumspectly,” makes little sense. In Jerusalem this is how gradual ethnic cleansing is being practiced today.

The new US policy on Jerusalem is not about occupation and annexation; the supremacy of one religion over another so “balance” must be restored; the two-state solution or the failures of the Oslo agreement; or the location of an embassy, or division of Jerusalem.

Nor is it even about the soap opera-level conspiracy the Palestinian people have been abandoned to: where the son-in-law of the US president, who has actively funded the rightwing settlement movement in Israel, has been granted absolute power to fabricate a “peace process” with a crown prince who has just locked up his relatives.

In this dystopic vision, the village of Abu Dis outside Jerusalem is proposed as the capital of a future fragmented Palestinian “state”—one never created, given that (along with all US-led peace processes) its eventual appearance is entirely dependent on Israel’s permission. This is named, in “peace process” language, as any solution to be agreed upon “by the parties themselves,” via “a negotiated settlement by the two sides.”

With colonialism always comes anti-colonial resistance. Against the active project to disappear the indigenous people, take their land, dispossess and disperse them so they cannot reunite to resist, the goals of the Palestinian people are those of all colonized peoples throughout history. Very simply, they are to unify for the struggle to liberate their land and return to it, and to restore their inalienable human rights taken by force—principles enshrined in centuries of international treaties, charters, and resolutions, and in natural justice.

The US has been blocking Palestinian attempts to achieve this national unity for years, vetoing Palestinian parties in taking their legitimate role in sharing representation. Palestinians’ democratic right to determine their path ahead would allow our young generation—scattered far and wide, from refugee camps to the prisons inside Palestine—to take up their place in the national struggle for freedom. The US assists the colonizer and ties our hands.

Former European colonial powers, including Britain, now claim they are aware of their colonial legacy, and condemn centuries of enslavement and the savage exploitation of Africa and Asia. So European leaders should first name the relentless process they installed in our country, and stand with us so that we can unite to defeat it.

Originally published in The Guardian

Karma Nabulsi is a fellow in politics at St Edmund Hall and teaches at Oxford University.

In each of the next seven months we will post  an article from http://ongoingnakba.com/  (previously fowardd.com/)

The Dangers of Conflating Anti-Zionism With Anti-Semitism

June 13, 2018

Jews Say No! vigil, Upper West Side, NYC

The article has serious conceptual flaws as well as factual inaccuracies that mischaracterize and do a disservice to movements for justice, and, as a result, make accusations of marginalizing Jews that are not rooted in reality.

To say, as the author does in her article, that “As a paradigm, intersectionality has failed Jews” makes little sense. As a lens through which to understand multiple dimensions of power — where and how they do or don’t intersect or connect — intersectionality does not “fail” any group.

Further, the author writes, “Intersectionality would dictate that the oppression of Palestinians is much worse than the oppression of Jews, and thus a much higher priority…. It is at the end of the day a hierarchical structure, one that creates a hierarchy of oppression and determines levels of threat.”

Intersectionality, a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, is precisely not about promoting hierarchies of oppression (thereby leaving out the Jews), but is a framework — an analytic tool — that focuses on the multiple effects and overlap of structural oppressions among communities that have been impacted by injustice.

In “What is Intersectionality and Why Do You Keep Insisting that Movements Must Be Intersectional?” by Evonnia Woods, the author makes clear that:

Much of the confusion regarding what intersectionality is stems from the way we have been trained to think, which happens to be the very way of thinking the concept aims to overcome. We are trained to think in binaries/dualisms and hierarchies….

This is why the versatility of how intersectionality can be employed is lost in many people’s understandings of the concept. Intersectionality is a paradigm, a methodology, and a tool for liberation….

