Black-Palestine solidarity is making its way to Capitol Hill

On May 13, something remarkable happened on the floor of the U.S. Congress: 11 Democratic representatives delivered blunt speeches criticizing Israel for its military assault on Gaza and its crackdown on Palestinian protests in Jerusalem. Perhaps the most powerful speeches came from two Black Congresswomen — Ayanna Pressley and Cori Bush — who connected the Black freedom struggle in the United States to the Palestinian movement for liberation.

“When Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets to demand justice, they were met with force,” said Pressley, who represents the Boston area in Massachusetts. “They faced tear gas, rubber bullets, and a militarized police just as our Palestinian brothers and sisters are facing in Jerusalem today.” Her fellow Congresswoman Bush, who represents St. Louis, Missouri, said “When heavily militarized police forces showed up in Ferguson in 2014… our Palestinian siblings showed up too.”

The speeches signaled the growing prominence of a small bloc of Black Democrats — which includes Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Ilhan Omar, in addition to Bush and Pressley — who are drawing on their support for the Black Lives Matter movement to denounce Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians. While there have been past Black Democrats who were openly critical of Israel — figures like former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney — the current crop of Black representatives are more robust in numbers and far more influential within the party and its base.

…Black solidarity with Palestine stretches back to at least the late 1960s, when Israel’s victory in the Six Day War transformed the country’s image in the eyes of Black American thinkers. While Israel was once seen as the product of a just national liberation movement, the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula soured leading Black activists on the Jewish state. In the eyes of the Black left, Israel had asserted itself as a colonial power unjustly oppressing the Palestinian people.

Famously, in a summer 1967 newsletter, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), one of the most prominent civil rights groups in the country, published an article portraying the Zionist movement as one that dispossessed the Palestinian inhabitants of their land using tactics of “terror, force and massacres.” Malcolm X, the renowned Black Muslim minister, visited Gaza in 1964, and penned an essay that year linking Zionism to European imperialism. In 1970, the Black Panther Party stated, “we support the Palestinians’ just struggle for liberation one hundred percent.” More here.

Decolonizing Therapy: Why an Apolitical Mental Health System Doesn’t Work

In many cases, traditional forms of therapy feed into ideas of neoliberalism that disregard the context in which communities of color face racism and systemic discrimination.

For instance, people of color often face discrimination in hiring. They may be passed over for jobs even if they have all the qualifications.

But a CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) approach would say you are only responsible for your reaction to job rejections. It might ask you to consider other factors why employers selected other candidates, and take into account that hiring decisions are about specific requirements for a job and not personally about your skills, work experience and qualifications.

While that approach can be highly effective for some people, it still fails to consider systemic discrimination and racial biases.

“In many ways, it is almost like being in a domestic violence relationship because (Black and brown-identifying people) know that they need therapy and counselors,” said Jennifer Mullan, a clinical psychologist based in New Jersey.

Black and brown folks can’t just think their way out of racism. To believe so is Eurocentric.

“Decolonizing therapy involves looking at how the mental health industrial complex continues to inflict a lot of harm on people because it chooses to remain apolitical,” she said.

“A part of this work of decolonizing therapy is about undoing the narrative that just talking about your feelings is enough.” More here.

Entangled Futurities

Beautiful work by Tigre Mashaal-Lively for Entangled Futurities. “Finding mythopoetic inspiration from mycoremediation, Entangled Futurities seeks to disrupt cis-heteronormative narratives of hierarchical reproduction, offering instead an ethic of queer relationality for germinating the futures we desire—where an enduring relationship of mutual aid between multispecies organisms (symbionts) creates the conditions for co-evolution.”

interview with mats grorud and dr. dina matar

had the honor of interviewing filmmaker mats grorud (who directed ‘the tower’) and dr. dina matar (chair of the centre for palestine studies at SOAS) for witness palestine film festival today. a brilliant conversation that we hope to share soon. went for a walk to port jefferson afterwards and got a chocolate ganache raspberry cake from la bonne boulangerie. i’m sold on long island folx. all i need now is for all my friends to move here.

our lives are not disposible

this picture broke my heart. three generations of this beautiful family, a family that looks like mine and so many other families i love, were killed violently by a white man in canada. what hatred and dehumanization have to be deployed for someone to drive their truck into human bodies, bodies made of flesh and bones just like their own. how can someone endure the sickening shock of that murderous, uneven impact? the horrible thud of it? i asked those same questions when an israeli soldier drove a bulldozer into rachel corrie’s body in 2003. she was a vibrant 24 year old, a righteous young woman protesting the demolition of palestinian homes in the gaza strip.

anti-muslim racism and palestine. the connections are unshakeable. in palestine too, the brutalization and extermination of the muslim body is systematically normalized. even the smaller, more delicate bodies of muslim children.

as this happened in canada (the land of nice people), some zionist members of the rochester community were going into overdrive, calling #freepalestine the modern-day equivalent of the swastika, going full-throttle against linda sarsour (calling her an antisemite for her anti-racism work and her palestinian american identity), organizing pro-israel rallies, and trying to derail the political careers of local leaders because they dared to speak up for the human rights of palestinians. it is surreal.

additionally, we are not allowed to talk about it. we are not allowed to talk about our own collective death. i will have to write about this in more detail. for now, i just want to send all my love and solidarity to my entire muslim community everywhere in the world. our lives are NOT disposable.

