Shifting Geographies of Knowledge and Power

Introduction: Shifting Geographies of Knowledge and Power: Palestine and American Studies

Forum edited by Rabab Abdulhadi and Dana M. Olwan

In our forum we argued against exceptionalizing or divorcing the 2013 ASA vote on Palestine from the histories of solidarities and support for Palestine that extend beyond and predate the U.S. academy. Indeed, in co-organizing and co-editing this AQ Forum on Palestine, we sought to bring to our scholarship and pedagogy in sync with the lived experiences of the communities we study, research, and around whose lives we build our academic careers.

While the verdict is still out on how successful our endeavors to reflect on the many issues raised by the contributors have been, and although the quick turn-around in soliciting, editing and producing this forum made it difficult to include more individuals whose everyday lives focus on organizing for social justice, the contributors here are all activist scholars who are involved in multiple social movements and who are deeply committed to justice for Palestine.

It is in the spirit of praxis and organic intellectualism that we share the following resources of community sites, organizations, and campaigns in order to excavate the histories of struggle that are grounded and that are real and part and parcel of Palestine in American Studies:  


Solidarity with Palestine from Diné Bikéyah

Melanie K. Yazzie

These videos are meant to accompany my essay, “Solidarity With Palestine from Diné Bikeyah,” which explores forms of Palestine solidarity emerging in the American Southwest. Indigenous communities and diasporic Palestinians are spearheading a vision of Palestine solidarity in this region that is increasingly rooted in a shared praxis of liberation from the violence of transnational settler colonialism. My essay discusses one group, Diné Solidarity With Palestine (DSWP), which formed to protest Israel’s war on Gaza in July 2014 and has since become an important vehicle for commentary and critique about mainstream Palestine solidarity organizing. Specifically, DSWP calls into question the limitations of prevailing forms of solidarity in addressing the demands and concerns of Indigenous nations under colonial occupation by the United States. DSWP tries to correct these gaps by working with local Palestinians and allies to advance a comparative approach that simultaneously reflects local concerns, Indigenous political demands, and calls for Palestinian solidarity.

A well-known Diné independent journalist, Marley Shebala, recorded this video during DSWP’s July 17, 2014 protest in front of the tribal council chambers of the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona. I (Melanie K. Yazzie) am speaking in the video about DSWP and my experience in Palestine during a 2011 field school sponsored by the departments of Anthropology and American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

 

A member of a long-standing Diné advocacy group, Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, recorded this video of a presentation organized by DSWP for the 20th Navajo Studies Conference that took place from May 29-30, 2015 in Flagstaff, Arizona. DSWP members in the video include, Brandon Benallie Orlando White, me (Melanie K. Yazzie), Andrew Curley, and Janene Yazzie.


Black–Palestinian Solidarity in the Ferguson–Gaza Era

Kristian Davis Bailey 

There have been two major developments in Black-Palestinian solidarity since the submission of my essay for AQ in June: the August 2015 Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine and the October 2015 Black-Palestinian Solidarity video “When I See Them, I See Us” — both projects that I participated in.[1] The Black4Palestine statement was initially signed by over 1,000 Black activists, artists, scholars and students and included such prominent signatories as Angela Davis, Cornel West, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Talib Kweli. 

Our statement raised the “refugees’ right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians,” pledged full support to the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and called for joint struggles against anti-Blackness, Zionism, and white supremacy as part of a broader politics of opposing capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and racism.

The Dream Defenders, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and New Afrikan Independence Party were among nearly 50 organizational signatories. Five St. Louis-based organizations signed the statement: Hands Up United, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Organization for Black Struggle, TribeX, and the executive committee of the Black Student Alliance at St. Louis University--reflecting both years of engagement with the Palestinian issue and the generation of folks who came into their own during the Ferguson uprising.

As an organizer of the statement, I have stressed that Black-Palestinian solidarity has been occurring for decades. Black4Palestine reprinted the text of a Black statement of support for Palestinian liberation from Zionism that radical scholars and activists printed in the New York Times in 1970. The current statement emerged under frighteningly similar circumstances--following the Jordanian government’s massacre of tens of thousands of Palestinians during Black September, condemning the US government’s continued aid and support to Jordan, and calling for the end of all military aid to Israel.

Our 2015 statement was translated into Arabic and reached refugees in Lebanon and Palestine, in addition to broader segments of Palestinian society. In addition to this reach, the most powerful aspect of the statement was the participation of more than 10 current political prisoners, including some of the oldest and most recent political prisoners such as Sundiata Acoli, the Black Liberation Army member and comrade of Assata Shakur, and Ayuub Abdul-Alim, imprisoned in 2014 for refusing to become an informant for the FBI.

