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If you stand up for Palestine in America, ‘you’re the devil,’ Junot Diaz says

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On September 30, novelist Junot Diaz gave a Presidential lecture at Clark University in Worcester, MA, and late in the appearance, a woman asked Diaz about his having signed a letter protesting Israeli funding for the Brooklyn Book Festival last month. Diaz said that scholars who speak out for Palestine can be driven out of MIT and have their tenure revoked — “that’s literally the reality.” Note that he is the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Minute 54:

Yeah. The Brooklyn Book Festival and speaking in solidarity with Palestinians… What’s weird is I’m one of these old school activists. Before I was a writer I was an activist. Super boring! I’m kind of still an activist. Not kind of, I still am. It’s really like the identity my friends knew me before I was any kind of writer. Again guys, it’s sort of strange but I grew up in the 80’s in Central New Jersey and every single kind of colonial settler colonist calamity was present in my community. So get who my friends were, right! My friends were an Irish immigrant kid, the only white kid in our community, the only one, and hard core Irish Catholic republican. His family was not republican as you guys think, republican in the Irish terms. His family used to pass the hat around in church to raise money for the IRA…. This was the 80s, you guys, they would get up and be like, British occupation, 22 Irish were killed, let’s throw money in and the hat would go round…

My other friend was an Egyptian kid whose family extended into Palestine, and throughout all the 80’s, while everybody else was like watching like John Hughes movies, this kid had me on point on Palestine. This kid was “like this and like that and like this and like that.”

And then of course this was at the height of the apartheid movement. So all of my African American friends, well I should say, two of them, not all of them, two of them had parents who were part of  that whole leftwing, you know, fucking pro-ANC, anti-apartheid movement. So I’m in this poor community and this is all just getting beamed into my head.

So by the time I was in college, I could give you chapter and verse on anti-Zionist projects. And look guys, you know– for many people it’s like a really tough issue. It’s like, we’ve kind of gotten deranged so that there are certain areas we can’t discuss. And of course the situation in Palestine is never– is like an utter taboo in this country. You know, it is an utter taboo. It’s like our ideas of terrorism, our ideas of Arabs, are over-saturated with the most negative, weirdly-perverse racist ideologies. I mean I can’t even turn on the news for five seconds without hearing the most fucked-up racist shit about Arabs or Muslims that would never pass muster if we were talking about any other group. And so in that kind of atmosphere it’s just a shouting match. You know if you’re like, I think the occupation of fucking Palestine is fucked up on 40 different levels, people are like, you’re the devil, we’re going to fucking drive you out of MIT, we’re going to get your tenure taken away, we’re going to destroy you.

I mean that’s like literally the reality. Where you can say almost anything else. You could be like, ‘I hate humans.’ … Bien. Bien. [unintelligble/Spanish/laughter]

I mean, I’m sorry guys, just forget it, I mean just as a basic human being, on the basic, basic level: If you are occupying other people’s shit, guess what, you are fucked up. [Wild applause] That’s that. I mean, that’s that. and that’s a tough thing for people to stomach, man. Because we live in a country that’s currently occupying people’s fucking land. [Applause] Like, god forbid, Americans are so deranged about Palestine because Americans are thinking,  like yo, if we give up here, these fucking Indians are going to want their shit back. Well maybe they should get their shit back. Since 90 percent of us don’t own anything, I dont’ know how much it would hurt us. But whatever.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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22 Responses

  1. seafoid on October 6, 2014, 10:32 am

    “Since 90 percent of us don’t own anything, I dont’ know how much it would hurt us. But whatever.” That is dope, as the MCs say

    He’s not part of the machine.

    What a mind. Thanks, Phil.

    • just on October 6, 2014, 11:27 am

      “What a mind. Thanks, Phil.”

      No kidding. What a great speaker, too!

      So happy to hear the applause and laughter.

    • Krauss on October 6, 2014, 8:32 pm

      I always laugh when I see non-white immigrants pretending to give a shit about Native Americans, claiming they should “get their land back”, because I know and everyone know that these people are not serious. Because they would then have to move out of the country where they came from – and so would most white Americans.

      Native Americans have become a political tool by people who don’t really care about them but who use them to bludgeon people who care even less.

      Would Junot give up his privileges and top 5% salary? Laughable.

      • Eva Smagacz on October 7, 2014, 3:35 am

        I don’t believe Indians would insist on people leaving, if we acknowledged that America’s land belongs to them. Would they be any worse that white people that own the land? I doubt it. What I can believe, is that they would insist on land being treated with much more respect.

      • on October 7, 2014, 9:47 am

        What’s laughable is how every single thing is twisted to support the colonization of Palestine by the Ashkenazi.

      • Donald on October 7, 2014, 11:11 am

        “Because they would then have to move out of the country where they came from – and so would most white Americans.
        Native Americans have become a political tool by people who don’t really care about them but who use them to bludgeon people who care even less. ”

        I assume you’re sufficiently self-aware to realize that your own post reads exactly that way. You live here, you’re not moving, etc… To me you sound like you’re trolling. Congrats–it’s working.

