Colonization: Bridging Israel and America
I was invited by CPT to come to Hebron and bear witness to the harassment of the IOF, the cruelty and aggression of the illegal Jewish settlers, and the demolition and theft of homes by the IOF for the illegal Jewish settlers. As a team, we accompany Palestinian children and Muslim worshippers as they navigate checkpoints, are stopped and questioned, and as they often face tear gas and rubber bullets. We also place ourselves in situations where illegal Jewish settlers are apt to act violently and we make sure that someone is watching.
We are also in Hebron because this city is a beautiful place. It is not all oppression and occupation, and as such, we bear witness to the resilience of the Palestinian people, the depth of character exhibited by some many of them, the culture, and the peaceful nonviolent resistance that runs through this community.
Stepping into Palestine has required that I engage who I am as a white American because the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and the unchecked land theft of the illegal Jewish settlers is above all else an act of colonization. Palestine is an occupied land where generations of Palestinians have had their ancestral lands stolen, their homes destroyed, and where the future of their children is always in jeopardy. When one escapes the loudspeaker of American media and escapes the propaganda tours of the Holy Land, one comes face to face with the reality that this conflict is at its simplest a massive land grab. It is theft from one people for another people. Israel is colonizing Palestine.
When you accept that Israel is colonizing Palestine, your eyes open and you see the conflict for what it truly is—an oppressed people resisting an oppressive people. Israel employs so many tactics in its quest for land and the Palestinians, as a diverse culture with numerous peoples and perspectives on solutions, respond as occupied and colonized peoples have always responded. They resist violently and nonviolently, they survive, they persevere, and they do their best to plan for a future and to undo the social ills that accompany the poverty that accompanies colonization.
Israeli colonization is familiar to me because as a white American my well-being, my social position, and the country I call home are all the product of colonization. America was built, and continues to be built, for thieves by stolen hands on stolen land. American colonization slaughtered and cleared out millions of indigenous peoples so that millions of black men, women, and children, themselves stolen from Africa because of European colonization, could plow and harvest land and grow the great industries of the American colony with their blood and the destruction of their bodies and families. There would be no America without colonization—just as there would be no Israel without colonization.
Colonization, therefore, must by resisted and it must be undone. I will be here in Palestine for three months. I do not harbor any visions of grandeur, it fact, I wholly reject the myth of the white savior. The occupation of Palestine is not mine to solve. It is the Palestinians and the Israelis that will bring an end to this occupation and they will be tasked with undoing all the evils that 70 years of occupation have wrought in this land, in the bodies of the people, and in the minds and hearts of the occupiers. At best, I can lend my body, lend my whiteness, and lend my American identity as a shield for the Palestinians, as a deterrent for the IOF, and as a witness to the violence of the illegal Jewish settlers.
Where I can make a difference is at home. Coming to Palestine is not escapism. It is a moment to show solidarity. I recognize that the work that I must do awaits me in 85008, in Arizona, and in the United States. Indigenous communities are still being colonized. Their land and their resources are still being stolen to feed American materialism and consumption. Black women, men, and children are still being stolen away to fuel our economy. Only now, instead of the slave auction, their bodies are gathered up by our predatory criminal justice system and they are sold in the courtroom. Latinxs also find themselves prey for American colonization as they are pushed from their homelands by NAFTA and American trade policies and their bodies are exploited to keep the American economy going with cheap labor. When their bodies are not enough, for-profit jail, for-profit detention, and deportation await them.
Work against our own colonization awaits white Americans such as myself. Our minds and hearts have been colonized. We have been reduced to fodder for the rich and we have been brainwashed to exploit and destroy under the guise of our own supposed exceptionalism. As white Americans, working against colonization is as much about ending oppression as it is about liberating ourselves.
This is the work to which I return in three months. I am grateful for the invitation from the Palestinian people to be here alongside them. I am grateful for my new friends and CPT teammates whose commitment and work I join. There is much to be done and it will require us all to work here and now against new and against old colonization.