Such support is consistent with the solidarity and inspiration Black and Palestinian prisoners drawn from each other since the days of Angela Davis and George Jackson’s imprisonment. The recently opened exhibit “George Jackson and the Sun of Palestine” at Abu Jihad Museum of Prisoners Movement and Al Quds University in Palestine chronicles this broader history, including letters from Mumia Abu-Jamal and Rasmea Odeh. Rasmea spoke to this history during a rally in Chicago in late June:

“We stand for social justice and liberation in this country, the same way that my people have dedicated their lives to the liberation of Palestine. The struggles of the Black Liberation Movement in this country and anticolonial struggles in Africa, Latin America and Asia have always been inspirations to us. We continue to find inspiration and strength from those struggles. And we recognize that Black liberation in this country will lead to liberation for us all.”[2]

Rasmea’s current appeal against the US federal government’s deportation order has received a wealth of support from Black activists and scholars. Angela Davis gave the keynote address at the aforementioned rally for Rasmea’s defense in Chicago. And on the day before Rasmea’s appeals hearing in October, scholar and journalist Marc Lamont Hill penned a column in The Huffington Post on “Why Every Black Activist Should Stand With Rasmea Odeh.”

On October 14, a group of Black and Palestinian activists and artists released a video on Black-Palestinian solidarity called “When I See Them, I See Us.” Over 60 notable Black and Palestinian figures participated in the video project, including Alice Walker, Angela Davis, DAM - the first Palestinian hip-hop group, Danny Glover, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Noura Erekat, Omar Barghouti, Rashid Khalil, Remi Kanazi, Rafeef Ziadeh, and Rasmea Odeh--as well as grassroots organizers and protesters from Baltimore, Ferguson, and St. Louis. While the video raised parallels between the oppression and resistance of the two struggles, organizers were careful to note that the struggles are not the same, and that joint struggle is a choice--regardless of any similarities. The video’s blurb notes:

Black-Palestinian solidarity is neither a guarantee nor a requirement - it is a choice. We choose to build with one another in a shoulder to shoulder struggle against state-sanctioned violence...We choose to join one another in resistance not because our struggles are the same but because we each struggle against the formidable forces of structural racism and the carceral and lethal technologies deployed to maintain them.

Legal scholar Noura Erekat elaborated on these ideas in a video interview with AJ+:

"The point is not to compare oppression. Blacks the world over have from suffered a legacy of racism much deeper than the contemporary Palestinian struggle. The point here is that solidarity is a political decision on how to resist and how to survive in our respective fights for freedom."

Further Reading:

Articles

Pages


Borders Are Obsolete: Relations beyond the “Borderlands” of Palestine and US–Mexico

Leslie Quintanilla and Jennifer Mogannam

Historic Break Down Borders 5K in San Diego Brings Community Together in Protest of Local and Transnational Violences

On Saturday, January 24th, 2015, the Palestinian Youth Movement – San Diego (PYM-SD) and Colectivo Zapatista (CZ) co-organized their 2nd Break Down Borders 5K along the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico Border. This 5K represented a form of demonstration, highlighting the violence and injustices that indigenous and oppressed communities face at colonial border regions around the world. The 5K draws parallels between injustices happening at the various borders in Palestine under Zionist military control and the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Additionally, state violences and tactics in both the U.S. and Palestine not only resemble one another, but both states exchange tactics and trainings in order to maintain a racialized social hierarchy to oppress indigenous people and people of color living under colonial rule. This event was part of the 11th annual Enero Zapatista, a month-long celebration in San Diego in January to celebrate the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994, which achieved political autonomy for many of the indigenous peoples of southeastern Mexico. We were joined by about 200 local community members.

While ongoing systematic oppression has been persistent throughout history, the past years mark a lot to remember, with a devastating attack and demolition of Gaza last summer and a new Palestinian uprising unraveling this fall, the continued upsurge of murders of the black community by cop and continued killing and detention of border crossers, among many other ongoing injustices.

This event highlighted a constellation of transnational connections between indigenous and oppressed communities, rooting these connections in local struggle. As indigenous and oppressed communities unite, we are in acknowledgement that no matter what point in the history of colonization, our lands and people from the U.S. and Mexico to all of Palestine and the refugees and displace from colonization are suffering under the control of colonial, neoliberal regimes. We were joined by Peace and Dignity Journeys (PDJ), a group that organizes runs to hundreds of indigenous communities across the Americas, a spiritual act of breaking barriers and connecting indigenous communities, adding a piece of ceremonial significance to the staffs that they carry through these communities for every run they coordinate. PDJ graciously offered these staffs as part of the run and opened up our celebration of community power with a ceremony honoring indigenous communities. These staffs, carried by Palestinian, indigenous, black and Chican@ community members, led this year’s 5K.

