I agree wholeheartedly. As an arab-american with Palestinian roots, I've been encouraged by the amount of support and inclusion so far in the square. This is definitely not something I'm used to seeing, and it is really heartwarming and encouraging. There are of course differences of opinion, and while I personally do not see any reason at all to support a zionist political agenda, I will respect the right of anyone involved with OWS to have their own opinions regarding this issue.
However, there is a difference between having personal opinions and being afraid to hear all sides. What it sounds like happened (and I wasn't there, so I apologize if this is inaccurate) is, with the downward finger signs and general disapproval, and unwillingness to face an uncomfortable truth. If this isn't then time, then when?
OWS is not about being comfortable. Isn't this supposed to be a place where voices that are usually oppressed to finally be heard? If anyone has any critique about anything that goes on in the square, it must be fairly considered. The specific context of the J-14 protests is specifically concerning: yes, the J-14 protests might have been similar to ours in form and style and subject, but the real housing crisis in Israel happened half a century ago with the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and continues today with settlement expansion and an institutionalized policy of racism and apartheid. These are facts that are, at this point, impossible to ignore and undeniable, there is more than enough human and material evidence so that this becomes larger than politics, it is an issue of basic human rights. To speak of the J14 protests without at least acknowledging this reality goes against what I understand is one of the main central productive abilities of OWS that gives it such credibility: a drive to unmask the forms of oppression the national and global system currently creates. Further, it is our responsibility to face these facts: the disproportionately large U.S. financial and political support of Israel makes this issue urgently relevant to our protests.
I second Andy's suggestion for a teach in and discussion between different groups to start coming to an understanding on this topic. I truly believe that OWS is the space for this sort of productive discussion to happen, I've seen it happen, and I'm very optimistic that it can occur again.
On Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 9:41 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
Tonight (Tuesday) was the first Occupy Wall Street outreach training. I was shocked to hear that the first speaker after the introduction would be an activist from the Israeli "tent protests," the racist movement which was fighting for cheaper rents and mortgages for stolen homes on stolen land. OWS has responded to criticisms of
inadequate leadership and participation and addressing of issues by and regarding people of color by fostering discussion and restructuring. The racist "tent protest" movement responded to equivalent challenges from Palestinians by telling them, "shut
up, leave us alone, don't divide the movement."
I waited to hear what the speaker (Ezra something) had to say, and it was as bad as I feared. It was all about the technical issues of outreach and democracy, and not one word about outreach to Palestinians or inclusion of their issues.
When he finished I got the floor (even though there hadn't been discussion time planned for that agenda point) and made some of the above points. Almost as soon as I began speaking murmurs of disagreement and calls of "this isn't the time" and downward "twinkling" hand motions began. One of the facilitators asked the
speaker to respond, and he said "it's a question of outreach. I did outreach to Palestinians in Israel who were leery of joining the movement. You'll have to do the same in the Bronx. The issue of Palestinians in the movement won't be settled here."
Well, yes, Mr. Zionist, it will be settled here. There is a huge Palestinian exile community in the US, with that in NY being one of the biggest components. They want their land back, they want their homes back, and they want the right to return. They have no
interest in a movement which haggles over the rent paid by Jews to Jews for stolen property. They can't even return to visit because of exclusionary laws passed by your racist state.
I have been having a hell of a great time building OWS, especially its labor component, and encouraging Palestinians and other Arabs to join in. That will cease until there is some clarification of exactly where OWS stands on these issues.
I can't continue to encourage Palestinians to come to OWS events for fear that they might be surprised, as I was tonight, by the promotion of a racist Zionist speaker. When 30,000 Bedouins are being driven out of their homes, when settlers are escalating murderous attacks and destroying thousands of olive trees, how can I recruit people to a movement which promotes a speaker who thinks this is all irrelevant?
I don't presume to know what the opinions of the rest of the leadership of OWS is on this question, and I would be happy to help organize a discussion -- preferably with Palestinian activists, the OWS People of Color committee, and a representative group from
the OWS leadership -- to resolve this.
How can OWS promote the great revolutionary speech by Mohammed Ezzeldin on Saturday and then promote this racist tonight?
The REAL movement OWS can learn from in the region is that of the refugees in May and June who tried to reoccupy their homes in historic Palestine by crossing the borders, some of whom were mercilessly gunned down.
Photos have begun to surface in stories about the current Palestinian hunger strike in which at solidarity demonstrations for the prisoners, Palestinians are holding up signs reading "Occupy Wall Street, Not Palestine!" How can we let them down?
Until such time I will be devoting my organizing efforts to where they were overwhelmingly before OWS erupted: the Palestine solidarity movement.
In solidarity (I hope),
Al-Awda NY: the Palestine Right to Return Coalition
For background and context: