(Dis)owning the Parallels


Thinking about Gaza again. It does not help that this time, for whatever reason, it has really motivated people on all sides of the debate (yeah, you read that right, “all” not “both.”)  I cannot recall a time in the age of social media when so many people, for so many consecutive days, have posted something, usually many things, about their opinions on this issue. I suppose, despite so much of the vitriol spraying about in all this, that it is a good thing. People are talking and we have not done a lot of that on this issue. So yeah, talking is fine.

We can talk about the history of the Jewish people and how much shit they have had to eat down the centuries. We can talk about the plight of the Palestinians. We can talk about how the whole situation was bungled right out of the gates by the Western Powers, in particular the UK.  We can talk about how there have been so many failed attempts at brokering a peace. We can talk about how maybe it is both their fault, or only Israel’s, or only Palestine’s. We can talk about who shot first and who shot most and who killed the most. We can talk about how maybe the Palestinians have a right to armed resistance, and maybe they don’t. That last one is telling for what we don’t talk about.

Because we DO talk about, on all sides of the discussion, how Gaza and the West Bank ARE occupied. Even the Israelis acknowledge that. Whether or not the Palestinians have a right to fight that occupation though is an uncomfortable topic for many here in America, because the thing we don’t like to talk about, that we so desperately avoid acknowledging, is that we live on an occupied land.

There will be those that will roll their eyes at this. I would like to think that all those doing so come from a particular political stripe, but I know that is not true. I would even like to think they all come from one side of the left-right spectrum, or even everything right of radical leftist, but again, I know that is not true. We don’t like discussing this topic. Not even when we are, in theory, rising collectively to address the struggles of those not to the manor born. We do not like being asked to look at a picture of the ruin of Gaza followed by a picture of the more gradual but no less heart breaking ruin in Pine Ridge.

I would guess in part we don’t want to talk about that because we don’t want to think about it. Oh, it falls in and out of fashion now and then. Once a generation, for about 18 months or so, you will see a handful of movies starring white men as mixed race or trans racial heroes championing the lives of the community they “found.” By and large though, it is better left unheard, unseen, or unfelt, except to dance to some way cool native music. We can’t do more, and certainly cannot look at the parallels, because then we are faced with a very frightening truth.

If we look at Gaza, and ask, whether we say yes or no, whether or not the people have a right to take up arms against their occupiers, then people here might start asking if the occupied here have a right to it. That question, if answered, can get ugly, and maybe, or maybe not, rightfully so. It has happened in my lifetime, on a small-scale to be sure, but it happened none the less. One of the above linked movies gives a nod to the activities, alleged and admitted, of the American Indian Movement. If we ask, again regardless of our answer, whether or not Palestinians can pick up a gun to get Israelis out of their lands, then we might have to ask whether or not it was right for someone to gun down FBI agents in the 70’s, or whether occupied people right here have the right to now. Yeah, I know, scary, especially if your skin is pale-ish.

Yes, getting back to how people will roll their eyes, I know White Settlers have been here a long time. “We can’t go back now,” “what’s done is done” and all that. The funny thing is, those are things you hear from both Israelis and Palestinians. We cannot go back to how things were before the fall of the Ottoman Empire, or its rise. Nor can we go back to how things were before White Settlers started coming over here in droves. It is not realistic. This is not about the past but the present this is about the present that past is a foundation for.

That is a foundation built on germ warfare carried out before germ theory by White Settlers. It is a foundation built on treaties being written and maps redrawn when White Settles discovered gold, or oil, or uranium on land they promised they would not take from the occupied. It is a foundation built on mowing down women and children, or kidnapping those children to steal their culture from them. It props up a present in which small business owners pressure their politicians to break those treaties once again. It is a present in which the only path to prosperity is one that invites crime and addiction. It is a present in which too many live in conditions that residents of Rio shanty towns would pity.

So when we rush to condemn or condone the violence in Gaza, are we really doing so out of the goodness of our hearts, or are we keeping our fingers crossed? It is easy to play devils advocate living half a world away. In your own back yard though, that is a little harder. If we have to look at the causes, and ask the hard ethical questions though, we have to look at them here, whether it is the occupied original inhabitants of this land, or, as a friend pointed out the occupied who were dragged over here only to have the cities they live in fall to pieces as the White Settlers work and play in them but retreat to the safety of their suburban enclaves. I know I am pounding that particular proper noun pretty hard and I know I am one of them, but, and deserving of no accolades for this, I am willing to take a look in that mirror when discussing Gaza, are you?


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