Staffs, in from Arizona

Runners who carried the Staffs and led the run

We were also joined by community prison abolition organizer and UCSD professor Dennis Childs. He founded the San Diego No Prisons Coalition and is doing grassroots organizing against the construction of the Donovan prison in South San Diego. His words offered a framework for thinking through the connections between prisons, Palestine and indigeneity. Pieces of his discussion and our the entire action can be seen in this video link. We were also joined by the UC Graduate Student-Workers Union, UAW 2865 who in December 2014 became the first labor union to endorse BDS, by a two-thirds margin with an unprecedented call for Boycott, Divestment AND Sanctions of Israel, over half of whom endorsed the academic boycott.

Alongside PYM-SD and CZ, we were joined by other community orgs from Southern California including Anak Bayan San Diego, Health and Fitness San Diego and Indigenous Defense Resistance Unity Movement (IDRUM) from San Bernardino. Undocumented community members and members from the Mexico side of the border also participated, prioritizing this form of protest over the vulnerabilities that this close proximity to the border could put them in. Local Reggae band Sol Remedy offered their talents, playing their music as runners and walkers finished their run and were building together.

Riverside Crew (IDRUM & Students)

Anak Bayan San Diego

We followed the live music with a community reflection circle where people expressed the political, social and spiritual connections the run surfaced. Ending in a debka circle, our run brought communities together across different contexts here in San Diego and Southern California more broadly and allowed for a moment of celebration of our communities and the work that we do; running/walking, listening, discussing and dancing together.

The political foundations of the run are rooted in combatting militarization and control of our communities and borders. The same Israeli company, Elbit Systems, is constructing both the Zionist annexation wall in Palestine and the U.S.-Mexico border wall and is reaping huge profits. Currently, the Zionist annexation wall confiscates Palestinian lands, cutting off families and villages from their agricultural lands, while an Israeli blockade on Gaza has suffocated its 1.8 [PYM Women] million inhabitants since 2007 and has countlessly attacked Gaza militarily, with its latest attack resulting in the murder of over 2,000 Palestinians in the summer of 2014 during the holy month of Ramadan. Additionally, millions of Palestinian refugees, displaced for over 65 years, are unable to return to their homes. Here in the United States, There are 1,100 deportations every day, across the nation. Up to now, under Obama there have been more than 2 million deportations, the most ever seen under any president. Millions of families have been torn apart. In addition, we protest the injustices of our communities locally and internationally more broadly and as such recognize that tactics of local law enforcement institutions in the US not only deploy similar tactics as the Israeli military, but they also receive training from the Israeli military and benefit from prison, surveillance, security and weapons technologies developed by Israel, tested on Palestinians and sold to the US and used on the most vulnerable citizens, more times than not black and brown. This protest also recognizes the parallels between the Palestinian political prisoner struggle and the struggle of communities of color locally who face mass imprisonment and acknowledge these parallels as systematic racism.

We refuse to submit as security, prison, law enforcement and governmental institutions continue to profit off of the oppression of our peoples. With all of these powerful connections and participation from a larger network of community members, this year’s 5K (our 2nd annual) offers a new beginning for San Diego community organizers, the transnational connections they make and prospects of joint-work on local levels and beyond!

Organizers and Comrades

PLEASE JOIN US IN JANUARY 2016 FOR OUR 3RD ANNUAL BREAK DOWN BORDERS 5K ON THE US-MEXICO BORDER!

This press release was put together following the 2nd annual Break Down Borders Run in January 2015 in an attempt to honor those who joined us as well as to put forth an intersectional framework for political organizing and activism in San Diego and beyond. Drawing connections across oppressive systems allows us to deepen our political process, build a broader community base and broaden the understanding of where our oppression is rooted. It is these areas that are most important for building joint-struggle so as not to flatten the differences and conflate our struggles for the sake of solidarity while also acknowledging that our liberation is connected as an imperative for joint-struggle work and for advancing each others’ struggles justly.

Youtube Links:

Press Contact: Jennifer Mogannam, PYM-SD


Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism

Michael Letwin with Suzanne Adely and Jaime Veve

Starting in the late 1960s, there have been notable challenges to U.S. trade union officials' support for Israel. These include positions taken by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1967, and wildcat strikes against the United Auto Workers leadership’s support for Israel in 1973. 

