Crashing the Party: Protesting Apartheid Celebrations in Seattle

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-gila

The following are two speeches, one by myself and the other by Wen, given at a rally protesting Israel’s Independence Day at the University of Washington in April, 2009.

Each year, the Zionist groups on campus take the opportunity to hold what they call “IsraelPalooza,” which they frame as a purely cultural Independence Day celebration.  As part of the Palestine solidarity campaign that Wen and i were involved in, we decided to crash their apartheid party.Crash IsraelPalooza Flyer

While the Zionists tried to emphasize their event as a celebration of Israeli culture, we decided to celebrate 61 years of Palestinian resistance to apartheid.  At their event, they offered live music, henna, hookah,  falafel, and a “dialogue” tent, ostensibly to prove that they were nice, reasonable people.  However, once we began our rally not far away, the white supremacist insults began.  First we heard, “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian, you idiot!”  Later, Zionists tried to verbally and physically provoke those on our side.  We held our cool, while the campus police, who had promised to keep the groups separated, stood back and did nothing to prevent the Zionist hostility.

After several speeches were made and some lively chants recited (including: “From Mexico to Palestine, tear down the wall!”), we began a loud march around the perimeter of the apartheid party.  Being that the event was outdoors and advertised as free and open to the public, we decided that we would enter their settlement-like party as a contingent.  However, when we tried to enter, the cops formed a human barricade and denied us entry.  While they were not willing to intervene when the Zionists were trying to provoke physical fights, the cops were all too happy to bar us from a free event.  In comparing the two opposing sides, as we stood face to face with each other, two things were clear: 1) They were overwhelmingly white and we were majority people of color; and 2) The cops were willing to use force to “protect” the whiteys and their “culture” from all the scary brown people.  For a brief moment that day, it was like we were living under legally enforced segregation.

Just in case their white supremacy wasn’t obvious enough, the Zionists helped make it crystal clear when one of them yelled at our brown group, “Swine Flu.”  When an anti-Zionist Jewish woman who was part of our rally tried to enter IsraelPalooza, the cops barred her, while a couple Zionists behind the cops screamed, “Don’t let her in.  She might be a suicide bomber.”

Anyway, after a lengthy showdown with the pigs, we marched through campus, still full of energy, right to a local Palestinian falafel restaurant.  The food there was good; much better, i imagine, than the appropriated, blood-soaked falafel that the Zionists were giving out.

I wish i could post video from the event, but it has been lost, so i am posting the flyer for the event along with the two speeches.

Wen’s Speech:

The Zionists at Israelpalooza are over there, celebrating a state founded through ethnic cleansing.  They are celebrating a state which continues its brutal siege against Gaza. We are here, instead, to celebrate over 61 years of Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation and apartheid.  We are here to celebrate all people of colors’ struggles against white supremacy.

We know that, where there is oppression, there is always resistance.

Palestinians are not just helpless victims, waiting for Western charity from hypocritical human rights organizations, that bow down to US and Israeli powers. They have fought back, and they continue to fight back.

In 1987 during the First Intifada, Palestinian people organized popular committees in their neighborhoods. They mobilized the community against Israeli occupation. They set up schools, food assistance programs, civil defense committees, and they fought against Israeli tanks in the streets.  These were democratic organizations, where everyone was active in the decision making process.   Palestinian women fought on the front line and mobilized the survival needs for the community.  By doing this, they challenged the patriarchy of both the Israeli military and the Palestinian elites who saw them as inferior and submissive.

But the Israeli Defense Force sent tanks against Palestinians and their families. The military was afraid of a movement that brought together a broad spectrum of Palestinian society. Even though the Zionists say they are for democracy, they crushed democracy with their tanks everywhere they saw it.

That is why all people who believe in democracy should stand with the Palestinian people against Israeli apartheid.  That’s why we are all here today, Asian, Black, Latino, indigenous, and white.  We are people of different genders and religious and non-religious backgrounds and we are here to challenge this celebration of Israeli apartheid.

But our opponents tell us this is not our struggle.  They want us to distance ourselves from the Palestinian people.  They want us to play the role of good people of color on their terms. They want us to be OK with the false peace that is the status quo of our societies. They want us to accept Peace as security only for the Israeli state, and continued racist domination over Palestinians. They see any form of our resistance against oppression as irrational and crazy.

But we have been through this before. We know from our histories, that resistance is justified when people are occupied. From the anti-colonial movements in Asia, Latin America and Africa, to the Black power movement, to the Stonewall riots here in the US, oppressed people have not given in to these false notions of peace. We remember that justice delayed is justice denied. Anti-colonial movements around the world had never forgotten about Palestine. They have seen the Palestinian anti-apartheid struggle as intertwined in their own struggles against Western imperialism, and so today, we continue to keep that legacy of resistance alive.

Colonizers and imperialists, from Israel to the US, like to justify their attacks by saying they are saving Third World women and queer folks.

They want Muslim women to take off their veils to breathe the so-called freedom that comes with occupation.  But every time Muslim women raise their fists in the air to fight apartheid, the IDF destroys their entire family and community. What kind of women’s liberation is that?

A Zionist on the CampusQ listserv[the listserv for the queer support/resource center on campus] said, it is ridiculous that queer folks are protesting against the Israeli government which gives more gay rights than the US. But, the idea that Israel is a haven for all queers is a complete myth. While some Israeli queers get to have sex with whoever they want to, Palestinian queers in Israel are racially profiled, coerced by necessity into becoming prostitutes on the streets of Tel Aviv. This is if they are not already under house arrest by the IDF simply for being Palestinian. What kind of queer liberation is that?

