I was asked a question earlier this month. I cannot remember the exact wording, but it went something like “is it sometimes ok to be silent to be at peace with oneself.”
If I had been asked this question at another time, or if the question had been asked using slightly different words, I might have given this answer:
We do what we can, where we can, by recognising our own limits, our capacities, and that can be a way of surviving politically, by which I mean, keeping hold of our commitments. Sometimes, then, withdrawal from a conversation or silence in a situation can be how we keep doing our work.
But in the words “at peace with oneself” I heard something else.
They gave me another answer.
There are times when we cannot be at peace with ourselves.
There are times when we should not be at peace with ourselves.
We are in those times.
It is not the time to be silent.
Nor at peace with ourselves.
I do not want not to be shocked by what is happening right now, as I get up, move around, begin each day. I do not want not to be conscious of it, to let myself be distracted by this project or that. If I get distracted, which sometimes I do, I remember how that too can be a privilege, when you are not having to work just to stay alive.
The shock cannot stop when what is shocking has not.
It is shocking, the genocide happening right in front of us, watched, endorsed, justified, cheered, even, by so many officials on the left and the right; the destruction of lives and hopes and dreams, memories, futures, places, spaces, the deaths of so many Palestinian people. I don’t want understanding how colonial occupation works as an architecture of brutality and surveillance, how the military industrial complex is a condition of possibility for the incarceration of populations and peoples; how extreme acts of violence by a state can be justified as a right to defence; how some lives are valued more than others, how some deaths count more than others; how reality is distorted to fit the interests of those who are powerful, made into another weapon, so perpetrators of violence don’t have to see themselves, to stop myself from being shocked by this.
And then the shock of how others are not shocked.
And then, having the Home Secretary Suella Braverman calling protests against the violence committed against the Palestinian people, protests calling a ceasefire, for freedom for Palestine, “hate marches.”
Maybe it is not shocking because of what we know, that long history of justification of the violence committed by Israel through the use of the charge “antisemitism” against anyone critical of Israel, also “extremism,” deflecting not only the critiques but the violence they point to.
You can not be shocked because it has happened before. Because we have been here before.
You want it to be shocking before it is too late.
It is already too late for too many.
You want it to be shocking before it is too late.
The BBC did issue an apology for calling those who marched for Palestinian freedom “Hamas supporters.”
You can apologise for an action but still do it.
Drop the words keep the frame.
Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, wrote a letter to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). She says she finds that its appointment of individuals to its equality, diversity and inclusion advisory group who had expressed “extremist views” disturbing. It is a disturbing letter, singling out and naming two academics (I will not name then because that she named then was itself an abuse of power). One had tweeted that she found the UK “crackdown on Hamas support” disturbing. Donelan demonstrates exactly why it is right to be disturbed. The UK “crackdown” has meant that any person who expresses support for Palestinian liberation or who critiques the actions of the Israeli state, past or present, can and will be treated as “supporting Hamas.”
There would be so much, then, that we would not be free to say or do, because of how it will be dismissed as terrorism or as “support for Hamas.” We are right to be disturbed by the attempt to stop those who support freedom for Palestine from speaking.
Saree Makdisi has described with breath-taking clarity the violence Palestinians speaking to the Western media are not allowed to speak of, “What we are not allowed to say, in other words, is that if you want the violence to stop, you must stop the conditions that produced it. You must stop the hideous system of racial segregation, dispossession, occupation, and apartheid that has disfigured and tormented Palestine since 1948, consequent upon the violent project to transform a land that has always been home to many cultures, faiths, and languages into a state with a monolithic identity that requires the marginalization or outright removal of anyone who doesn’t fit.”
We need to listen to Palestinians, to hear about the violences that would otherwise be left unsaid.
Donelan also calls the communications of another academic “extremist” because she used words the “apartheid” and “genocide” with reference to Israel.
These terms are used widely with reference to Israel for a reason.
So what else are we being told? I can hear what else we are being told.
When we are told calling enforced racialised segregation Israeli apartheid is extremism, we are being told Israeli apartheid is not extremism.
When we are told that naming extreme violence genocide is extremism, we are being told genocide is not extremism.
When human rights lawyer, Craig Mokhiber, the director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, resigned he described what Israel is doing in Gaza as “a textbook case of genocide.” He also said, “The European, ethno-nationalist, settler colonial project in Palestine has entered its final phase, toward the expedited destruction of the last remnants of indigenous Palestinian life in Palestine.”
I understand the need to make this claim “a textbook case” but I still shuddered when I read it. As if that it is a textbook case makes it clearer or more real.