My Palestinian Poem that “The New Yorker” Wouldn’t Publish

Fady Joudah: For the past few years I have rarely “submitted” my work to publications and mostly responded to editors who solicited my work. I live Palestine in English. But in my heart Palestine is Arabic. And Palestine in Arabic does not need to explain itself. Despite setbacks, disasters, revolving conspiracies against it, Palestine in Arabic is self-possessed. It is exterior to English yet born internationalist and shall remain so — neither thinking it is the center of the world nor surrendering to the imperial center as the primary source of its future liberation. Palestine in Arabic is where the overwhelming sacrifice is made. Palestine in Arabic dreams, lives in and with more than 15 hundred years of literary, intellectual, and ecumenical traditions, belongs to 10 thousand years before that. History does not end for Palestine in Arabic.

[…] Palestine in English navigates the gatekeeping English imposes on Palestine, and on itself with regards to Palestine. Gatekeeping is not just for poetry, memoirs, or novels. It affects op-eds all over the United States. The bullying surveillance in academia is endemic. Holding anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab sentiments that range between subtlety and flagrance is a career move. And since hunting Palestinians in the open is seemingly vicious in a democracy like the United States, a whispering campaign is the next best option, and ghosting them is often the honorable choice. Not infrequently the ghosting is internalized by Anglophone Arabs and Muslims who simply stop trying to keep Palestine visible, expressible. But if anyone wants to come out into the light a little, they must comply with normalized stipulations that placate hierarchical structures, editorial controls, and fact-checking rigor, which may or may not apply equally to all writers on Palestine. No wonder Bartleby killed himself.

There are so many gates to unlock that each time one gate is opened or abandoned so that Palestine can speak in English, it feels like a humanist triumph or a revolutionary breakthrough. Some Jewish Americans, softly Zionist or avowedly non-Zionist, struggle to come to terms with their privileged positions. The power dynamic they hold over Palestinian narration and presence in English is staggering. A Jewish American writer or editor who starts out with pro-Palestinian sentiments may go on to secure a powerful career through which they dominate Palestinian voices in English, no matter how progressive and fortified their pro-Palestinian stance may be. The conversation is, by and large, about American Jewry and Zionism, an internal debate in which Palestinians are most often represented, if at all, by a non-Palestinian representative. More here.

We Do Language

I presented a paper called ‘We Do Language’ today, words from Toni Morrison’s Nobel lecture. So happy I was able to include the following voices, beauty, wisdom and poetry. I’ve gotta admit, I’m loving Zoom:)

Works Cited:

-Anam Cara by John O’Donohue
-Demain dès l’aube by Victor Hugo
-Le dormeur du val by Arthur Rimbaud
-Dasht e Tanhai (In the desert of my solitude) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
-Light at the Edge of the World by Wade Davis
-Linguistic Imperialism: Colonial Violence through Language by Ananya Ravishankar
-Dreaming in Gujarati by Shailja Patel
-A discourse on colonialism by Aime Cesaire
-Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe
-Memory for Forgetfulness by Mahmoud Darwish
-Toni Morrison’s Nobel lecture

Videos:

-Le Mot Juste by Mara Ahmed
-Dasht e Tanhai as sung by Iqbal Bano
-Ngugi wa Thiong’o Interview: Memories of Who We Are

Images:

-A language family tree in pictures, The Guardian
-The emperor Akbar receiving Sultan Adam Gakkar, part of the Akbar-nama, illustrated late in Emperor Akbar’s reign
-Photograph from Mara’s family archive, Brussels
-Women in a Garden on a Moonlit Night, 1744 India, artist unknown, ink and watercolor on paper
-Still from Peau d’âne, a French musical film directed by Jacques Demy, with Catherine Deneuve and Jean Marais
-Abdur Rahman Chughtai (Pakistan, 1897-1975) Spinning Wheel, Etching on paper
-Abdur Rahman Chughtai (Pakistan, 1897-1975) Maiden contemplating moths at a flame, Watercolor on card
-Amrita Sher-Gil (Hungary/India, 1913-1941) Bride’s Toilet, 1937
-Jamdani sari, 20th century, the only surviving variety of muslin that uses coarser threads with traditional motifs, as woven by master-weaver Haji Kafiluddin of Rupganj, Dhaka, photo: Shahidul Alam, Drik Photographs
-Watercolor with two women from Thar (Sindh, Pakistan) by Ali Abbas
-A scene from “SpiNN,’’ Shahzia Sikander’s 2003 digital animation
-Bachi Devi (India, contemporary artist) Peacock on tree, Folk art from the Indian village of Madhubani
-Toni Morrison. Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Bettman/Corbis.

ARTs + Change Conference

I was planning to put a trailer together for my new film ‘The Injured Body,’ but at close to 7 min, it’s more like a preview. This is the first time that people will get a glimpse of all the interviews we did (w 17 remarkable women) and the gorgeous dance performances we shot. I will be showing this never-before-seen, brand new material at a free online conference day after tomorrow, June 3, at 8pm.

I am honored to be a part of ‘Activate, Reimagine, Transform,’ a virtual gathering hosted by the UR Institute for the Performing Arts, in partnership with the UR Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, 540WMain, Inc., Create A Space Now, and Rochester Fringe Festival.

I will be talking about The Injured Body and so much more. It will be multimedia, as usual, with clips from the documentary and the premiere of a film preview.

Will present on opening night, June 3rd, at 8pm. The conference runs June 3-6 and is completely free. Pls register.

March For Palestine

March For Palestine: Jinan Shbat, national organizer for the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which participated in the protest, told Arab News that it was a milestone for pro-Palestinian activism in the US in terms of the size and diversity of the crowd, which included Jewish, African-American, and other ethnic and religious groups.

“For so long, our tax dollars have funded the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people,” she said. “We came today so we can say it loud and clear to this administration that we as Americans will no longer be complicit in funding these atrocities.”

Shbat added that the protest is sending a message to the Biden administration and to Congress that they will be held accountable for their political decisions, and that “we’ll work to replace those who no longer serve our interests.”

Working Towards Indigenous Liberation From Turtle Island to Palestine

Beautiful writing by Nick Estes, citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, brilliant historian, academic, and activist. He exchanged letters with PalFest co-organizer Maath Musleh and wrote about Indigenous struggles and solidarities between Palestine and Turtle Island, but also with Indigenous nations in Bolivia, Venezuela, and Aotearoa.

‘I began this letter in Mni Luzahan (Rapid City), a white-dominated settlement sitting at the base of He Sapa, the Black Hills, our sacred mountains. More than 50 Indigenous nations maintain historical ties to this place, a land stolen from us to mine gold, a metal to us that had no intrinsic value.

This is our al-Quds.

For Lakotas, we call it “the heart of everything that is.” From space, the outline of the mountains looks like a human heart. The stories tell us humanity began here, shaped from the dirt — which is red like our blood.

N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa author, once wrote that his grandmother’s stories of this landscape “lay like memory in her blood.” Confined to the reservation most of her life, she had never visited He Sapa but recounted her people’s history of this place.
Yesterday, I read an article about the migratory birds that fly into Gaza. The quails enter and leave, if not captured by the hungry, doing what many Gazans can’t: they enter and leave the world’s largest open air prison camp.

Last week, millions throughout the world went on strike against climate change — in fear of an uninhabitable world. A young, inspiring Norwegian girl is the poster child for the movement. I wonder: What if she were a Palestinian, Syrian, or Guatemalan child? Would there be the same kind of mass support? No one seems to care that a future has already been taken from these children. They make news only when they die: their bodies wash ashore; they die in a prison camp; or they are gunned by Israeli snipers.

A European child crosses an ocean by boat for a righteous cause, embraced by millions. A Syrian child dies making a perilous journey seeking refuge in the very nations that have destroyed hers — and only harsher immigration laws are passed.
A pit sits in my stomach as I remember the beauty of our mountains, where we became human. What’s the point of saving the planet if billions are still hungry, unsafe, and under the constant shadow of war?’ More here.

The Tower – Interview with Filmmaker

Friends, I am pleased to return to the Witness Palestine Film Festival, on Sunday June 13 at 3pm, to interview filmmaker Mats Grorud and the Chair of the Centre for Palestine Studies at SOAS, Dr. Dina Matar. We will be talking about ‘The Tower.’

This is an important time to learn about Palestine and become a part of the global solidarity movement. You can watch the film on Amazon.

I was one of the activists who helped create the WPFF in 2011. Was on the organizing team for 7 years, so it’s an honor to be back. Hope to see you then!

THE TOWER: This beautifully animated film tells the story of Wardi, a young Palestinian girl who lives with her family in the Lebanese refugee camp where she was born. Her beloved great-grandfather, “Sidi,” was one of the first people to settle in the camp after being exiled from his home and homeland, Palestine, in 1948. When Sidi gives Wardi the key to his old house back in the Galilee, she fears he may have lost hope of someday returning home. As she searches for Sidi’s lost hope around the camp, she collects her family’s testimonies, from one generation to the next. An uplifting film that captures the story of Palestine through four generations.

Root To Leaf by Missy Pfohl Smith

i’d like to share something beautiful this morning. as u know, the warp & weft is an audio archive of stories about 2020, the first of its kind i believe. it weaves together many voices, languages, and POVs. it also includes responses by artists to stories that moved them. the warp & weft is an ongoing project, and today i’d like to share a new artistic/dance response by Missy Pfohl Smith. i am honored that she used my story, about the non-linearity of time and the connectedness between all that we call life, as inspiration for this gorgeous, organic piece. it’s called ‘root to leaf.’ pls watch. this is my story if u’d like to hear it.