tequila sovereign

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 3: From Jordan to Palestine

“Let My People Go!” Exodus 9:1
The bridge — known as Al-Karameh by Palestinians, King Hussein by Jordanians, Allenby by Israelis — over the Jordan River is the only exit or entry point for Palestinians living in the West Bank. In solidarity with them, this was the crossing chosen by the delegation.
We left Amman fairly early that Sunday because we had afternoon plans in Nablus. Those plans were thwarted as three of the seven delegates were held at the Israeli passport/visa application checkpoint from about 9:30 am to nearly 8:00 pm.
After arriving at the Israeli side of the border by bus, we submitted our luggage to security and proceeded to the first passport screening just outside the terminal. We were asked a couple of simple questions: what is the purpose of your visit to Israel, and where will you be staying.
A young Israeli woman looked over my passport, asked me the questions, checked in with her supervisor a few times, made fun of my pronunciation of Ramallah, and cleared me to move on. Everyone else of the delegation was similarly passed through; I did not witness anyone being turned back at this point.
Just inside the terminal, we moved through a metal detector after placing our belongings on a belt for scanning (much like a TSA checkpoint at US airports). Everyone of the delegation moved through the detector without incident. I do not remember seeing anyone held back for a body search, nor having their belongings searched. Off to the side, through an opened door, we could see our luggage move into an enclosed area for screening.
After walking through two waiting areas with rows and rows of mostly empty seats, we passed a food stand to enter the passport and visa application area. There were a few people in line but not many, especially given how many had been on the busses outside.
Four members of the delegation were cleared quickly. This appeared odd to the three of them who had, in the past, been held over for between six and eight hours for questioning before being admitted (two are Palestinians but all four have U.S. passports).
Three members of the delegation were held back for further questioning. They were each given an application form and made to wait nearby. They included a Pakistani-American academic, his partner, a Ph.D. graduate and filmmaker, and a Turkish Ph.D. student. The leader of the delegation–a Palestinian academic–remained with them though she had been cleared.
As we stated in our press release (included below), the four were individually interrogated four separate times over the ten hours that they were held. They were asked about their scholarly research, whether or not they had recently signed any petitions, whether or not they had ever published criticisms of Israel, as well as their academic networks, family backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnic origins. One delegate was asked why she wasn’t doing her research on gender based violence in Saudi Arabia (a familiar refrain of Israeli government–to point to the Arab world as the violent one).
The interrogating officer demanded that two of them access their email accounts in her presence using Israeli security computers. One member had to insist twice to be allowed to sign-off from her email account before being allowed to leave the interrogation room. (Both have since deleted their accounts and changed all of their passwords.)
The delegates were pressed about their history of travel to Arab countries, their intended research and political activities while “in Israel and her territories,” and the names and phone numbers of academic and family contacts.
In between each interrogation, the delegates were allowed to talk to one another. But they were left for hours on end without any word on their status, only to find themselves pulled back individually into separate interrogation rooms.
As our colleagues were being interrogated, the three of us who had been cleared waited in an area for people whose luggage was being physically searched. After about an hour, it was apparent to us that our fellow delegates were going to be delayed for much longer than expected. We decided to proceed to the baggage claim area. We retrieved everyone’s luggage–the most activity we were to have for the entire 11 hours–and waited.
It is important to note that once you are cleared at one of the levels of review, you cannot return. So, for most of the day, we had no idea what was going on with the other delegates. In the late afternoon, at two different times, two of us talked our way “for one minute” into checking in with the others about what was going on. The four gave us a quick update but told us to go back so as not to get dragged into the interrogation process.
So, we remained in the baggage claim area for the entire day. We took our seats between the third passport and visa checkpoint and a final security check point where randomly selected individuals were having their purses and bags searched by hand. The overwhelming majority of those whose belongings were checked at this point were women. We watched as the officers opened their bags and purses, spread their things across a table, held up underwear and other personal items as if to inspect them, and then made them sit and wait, sometimes for hours, for a conclusion. A few of the many individuals who were subjected to this process were forced to return for interrogations, or denied entry altogether.
For those who passed, they were expected to collect their luggage and submit all of their belongings for a fourth and final screening through a metal detector on a conveyor belt before allowed to exit the terminal. However, the officer at this device was frequently gone or waved people through to exit.
Oh, the Banality!
Sitting in the baggage area and watching the gendered randomness of who was and was not selected for closer scrutiny, and fully aware that we were also under surveillance, was boring, frustrating, and angering.
A part of me expected Althusser to jump out from behind a curtain and yell, “Hey, you!” No such luck. No curtains. Just a lot of pretense to the serious activity of state security by officers who mostly looked to me to be in their late teens.
By the sixth or seventh hour of staring at our luggage, I decided that part of the IDF’s strategy of deterring internationals from witnessing its occupation of Palestine is to make the process of crossing so painfully tedious that they will give up or never return.
I also decided that the United Nations should amend its human rights accords against torture to include a provision against the tactic of boredom, including prolonged waiting, the offensively public relations’ posters for Israel tourism and patriotism hung about the building (“Have Faith in Israel” my personal favorite), and the inability to return once you exit (meaning that all you can do is sit).
In combination with not wanting to pull out a laptop or other device or materials that might end up getting searched or used in an interrogation (of you or your friends), “excruciatingly boring” barely covers the experience. As much delight as the company of my fellow delegates was for these ten plus hours, it was ten plus hours. On top of being hungry, thirsty, tired, sore, and having to deal with the constant buzzing about our heads of large-ass black flies I was convinced were on the IDF payroll, we were exhausted with boredom.

But it was a particular kind of boredom. Not the boredom of the upper classes. It was a boredom of waiting through a process that wanted you to know, in no uncertain terms, that you do not matter. That you are not important, that your time and frustrations are beside the point. That unless you are a perceived threat to be detained and/or arrested, you are nothing.
A boredom exasperated by the inability to do anything for those being interrogated or irrationality searched for humiliation sake, aware that any effort on our part—or any behavior or conversation perceived as suspect—would only make things worse for them.
This all produced anger—a relentless ache of frustration constrained from any kind of expression that might attract attention.
Of course, we likewise felt that we were being watched by the officers–plains clothed and uniformed–as well as those sitting behind closed doors on the other side of the extant security cameras throughout the terminal.

Two of these officers, who I referred to as The Hackers, moved hither and thither from the passport and visa checkpoint area to a securely closed door with individual passports and visa forms in hand. Frequently, they would stop and talk with plains clothed security and uniformed officers. They pretended purpose but were also so laxidasicle that we wondered if they were actually doing anything at all.
Foucault would be proud. The alleged attention to detail, the performance of dedicated patriotism, the urgency of the nation’s security masks the underlining point of it all, which is to demoralize, humiliate, belittle Palestinians into indifference.
+ + + + + + + + +
Academic Delegation to Palestine Endures 10-Hour Interrogation by Israeli Security
On January 12, 2014, a delegation of six academics and a labor activist traveled from Jordan to Palestine through the Israeli checkpoint. The delegation is led by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi of San Francisco State University and is meeting with Palestinian academics to better understand conditions on the ground and to facilitate future collaborations. Four members of the delegation, including Abdulhadi and Professor Junaid Rana of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, were held at the checkpoint and interrogated by Israeli security, the Ministry of the Interior, and the military, for over ten hours.
Abdulhadi, Rana, and two other delegates, including Professor Joanne Barker of San Francisco State University, support the 2005 call of Palestinian Civil Society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israeli (ACBI) institutions that are complicit in the continued colonization of Palestine. Various delegation members belong to U.S. academic associations that have endorsed ACBI such as the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS), American Studies Association (ASA), and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).
As the four members of the delegation were interrogated, the Delegate Assembly of the Modern Language Association (MLA) voted to support a resolution noting grave concern regarding the ability of U.S. scholars to travel and collaborate with Palestinian counterparts.
Four members of the delegation were individually interrogated up to four separate times over the ten hours during which they were held. They were pressed about their scholarly research, academic networks, family backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnic origins. The Israeli security officer demanded contact and cell phone information and two delegates were coerced into accessing their email accounts using Israeli security computers. One member had to insist twice to be allowed to sign-off from an email account before being allowed to leave the interrogation room. Another delegate was told explicitly not to pursue research on colonial gender violence. The delegates were additionally asked about travel to Arab countries, intended research, political activities, and names and phone numbers of academic and family contacts.
Professor Rana was asked whether he had recently signed any petitions regarding Israel, to which he replied that he was a member signatory to BDS resolutions of the AAAS and the ASA. Along with other members of the delegation, those interrogated have been actively involved in the academic boycott of Israeli institutions—as opposed to individual scholars—of higher education. Rana was also asked why he attended a conference on “Transnational American Studies” at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, and whether he had any political writings related to Israel. Such actions are a clear violation of academic freedom, including the freedom to travel for scholarly research, and demonstrate tactics of intimidation and harassment of scholarly inquiry.

The delegation recognizes that their experiences on January 12, 2014, pales in comparison with  the everyday surveillance and criminalization of Palestinian academics who are consistently denied the freedoms to research, publish, and travel. The delegation commends academic associations who have endorsed ACBI and encourage others to follow.

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 2: Amman

After converging at a hotel in Amman, Jordan, over 10 and 11 January, we had our first meeting in the evening of the 11th. We introduced ourselves to one another, reviewed the program and logistics, and discussed our personal and collective goals for the delegation. Afterwards, we had two meetings with Palestinians living in Amman.
The first was Leila Khaled, a former prominent member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
On August 29, 1969, Khaled was part of a group that hijacked a commercial jet from Rome to Athens and diverted it to Damascus. No one was injured but they blew up the plane after releasing their hostages. Khaled had six plastic surgeries to conceal her identity. On September 6, 1970, she participated in hijacking a commercial jet from Amsterdam to New York City as part of a coordinated effort by the PFLP known as the “Dawson’s Field hijackings.” The attempt was stopped by Israeli sky-marshals and the plane diverted to Heathrow Airport in London. Khaled was arrested but later released as part of a prisoner exchange between England and the PFLP.
Khaled is unable to return to Palestine (she is from Haifa) and now resides in Jordan and works as a member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC).
Khaled discussed the international history of political solidarity within the Palestinian struggle (“events are not enough”), the aim of Israel at the genocide of Palestinians, the disappointment and despair that characterizes Israel’s campaigns against Palestine, the futility of the “peace negotiations” (currently represented by Kerry’s Plan), and the complicity of the United States in Israel’s occupation. She addressed the political creation of Israel in 1948 as a religious state and Israel’s creation of the Jewish-only settlements in Palestine.
Khaled defined solidarity as a strategy of connecting the struggles of the people in the U.S. against U.S. imperialism and colonialism to the struggles of Palestinians against Israel. This point has stayed with me everyday on and since the delegation, as I have listened and thought about the historical connections of Native peoples in the U.S. to the indigenous people of Palestine. The core of political solidarity is epistemological and pedagogical—not demonstrative. It is about how we understand our experiences in relationship to one another, how we honor and respect those relationships, and how we work to change our shared conditions of oppression.
Khaled then emphasized the importance of historical context and difference in what “human rights” means for Palestinians. She asserted that the core definition of Palestinian human rights is the “right of return”—as an aim of the struggle and as an identity of the struggle.
Khaled also addressed at some length Palestine’s fraught relationships to various struggles at different historical moments with(in) Arab regimes—in Egypt, Syria, Algeria. She talked about the struggles of Palestinian refugee camps (in Lebanon and in Jordan) for survival against the realities of starvation and the ongoing assassination of those who argue for the right of return—who insist on their identities as “refugees” and not as minorities within who ought to be integrated.
Khaled said that “Israel is a project for imperialists, not just for Jews.” She suggested that many Arab countries benefit from Israel’s imperialism.
She also talked about the role of Palestinians in progressive movements within the Arab region against imperialist states—as a core part of labor (worker) rights efforts against the capitalist dictatorships that have emerged in alliance with the west.
Khaled said that the role of the intifadas was to bring international recognition to the need for Palestinian independence from Israel. She said that Palestine’s leadership lost the gains of the intifadas in their negotiations for “peace.” She found the Oslo Accord ultimately to be aimed at neutralizing Palestinian resistance in the name of Israel’s “security”—that the accord was for Israel and not for Palestine (as would any agreement be that is mediated by the United States and not by the United Nations). That one of the results of the accord was that Israel was able to take water and other resources from Palestine with impunity (we would hear many more times about “water apartheid”).
Khaled discussed the “demographic threat” of Palestinians to Israel. (I wondered what forms of population control were used against Palestine and what kinds of reproductive rights defined Palestinian struggles.)
Khaled said that Israel was the promise of a religious state dealt with by the international community as a nationality. She repeated this point at several moments of our discussion, drawing parallels between the religious persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany and the religious-based persecution of Muslims by Israel.
Khaled asserted that the U.N. must “implement its own resolutions” and that the current negotiations (The Kerry Plan) will not result in peace (that the negotiations are, in fact, not about peace at all). “Israel has copied Nazism and (other) apartheid regimes.” A democratic state for/of Palestine is the other answer.
