Moments after President Biden thanked his team for their efforts in “bringing about a cease-fire” (that was actually brought about by Palestinian resistance), the social media posts of Palestinian and Arab American progressives across the U.S. echoed a similar sentiment: “We will not stop talking about Palestine just because a cease-fire was announced.” Two assumptions underpin this sentiment. First, for Arab Americans, the concept of “cease-fire” is meaningless as long as Israel continues colonizing Palestine. As we have learned from history, after every cease-fire, Israel has continued to expand its borders far beyond the areas of land it confiscated from Palestinians since 1947 by expelling and dispossessing Palestinians from their homes, as we saw in Sheikh Jarrah and intentionally killing Palestinians en masse. Second, Arab Americans are exceptionally aware that the struggle over Palestine is a battle over narratives. In other words, a persistent pro-Israeli doctrine stifles criticism of Israel in nearly every sector of public debate from the corporate media, to social media, education, and the non-profit industry. As Israel and the U.S. have institutionalized the idea of Israel as the victim, killing Palestinians only out of self-defense, Palestinian and Arab American social movement agendas have prioritized breaking the silence, shifting the narrative, and continuing to talk about Palestine.
Over the last few weeks, the necessity of breaking the silence has been more urgent than ever before. The corporate media has painted Israel’s killing of at least 230 people, including 65 children and its wounding of more than 1500 in the open air prison of Gaza through the longstanding pro-Israeli perspective Arab Americans have been critiquing since the 1960’s. These include the idea that there are two equal sides involved in a “conflict” and that Palestinians and Arabs are violent, anti-Semitic, and uncivilized. Adding insult to injury, Israeli and U.S. elected officials and the corporate media referred to the recent evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah as a “property dispute.” In reality, these evictions are part of Israel’s settler-colonial expansion with grave implications for whether Palestinians will be allowed to remain in their homes in East Jerusalem at all. To be sure, while Israel evicts Palestinians from their homes, it grants Jews permission to reclaim homes owned and occupied by Palestinian families in an effort to fully Judaize Jerusalem. To be sure, Palestinians resisting the bombardment targeted Israel. Yet the 10-1 disparity in casualty figures, reveals the inequities at stake on the ground.
To break the silence, Palestinian and Arab American led social movements like the United States Palestine Community Network in Chicago have been affirming that Israel is a settler-colonialist state all along. Since its inception, Israel has been replacing the original Palestinian population with a new society of primarily European Jewish settlers. To accomplish this goal, Israel massacred 500 villages to create present-day Israel, produced seven million Palestinian refugees, and encouraged 11 percent of the total Jewish Israeli to live not in Israel, but beyond its internationally recognized borders in the West Bank. These more than 750,000 Jews live in colonial settlements on Palestinian land that Israel occupied in 1967.
Palestinian and Arab American movements have also insisted upon the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their original homes and villages and challenged the discriminatory policy whereby Israeli law grants exclusive rights to citizenship and land to any Jew from anywhere in the world, even those who have never been there before. Finally, they have insisted that the Palestinian struggle is not one of a people oppressed by an occupying force in a land far, far away. Rather, the Palestinian struggle is an inherently U.S. one. The U.S. provides Israel with $3.8 billion a year while removing more and more resources from our communities, especially communities of color. BIPOC communities are also heavily impacted by the training of U.S. police by the Israeli military. At the same time, many U.S. citizens reap the economic benefits of U.S. war-mongering abroad and intentionally or unintentionally U.S. taxpayers are also complicit in the U.S.-backed Israeli colonization of Palestine.
This May, Palestinian and Arab Americans are finally witnessing the bursting of the code of silence. On Sunday, May 16, the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine led an unprecedented 25,000 protesters chanting, “Long Live Palestine.” Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia demanded, “It’s time we stand up in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Palestine.” Yet they also recognize President Biden must be challenged as all indicators imply he will resume giving Israel permission to continue its ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Now that the cease-fire has been reached, it has yet to be seen whether that same outrage that drove hundreds and thousands of people to raise a Palestinian flag will continue to inspire solidarity far beyond that singular photo opportunity at the protest on the streets. Yet I am hopeful that in alliance with formations like the Movement for Black Lives, Indigenous People from Turtle Island to Palestine, Anakbayan, and many more, Palestinian liberation has already unequivocally affirmed the unacceptability of Israel settler-colonialism and that we will not stop talking about Palestine.