Jun 14, 2008

Co-opting Struggle?

I had a really interesting conversation with a good friend last night about Palestine/Israel that got me thinking. She was saying that a good number of her Pakistani friends really take the issue of Palestine to heart - but as a matter of Israel/America and Muslims. She said that the conversation is sometimes couched as a matter of faith, as if the "holy war" narrative that we hear sometimes is actually true (if even just because Muslims feel like they are under attack and Israel/Palestine is the front line). But she felt, and said that a lot of people she's spoken to, that this is more of an anti-Arab thing that's happening in Israel - that the Israelis couldn't really care less about other Muslims, as long as they aren't attacking (physically or verbally) the state of Israel. She said her feeling was that Israel was more concerned about getting rid of the Palestinians - Muslim, Christian, whatever.

I found that to be so interesting, and didn't anything to say that added to the conversation, an outsider myself to all sides of the question. But it made me think more about my recent posts about Palestine and the way that the cause of Palestinian people is so below the radar, and so politically unpalatable in the U.S. that we don't hear or see much. Why have I taken up the issue now - can I just attribute that to having more friends who talked about the right of return, widespread human rights abuses, and family members who are directly affected?

Or is it just a badge of being "down" and/or radical (enough?) by taking an alternative position to the norm in U.S. dialog (from the elections to most other conversations about race/religion in liberal spaces here). I don't want to question it too much - but it made me think about it more - motivation is important.

Maybe I've just really whole-heartedly accepted that Zionism is the new white colonialism, and if I'm anything, I'm anti-colonial, and Palestine is ground zero for that.


fathima said...

i was having a similar conversation with a friend recently - well it was similar in that it was about the politics of palestine/israel and what it signifies within activist circles. and he said "i'm tired of your religion hijacking the palestine-israel conflict."
my response was that i am too, that i think it's reductive to consider the conflict in religious terms, which i think a lot of muslims do because it's easy to align loyalties that way. but in fact, as you say, the issue is one about colonisation and that shit cuts across religious borders to more basic issues of simple power struggles.

the fact though that my friend, while not muslim, is brown matters for exactly that reason. when you're already aware of the way racialisation affects you on a daily basis, you're going to also be sensitive (theoretically anyway) to current global colonial realities

which is why i think palestine is a pretty vital locus for cross-network alliances. once people get past the religious symbolics of the conflict, it shows up a lot of key issues around race, class, violence, etc that we're all working with

Rage said...

Fathima: Thanks for reading and chiming in (and nice site!). I definitely feel you on these points, and it's good to know that others are thinking about these questions. I've just come to more of a realization, and I don't want to seem like I'm jumping on a bandwagon, but I'm asking these questions to figure it out - or at least know that I'm not alone in this.

And yeah - when you start thinking about it as objectively as is possible, the issues packaged into what's happening with Palestine really do cut across a lot of lines and allow for dialogue - if people are willing to go there.

Anonymous said...

My dad is pro-israel because of anti-muslim biases stemming from his refugeehood after Partition. I don't know if I'm really part of any bandwagon (i told you how I'm in the boonies ;) - it's a topic that gets extremely vicious responses, unlike the "safe" topic of Tibet. Still others say it gets more attention than what is going on the DR Congo because of racism and the more obvious role of corporate interests.

Rage said...

Yeah. I know there are a lot of things that don't get coverage... but I feel like this one crosses so many common interest lines and impact global politicking to such a scale that it's hard to overstate its importance. And I actually think it's more present in more desi's minds than most non-South Asian issues.

That said - I think Africa gets the shortest stick every single time.

stella said...

I come from a ultra christian religious backgrond (very Pro-Israel) and the issue of the Palistinians seems to be completely ignored. They see it squarely as a religious issue and not a political one.

Rage said...

Stella - thanks for the comment. That's very interesting, and definitely a different take than the friend who prompted this post. I think it really depends on context for people.