We can use intersectionality as a means to garner and evaluate information. We can also use it in social movements to attain liberationequity and justice. Therefore, intersectionality is a concept employed to guide us in how we think (and thus behave), study the social world and fight for fairer life experiences. It is this fight for fairer life experiences from which the notion that movements must be intersectional is derived.In “Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles, Chandra Talpade Mohanty meaningfully frames a conceptualization of intersectional principles and realities that is not about leaving someone behind but, rather, about building meaningful solidarities:

In knowing differences and particularities, we can better see the connections and commonalities because no border or boundary is ever completely or rigidly determining. The challenge is to see how differences allow us to explain the connections and border crossings better and more accurately, how specifying difference allows us to theorize universal concerns more fully. It is this intellectual move that allows for my concern for women of different communities and identities to build coalitions and solidarities across borders.

Rather than recognizing and building from this analysis as articulated by Mohanty and others, Ungar-Sargon, through a misframing of intersectionality as the source of the problem, instead focuses on what she believes is an insensitivity to Jews, and her piece continues in that vein. For example, she takes specific feminists and “the left” to task for not wanting the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to co-facilitate an anti-racist training. While she does acknowledge some problems with the ADL, she largely defends the organization and its new director.

I find it unimaginable that the author is not aware of the abundance of evidence (see here and here, for example) pointing to the ADL’s role, historically as well as presently, in promoting anti-Palestinian policies and Islamophobia, and in targeting activists for justice. The author does mention that the current CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, proudly attended the embassy move in Jerusalem, but doesn’t seem to consider that to be a major problem that speaks to who Greenblatt and the ADL are. (As if this wasn’t enough, Greenblatt’s joyous moment took place as Israel was killing Palestinians in Gaza for protesting for their basic rights.) That fact alone — and there are many others — should make it clear why the ADL wasn’t a fit partner for an anti-racism training.

It’s one thing to suggest that we all need to open our hearts to working with new people and groups; it’s quite another to suggest that it’s “anti-Jewish” to not agree to work with an organization like the ADL that, while promoting itself as an anti-defamation organization, targets communities with long histories facing structural racism and injustice in the US, as well as those who support Palestinian rights. Minimizing that fact is incredibly disrespectful to the many communities that have been at the receiving end of ADL’s discriminatory positions and whose lives have been harmed as a result.

The faulty logic is not only with the author’s mischaracterization of opposition to ADL as being anti-Jewish; one of the most egregious accusations she makes is asserting that, since most Jews support Zionism, if you leave out Zionism from social justice struggles, then you are saying Jews aren’t welcome. She doesn’t show evidence pointing to her pronouncement that most Jews support Zionism, and there is actually evidence to the contrary. But, even if it were true, the fact that opposing Zionism — which is responsible for the Nakba, the dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land — is conflated with excluding Jews, again, shows a distortion of facts to make her point about Jews being excluded. Zionism is an ideology, and even if Jews adhere to it, it is not “anti-Jewish” to oppose it. It is about challenging structures of oppression.

She continuously reinforces the false and dangerous notion that to oppose Zionism is to be against Jews: “On the other hand, Jews feel that when they do show up, there’s always something wrong with them. They are expected to check their Zionism at the door, for example, or to support a Black Lives Matter platform that accuses Israel of genocide (one can be very critical of Israel’s blatant civil and human rights violations and still feel that such an absurd overstatement would be impossible to endorse).” She does make herself clear that she has no respect for the accusation of genocide made against Israel, though I wonder how much she has challenged herself and engaged with the fact that there has been much written pointing to the ways Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has aptly been called genocide. However, regardless of one’s position on the use of genocide to describe Israel, this is a charge about Israel’s behavior as a nation-state, and not about Jews.

Finally, the author lumps together all of the left, seemingly revealing an underlying animosity, and what she writes about its views on Jews reveals yet again her consistent conflation of Jews with criticisms of Zionism or Israel. She writes (without any evidence): “It is indicative of a fundamental flaw on the left — its eagerness to find fault with Jews while being unwilling to acknowledge anti-Semitism.” This assertion contradicts the articulated deep commitment among so many social justice groups to oppose all forms of oppression, including anti-Semitism. But — and this is what really seems to irk the author — this cThis kind of misrepresentation and mischaracterization is not a way toward building meaningful relationships or to be genuine partners in the struggle for justice. Finding fault with Zionism is not the same as finding fault with Jews. It’s an insulting and harmful framing. In fact, challenging anti-Semitism and challenging Zionism are both necessary in intersectional struggles to achieve justice.

Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is co-director of PARCEO, a participatory research center. She is a coordinating team member of Facing the Nakba and a co-convener of Jews Against Anti-Muslim Racism, and was a co-founder of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Most recently, she is a co-editor of “Moving Forward,” a special issue on the Nakba and the Jewish National Fund, published by Jews Say No!.ommitment also includes opposing Zionism. Further, nobody is suggesting there isn’t anti-Semitism among anyone on the left — that would be a foolish claim — but this is significantly different from making a sweeping generalization that those on “THE LEFT” have an “eagerness to find fault with Jews.”

Over 300 New Yorkers came together in mourning and rage at offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand

May 17, 2018

May 16, 2018

Over 300 New Yorkers came together in mourning and rage at offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, demanding action against Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters

New York City, May 16, 2018 – On Wednesday evening, over 300 New Yorkers with Jewish Voice for Peace – NYC (JVP) and Jews Say No! demonstrated at the NYC district offices of Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, mourning Palestinian protesters killed by the Israeli military in Gaza since March 30 and the more than 60 killed over the last two days alone, and calling upon the senators to break their shameful silence in the face of Israel’s use of deadly force against the Palestinian people, and to support Palestinians’ rights to live in dignity and return home.

Dressed in black, New Yorkers carried the names of the 111 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military while protesting in the Great March of Return in Gaza. Red poppies, the Palestinian national flower, were laid beneath a banner reading “Palestinians have the right to freedom and dignity, and the right to return home” in front of the senators’ offices. Demonstrators recited Palestinian testimonies of dispossession and expulsion from their homes in 1948, and described the last day of famed artist Mohammed Abu Amr, killed by Israeli forces while protesting.

“The catastrophe of Palestinian dispossession and expulsion by the Israeli government has gone on for 70 years,” said Rosalind Petchesky, a member of JVP-NYC. “Israel is doing now what it has always done: trying to suffocate Palestinian demands for freedom and equal rights through brutal and deadly force.”
Since March 30, thousands of Palestinians have formed a tent city along the militarized fence that separates Israel from Gaza, under the banner of the Great March of Return. Demonstrators are calling for an end to Israel’s brutal 11-year military siege of Gaza and for the right to return home for refugees. The March culminated this week, with the Israeli military killing at least 60 Palestinian protesters, including at least six children. May 15 marked the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes for the creation of the state of Israel. This came one day after the Trump administration moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in a shattering blow to future prospects for peace.

Nic Abramson, a founding member of Jews Say No!, stated: “We are here to mourn for those killed, but also to draw inspiration from this historic, grassroots mobilization across Gaza. We stand with the Palestinian people in their calls to return home.”

Israel’s violence has prompted condemnations from over twenty U.S. members of Congress, including Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as well as Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Betty McCollum (D-MN). New York’s senators and representatives have remained deafeningly silent.

“We desperately need real leadership to put pressure on Israel,” said Asaf Calderon, a member of JVP – NYC. “We are fed up with Senator Schumer’s hawkish support of Israel’s human rights violations. Now is the time for Senator Gillibrand to take courageous leadership. She cannot claim to be a champion of human rights if she sits in silence as the Trump administration unilaterally moves the embassy to Jerusalem and the Israeli military massacres peaceful protesters, journalists, and children.”

MOVING FORWARD: Unearthing Truths: Israel, the Nakba, and the Jewish National Fund  

May 7, 2018

Israel, the Nakba, and the Jewish National Fund

We present this special issue of Moving Forward to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe.’ The Nakba refers to the expulsion and dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland during Israel’s creation (1947-1949).In this issue, we lay out the historical record of those years to show that the Nakba was the result of a deliberate policy of mass expulsion, dispossession, and ethnic cleansing—a strategy designed to ensure that the Palestinians who had lived on the land for generations would be barred from ever returning. We also zero in on the fundamental role played by the 117-year-old international organization, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), in facilitating that dispossession.

