You often hear of 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒌 in the context of Black parents in the US having a conversation with their children about speaking with law enforcement or authority figures. It stems from a need to protect children from a rampant and systemic profiling problem that views their beautiful black skin as a threat, as aptly described by Rudy Francisco in his book helium (pictured below)
There’s a parallel to that same 𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒌 in many Arab, Muslim, and in particular, immigrant households in the US, albeit with a different flavor. 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒌 in such households revolves around what you can and can’t say publicly. It’s often in relation to calling out homegrown Islamophobia, US meddling in world affairs or, the untouchable, criticizing 𝑰𝒔𝒓𝒂𝒆𝒍. It’s the common “𝘣𝘢𝘴 𝘏𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘣𝘪, 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘴𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵! 𝘠𝘰𝘶’𝘭𝘭 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘥” or “𝘋𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘬 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘨𝘦 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘺𝘰𝘶’𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘪𝘯” with the “that” referring to speaking out about what is currently happening in #Gaza, or openly discussing what is otherwise an at home murmured commentary on US destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the rude awakening they experienced when that kid at school pulled her hijab off while everyone else stood watching.
True, both stem from a parent’s unconditional love for and protection of their child. From tireless hope that if they shoulder that pain and shield their children from the world’s ugly unfairness, perhaps they will remain safe and enjoy a better future.
But let’s not overlook the fact that both 𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒌𝒔 also stem from, and are the direct result of, a system that is meant to vilify and oppress, to dehumanize and subject.
A system that benefits the few at the cost of the many.
A system that our children, empowered by our love and despite our worry, will challenge and will change.
If you read this and can’t relate,
If you read this and feel defensive or guilty,
If you read this and think it’s overblown hyperbole in too sensitive a culture,
If you read this and think it’s complicated,
N̳o̳n̳e̳ ̳o̳f̳ ̳t̳h̳a̳t̳ ̳m̳a̳t̳t̳e̳r̳s̳
What matters is if you read this and want to help.
In that case I suggest that you do whatever is in your capacity to make space for the narratives that make up the beautiful mosaic that is our society. People are at their best when they are seen, when they are heard.
A conversation over a cup of coffee is making space
An invite to lunch is making space
A recognition of obstacles and barriers is making space
Removal of obstacles and barriers is making space
Seeing the human and not their label is making space
#realtalk #DIBE #HumanizingTheLabel
This might not be the cleanest piece of writing I have ever done but to try and be articulate while I attempt to convey the messy, stomach-churning roller-coaster twists and turns of my emotions while watching the world cup unfold in Qatar is akin to translating old Arabic poetry into modern English. One can get close but can never really capture the essence of it. Not that anything I experienced is poetic, but it is in its own right a saga of epic ebbs and flows, highs and lows, and a coming to terms with an ugly reality.
A quick note on who I am for context.
I am a Palestinian who was born and raised as a refugee with a resident status in Qatar. I have been living in the western part of the world for 26 years, 3 in Canada early on and the remaining 23 in the United States. I really don’t have time nor energy to explain in full detail what Palestine is and why I was a “refugee” in Qatar, but I’ll give you, dear average American reader with a very one sided and superficial understanding of a “conflict” that exists on my homeland, a quick tutorial on the issue. Before you wave the “it’s complicated” flag behind which you have been conditioned to hide or get defensive about your knowledge of the Mideast, please know that if I was a gambling man betting on the knowledge of the typical person reading this then I would walk away with a large sum of money.
