I Stand with Palestine
...And Every Asian American Should Too
“There is in addition the hegemony of European ideas about the Orient, themselves reiterating European superiority over Oriental backwardness, usually overriding the possibility that a more independent, or more skeptical, thinker might have had different views on the matter. In a quite constant way, Orientalism depends for its strategy on this flexible positional superiority, which puts the Westerner in a whole series of possible relationships with the Orient without ever losing him the relative upper hand.”
— Edward Said, Orientalism
At the beginning of May, I was rereading Edward Said’s Orientalism for an essay and I can honestly say—with my entire heart—that he was the one that really radicalized me. My first encounter with Said was during my first semester of college when I took a class called Identity Politics. It was his interpretation of the Orient-Occident binary that captivated me and inspired me to pursue Asian American identity politics.
Up until I read his book, I never found the clarity I needed to fully understand my own politicized identity. Both the Asian American man politicized identity and the Asian American woman politicized identity are seen as monolithic and homogenized identities resulting from essentialism. However, the Asian American woman politicized identity is distinct from the Asian American man politicized identity because sexual racism inhabits a disparate realm for each of them respectively. The Orient-Occidental relationship between Asian Americans and the United States government becomes prevalent in this situation, re-establishing not only that Asian Americans will submit to Western dominance but also the concept of gender roles. Where Asian American men are deprived of their masculinity and become the least desirable partner, the Asian American woman is seen as the epitome of the Orient as well as the most compelling conquest to the Occidental.
“Much of the personal investment in this study derives from my awareness of being an ‘Oriental’ as a child growing up in two British colonies. All of my education, in those colonies (Palestine and Egypt) and in the United States, has been Western, and yet that deep early awareness has persisted. In many ways my study of Orientalism has been an attempt to inventory the traces upon me, the Oriental subject, of the culture whose domination has been so powerful a factor in the life of all Orientals. This is why for me the Islamic Orient has had to be the center of attention.”
— Edward Said, Orientalism
It must be said. As Asian Americans, our liberation is inherently tied to a Palestine that is free from Israeli occupation. Sinophobia and Islamophobia intrinsically stem from Orientalism; it is the West’s need to dominate and colonize the Oriental, whether it be the Asian “Oriental” or the Middle Eastern “Oriental,” that makes Asian American allyship with Palestine so important. As we advocate against Sinophobia and its contribution to the anti-Asian hate crimes, it is essential for us to also stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Recently, the #FreePalestine hashtag has been gaining a lot of momentum on social media, and I want to make sure that we are all on the same page.
On February 15, 2021, the Jerusalem District Court evicted 6 Palestinian families from their homes in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They were to vacate by May 2, 2021.
On April 2, 2021, the Jerusalem District Court evicted 7 Palestinian families from their homes in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They are to vacate by August 1, 2021.
This amounts to 58 Palestinians, 17 of them children, being removed from their homes to make space for Jewish settlers. This is ethnic cleansing at its core—to create a Sheikh Jarrah that is purely Jewish, despite Palestinians legally having a deed to their homes there. While the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah has been trending, it is important to note that the Israeli government is forcefully evicting Palestinians in other occupied Palestinian territories such as Silwan, Jaffa, Umm al-Fahm, and Khan al-Ahmar as well.
On May 7, 2021, the final Friday of Ramadan, Palestinians gathered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque to protest against the Israeli eviction orders. The Israeli police responded by closing off the streets leading to the mosque and forcing Palestinians to go through identity checkpoints. This ultimately led to violence, as the Israeli police initiated the use of tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse Palestinians who were praying at the mosque.
On May 10, 2021, Hamas began launching rockets towards Jerusalem. Yet, there is no stopping the American media from demonizing Hamas and calling it a terrorist organization. By this definition, the Israeli government is also a terrorist organization. Let’s not forget it is Israeli forces that initiated violence at Palestinians who were merely praying during their holiest month. I want to make it clear that Hamas exists because of Israel, and America has been funding Israel since 1949 with our tax money. It is no surprise then, that our media is highly saturated with pro-Israel propaganda.
“Images of Palestinians fighting back against Israel’s occupation make their way onto American television screens—and the Israeli military crushes this resistance in brutal ways that undercut Israel’s image as underdog and victim. Then Israeli officials go into full hasbara mode and act like the occupation doesn’t even exist, framing all Palestinian resistance as terrorism and Israeli aggression as self-defense. That’s the basic hasbara strategy in a nutshell.”
— Sut Jhally, Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts
Occupation of the American Mind
So when Andrew Yang tweets a statement that is pro-Israel, it is not the exception; it is the norm. There is nothing that connects Democrats and Republicans together like pro-Israel lobbying groups—one of the most influential being the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC. On top of that, since the 1990s, 82 pro-Israel political action committees (PACs) have contributed to funding political candidates, compared to 17 pro-Arab PACs.
Let’s take a look at the other Asian American politicians. They all have a history of being pro-Israel, starting with Vice President Kamala Harris:
Congresswoman Grace Meng:
Congresswoman Judy Chu:
And Congressman Ted Lieu:
I’m going to need all of us, as Asian Americans, to use our privilege to speak out for Palestinians because this is not a conflict. A conflict implies that Israelis and Palestinians are on equal footing. They are not and never have been. Israel has been committing settler colonialism against and oppressing Palestinians since 1948, when Zionist leaders declared the state of Israel according to the proposed borders in UN Resolution 181. We must acknowledge that Arab leaders had already rejected UN Resolution 181 in 1947, which required the splitting of Palestine into two separate states. Jewish people constituted a third of the population, yet it was recommended that they receive 56% of the land. Palestinians constituted two-thirds of the population would receive 44% of the land, despite possessing more than 90% of historic Palestine. No matter how you look at it, this proposal is an unfair population exchange. Why should Palestinians have to give up any of their land to the Jewish settlers? To support Zionism, the nationalist movement that Jewish people are entitled to a state in historic Palestine, is to support the colonization of Palestine.
While Israel was celebrating the creation of their new state in 1948, Palestinians were undergoing the Nakba, the Arabic term for “Catastrophe.”
Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians from a 1.9 million population were made refugees beyond the borders of the state. Zionist forces had taken more than 78 percent of historic Palestine, ethnically cleansed and destroyed about 530 villages and cities, and killed about 15,000 Palestinians in a series of mass atrocities, including more than 70 massacres.
— Al Jazeera
“The Nakba did not start or end in 1948”
Every year, Palestinians commemorate the Nakba on May 15 and this year marks the 73rd anniversary. There is simply no liberation for the Palestinian people until the end of the Israeli occupation, and for that to happen, America needs to stop funding Israel. Please take this time to unlearn the pro-Israel propaganda we have been fed and relearn the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As Edward Said once say, “We can not fight for our rights and our history as well as future until we are armed with weapons of criticism and dedicated consciousness.”
Consider watching the documentary Occupation of the American Mind. It is free and will help you understand how the Israeli government, the US government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces to create an unequivocally pro-Israel American media.