We are people of color, women and queers in solidarity with the Palestinians who resist Israeli apartheid every day. While Gaza continues to be under siege and CIA is on our campus recruiting people of color and women to attack our own people, we are reminded that our struggle is not over. We are not the good people of color, not the quiet women or fabulous queers- we are here to celebrate and continue the Palestinian resistance, and to take back full democratic control of our nation, our land, our culture, our campus, our movement.

Why is Israel a White Supremacist State- by gila

Isn’t this beautiful – not that over there – but this, all of us here to celebrate 61+ years of resistance to Israeli Apartheid.  The organizers of Israelpalooza say that their event is not political.  But whose culture they are celebrating and whose they leave out is a very political choice.

Some people have asked why we say we are “crashing” their Israeli Independence Day party.  They say this is too confrontational.  Well we are crashing their party today simply because we are uninvited guests.  The groups hosting Israelpalooza may talk about dialogue and peace but the reality is they don’t want us here.  They don’t want us here because THEIR celebration of Israeli culture is based on silencing and suppressing Palestinian resistance to Israeli apartheid.  They don’t want to be reminded that the Palestinians DO exist, and that the majority of the world stands in solidarity with them from S. Africa to S. Korea.  Our opponents over there at Israelpalooza are serving Arab food and smoking Arab tobacco but they don’t want to live next to Arab people!  We are rallying to remind the campus that there is another side to the story, the side they are segregating and putting out of sight.   It’s the same thing that Native American rights groups do when they crash Thanksgiving and Columbus Day celebrations.  As Blue Scholars [a hip hop group out of Seattle] put it, ” no more flag waving celebrating your invasion, you call it Thanksgiving, we call it Things Taken.” We are here to say that we will not be made invisible!

Zionists try to equate Jewish culture and identity with the state of Israel.  Using this sort of logic, the organizers of Israelpalooza will claim that our opposition to the State of Israel is anti-semitic. But this logic silences Jews who are anti-Zionist, who do not support the state of Israel, including folks here on our side today.  Let’s be clear, we are not here because we are anti-semitic, and we will not tolerate any anti-semitism here today, in this movement, or in any other movement.  The real reason we are here is because we are protesting against Apartheid and white supremacy.  This right here is our celebration of a long history of Palestinian resistance.

Why do we define Israel as a white supremacist state?  In their endeavors to create a Jewish-only, Jewish-run state, the Zionist leaders partnered with racist, European imperialist powers.  Together the Zionists and the imperialists continued the brutal colonization of the lands of people of color. To enlist the help of Britain, the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, once said that a Jewish state in the land of Palestine would form “a portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.”  Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir even went so far as claiming that the indigenous people, the Palestinians, do not exist.  Zionists have used their ideology to try to justify the ethnic cleansing and occupation of an indigenous people.

Israel was founded on the myth that it was “a land without a people for people without a land.”  Of course, the fact that Palestine was a richly populated area presented a problem to this Zionist lie.  To deal with the problem, the Zionist colonialists expelled three quarters of a million indigenous Palestinians from their homes.  After the expulsion, they created Jewish-only roads and neighborhoods and forced Palestinians to ask for permission from the Israeli military in order to travel even in their own neighborhoods.  This is apartheid, and an apartheid state like Israel should never be celebrated. Yet, that is exactly what the racists do every year on Israel’s Independence Day.  They celebrate Israel’s claim that the land is for Jews only   During Jim Crow in the U.S. and during Apartheid in South Africa, whites said the same thing: this land is for whites only.

Today, Palestinians are forced into smaller and smaller parcels of land, and then told that these ghettos and refugee camps will be their independent state.  Israel surrounds these lands with concrete walls, barbed wire and military bases.  Essentially, the lands that are supposed to make up the Palestinian state are nothing more than tiny reservations, nothing more than Palestinian Bantustans; nothing more than open-air prisons.  And yet over there at Israelpalooza they are claiming Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.  Folks, a prison is not a democracy!

Despite this devastating apartheid, Palestinians have resisted, linking their struggle to other struggles against white supremacy and colonialism around the world. We are here today to celebrate and continue those struggles! Free Free Palestine!

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3 thoughts on “Crashing the Party: Protesting Apartheid Celebrations in Seattle”

  1. i remember Bao and myself were responsible for communicating with the police and university administrators. the goal was to try to get the to commit to their own minimum standards of bourgeois civility and democracy.

    in hindsight there are a couple lessons we can learn from that experience, although generally i think we did a great job.

    1) i don’t remember the exchange exactly, maybe you do Bao, but i believe there was an understanding that cops would provide security for both sides. the nature of this security was abstract. disruptors were allowed to come into our protest and try to provoke fights. our organizers did the right thing by engaging one-on-one with the disruptors as a distraction.

    later, when we tried to enter apartheid-palooza, as gila mentions, we were denied entrance. should we have called out the hypocrisy earlier on?

    2) the UW student council president told the Native student group holding their org’s sign which had the student council logo on it that they had to cover it up b/c the student council didn’t support the rally.

    i think we failed to socialize this and force the UW student president to take a position: either he supports anti-racist movements against apartheid, or he supports white supremacy

    3) planning the end of a rally is sometimes the hardest thing. after the confrontation with the police and the Zionists i think there were a couple false endings, and the confrontation continued. i’m not opposed to this. sometimes this happens, but the numbers trickled off slowly. what are ways to end that confrontation or such a march in a position of strength.

    i’m remembering how some of the RUMs in Detroit during the 60s organized their rallies. they had a number of different targets. after they protested the bosses at Chrysler HQ and the cops showed up, they went down to the union hall for a rally that indirectly challenged the conservative union bureaucracy.

    what do others think?

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