Palestine is currently occupied by a colonialist, expansionist, apartheid regime called Israel. Sorry but I will not sugarcoat, or whitewash, the monstrosity that continues to wreak havoc on my people, aided and abetted by the United States’ annual $3.9 billion dollars foreign military financing and 53 vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, by calling it a “conflict”. It’s a straight-out occupation that is aimed to erase Palestine and Palestinian culture off the face of the earth. Whether by physically, ethnically cleansing major areas such as my hometown of Yebna or by coopting and appropriating Palestinian cultural symbols (from Jerusalem to Hummus) the Zionist movement that originated in Eastern and Central Europe in the late 1800s and is now known as the state of Israel cares for nothing but its own existence, even if at the cost of lives, properties, and the truth. My parents, who in their childhood fled the brutal occupation of their hometown, ended up in Rafah near the Egyptian border with their families. After high school and a refugee travel document issued by Egypt, my father fled the oppressive occupation of his land and moved to a little country called Qatar in the early 60s and secured a job as a salesperson with a small automotive spare parts company. Shortly after that he returned to Rafah, married my mom and then the both of them established their lives in Doha. My four siblings and I were all born and raised in Doha, only moving to foreign lands after high school in pursuit of higher education and a chance at gaining a passport somewhere that serves more than just a reminder of your misfortune as a displaced, unwelcome, individual. Why move and not stay in the country of your birth you ask? Allow me to explain.
In the early 1960s, Qatar, which was a protectorate under Great Britain until 1971, has not yet fully realized the potential of the oil it discovered in its lands in 1940. It was still a fledgling economy that needed help getting built. It was also an Arab country wrestling with the mixed emotions of pride in becoming an independent country after the collapse of the Ottoman empire a couple of decades earlier, and the humiliation of being under the protection of Britain which shamelessly hoodwinked all Arabs into believing that Palestine, the Jewel of Muslim and Arab lands, would also gain its independence in exchange for Arab support against the Ottomans (h/t the conniving Lord Balfour). Qatar welcomed many Arab nationalists but in particular it opened its lands to Palestinian refugees to come and settle, obtain gainful employment, get free healthcare, and free education (taught mainly by non-Qataris, exhibit A my mother who taught elementary school girls for decades), BUT remain as expats or refugees. Everyone who is not Qatari by birth was a resident whose access to all these benefits hinged upon the family’s breadwinner’s employment and the visa sponsored by the Qatari citizen who employs them. No citizenship by birth, no pathway to naturalization (except in some rare cases where a member of the royal family, or someone with access to the royal family, views your services as indispensable), and no legal way to own property (those who had the money put the property in the name of their visa sponsor with a” gentleman’s agreement”). One’s employment was the family’s lifeline, if the breadwinner becomes unemployed, he, typically a “he”, must find another employer and sponsor within a short period of time or find another country to host them. I, born and raised in Qatar, was not allowed to call it home and was aware at a very early age of the anxiety inducing, employment contingent, residency status that we lived under. And as a resident, you had to watch what you say and be especially careful of who you say it to, so you don’t get yourself, or family, in trouble. Such oppression of freedom of expression was cloaked in the “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” sentiment and hence not a lot of people raised their voices to criticize the government or its practices towards its vast migrant population. Taking all of that into consideration, it was my parents’ mission to make sure that we all obtained higher education and sought places where we can be granted citizenship. That’s why I did not stay in my country of birth.
And now in 2022, twenty-six years after I left Qatar, I sit here as a Palestinian, Canadian, American, Muslim and watch the country I always wanted to call home but couldn’t, get both vilified and lionized through the game I learned to play and love on its streets. I am equal parts proud, nauseated, elated, defeated, hopeful and overwhelmed with a yearning for something I know will only exist in my heart. Soccer, or football as it is called pretty much everywhere else outside of North America, is so complex, yet so easy to understand; A universal language that is understood across all boundaries and cultures. A game that brought 1.4 million people from around the world to Qatar and brought half the of the world’s population to their TV screens, computer screen and radios. A massive stage for the first ever Arab, Muslim, country to host the World Cup since its inaugural tournament in 1930. A stage that shone a huge spotlight on Qatar and we got to see it warts and all.
