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.