Our goal is that there be a serious moral reckoning with this history, and it begins with that icon of innocence, the JNF’s small blue metal box that many of our readers will remember from their childhood, boxes that beckoned us to drop in coins that would help “make the desert bloom” and build the land of Israel. It was a mission that was legitimized by the governing principle of the Zionist cause: “A land without a people for a people without a land.” As seductive as that slogan was, it was willfully false, as amply documented in personal testimonies of Palestinians and Israelis, historical records, and scholarly research. How, after all, could 750,000 Palestinians flee “a land without a people”?

From its founding, the JNF was encouraged by the Zionist movement to acquire land in Palestine for the purpose of settling Jews on that land. After 1948, aided and abetted by Israeli land law, the JNF continued to acquire land and also contributed to Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians from their land. This was accomplished by buying swathes of land from absentee landlords and then leasing it exclusively to Jews, by confiscating refugees’ land, and by forcibly—often violently—removing Palestinians from their land, a practice which persists today. By continuing to plant forests that conceal the ruins of Palestinian villages, the JNF seeks to erase history and memory, while hoping to whitewash its political motives and enhance its recent branding as an environmental organization. Ironically, however, it has earned widespread international condemnation for the degradation it has inflicted on the natural ecosystem.

While this year marks the 70th anniversary of the catastrophic events of 1948, we also know that the policies that informed Israel’s and the JNF’s actions back then continue to the present. With this issue we hope to expose the relationship between the Nakba and the Jewish National Fund; to encourage deeper conversation about the experiences and realities of Palestinians before, during and since Israel’s creation; and to facilitate among US Jewish communities—and more broadly—honest reflection, analysis, and action toward truth-telling and justice.

The Editors

A CLOUD HANGS OVER OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

March 1, 2018

A CLOUD HANGS OVER OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

This ad appeared today, March 1, in The West Side Spirit which covers the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

IF IT’S NOT GENOCIDE, WHAT WORD SHOULD WE USE?

July 25, 2017

By  on June 30, 2017

 

I TAKE ISSUE with the Jewish Currents editorial, “Supporting the Black Lives Matter Platform, Its Slander of Israel Notwithstanding” (Autumn, 2016), in which the magazine unfortunately joined the pack of the hands-in-the-air-I’m–shocked-and-horrified Zionist groups that condemned the Movement for Black Lives — a very large coalition of which Black Lives Matter is one organization — for using the words “genocide” and “apartheid” in relation to Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people.

The editorial acknowledges agreement with several of the points raised by this prodigious platform statement, and expresses the hope that liberal Jewish groups will not be turned off by it. However, at the same time, the editorial goes to considerable lengths to disparage the platform, by using, in addition to “slander,” such language as “self-important jargon,” “an affront,” and “posturing.” It ends with a gratuitous patronizing remark (not much appreciated by the Black community,  surely) that the “#Black Lives Matter movement would be well advised to follow the example of Dr. King. . .” (my italics).

Since the Movement for Black Lives is, in my opinion, one of the most important coalitions to arise in decades, what JC says about it is correspondingly important. In this response, I am not dealing primarily with the word “apartheid” as it relates to Israel, since by now it has wide currency, ranging from statements by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and rock stars to UN conventions and reports by B’tselem, the well-respected Israeli human rights group, that as long ago as 2004 declared Israel’s road policy to be an apartheid practice.

Let me deal, instead, with the word in the platform that caused the commotion: “genocide.” First of all, let’s go to what the platform says, under the heading Invest-Divest:

The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people. The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US-made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funneled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Every day, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.

NOW, FOR SOME BACKGROUND:

Some of your readers may know that the Black community has had a long and tormented relationship with this word, “genocide.” In 1946, a year after the end of World War II, the National Negro Congress petitioned the United Nations for help in dealing with systemic racial discrimination in the U.S.  The NAACP followed suit in 1947, with its “Appeal to the World,” similarly urging redress, written by Dr. W. E. B. DuBois and two other Black scholars and lawyers. The UN did not respond.