There is no question that Qatar violated its migrant laborers’ rights, that work and living conditions were subpar, some wages were garnished and, most importantly, lives were lost due to unsafe working conditions in its mind-blowing construction frenzy to host the world cup. Exploitation of foreign nationals is not something to look away from or offer excuse for. It’s not something that is explained away with a “yes, but” kind of narrative or “whataboutism”. It is something that Qatar should, and to some extent did, acknowledge, compensate for, and improve upon. It is something that is self-inflicted, and the cure comes from within. But, and this is not a “but” that is meant to overlook or turn a blind eye to the abovementioned rather a “but” to give a full picture of the situation, the nauseating hypocrisy by which western institutions, governmental and media, have approached this issue leaves one with an aftertaste of western snobbery and reeks of colonial self-righteousness. A typical “we are the measuring stick of civilization” approach to anything that runs counter to the western notion of civilization was on full display. From crying about not having alcohol at the stadiums, attempting to enforce what it deems moral on the host country despite both running afoul of the country’s religious and moral codes, and purposefully directing attention from the successful, albeit tarnished, accomplishments of that tiny Arab, Muslim, nation, the west has shown how a narrative that runs counter to the “uncivilized Arab” image that is ingrained in its media is deeply unsettling. Qatar engaged the world beautifully in its hospitality, generosity and showcasing of Arabic and Islamic culture and instead of being measured and objectives in its approach, major western media outlets threw a full-on tantrum that spoke to the fact that Orientalism is still alive and well.
The pride that I, and millions of Arabs and Muslims across the globe, felt for such representation was immense and uplifting for the millions who have been looked down upon. Typically viewed by the” civilized” west as backwards, war torn, and impoverished lump (I’ll leave west’s involvement in such realities for another piece) who contributed nothing to the world’s advancements (because the world stood still between the fall of the Roman empire and the rise of the industrial revolution), the opportunity Qatar gave us to look the rest of the world in the eye with pride in our heritage, our culture and who we are as people is monumental. Now, to be clear, I take no pride in the obnoxious amount of money Qatar spent on this event (an estimated $220 Billion dollars) nor do I take pride in the infrastructure created for a month’s worth of use, but I do take pride in how Qatar and its citizens, Arabs, and Muslims from across the world presented themselves.
Especially as a Palestinian.
To see the Moroccan team’s Cinderella-esque story unfold in that context (although, and I am sorry not sorry haters, a brown skinned Cinderella) competing with the biggest names and displaying phenomenal talent, making it to where no other Arab, African, Muslim country has made it before was historical. To see on full display the reverence they have to God by prostrating in thanks to Him (not to the fans …*ahem* ESPN), and to their parents to whom they run and plant a kiss on their heads, grab them by the hand and bring them to the field to celebrate, filled my heart as a Muslim who sees the embodiment of the Quranic teachings of his faith counter Orientalist tropes and as a son who lost his parents in the past few months. And to see the Palestinian flag waved with the Moroccan flag after every win, to see it worn, waved, face painted on by people from all backgrounds and ethnicities, is a sight to behold. A sight that filled me with pride as I see that even though the rest of the world may ignore the plight of the Palestinians, the Arab people along with people of conscience still carry Palestine in their hearts and justice may still have a chance. You have to understand that as a Palestinian whose story is always distorted in the western media by the hasbara machine, whose cause is “political” and “not to be mixed with sports” while the entire soccer and sports world wear Ukrainian flags, display solidarity with Ukraine and disdain to Russia (stances that I support 100%) not too long after players were banned, fined and futures destroyed for speaking out about the atrocities in Gaza or the ongoing occupation of Palestine or the wiping out of Uighur Muslims in China, I felt something that I haven’t much felt in the past 26 years, hope for justice for my people. That along with an overwhelming sense of disgust at the bold-faced hypocrisy.
As a Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, American who works on advancing more nuanced conversations about complex issues of justice and to humanize the labels imposed upon him by a society that uses such labels as indicators of worth rather than a celebration of wonderful variety, the reductionist approach to the complex civilization, culture, history and yes, problems, that the World Cup in Qatar exemplified was disheartening and dispiriting as I come to realize the size of the Goliath I am up against.
And the kicker is, all the pride, the hypocrisy, the love, the hate, the elation, and daunting depression was triggered by a 28” ball kicked on a rectangular field by 22 players.
Many thanks to Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, Inc. and for the people who showed up to support #Palestine.
Below is the text of my speech
When I was asked to speak today, I was overcome with a sense of “I don’t want to be here”
I don’t want to be here today
I don’t want you to be here today
Let me rephrase,
I wish we didn’t HAVE to be here today.