        Anyway, the idea that white people need to move back to where they came from or that Israeli Jews need to move out of Israel is stupid–it’s what rightwingers say, whether they are defending Israel or defending white privilege and I wonder why you think it is clever to echo them. The point is to achieve equality, not bring about some new form of ethnic cleansing.

  2. seafoid on October 6, 2014, 11:12 am

    The speech from 54 mins on reminded me of this song

  3. adele on October 6, 2014, 11:34 am

    Junot Diaz is literary gold, be interesting to see if the zio-power elites will try to smear or blacklist him for his pro-Palestinian leanings.

    • just on October 6, 2014, 12:23 pm

      They can’t take away his Pulitzer or his many other prizes/awards, his talent or his own identity.

      They’ll try, but they won’t succeed. His audience sounded very appreciative and engaged.

  4. amigo on October 6, 2014, 12:48 pm

    He is history.No way he will pass the “civility ” test.

    Send him to the UI course on ” How to be civil ” when addressing Zionist crimes.

    One question for him??.Were there no Unionists in his neighbourhood making collections for the UDA/UDF.

    • on October 7, 2014, 10:54 am

      A lot of neighborhoods in America in the 1980s that were big UDA/UDF hotbeds in your mind?

  5. JLewisDickerson on October 6, 2014, 7:50 pm

    RE: “If you stand up for Palestine in America, ‘you’re the devil,’ Junot Diaz says”

    MY COMMENT: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose! ~ Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1849
    Literally translated as: “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”
    Commonly translated as: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Cotton Mather]:

    Cotton Mather, FRS (February 12, 1663 – February 13, 1728; A.B. 1678, Harvard College; A.M. 1681, honorary doctorate 1710, University of Glasgow) was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author and pamphleteer; he is often remembered for his scientific role in early hybridization experiments, his stance as an early proponent of inoculation in America, and for his role in the Salem witch trials. . .
    . . . Bancroft notes that [Cotton] Mather considered witches “among the poor, and vile, and ragged beggars upon Earth,”[41]:85 and Bancroft asserts that Mather considered the people against the [Salem] witch trials to be witch advocates.[41]:85 . . .

    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_Mather

  6. RoHa on October 6, 2014, 8:06 pm

    “My friends were an Irish immigrant kid, the only white kid in our community,”

    Eh? Isn’t Diaz White?

    • on October 7, 2014, 10:55 am

      A Dominican considered white in America? How long have you lived here?

      • RoHa on October 7, 2014, 10:19 pm

        I grew up here, and I came back here ten years ago, but what does that have to do with America?

        I’ve lived in America, too. Spent five years there. I know that there are black people and white people, and that mixed people are called black even when they are white. I know that there are people who call themselves Irish even though they have never been anywhere near Ireland. But I don’t know about Dominicans. Diaz looks pretty white to me. Is he from the Dominican Republic? Do Americans think that he is not white?

        Ils sont fous, ces Américains

        https://d262ilb51hltx0.cloudfront.net/max/800/0*i5hZn5b0xoDrGVgn.jpeg

      • Mooser on October 8, 2014, 1:03 pm

        “Do Americans think that he is not white?”

        I’m sure everybody looks at that through his or her own particular filter. The question is, how much does it matter?

      • RoHa on October 9, 2014, 12:28 am

        “The question is, how much does it matter?”

        Not at all to me. It just seemed odd.

    • on October 8, 2014, 11:54 am

      I know that there are people who call themselves Irish even though they have never been anywhere near Ireland

      Maybe because their parents, or grand-parents, or great grand-parents came from Ireland? Just a guess.

      Maybe you should instead be concerned with the near monolithic support among Jewish Americans for Israel? Seeing as how the vast majority of American Jews have no ancestors who ever lived there.

      • RoHa on October 9, 2014, 12:27 am

        Everyone’s great great great etc. grand-parents came from Africa, so we could all call ourselves Africans. But most of us are not crazy, so we don’t.

        “Maybe you should instead be concerned with the near monolithic support among Jewish Americans for Israel?”

        What makes you think I’m not? I’m also concerned with the high level of support among Jewish Australians.

  7. lysias on October 7, 2014, 11:11 am

    Mira Sucharov argues in The Forward that the protesters against the Metropolitan Opera staging The Death of Klinghoffer are mistaken. Why We Censor ‘Klinghoffer’ at Our Peril. Most of the commenters do not agree.

  8. Hatim Kanaaneh on October 9, 2014, 1:22 am

    I watched the entire presidential lecture at Clark University and am deeply impressed . Here is this world-renowned literary figure interacting spontaneously with his American audience, almost as if standing naked before them. And he proceeds to shoot off his mouth extemporaneously about any and all subjects ranging from slavery and colonialism to feminism and Palestine. And the guy pulls no punches: straight as an arrow. He has the courage to look evil in the eye and call it by its name at the risk of excommunication by academia’s high priests. All my respect,Junot! I look forward to seeing the way you will handle the Swedish Academy crowd.

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