On December 9, 1948, the UN approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  What the Convention actually says is:

Article 1

The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.

Article 2

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

a) killing members of the group;

b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and

d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article 3:

The following acts shall be punishable:

a) genocide;

b) conspiracy to commit genocide;

c) direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

d) attempt to commit genocide;

e) complicity in genocide.

In 1951, Paul Robeson and William L. Patterson, head of the Civil Rights Congress, presented the 100-page, flawlessly documented petition, “We Charge Genocide,” to the UN, seeking justice for African Americans using the convention it had so recently approved (as pictured at the top of this article).  Patterson, a master of impassioned prose, described the misery suffered by the Black population in the U.S. in the introduction to “We Charge Genocide”:

Out of the inhuman black ghettos of American cities, out of the cotton plantations of the South, comes this record of mass slayings on the basis of race, of lives deliberately warped and distorted by the willful creation of conditions making for premature death, poverty and disease . . .

Patterson offered important clarifications:

It is sometimes incorrectly thought that genocide means the complete and definitive destruction of a race or people. However, the Genocide Convention . . . defines genocide as any killings on the basis of race, or, in its specific words, as “killing members of the group.” Any intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, ethic or religious group is genocide, according to the convention.

Needless to say (or perhaps it is not needless?), these giants of the Black community got nowhere with these efforts. In fact, for their trouble, the U.S. government seized the passports of Robeson and Patterson, who were then unable to travel outside the U.S. for several years, and subjected them to a host of other punishments. (The U.S. government lifted DuBois’ passport in 1951 for other reasons.)

At the time — the near-height of McCarthyism, let us not forget — there was little support for the idea that Black people could claim to be victims of genocide.  The press, by and large, ignored “We Charge Genocide.” However, I.F. Stone, the independent American journalist, was favorably disposed.  And so was . . . drumroll . . . none other than Jewish Currents, in its original incarnation, Jewish Life.

ACCORDING TO Jewish Currents’ Sid Resnick Archives, not only did Jewish Life reprint a speech from Patterson (January, 1952) about “We Charge Genocide,” it used the word in the headline of an article (“Genocide in Florida,” February, 1952) and it editorialized (February, 1952) as follows:

While recognizing this common enemy [racism and fascism], it is a disservice to fail to grasp that the situations of the Negro and Jewish peoples in this country are qualitatively different. There is a tendency to make careless and superficial parallels of the situation of the two peoples. Such comparisons obscure the fact that the Negro people, as a people, are subjected to second class citizenship and Jim Crow so as to enforce on the whole Negro people unrelieved oppression that adds up to genocide.

It should come as no surprise that the Movement for Black Lives would choose to apply this particular word, since it has lived in the DNA of the Black community for nearly sixty-six years. For example, Dr. Joy James reflected in 2009 in her article, “The Dead Zone: Stumbling at the Crossroads of Party Politics, Genocide, and Postracial Racism,” on the “absence of analysis engaging antiblack racism and genocide in Western democracies,” and commented:

Harvard scholars have published tracts on the word nigger, tracing the etymology and reflecting on emotional connotations.  Yet genocide, which has a much more fearful impact on national consciousness and material well-being, is less rigorously analyzed as part of the black condition . . . For those who disdain or refuse the term genocide, despite the compatibility of black conditions with the standards of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Elimination of Genocide, one must ask, ‘What language would you use?’”

Now to the merits of the case. Can the word be used by Black people to describe themselves?  Can the word be used by Black people to describe others? Is the word accurate?

There are actually well-respected entities that agree that the State of Israel is guilty of genocide. Chief among them is the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which issued a paper in August, 2016 that quoted Martin Shaw, a scholar of genocide, who wrote in his article, “Palestine in an International Historical Perspective on Genocide” [Holy Land Studies, 2010]: “Genocidal action aims not just to contain, control or subordinate a population, but to shatter and break up its social existence.  Thus genocide is defined, not by a particular form of violence, but by general and pervasive violence.”