I wish we gathered for different reasons
but here we are again caught in a seemingly endless cycle of Israeli aggression followed by an outcry from concerned citizens hoping to get some meaningful action
Ladies and gentlemen
Peace seekers everywhere
I am tired of reading and hearing in the news mind blowing numbers of “people who died in a conflict”
I am tired of having to correct the word died to killed....mercilessly, indiscriminately, callously
I am tired of having to elaborate on the word “people” to spell out the fact that those killed are Palestinian civilians of whom the majority are women and children
I am tired of having to explain that when a colonialist, expansionist, apartheid regime invades and continually occupies a peaceful nation it is NOT a conflict
I am tired of how the life of a Palestinian has been reduced to the price of the indiscriminate bullet that is fired towards her
I am tired of our government, regardless of make up, annually giving $3.8 billion in foreign military financing to Israel,
I am tired of our government having used its veto power 53 times against draft U.N. Security Council resolutions critical of Israel
I am tired of the current administration, despite the current situation, approving over $750 million in military aid to Israel
I am tired of the complacency and complicity of those who cowardly hide behind the “it’s complicated”
I am tired of saying that my father who passed away last month, was 8 years old when he witnessed the ethnic cleansing of his hometown to establish Israel 73 years ago
I am tired of the absurdity of being blamed for being a victim
I am TIRED of trying to prove my humanity
I AM TIRED
WE ARE TIRED
But we will never be defeated
Because injustice never lasts.
Tyranny never lasts
Apartheid never lasts
Brothers and sisters in justice
Brothers and sisters in Peace
Brothers and sisters in humanity
Make your voices heard
Free, free Palestine
#Palestine #PalestinianLivesMatter #Jerusalem #gaza
Fall semester of 2000, I was at Wayne State University in Detroit finishing up some pre-pharmacy courses needed to complete my application to their pharmacy program. It was also the time when, in an attempt to appeal to the far-right citizens of Israel, Ariel Sharon gave the proverbial middle finger to the world and to the peace process by marching up Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site for Muslims, surrounded by military and a handful of politicians. The visit was the spark that ignited the second intifada (uprising) of Palestinians. So in an effort to raise awareness about the situation I, and a handful of other Muslim and Arab student activists, worked tirelessly to put together a rally on campus and within a couple of days. A response was needed, and needed immediately, before the blood of the victims could be allowed to cool.
The next steps happened in rapid succession and things fill into place almost effortlessly. speakers from respected local human rights organizations were quick to agree to take part and volunteers enthusiastically worked on placards, posters, and fliers.
The day of the event started in a typical fashion with some who want to show support but are not fully understanding how their way of doing it may cause harm than good. There was Ali who wanted to wave a black flag while having his face covered, Adel whose frustrations with the situation manifested themselves in profanities and Lucas who just wanted a mic to air out his frustrations. Of course there was also Michael who wanted to convince everyone else in attendance that the Palestinians brought this onto themselves. Overall however the event was a success. Many people walked by, many more engaged in conversation and took some brochures that explained the situation. No yelling, no screaming, no damage to property (a none sensical argument the student affairs office tried to make) and certainly no shortage of people who showed up and showed support.
After the event, a student representative from an African American Student Association on campus came up to me and said “I wish we knew about this beforehand, we have hundreds of members who would have been right here beside there brothers”
That perhaps was the most meaningful and most eye opening comment I have ever received. At that point, I had only been living in the US for a few months. Prior to that I had lived in Canada for three years and before that I was born and raised in a Muslim majority, Arab country. My limited exposure to US internal politics and my consumption by my own Palestinian struggle, limited my appreciation for how, in the fight for justice, we are all brothers. Up to that point, I never thought of other than Palestinians or Arabs as brothers in our struggle for peace, for justice, for being seen as full humans
The more I learn about the oppression of African Americans in this country, the more I believe that, to positively impact the situation in Palestine and elsewhere, we must understand the black American experience and we must stand hand in hand to refuse hate, reject color and race based sense of superiority and stop state sponsored discrimination and oppression.