We don’t need a textbook or a definition or the law, even, to call it what it is.
The extremism that won’t see itself. The extremism that says it is not extreme to murder thousands of people, to call them human animals, not to see the difference between all of these people and a terrorist organisation, maybe they see some people vaguely, a threatening brown mass of humanity, racism that blunt instrument, calling them, “the children of darkness,” themselves the “children of light.”
But the marches are happening all over the world because people are seeing it, which also means that people, many, many people, are making it harder for the violence not to be seen, the violence of colonial occupation.
It takes a collective.
Has done, will do.
I remember saying (it’s a killjoy truth, even) this.
There is only so much we can take on because there is only so much we can take in.
Sometimes, we need to take it on even when we can’t take it in: to take it on as to take it out, to get out, to protest, to express ourselves.
To share our solidarity with Palestine.
All over the place.
I am grateful for all the people who are doing that: sharing words and solidarity, Black feminist solidarity, getting themselves onto the streets, into train stations, Sisters Uncut, Jewish Voices for Peace, stopping the traffic, becoming the traffic, chanting for Palestinian freedom, speaking up, speaking out, sometimes risking their own livelihoods in doing so. I am grateful for podcasters who are doing that, speaking out, speaking up, for radical publishers (also here), who are doing that, sharing resources on Palestine, a history, ever present.
We need these resources. We need each other more than other to show up, turn up, however we can, in our queer ways, so they cannot contain it, the violence, the injustice, the sheer abject cruelty, the devastation of a place and a people, screen it out, the blinds down.
I learn from Audre Lorde. I always do. I reread her 1982 address “Learning from the 60s,” given as an address to Black people on the occasion of Malcom X weekend at Harvard University. Lorde says in her address that “revolution is not a one time event” but means becoming ever “vigilant for the smallest opportunity to make a genuine change in established outgrown responses.” In this address, Lorde gives an account of the times she is living in.
We are Black people living in a time when the consciousness of our intended slaughter is all around us. People of Color are increasingly expendable, our government’s policy both here and abroad. We are functioning under a government ready to repeat in EI Salvador and Nicaragua the tragedy of Vietnam, a government which stands on the wrong side of every single battle for liberation taking place upon this globe; a government which has invaded and conquered (as I edit this piece) the fifty-three square mile sovereign state of Grenada, under the pretext that her 110,000 people pose a threat to the U.S. Our papers are filled with supposed concern for human rights in white communist Poland while we sanction by acceptance and military supply the systematic genocide of apartheid in South Africa, of murder and torture in Haiti and EI Salvador. American advisory teams bolster repressive governments across Central and South America, and in Haiti, while advisory is only a code name preceding military aid.
Decisions to cut aid for the terminally ill, for the elderly, for dependent children, for food stamps, even school lunches, are being made by men with full stomachs who live in comfortable houses with two cars and umpteen tax shelters. None of them go hungry to bed at night. Recently, it was suggested that senior citizens be hired to work in atomic plants because they are close to the end of their lives anyway.
Can anyone of us here still afford to believe that efforts to reclaim the future can be private or individual? Can anyone here still afford to believe that the pursuit of liberation can be the sole and particular province of anyone particular race, or sex, or age, or religion, or sexuality, or class?
Lorde’s words echo as wisdom in history, her descriptions of her time, too relevant to our own. She calls for us to pursue freedom for all. It is an urgent call, a question turned into a bolt of electricity, to anyone of us here. I hear in Lorde’s call for anyone of us here, to be committed to revolutionary change in the work we do, with our full selves and with each other. Lorde says, “To refuse to participate in the shaping of our future is to give it up. Do not be misled into passivity either by false security (they don’t mean me) or by despair (there’s nothing we can do). Each of us must find our work and do it. Militancy no longer means guns at high noon, if it ever did. It means actively working for change, sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming. It means doing the unromantic and tedious work necessary to forge meaningful coalitions, and it means recognizing which coalitions are possible and which coalitions are not. It means knowing that coalition, like unity, means the coming together of whole, self-actualized human beings, focused and believing, not fragmented automatons marching to a prescribed step. It means fighting despair.”
I learn from Lorde and many others what it means to fight for change, to be in solidarity with Palestine, to form coalitions across our differences, keeping them in mind, making them meaningful, to march but not to a prescribed step, to fight, and to fight despair. We become vigilant for the smallest opportunities for change before they close like windows.
We work for change whether or not it is coming.
Because that is the right and just thing to do.
Yes, each of us can only so much. Together, we can do more.
#SolidaritywithPalestine. #FreePalestine. #EndIsraelliApartheid #EndtheOccupation #CeaseFireNow