No Time to Celebrate

By Seth Freed Wessler May 08, 2008

Yesterday was Israeli Independence Day; the 60th year of Israel’s existence. For some Israelis and Zionists, the day celebrates the birth of statehood for a people long without a land. But for me, as for many other’s, Israeli Independence Day is not a day of celebration but one on which to remember and reflect on violence, racism and the need for solidarity. Observed in May 15th, the Nakba (Arabic for Catastrophe), is the day of commemoration of the 60 year long dispossession and systematic displacement of Palestinians that continues in the form of brutal military violence and the relegation of Palestinians to live in unlivable zones like the open air prison that Gaza has become. Israeli Independence day marks the anniversary of the beginning of this catastrophe. This day reminds us of what happens when the identities of those with power and privilege become the basis of political organization. The result can be nothing but to create a racist polity. In the United States, when race is the organizing, animating substance of nation building, we see devastating effects. Whether in the context of immigration policy that excludes and criminalizes immigrants of color or inequitable and unforgiving criminal justice policies that construct black people as threats and incarcerate them, nations cannot be built on racist conceptions of belonging. When they are, we see the destruction of families, livelihood and senses of self. In the Israeli context, Palestinians living inside of the 1967 Israeli borders, those who were not displaced after the Nakba in 1948, face debilitating racial disparities and exclusion. Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are dehumanized to the point where Gaza is sealed off and made into a prison and in the West Bank, people’s homes and farms destroyed. What is needed now is a heightened sense of solidarity. Around the world people are raising their voices in commemoration of the Nakba and in support of a just solution in Palestine and Israel. For me, this can only come when countries are not predicated on a racially exclusive notion of who belongs but open their doors and tear down their walls. This will be as true in Palestine and Israel as it will be here in the United States