The below is a picture from the latest issue of National Geographic which dedicated most of its content to the Tulsa Race Massacre.
“Why do you [insert question]?”
I've been asked many a variation of the above question. From the seemingly innocuous “Why do you do that?” to the outright belligerent “why do you hate us?”
The “you” in that question is usually in reference to one of the layers of my identity; the ones that precede the hyphen... Muslim-, Palestinian-, Arab-, Immigrant-American.
The question, usually accompanied by an accusatory undertone and a “this is weird” air about it, presupposes that I speak on behalf of that entire hyphenated population. As if my choices in life or the way I express certain things, which are influenced mainly by how, not where, I was brought up, are representative of “them.” The “them” I purportedly represent is seen by the questioner as a monolithic group that does not mesh with, or is antagonistic to, the American way of life.
It is asked, as you may have figured, by someone who does not belong to the group inquired about. Someone who is typically of the majority.
And, unfortunately, it happens way too often.
In my experiences, the above-mentioned questions surrounding my hyphen are frequently employed by those who consider the “other” less than or unworthy. I have witnessed it used, often systemically, to place minorities – such as African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American or Arab-Americans – at an arm's length from being just American.
Don't get me wrong, I fully embrace the multiple components of my identity and appreciate their complex intersectionality, but I wholeheartedly reject the use of the hyphen to denote a “less than” status of American. Unfortunately there are more than we would like to admit of those who will always view me, and others like me, as less than, but they are not where I choose to expend my energy. Trying to convince them otherwise is an exercise in futility as their questions are not asked to seek understanding but rather to express their opinion about me.
Now, I understand and fully appreciate the fact that we as human beings are naturally curious. The unfamiliar intrigues us and we seek to understand it. Therefore, I would rather engage those who have questions but are unsure how to ask them. Those who doubt the inflammatory rhetoric they see on traditional and social media. The ones who reject the pressure to fit into an “us” box despite it being tempting and relatively easy for it can be validated and reinforced by their echo chambers.
I'd rather expend my energy on those who refuse what is being peddled and seek truth through understanding.
But we as a society seem to have lost the art of simple, civil conversation. We avoid asking the questions that may expand our understanding in fear of coming across as offensive. We choose not to engage in heated discussions for fear of coming across as defensive. We dance around meaningful conversations to spare ourselves the inconvenience of hurt feelings.
It seems we have bolted down the doors to our silos and replaced intrigue, curiosity and interest with suspicion, anxiousness and fear. And no, you can't hang this on “political correctness” or the “oversensitivity” of people. This is nothing but the product of replacing genuine curiosity and intrigue with crippling, mostly unfounded, fear of the unknown. And that falls squarely on the shoulders of those who choose to stick only with one side of the hyphen over the other.
To better the relationships among our various communities, to enhance the beauty of the mosaic that is the American society, we need to overcome disinformation, hype and unfounded fear. That cannot be accomplished without deep and honest conversations.
Such conversations cannot take place without trust, and trust cannot be established without developing friendships, and friendships do not form when each of us is behind closed doors.
Go out there, assume well of each other, reach across and embrace the beauty of our diversity.
this article first appeared in the journal gazette 08/26/2019 http://www.journalgazette.net/opinion/columns/20190826/preconceptions-set-by-hyphen-limit-diversity-discussion
Advice to young activists from an old one:
- Your family loves you and may react to your activism anywhere from “be careful” to “quit that before you get your ass shot”. They’re not trying to stifle you. They’re just worried about you. Be patient with them.
- Speak your truth but understand your audience. Context is everything
- Be firm yet humble. You know your story but you may not know how to tel it well. That’s where more experienced activists come in. They don’t know your story but they have told theirs, so learn from them how to tel your own
- Know your capabilities but understand your limits. You might not be the leader you think you are, or ought to be, but that doesn’t mean you’re not valued or your contribution is not important. Figure out your piece of the puzzle
- Change will come and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see it.