The CCR paper said that “While there has been recent criticism of those taking the position that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians, there is a long history of human rights scholarship and legal analysis that supports the assertion.” CCR concluded that

the killings of Palestinians and their forceful expulsion from mandate Palestine in 1948, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and the violence and discrimination directed at Palestinians by the Israeli government have violated a number of human rights protections contained in international human rights law, genocide being among them.

Finally, though your editorial describes the reaction to the statement’s use of the word from many organizations (the Zionist Organization ofAmerica, the Anti-Defamation League, Tru’ah, the movement for Reform Judaism, and J Street), for some unfathomable reason you neglect to say one word about Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the fastest-growing Jewish organization on the left, which now has 225,000 people on its list and sixty-five chapters throughout the country.  Within a matter of days, JVP went publicly on record endorsing the BLM position paper “without reservation.”

TIME FOR FULL disclosure: I know only too well that the word “genocide” is controversial (to say the least), and I also know that some people on the left whom I respect — people who support the Movement for Black Lives and who do feel that Israel has violated countless international human rights standards — think the word has become too broad. I confess that I myself probably would have hesitated to use the word for another reason: after fourteen years in the Israel/Palestine movement (and several trips to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza), I knew only too well what was going to happen. Here at home I have been called everything you can imagine — by people in our community who would not know a thoughtful dialogue if they fell over it — because I’ve witnessed and felt and spoken about the problems cited by the MBL statement and CCR.

But after hesitating, I looked up the actual words in the Convention and did some research, especially about how some in the Black community have viewed genocide, and came to see that  I was wrong and these young Black activists were right. They tried to get people to think.  They thought it was worth it.  They were brave and they paid the price. If readers want to know their reaction, they can see Rachel Gilmer, one of the named authors of the Invest-Divest section of the Movement for Black Lives’s position paper, talk about it at jewishvoiceforpeace.org/galleries/nmm-2017-virtual-access.

To sum up: Echoing Dr. James, if the situation of the Palestinians under Israeli control is not genocide, what is it?

We have to begin having some serious conversations, everybody.

 Dorothy M. Zellner, a longtime civil rights and Israel/Palestine activist, has written regularly for Jewish Currents and is one of JC’s volunteer production assistants.

Finding the Inspiration to Stand Up for Each Other: An Interview With Sister Aisha al-Adawiya

July 25, 2017
Saturday, July 22, 2017By Donna Nevel, Truthout 
   Community leader Aisha al-Adawiya (known as Sister Aisha) embodies a life grounded in a profound commitment to pursuing justice, social transformation and deep, meaningful relationships. I met Sister Aisha many years ago during the struggle to save the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first Arabic-English dual language public school in New York City. I was drawn to Sister Aisha’s beautiful energy and spirit and soon realized that many of the women I was organizing with from within Muslim communities looked up to her deeply as a mentor, role model and inspiration, and that this was true of partners from other communities, like myself, as well. Given the challenging moment we are in, I wanted to interview Sister Aisha to learn from her wisdom and her generous self.

Born and raised in Alabama, Sister Aisha came to New York in the early 1960s right after high school to pursue a singing career. She was raised in the Black church and sang in her church choir. Describing herself in those years as “a free spirit,” she lived in Greenwich Village until moving to Harlem. Seeking a spiritual home, she said that “Islam found me” in 1972. She encountered Malcolm X, “was blown away by him, and began my education as it were. Malcolm X continues to be my mentor.” She has worked for more than 30 years at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem and is currently the administrator of its Scholars-in-Residence Program. She recounted how the founder of the Schomburg Center began collecting documents because he was told by a teacher that Black people didn’t have any history — a history, she said, that she also hadn’t known growing up. 

