Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I can´t hold back anymore. I can´t. Halas. So, I am just going to have to say it.

We need a broader lens on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As Israel is bombing Palestine, the U.S. maintains troops in Iraq, deploys more troops to Afghanistan, attacks Pakistan with drones and has prisoners of war locked up on U.S. and foreign territories in the ongoing Operation Enduring Freedom aka the War on Terror. Neither the U.S. nor Israel has formally declared war, however, weapons of mass destruction (including bombs, missiles, and heavy artillery and no I don´t believe that nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction) are involved, and every day there are reports of dozens of people dying as a result of U.S. and Israeli attacks.

In the last two years, numerous countries throughout North Africa and Southwest Asia have experienced political resistance, and military destabilization in places as far apart as Libya, Yemen and Syria. Syria is currently in a Civil War. And, in the midst of all of this there is Occupied Palestine.

There is no coincidence, but rather a long historical trajectory of complicity, anti-Semitism and anti-Arab (most explicitly anti-Muslim) racism going on here. Israel, to me, is an outpost of the ailing British and emerging American empires at the middle of the 20th century. Sure, Zionism was used as the ideological framework for what was really an imperial incursion. When Jews were shipped there to occupy Palestinian territory following the horrors of the Holocaust (because, let´s remember that the neither the U.S. nor Europe was willing to absorb the Jews who were fleeing or survived the concentration camps), Zionism became a really handy tool to justify the displacement of millions of Palestinian families: Christians, Muslims AND Jews who were living there under British occupation. Palestine was a British colony until 1947 (let us remember this). And it is the preceding European anti-Semitism, and Russian anti-Semitism that serves as a grounds for Jews to justify their actions - unjustifiably. That is the first part of what I have to say.

Because I am not for Zionism as it has been used and applied, and I am squarely against the Occupation, but not at the cost of Jews.  The right wing Jews in the U:S (you know who you are ADL) have conflated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism long enough. I say, ¨Maspeek¨, ¨halas¨' ENOUGH. As Jews we cannot be socially irresponsible enough to conflate our Jewish religious and cultural identities with an oppressive, nationalist and imperialist project that at the center of all things, does not have the lives of Jews nor other Semites in mind. That allows the death and displacement of other peoples. That contributes to GENOCIDE. ENOUGH.

It´s like gang wars, people. The only ones who suffer are those of us who live together, the people of color. We kill each other in the interests of those who make money off of our deaths. So, okay - that´s a micro level comparison. Let us get back to the bigger picture.

I say this to all of my friends and loved ones who are protesting the Occupation, and Israel´s abominable violence and genocide against the Palestinians: as U.S. citizens, we are complicit on multiple levels. Our own government has been enacting this same kind of violence for almost 10 years now in Iraq, and over 10 years in Afghanistan. The U.S. has over 100 years occupying Native lands, and we are complicit. We must maintain a clear focus on the injustices occurring in Palestine, while not forgetting that this injustice is part of a larger trajectory of structural violence, militarized imperial expansion, and private elite commercial interests.

Why would Netanyahu have done this without the possibility of thinking he is right in doing so? What are all the components of the machinations in place that has allowed for the Israeli defence minister to say, with a straight face, ¨We are only targeting Hamas, while Palestinians are targeting civilians.¨ I mean, she did. She really did.

So the second part of my rant, my vent is: we need a narrower lens on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We need to understand the daily violences experienced by Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers and citizens. We need to understand the pain of displacement and theft. We need to understand the violence of the bantustan. We need to understand the violence of the wall (built like the U.S. Mexico wall, yes, indeed). We need to understand the violence of the checkpoint. And the missile. And the dead, the dead, the dead. We need to understand the resistance of the Palestinian and Israeli people.

All cannot be handed over to history. We, right now, can make history. We can shape it, make it do something different. To be Jews who hold the moral right of life and justice for all peoples. To be U.S. citizens who hold our government accountable, and demand an immediate withdrawal of troops from around the world, and fair trials for prisoners of war.  To be U.S. citizens and/or Jews who demand that the U.S. government stop its imperial support for an Occupying Israeli state, and that the U.S. government -like the Canadian and Australian government - acknowledge the genocide of the First Nations peoples.

That there be justice is not a a mere fact of history, but rather a conscious act by hundreds and millions of hearts.

Friday, March 02, 2012

I remember a really stupid thing I did back in 1999. Some friends and I were camping on the island of Culebra, off the coast of Puerto Rico. Culebra used to be a US military base (like Vieques) until 1975 when the residents of the island successfully managed to have them removed. The military left, and left behind all of their undetonated charges, their tanks and other good things like that. We knew this, but that didn't stop us from taking a "three hour hike" - which actually turned into 8 hours - around the island's tip. We did run across undetonated charges. We saw lots of other things, too, which were heartbreaking. We also heard the military tests on Vieques that killed Daniel Sanes. We heard them and didn't know yet what they were. But there we were, across the water. Hiking through US military detritus.

And now that the military has moved off of Vieques, destroying the local ecosystem and causing conditions that increased health problems for the local residents, they want to move to the neighboring island of Santo Domingo - Kiskeya - and they want to set up a military base on the isla Saona.

Here are some facts (garnered from the petition):

Saona Island is home to several endemic, threatened, or endangered plant and animal species (Abreu & Guerrero 1997), most notably the Hispaniolan Parrot (Amazona ventralis) and the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). the Hispaniolan Parrot is categorized as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN 2010), Currently, the Hispaniolan Parrot is categorized as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN 2010), while the Hawksbill Turtle is categorized as Critically Endangered by the same entity.

Over 112 bird species have been found, 8 species are endemic to the island, 11 species endemic to the Caribbean; including the White Crown Pigeon declared as extinict by the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN). Amongst other species of animals in danger of extinction, you can also find the Manati on the Island of Saona.

It is also of extreme importance to highlight that every year, between December and April, around 3,000 humpback whales come to breed in the warm waters off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Until recently it was believed that only 85% of Atlantic humpback whales are born in Dominican waters and return annually to mate and reproduce. But a recent study revealed that all populations of the North Atlantic come to breed in our waters.

My heart is breaking. I couldn't handle the base in Vieques. I remember crying as we climbed over a ridge and spotted a field of abandoned tanks in Culebra. Why does the US need a military base on Isla Saona?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Over the next two weeks, I will be posting short video interviews with several Dominican activists focused on questions about the current political moment. I will be translating the interviews in English shortly.

The first two interviews are with Marianela Carvajal Diaz and Anny Teresa Figeuroa.