Two quick teachings from prophet Mohamed that I’d like to share with you this morning in light of events from the past 72 hours since the New Zealand shootings
“One who is not thankful to people is not thankful to Allah “
“لا يشكر الله من لا يشكر الناس”
Sincere thanks to everyone who has showed up or reached out since the news broke out. From local police department sending police cars to patrol our mosques, to local religious leaders sending “we are here for you” emails, to “I’m thinking of you” texts from friends and to everyone who showed up last night at the interfaith vigil to show solidarity. Thank you. Your love and support helped ease the pain of our local Muslim community and reassured us all of the reason we call Fort Wayne home.
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith".
عن أبي سعيد الخدري رضي الله عنه قال: سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول: "من رأى منكم منكرًا فليغيره بيده ، فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه وذلك أضعف الإيمان" ((رواه مسلم))
Thoughts, prayers, signs of solidarity send the message that we all are thinking of each other and that we care. But we can’t stop there as that is the weakest form of faith and knowing my Fort Wayne community, our collective faith is much stronger. So we must speak, write and act to change the tides of bigotry and hate. This is not a Muslim specific issue. This is an all of us issue.
I look forward to seeing how we will make the world a better place for our children.
In peace and love.
This article was originally published at The Joirnal Gazette http://www.journalgazette.net/opinion/columns/20190313/impartial-broker
“There is no such a thing as Palestinian,” interrupted a gentleman in the audience at the Allen County Public Library during a presentation by Miko Peled titled “Beyond Zionism” in 2013.
Peled, a former Israeli soldier turned peace activist, was invited by the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace to offer his honest and powerful perspective on the atrocities of Israel's occupation of Palestine. His story is especially poignant when one considers how deep his roots run in Israel.
His moving story of transformation and account of Israel's crimes against Palestinians was met with jeers from some people and the aforementioned declaration from the gentleman in the audience that I, and more than 12 million other Palestinians, are just a figment of the world's imagination.
The experience from about six years ago is not the first nor the last ugly reminder of what it means to be Palestinian, especially in America. I filed that incident in my mind as just that – ugly – because you get accustomed to this sad reality when your life is deemed less than, your own existence is denied, and your truth is challenged every day.
Hyperbole? I beg to differ.
Take, for example, Israel's former deputy defense minister, Eli Ben-Dahan who, according to Times of Israel, referred to Palestinians as animals in 2013: “To me, they are like animals, they aren't human.”
In March 2015, then-Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said, in reference to Arab citizens who are not loyal to the state of Israel, “Those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe.” Lieberman went on to become Israel's defense minister in 2016, only to resign in late 2018 in protest of a truce in Gaza, calling it a “capitulation to terrorism.”
And Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's current prime minister, in an interview on March 10 said Israel is “not a state of all its citizens.” His government has been responsible for the worst violence in Gaza, which has claimed the lives of more than 2000 and injured more than 10,000 Palestinians since 2014. The life of a Palestinian is reduced to the price of the indiscriminate bullet that is fired callously toward him.
All of this happens under the watchful eyes and protection of our U.S. government, almost regardless of who is in power. Not only do we annually give $3.8 billion in foreign military financing to Israel, but also, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, the U.S. has used its veto power 44 times against draft U.N. Security Council resolutions pertaining to Israel since 1972.
Every time Israel is to be held accountable for its crimes against humanity or violations of international law, our government stands up and gives the rest of the world the middle finger by virtue of its veto power. How exactly are we an honest broker of peace?
Exaltation of Israel as “the only democratic state in the Mideast” and its protection from any and all forms of condemnation or discipline is the most bipartisan issue of all time. In response to peaceful calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel by Palestinians, a move inspired by South Africans' response to apartheid, 27 states to date (including Indiana) have passed legislation making it illegal for any state-affiliated organization to do so.
And it does not look like that will stop at the governmental level as there is legislation being taken up that would consider any criticism of Israel anti-Semitic, further conflating a Zionist, militaristic, expansionist state with a beautiful religion. We have seen this with the recent backlash Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, received for merely questioning the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, on our politics.