Sister Aisha founded Women in Islam, Inc. in 1992 to bring the voices of Muslim women into critical community discussions that were local, domestic and global in scope. The organization was born soon after the story broke about rape camps in Bosnia. Sister Aisha began to speak out about what was going on and said that, at some point, she was challenged. “Here you are, an African American woman showing up for Bosnians. What does that have to do with you? I was compelled to speak out after hearing about women being herded into rape camps. And the majority of the women being victimized were Muslim.”  She realized that, because there weren’t visible voices from Muslim women on this issue, “I felt the need to construct something that would enable us to engage in this conversation, and to do what we continue to do.” Women in Islam, Inc. has, since its inception, stood up for Muslim women, been a space for Muslim women to discuss who they are and the role of women in Islam, and engaged collectively in the struggle for human rights and social justice.

The first thing Sister Aisha said to me was, “One woman does not make a movement.” That really does capture her humility and belief system.

Reflecting on the current moment, Sister Aisha spoke about how busy we all are right now. But she is concerned that “a lot of us are in reactionary mode. It’s not going to end if we spend our energy and resources just reacting.” Thinking about how to move forward in a different way, she said, “I’m reminded of the Black arts movement and all those … people who were just brilliant and awe-inspiring and how they really fed us and people in the movement through their art. Art may be our last frontier here,” she added. “How do we get back to that? How do we re-engage the arts so that we can have deep expression coming from artists and artistic creativity as we continue to speak truth to power?”

Pausing for a moment, she said, “I’m really trying to reorient myself to the more artistic side of my brain.”

She then spoke about the commonalities in the different struggles for justice. “We are all struggling on so many fronts with few resources except for our will and commitment to what we think is right. More and more of us — and I see it happening so much now in the Muslim community — are recognizing the importance and power of coming together and joining efforts with one another and across our communities. It’s about much more than being an ally. It’s about being family.”

She began speaking about the young man, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who survived in Portland after being one of three men attacked by a white supremacist when they tried to stop his racist tirade against two teenagers, one of whom was wearing a hijab and one of whom was Black. The other two men who were attacked, Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, didn’t survive. “Look at how this young man took it upon himself to say what he did about the two young girls who were assaulted — that we should be focusing on them and not on him. From his hospital bed, he was holding up his thumb. You could feel his indomitable spirit. That is much more than allyship. That is way beyond solidarity. This is humanity here.”

She paused before speaking more about what we can learn from Micah’s experience. “How do we harness that? That is an inspiration for anybody and everybody who wants to look for hope in any direction.” And then she spoke for a moment about her own role. “How can I support that in any way, and help cultivate that in ourselves and the younger generation? I’m thinking about that a lot.”

“I’m really in awe of this young man and of those people who are just there to stand up. I’m speechless, really. This is exactly where I believe we need to move as human beings. Standing up for each other in a real authentic way. No cameras rolling. Just the human spirit calling on us to say, ‘This is not right and I have to say something’.”

Clearly profoundly moved, she continued to talk about what had happened in Portland. “These two men lost their lives doing that, and this young man who survived, he shined the light back on those girls. How can you — how can we — inspire that sort of commitment? I don’t think they had a choice. They just knew they had to do it.”

Speaking about our challenges at this particular moment, Sister Aisha said she thinks that “the work is much the same, but I do think we need to try to find new tools. For example, I want to dig deeper, more spiritually. I think about Native American cultures and communities a lot. Theirs is a history and reality that often gets ignored or minimized. Yet, we have so much to learn from them and their experience. This is where my spirit is moving me. When we talk about interfaith work, we have to remember that there is a whole world of people with deep spiritual connections, including those who may not adhere to a formal religion, but are committed to human dignity.”

At the end of our conversation, Sister Aisha spoke about our needing to think more about ways to bring our whole political and spiritual and artistic selves into the different facets of our work. “We need to create platforms for people in our communities to express themselves when they have something they want to say. They need to know their voices matter and that they have something to contribute because they are human, because they are part of the human race, because we are all part of humanity together.”

