the right of return
August 28, 2009 § 9 Comments
Her Jewish-ass be travelling to Palestine and so be her friends when Palestinian people be waiting for their birthright trip: Ilana has travelled to Palestine supported by Detroit Summer in promoting her “activism”, music and “artistry” while Palestinians that she is supposed to be in solidarity with are denied the right of return.
phyre asked me to retweet this article. and i did. but i also wanted to respond. but frankly it is not an easy response.
this is not because of some personal loyalties. i know phyrecracker through her blogs and twitter but we dont have convos or anything. i know adrienne maree through her blog and twitter as well. and i have mad respect for the media they produce. and i know invincible d through her music. simple as that.
maybe this is not an easy response because of personal loyalties. but it is not personal loyalties to the women who had this exchange. no my personal loyalties, the ones that tug at me, when i read phyre’s critique, are much closer to home.
its me. and its mine.
so let me start by saying i have a strong and sustained critique of internationals who do palestinian solidarity work in the west bank, gaza, or the refugee camps. you want to hear some seriously seriously fucked up stories about things i did in the west bank…sit down and grab a beer or more like a six pack…we are going to be here for a while.
and it is really really fucked up that palestinian refugee diaspora cannot return to palestine. and you know, when i was palestine, i felt a certain amount of resentment toward jewish american activists in palestine. they readily admitted that they had jewish privilege. and how they used it was…well…complicated. but frankly being a black american woman in the west bank gave me an interesting perspective about citizenship, right of return, genocide, and racism.
i had a good friend who was jewish american, who had a certain amount of activist fame for the work she had done in gaza around the death of rachel corrie. after returning from gaza. she got a book agent who wanted her to write her incredible story: whats a good upper middle class jewish american girl doing living in gaza? you see it was her race class ethnicity citizenship all of that…that was her fame and she lived off it for years.
i mean who’s ever heard of getting an agent when you’ve never written anything before?
but i have another good friend. and he is this white upper middle class boy who worked in gaza and the west bank. and he made a ‘hip hop album’. oh god. oh fucking god. his ‘hip hop’ was about the struggle of the palestinian people. and how we as good westerners have to pay attention and help them. he also liked to reference the black liberation struggle. he made bank off this ‘hip hop’ album. and its follow up album…his audiences are primarily white. his version of ‘hip hop’ is also pretty white. and before he made his first album. he had never participated in hip hop before. and he financed his album through the support of a christian peacemaking teams. (in which we were both working) (an organization that only allows christian to join. and kept a presence in palestine for 15 years, and yet has only had a palestinian member of that organization, for the past 3. many pal’s have asked to join. but of course none of them were christian enough.)
his second album was financed primarily by his family. that second album tour he made enough money by implying that the money was going to the palestinian struggle to live off for nearly the next year. furthermore, he had bought palestinian pins, necklaces, and other handicrafts in bulk from west bank palestinians and then sold those palestinian goods at a significant profit and then lived off that money in the midwest being a full time activist star.
who has ever heard of going on a two month long profitable hip hop tour when you’ve never stepped into a cipher? and dont know who rakim is?
but that is me looking outside of myself. because i am not innocent in this. would i be able to fundraise as well if i had not worked in palestine. nope. because i worked in palestine. i have some arabic language skills. i understand intimately the palestinian resistance struggle. i gained a lot from working there. life long friendships. including my partnership with habibi. hell, aza was conceived in occupied bethlehem. and was in utero when i was getting denied to re enter the west bank the first time.
this is not personal about invincible d. i dont know her. i barely know her music. this is about something that i have been contemplating for a long time about jewish american involvement in pro palestinian activism//
1. the state of israel has no right to exist. i know. i know. thats extreme language for some.
2. its all an occupation. 48, 67, 09 palestinians. territories. it is all an occupation.
3. palestinians, as all displaced peoples do, deserve the right of return at a minimum.
4. jewish americans are a significant portion of the occupying forces in palestine. because of the ‘right of return’.
5. i have had jewish american pro palestinian activist women tell me that only jews and palestinians should be allowed to travel and live in palestine. bull shit. and ive never heard a palestinian say this.
6. i take issue with jews throughout the diaspora claiming a strip a land about the size of small new england state as their only and original homeland. i take issue with this as an african american woman who can make no such claims to a homeland. no such protected rights. our holocaust doesn’t deserve a capital letter. has no national museum. i take issue with the requirement that palestinians are meant to give up a part of their land to jewish immigration.
7. i am not a huge fan of boycotts in general. i dislike the historical inaccuracy that white folks in the us boycotted south african companies is what made apartheid fall. it is a historical inaccuracy that is repeated ad nauseum. just because it sounds good. (white folks is always wanting to take credit for the party when they the one who came late, insisted on playing the sucky music, and ate up all the chicken…ahem…) so i barely blink at bds.
8. on the whole i have found white jewish american pro palestinian activists to be extremely condescending to me. not just them. ok let me back up a little. i have found on the whole almost every white pro palestine activists to be incredibly condescending. and the condescension has gotten ten fold since i became a mama. and i admit. i expected better from the white jewish american women i have met in the pro palestine movement. and been sorely disappointed.
the attitude comes across like this: oh look. you are a little black mama. and you think you are an activist on my level. oh that is cute. but it is obvious you are too crazy. irrelevant. unstable. etc. for me to talk to. maybe i can talk to you later if i stop being as important as i am. oh but probably not.
last year at amc. one of these women. started lecturing to me how difficult it would be for african american women to travel to palestine. this was after i had told her that i had been to the west bank several times.
9. i have a problem with the ease that jewish americans can travel to and from the west bank. they are financially supported often by the israeli govt and pro zionist organizations to fly to israel and to travel through israel.
i have a problem with jewish americans who learn hebrew for free in israel. and then use that hebrew to communicate with palestinians, and often not bother to learn arabic. thus meetings with palestinians communities end up being spoken in hebrew and shuts out palestinians and others who dont speak hebrew.
10. and i am tired of being told by jewish americans that i couldnt understand how important it is to have a homeland. and how everyone deserves that. and that is why israel must exist. i am tired of being told that palestine isnt really my issue. because im not jewish. i am tired of hearing these same activists skip over me to hang out with my partner because he fits their image of what a ‘real activist’ looks like.
but lets keep it real: my partner is a white middle class boy who worked for two years as a human rights solidarity activist in the west bank. and i love him. i have learned a lot from him.
but here is the thing. i know what it feels like to give a critique of systems of oppression. and have someone take it personal. if it aint about you dont make it about you. and then attack you claiming that you attacked them. its a fucked up process. and it wears you out emotionally. ostracizes you from community. and leaves you looking like the attacker. and it breaks my heart that ppl who are supposed to be allies and sisters put that on phyre.
i wish it was all so much simpler. but it isnt. we all deserve the right of return. by any means necessary.