US President Donald Trump’s first week in office far exceeded our worst fears. The sloppiness, incompetence, and inconsistency he had demonstrated while campaigning may have suggested to some wishful thinkers that he would not act upon all or most of his claims, but the rapid fire volleys of his executive (dis)orders clearly indicate otherwise.
Nevertheless, as the orders came in, millions of Americans were ready. By mid-January, we had gotten over the shell shock of the November election results. The post-inauguration “Women’s March on Washington,” and all sister marches across the nation, had invigorated and inspired us. Millions felt the energy that masses of like-minded people coming together can generate. Indeed, problematic and inappropriate as the term is, considering the impetus behind the mobilization, many participants described the Women’s Marches as “parades,” rather than rallies against the unabashed misogyny of the new administration.
When, barely a week in office, Trump issued his Muslim Ban, cities and smaller towns across the nation erupted again in rallies and marches. Millions of Americans took to the streets, protesting Trump’s executive order, proclaiming that they will oppose the Muslim Ban, and protect its targets. Among the more common, well-intentioned signs seen at these protests, were “We Are all Immigrants,” and “This is a Nation of Immigrants.”
But the reality is, we are not all immigrants.
When we say we are a nation of immigrants, we are glossing over way too much history. We are glossing over the fact that this is indigenous land, which some Europeans have settled. And when we erase the indigenous experience as we speak of the US being a nation of immigrants, we are continuing the erasure of the ongoing genocide of the original people of the land, which in turn facilitates the evasion of accountability. This is colonized land.
And as we say this is a nation of immigrants, we are glossing over the fact that the US was built with the labor of millions of enslaved Africans who did not choose to emigrate, but were kidnapped and forcibly brought here, in chains, in the dark holds of slave ships.
When we say this is nation of immigrants, we are glossing over the fact that thousands of us here are refugees who want nothing more than to go home, but that this country, where we now reside, has made our return impossible.
Palestinians cannot return because the US enables Israel to continue its occupation of our homeland, and the denial of our human rights, including the Right of Return.
Indeed, the US is a “nation of immigrants” just as much as Israel, which has dispossessed and continues to disenfranchise its indigenous population.
Moral and political consistency requires that anyone who condemns the Muslim ban in the US also condemn that ban in Israel which, in its determination to be the Jewish state, denies equal rights to non-Jewish citizens, while offering privileges to all Jews, whatever their country of origin. By denying Palestinians their Right of Return, Israel has had a Muslim ban and a Christian ban for decades, thus contributing to the global refugee problem which Americans are now becoming aware of, as displaced people fleeing for their lives finally arrive here. Many Palestinians have been refugees since 1948, living in Iraq and Syria first, before additional massacres and hardship pushed them even further from their homes, all the way across the Atlantic. The horrific circumstances of Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus are a case in point. Criticizing Arab countries for not being sufficiently welcoming of the Palestinians is pointing the finger at the wrong culprit: Israel is the country that displaced the Palestinians, turning them into a predominantly-refugee people, and their misery will not be ended when they are welcome in Kuwait, or Dubai, rather, their plight will be over when they are allowed to return to their homes, their homeland. Until very recently, one in three refugees globally was Palestinian, despite the fact that Palestine is a very small country.
And the US-Mexico wall Americans are protesting? As Ben White noted, Israel has also had a so-called “security wall” for decades. What White did not mention in that article, even though I suspect he is well aware of it, is the fact that it is an Israeli company, Elbit Systems, which is contracted with the surveillance of the US-Mexico wall, as it does the Israeli Apartheid Wall. (Yes, there already is a wall, Trump would only be completing it, not starting it from scratch).
Immigrants to the US all have our stories about how we came to be here. These stories are different, and must be addressed differently. For Palestinians, support does not only mean opposing Islamophobia in the US, it also means addressing the reasons we are the longest standing refugee problem in modern history. So when Americans chant “No Ban No Wall,” and declare their solidarity with refugees everywhere, they should understand that their protests are insignificant if not accompanied by a demand to end Zionism, the racist ideology behind a country that had practiced, since its very first day, the harshest discriminatory measures, the “extreme vetting” Trump is now suggesting.
But change is in the air, and it’s not all bad. One of the chants at the protest was “From Mexico to Palestine, All Walls Will Fall.” It is a chant that indicates an awareness of our connected struggle. Just as the “Gaza to Ferguson” connection that surfaced during the riots against police murders of African Americans in various US cities, the chant linking the Mexico Wall to the Israeli Annexation and Apartheid wall is a sign that points in the right direction, one of global struggle, global solidarity, global alliances. It is the sign that gives meaning, and integrity, to chants like “the people, united, will never be defeated.” And just as “Gaza to Ferguson” has entered and taken hold of American consciousness, expanding our understanding of solidarity and intersectionality, so “No Ban No Wall” and “All Walls Will Fall” must and will become part of American resistance.