While it is, of course, true that no one person makes a movement, Sister Aisha’s wisdom, grace, compassion and kindness have powerfully impacted so many of us and our movements. She is a leader and visionary we all hold dear.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

DONNA NEVEL, a community psychologist and educator, is a coordinator of PARCEO, a participatory research center. She is a long-time organizer for justice in Palestine; against Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism; and for justice in public education. She is a founding member of the Network Against Islamophobia, a project of Jewish Voice for Peace, and co-author, with Elly Bulkin, of Islamophobia & Israel (2014).

 

 

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NYC Protestors Drink Salt Water In Solidarity With Palestinian Hunger Strikers

May 25, 2017

Donna Nevel

Donna NevelCOMMUNITY CONTRIBUTOR

Donna Nevel is a community psychologist, educator, and founding member of the Facing the Nakba project, Jews Say No!, and the Network Against Islamophobia, and was a co-founder of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

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Jews Say No!, an NYC group I am a part of, and the Grannies Peace Brigade recently participated in the salt water challenge in solidarity with more than 1500 Palestinian hunger strikers, who have entered the 38th day of their strike. The Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began the hunger strike on April 17th, and the salt water challenge, a social media campaign to show solidarity with the strikers, began with a call by the son of imprisoned Palestinian leader, Marwan Barghouti.

Thousands of individuals and groups have taken the salt water challenge across the globe in support of the Palestinian prisoners. Numbers of the mothers of the prisoners have also courageously joined the strike in solidarity with their sons. Palestinians have held rallies and called a general strike across the West Bank in support; South African anti-apartheid leaders went on a solidarity strike; and students in the U.S. called for a one day fast in solidarity with the prisoners. Support for the prisoners is widespread. The Israeli government has not only failed to respond adequately, but prisoners have been subjected to harsh treatment and retaliatory measures. As a result, the strike has continued and numbers of prisoners have been taken to medical facilities because of seriously deteriorating health.

The demands put forth by the prisoners are clear, fundamental rights. They include access to medical care; allowing regular family visits; and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention (imprisonment without charge), flagrant violations of human rights. As Barghouti stated in a recent NY Times op-ed, “Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and medical negligence.” He also wrote that “hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.”

Where is American Jewish community support for the Palestinian prisoners? Where is the call from American Jewish organizations to Israel’s leaders demanding they honor the call from the prisoners for their basic needs and rights. The Israeli government’s appalling treatment of Palestinian prisoners is well-documented. There is simply no rationale for not supporting the rights of the Palestinian prisoners.

The demands of the hunger strikers will hopefully be met soon, but we know that international pressure and support can be critical at moments like this. This is a challenge to the American Jewish community to make our voices heard loud and clear in support of the Palestinian hunger strikers, whose demands are simply a call for dignity and humane treatment.

Read more: http://forward.com/scribe/372922/nyc-protestors-drink-salt-water-in-solidarity-with-palestinian-hunger-strik/

Jews Say No! And Granny Peace Brigade take the #SaltWaterChallenge in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers

May 23, 2017

The Salt Water Challenge

Today, there are 6300 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons; this number includes 300 children and 500 administrative detainees (those imprisoned without charge or trial).

Since April 17, Palestinian Prisoners Day, more than 1500 of these political prisoners have engaged in an open-ended hunger strike. Today is Day #37. These prisoners have refused to eat food, only consuming salt water to maintain their health, until the Israeli government meets their demands for basic human rights as stipulated by the Geneva Convention. Freedom and dignity are universal rights inherent in humanity – to be enjoyed by all human beings.

The demands of these hunger strikers include:

  1. An end to administrative detention
  2. An end to solitary confinement
  3. An end to the denial of family visits
  4. Access to proper medical care and treatment, and
  5. The right to access distance higher education

On Monday, May 22,  Jews Say NO! and the Granny Peace Brigade stood in the rain at Broadway and 96th Street in NYC to join a growing, worldwide, social media campaign – #SaltWaterChallenge – to draw attention to the plight of Palestinian political prisoners. As supporters of these hunger-strikers, we drank salt water to stand in solidarity with those who refuse a life of humiliation.

Now, we challenge you to do the same.

 

 

 


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