So I ask: If I, as a Palestinian, am not allowed to speak of Israel's occupation and subsequent ethnic cleansing of my land in June 1948; and if I, as a Palestinian-American, am to watch my U.S. government unabashedly support my occupier militarily, politically and financially; and if I, as a Palestinian-American, am not to have the right to condemn, criticize or boycott my occupier; then what am I to do?
If every single part of who I am is under attack, fought, discredited, delegitimized and dehumanized, then what am I to do? How do I prove to you that I exist?
Chickpeas soaked overnight, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt mixed and prepared the right way make a delicious plate known across the globe as hummus (To my fellow Americans, please note that pumpkin spice is not in any way, shape or form part of the ingredients).
Hummus, a staple dish in almost every Middle Eastern household, has been claimed by many nations as “their” dish. People will tell you, with a wide smile, that “their” delectable dish of hummus, is prepared using recipes that were handed down for generations. They will stake their claim of original ownership as they share a plateful of it with you, but they will never share their secret ingredient (again, never pumpkin spice). This mostly friendly feud over ownership of a food that is really owned by none has become a playful “food wars” quip. Take for example this video trailer of Hummus!The movie
Here is the description as posted by the Israel Film Festival in Singapore on YouTube
“In Hummus! The Movie we are introduced to three main characters – a hard working Muslim woman, an ever-smiling Jew and a young Christian Arab, who despite their historical and cultural differences, have one thing in common… a passionate love of Hummus!”
Sounds playful and fun right? A fresh breath of air in this Arab-Israeli “conflict”
But this seemingly innocuous, friendly feud over a dish is not really all that innocent. While some may get worked up about others culturally appropriating what they feel is rightfully theirs, most miss the more insidious effect of such acts of propaganda.
The video is very calculated and well produced to give the viewer the impression, under the guise of a seemingly harmless cultural/religious feud, that Israel is a pluralistic, democratic society. It’s saying, “Look we have Jews, Christians and Muslims living alongside each other and having a fun, friendly dispute over food” Meanwhile every 30 seconds you get a flash of this
A map with the word Israel in bold over a region that even extends past the boundaries of current day Israel (Israel’s actual land aspirations are a subject of another article).
In the video, the mention of Palestinians is incidental and unremarkable (the gentleman saying he is Israeli, but his roots are Palestinian) and they are referred to as Arab. Arabic is nothing but white noise in the background as even the Muslim Arab woman is speaking Hebrew.
My issue is not appropriation of hummus, my issue is that the movie continues with a narrative that is untrue and, unfortunately, widely accepted in western societies. A narrative that portrays Israel as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Meanwhile Israeli bulldozers are razing Palestinian homes to make room for settlements and Israeli forces, supported with a $3.9 Billion annual aid from the US, are beating peaceful protestors for simply demanding freedom.
Such hasbara (a form of propaganda aimed at an international audience, primarily, but not exclusively, in western countries. It is meant to influence the conversation in a way that positively portrays Israeli political moves and policies, including actions undertaken by Israel in the past. Often, Hasbara efforts includes a negative portrayal of the Arabs and especially of Palestinians) is not limited to the world of food. Israel lately has been riding the coattails of interfaith activities and initiatives to further promote its fictitious image of tolerance and coexistence.
Take for example the latest event making the rounds in the United Sates. A supposed “multicultural women’s empowerment program” where 12 Israeli women (notice Israeli) Jewish, Muslim and Christian share how they “discovered they have much more in common” living in western Galilee. This is yet another attempt at diverting attention from the realities of Israel’s atrocities on the grounds. A government that subjects millions of Palestinians, original inhabitants of the land, to the daily humiliation of military checkpoints and random curfews. The same government that often prevents congregants from attending weekly Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque. The same government that has killed thousands and injured many more.
This faithwashing of the occupation is intended to dupe us into believing a deceptive image of interfaith coexistence on the same land the Israeli government has driven its original inhabitants, who truly coexisted peacefully, from. An elaborate scheme that unfortunately many Muslims have fallen prey to (The event that took place in my town was co-sponsored by a local Muslim organization that did not do their due diligence).
