The Harbinger

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All Men (except Palestinians) Are Created Equal

        The following is one of the premier articles from Diag Dissent, the official blog of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE). This blog is a medium through which student activists can engage social justice on campus.
For more articles and opinions. check out the blog  http://diagdissent.com/

     This past summer, I was in Jabalia, Gaza visiting my uncle’s home. It was about 2:15 am, and my 3-year-old cousin, Susu, thought it would be funny to start throwing peaches at me. Meanwhile my mother, brother, sister, uncle, and his wife, were counting down the last minutes until the electricity was supposed to come back on. We had gone 11 hours straight without electricity that day. Suddenly, for the third time during my 2-month-long visit to Palestine, the sound of an explosion rung in the living room. For a second, I thought that the missile had hit our building, but then I remembered the descriptions my friends and family had given me when explosions hit nearby. Shaking walls, shattered glass, and blinding dust were all a part of their vivid recounts, something that not many people around the world have to live through, but all the people of Gaza do. Our building wasn’t hit, but our cores where shook. Although it had happened twice before, this was a sound that I could never get used to. Susu immediately began crying and my uncle ran to him and embraced him in his arms. As he stroked his hair, all he said was “la la yaba” (“no, no, daddy”) until his son stopped crying. My uncle looked at me and shook his head. The only thing I thought to say at that moment was “Don’t be afraid, Susu, it’s going to be okay.” My uncle smiled and put Susu down.
       “How do you know that, Suha? We don’t have the right to make promises like that anymore. Actually, we never did. We Palestinians don’t have the right to promise our children anything. We can’t promise them college, we can’t promise them bread, we can’t promise them a home, we can’t promise them security, we can’t even promise them life. What kind of fathers and mothers are we? We don’t have the right to be parents. Look what they did to our people, we’re not even a people anymore, we’re just animals. Actually we’d be lucky if we were treated like animals. Why do I have to see my son crying and shaking in fear almost every night? Why can’t I have the peace of mind knowing that my son can someday just have the HOPE of having a happy life, away from missiles, away from bombs, away from this shit that we live in?! I don’t even know why your father lets you come here. Our lives are worthless. The world has forgotten about us. Or they never cared to begin with. The Arabs are shit and America is shit. The whole world is shit! We don’t have anyone but God. And it looks like He’s not on our side either. Do yourself a big favor in the future, don’t ever let your children get a Palestinian citizenship or even come back here. Stay American. At least you’ll be a human being.”
      

        The conversation was interrupted as my uncle’s neighbor shouted to him from outside. He and my uncle tried to get a generator working, knowing that it would be a while until the electricity is restored.
       My mind drifted back to my life here in the states. I remembered all the protests that I was a part of, the ‘stands in solidarity’, the ‘dialogues and discussions.’ Things I always thought would some day change the atrocious conditions my family was living in. In that brief moment that dragged excruciatingly on, they all seemed so worthless, so hypocritical…
       There were two lands that I called home, Palestine and the USA. One’s name is imprinted on the F-16’s, the machine guns, the tanks, the tear gas that is used everyday to dehumanize, disillusion, and slaughter my other home. Yet, I still thought that America and the rest of the world would always defend my right to “life, liberty and security of person.” The rights I always thought I had simply because I was human, suddenly became the ones I owned only because I was an American, and that privilege was lifted the moment I stepped foot into the occupied territories of Palestine. That cringing sound of an airplane that would never cause me to flinch in America, now caused my heart to drop as I would pray it wasn’t my last night.
       Up until that moment, I always felt that I was a victim. After all I had been an Arab-Muslim woman living in America, but in reality, it was the opposite. I was a part of the human race as long as I stood outside of Palestine. I still had a voice, I still had the right to plan and promise, I still had hope, something that my people couldn’t fathom they’d someday own as well. Guilt overtook me as I realized that when I lived in America, I was a part of the ‘they’ my uncle was referring to. I was a part of the ‘they’ that allowed my uncle to become demoralized and dejected. I immediately decided to stop thinking about it and returned to tickling and playing hide and seek with Susu until the night was over. I was uncomfortably comforted by Susu’s innocence, wishing I could be in his shoes, have his views, if only for a little while.
        We left around 5 a.m. to our apartment in Rimal, still no electricity. Before I went to bed, my dad took our passports in order to reserve us a spot on the Gaza-Rafah border so that we could plan our leave weeks later. When I pulled out my two passports from my dad’s waist bag, I stared at both documents. In one hand I carried what made me a ‘human’ and in the other, the exact opposite. A feeling of hypocrisy, contradiction, and overall confusion overtook me whole. I am a living paradox, two incompatible entities housed within one body. But the truth is, I have yet to grasp what it means to be a Palestinian, an American, and a human being living in the world today. One thing that I have become completely conscious of is that the right to liberty does not apply to every human. The right to life is selective at best, and the right to security of person is a mere façade. I’ve realized that these rights are the standards of select human beings, but not for Palestinians. Not yet. The hope that this may one day be a standard for Susu and his grandkids is a dream too far down the road to be declared a universal standard. For the sake of accuracy, a decree ought to be issued to call it by its true name: ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for everyone, but Palestinians.’

By: Suha Najjar

Filed under Palestine SAFE University of Michigan middle east politics

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Anarchists Against the Wall

On November 3rd Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) brought Gal Lugasi, a member of the Israeli organization Anarchists Against the Wall, to campus. Gal spoke about her organization and its activities, which consist mainly of participating in protests and direct action against the separation wall being constructed by Israel in the West Bank. Anarchists Against the Wall does not organize any of these demonstrations, nor does it set the agenda for them. As Gal emphasized repeatedly, they only participate in actions that are organized and led by Palestinians, and then only when they have been invited by the Palestinian organizers. AATW supports Palestinian resistance against the construction of the wall and the military occupation of the West Bank by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This resistance can take many forms, such as protest marches in towns where the wall is being built, blocking the path of armored bulldozers attempting to demolish Palestinian homes, and cutting the fence which makes up the majority of the separation barrier. The presence of Israelis at these events can be beneficial for the Palestinian demonstrators as the IDF is less likely to use lethal force against a crowd that contains Israeli citizens, although deaths and serious injuries at demonstrations where Israelis and other internationals are present are not infrequent.
    Anarchists Against the Wall began its activities in 2003, soon after construction began on the wall’s first segments. Israel claims that the purpose of the wall is to protect its citizens from violent action taken by some Palestinians to resist the occupation of the West Bank. As Gal pointed out, this justification is absurd as the easiest and most effective way to eliminate attacks on Israelis would be to end the occupation and the brutal violence used by Israel in the repression of Palestinians. And this is not the only function the wall performs. As it deviates significantly from the 1949 Armistice border (“Green Line”), the wall takes a large portion of the West Bank and effectively annexes it to Israel. About 12% of the area of the West Bank is surrounded by the wall in this way, cut off from other Palestinian territory. In addition to further complicating the already difficult task of moving around the West Bank as a Palestinian, the wall in several cases stands between towns and fields, making farming impossible. Farming is an important part of the Palestinian economy and in this respect the wall contributes to the further impoverishment of the Palestinian people.
    As soon as the Israel began to build the wall, Palestinians and their allies started fighting back against it in the form of direct actions and protests. Many towns along the wall’s route hold weekly demonstrations to attempt to stop its construction and bring its unjust character to the world’s attention. Although Anarchists Against the Wall is one of the better-known organizations working against the wall, it is only one of many groups participating in the Palestinian movement against the wall, against the occupation, and against the Israeli apartheid system.

By Jack Hagen

Filed under Jack Hagen Palestine SAFE Anarchy Apartheid Protest politics