Since 9/11, Israel’s wars and other apartheid policies have been challenged by various subordinate labor body resolutions in 2002, establishment of Labor for Palestine in 2004, refusal by ILWU Local 10 members to handle Israeli cargo in 2010 and 2014, and adoption of BDS by UAW Local 2865 in 2014 and the United Electrical Workers in 2015 and the United Electrical Workers and Connecticut AFL-CIO in 2015.

Today, in conjunction with the growth of Black Lives Matter and related social justice movements, these cumulative steps lay the basis for cracking Labor Zionism’s seemingly intractable hold in the United States.

Extensive materials about all of the above are located online at the Labor for Palestine site.

For further information, contact: info@laborforpalestine.net


The Islamophobia Industry and the Demonization of Palestine: Implications for American Studies

Hatem Bazian

My article in the recent issue of the American Studies Quarterly is intended to address the existing gap in research on Islamophobia.  The published research on Islamophobia up to this point has focused predominantly on analysis of media content and political discourses, which is a critical contribution but more is needed. The research correctly highlights the organizations, foundations funding and individuals behind the rising tide of demonization of Muslims.  While the research was badly needed to decipher the logistical infrastructure behind the rise in Islamophobia; nevertheless, questions concerning the specific interests served by fomenting bigotry against Muslims remained obscure, by offering a blanket statement about the rightwing involvement and funding and nothing more substantial.

What I wanted to illustrate is the expressed entanglement of a specific cluster of pro-Israel organizations, funding foundations and individuals who adopted bigotry and racism toward American Muslims, as a way to protect and extend US support for Israel.   The article goes beyond the basic mapping of the who, what and how- much is spent by the Islamophobia industry, and into identifying the why and the pernicious strategies deployed to silence American Muslim voices on Palestine and on broader issues relating to the Arab and Muslim world.   Israel’s defenders have lost the moral and ethical argument on questions relating to the occupation, settlements, violence, torture and human rights violations, which translate into an increased public distancing from identifying with the Zionist state, even among young American Jews, who no longer are ready to construct their identify on unquestionable support for Israel and its atrocious human rights records.

Having failed to continue to promote brand Israel effectively, the strategic choice, by a sizable segment of the pro-Israel organizational infrastructure, is to turn to racism and demonization of individuals and organizations that are presenting the Palestine narrative in the US and Europe.  If you cannot win the argument and you don’t like the message, make then, the messenger the problem; thus, the effort is directed at investing in Islamophobia, as a countermeasure to Israel’s loss of standing among grassroots, university population and in due time across sections of America’s civil society.  The overwhelming majority of groups and individuals identified in the reports cited in my article are committed to producing and promoting Islamophobic content, due to a mistaken belief, that doing so will help protect Israel in the long run.   Certainly, the backbone of the Islamophobia industry at present is being funded and given a lease on life by a committed network of pro-Israel groups and individuals, which means we can no longer speak of a generic content analysis, rather, it must be connected to a critique of Israel and its advocates in the US, who are leading the effort in demonization of Muslims and Arabs at this particular time. 

Visit the sites listed below for further information on Islamophobia related research and also discussions involving Palestine:

The following are a list of groups that produce Islamophobia with the focus on protecting Israel’s interests in the US:

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Throwing Stones in Glass Houses: The ASA and the Road to Academic Boycott

Bill V. Mullen

Academic Boycott and BDS: A Resource Guide for Activists

Preface: The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was launched in 2004.  In 2005, 170 organizations in Palestinian Civil Society, including the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, endorsed the Palestinian Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions Movement, which included the 2004 call for academic and cultural boycott.  BDS is based on three political demands against Israel:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. - See more at: http://www.bdsmovement.net/call#sthash.pY2EbFi9.dpuf

An increasing number of U.S. and international academic professional organizations and labor unions have voted to support an academic or cultural boycott of Israel.  Below is a list of these organizations with links to their boycott resolutions:

A wide body of literature exists articulating the relationship of academic boycott to the wider Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement against Israel.  Below is a selection of important primary source materials on the academic boycott movement:

These media outlets often provide critical information useful for organizers of academic boycott resolutions:

International linkages have been essential to the momentum of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement and of academic and cultural boycott.  Some of the global organizations leading national BDS movements are:

A number of U.S. and international organizations support academic and cultural boycott as part of wider solidarity work on Palestine.  These include:

The following books provide strong arguments in support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement against Israel:

 


[1] I was involved in both efforts, as a co-author of the Black4Palestine statement with Khury Petersen-Smith, and as a co-author of the script for “When I See Them, I See Us,” alongside Mari Morales-Williams of BYP100 and Remi Kanazi.

[2] Transcription by Kristian Davis Bailey from Chicago rally on June 28, 2015 at the University of Illinois - Chicago.