Israel’s occupation of the mind is far more dangerous than its usurping of land. Their conflation of Judaism and Zionism and their constant, tireless barrage of a skewed narrative is nothing but a ploy to cover up and an attempt scrub all the blood it’s spilled, and continues to spill, over the past 70 years. Israel is an apartheid, colonialist, expansionist government that is aided and abetted by our US government’s unwavering monetary, military and diplomatic support. This intentional sanitization of an ugly occupation further victimizes its victims and we cannot, must not stay silent in the face of such injustice.
My latest article published in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
“I'm color blind.”
It's a statement employed by many to convey that they see everyone equally and that race plays no factor in how they treat others. They assume, and I believe with good intention, that by doing so, they are helping improve race relations and that, by looking beyond someone's skin color, they are combating some of the divisive race issues that continue to plague our country.
Although such an approach can be viewed as admirable and, as stated above, most likely stems from a well-intended place, I believe it to be harmful and, to an extent, selfish.
It's harmful because it perpetuates the fallacy that we're a post-racial society – that race is a thing of the past and plays no factor in how people are currently viewed and treated. This simply flies into the face of current reality for many.
If we're a post-racial society, then why do we still peddle the false notion that black people are inherently more violent and disproportionately attack white people, while data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows that the “vast majority of most crimes are committed by a person of the same race as the victim”?
Or that immigrants, especially those with darker skin, are more likely to commit crime than citizens while, according to an article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology, “quantitative research has consistently shown that being foreign born is negatively associated with crime overall and is not significantly associated with committing either violent or property crime”?
If we are truly a post-racial society, then why is race still a real and palpable concern for many walking our streets? I've witnessed it with friends who have to think about when and where they are because of what their skin color, accent, language or religious garb may invoke.
The most sobering and honestly most heartbreaking account of such a thought process is a story I heard on the radio. In an interview on NPR, a self-described 6-foot-plus black Ivy League law professor said that many times, when he's alone in public, he intentionally whistles songs from “Frozen,” the Disney movie, so others would know that he has children and not perceive him as a threat! Just imagine the effort it takes to just be, and ask yourself, are we really a post-racial society?
According to current age distribution in the U.S., at least 25 percent of the population was alive and at an age that comprehended, or lived in a household that was actively engaged in, the civil rights movement in one way or another (i.e., for or against). We can't, in our celebrations of the successes of the civil rights movement, neglect the major percentage of the population that was actively against it.
I don't think that enacting a few laws simply made those who were vehemently and often violently against it change their mind. We need to stop sanitizing history and address these issues head on. It will take hard work over a couple of generations to clean that stain in order for us to truly become a post-racial society.
“I'm color blind” is also selfish because, in a way, one is saying “I don't see color, I don't contribute to these issues, therefore this is not my problem.” History, however, does not stop and start with you, and you can't detach yourself from society. If you're blessed enough to not experience what the marginalized experience, then it is your duty as a member of society to help actively reduce factors leading to their marginalization.
Race is a social construct. It has no biological bases. If we can Frankenstein it into what it is now, then we can just as well deconstruct it and put it to better use. You can't simply be complacent, because if you're complacent, then you're complicit.
Not seeing someone's color, and how that color is perceived, viewed and treated, will not make the problems associated with it magically go away. You need to see the full spectrum of color and all that that entails; you need to acknowledge all of it; and you need to address it. Each and everyone of us has to work, in our own capacity, to contain such evil that continues to plague our society.
That is done in many ways, but the best way is the way in which you feel most able. It can be by denouncing the use of the N word when you're with a group of non-black friends, or by telling your story, which would negate a negative propagandistic stereotype about “your people,” or by simply upholding yourself to the highest moral of “treating others as you wish to be treated.”
You need to see me, and in full color, because if you don't see me, then I don't exist.
Palestinian, Muslim, American, Husband, Father, Academic, Pharmacist, Coffee Addict, Nutella phene, Pseudo writer, Soccer player, former Canadian, Community servant, Pinch hitter imam, interfaith ninja, Intellectual vigilante, and the undisputed KING of snark