When and how to “negotiate” is the ongoing issue.
We concluded our discussion by talking about the difference between the “intellectuals of the authorities” and the “intellectuals of the people.” Khaled asserted that the difference is in how you educate with your heart, about the issues you care about. Not for the state and its power.
The second meeting we had was with two representatives from Amman’s chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), Sakar (from Jordan) and Miriam (from Italy).
According to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Jordan has the largest population of Palestinian refugees in the Arab region, with almost 2 million people registered and living in ten different camps (almost twenty percent of Jordan’s total population).
The PYM was founded in 2006, out of a coalitional meeting in Barcelona. The PYM addresses the political platform and framing of Palestine independence in relation to the history of Palestinian struggles against the occupation. It is fundamentally anti-colonial, defined in relation to recent Arab revolutions (like the “Arab Spring”) and regional politics. It accounts for differences in Palestinian societies throughout the Arab region, including confusions on the goal of independence (one state, two states, et cetera) and how to reach it (strategies).
Sakar and Miriam talked about the difficult history of Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, which has worked hard at differentiating and othering Palestinian identity.
They believe that there are fundamental capitalist issues at the heart of Palestinian political struggles, which they see as fueling political revolutions throughout the region. Workers who had once aligned with Arab regimes against Palestinians (as racialized others) are now seeing a similarity of exploitation and oppression under those regimes as capitalist. Arab countries like Egypt are responding to the resistance by withdrawing infrastructures (electricity, etc.) and punishing dissenting voices. Arab countries biggest fear is of an alliance between the Arab working class and Palestinian refugees, even as wealthy Palestinians outside of Palestine distance themselves from the political agendas and concerns of the Arab working class. One of the ways Sakar and Miriam believe this is happening is by the use of the “right of return” discourse by the wealthy to keep Palestinians from aligning themselves with public revolts (do not focus on your working conditions here, look back to Palestine). They believe that Arab party
politics are too often addressed to U.S. and E.U. agendas and not to regional realities.
PYM has aligned itself with popular revolts against Arab state capitalism.
Sakar discussed the normalization of Israel occupation in the refugee camps of Jordan through agricultural products from Israel.
One of the questions I asked of Sakar was how he would define colonization. He talked at length about the politics of knowledge and the need for people in the US and Palestinian refugees in the Arab region to break out of their colonial ways of thinking (accepting the terms of their oppression from oppressive states) and think critically about issues of race and class struggle and the potential for solidarity.
Our meetings in Amman were incredibly powerful. So many issues came up in our discussions with Khaled, Sakar, and Miriam that remained with me for the entire delegation. I will focus here on two.
1) Homelands.The Lenape are the nation—more a decentralized set of polities based on the matrilineal values of shared governance than a mirror of their European counterparts at the time—indigenous to a territory they called Lenapehoking (“Lenape country”). Lenapehoking included parts of what are now New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
As a consequence of European and U.S. imperialism and colonialism, enacted through seventeen treaties between 1778 and 1867, the Lenape reside today in multiple locations in the United States and Canada. No recognized group of Lenape have retained territorial rights in their traditional homelands, they are all now located on lands removed from other indigenous nations.
I am a descendent of families forcibly removed out of Kansas (lands traditionally belonging to the Wichita and Kansa nations) and into the lands of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (lands traditionally belonging to the Wichita and Osage nations).
In my lifetime, the Lenape have gone through several cycles of recognition and termination. Currently, they are federally recognized as the Delaware Tribe of Indians. They are seeking to reestablish collective land holdings in Kansas based on the boundaries of a 1866 treaty with the United States.
There are so many historical and social connections between Lenape and other indigenous peoples in the U.S. and the indigenous peoples of Palestine. The majority of indigenous peoples in North America have never lived on their traditional homelands as a direct result of European and U.S. imperialism and colonialism—historically and in their most current forms of articulation (such as energy and other corporate developments). Neither have many Palestinians, who live in exile as refugees or criminals throughout the Arab world.
The current formation of U.S. imperialism likewise connects indigenous groups of North America and Palestine through the financing of Israel’s military, security, and energy and so apartheid regime by the United States. Federal tax monies used as foreign aid to Israel—to the tune of $3 billion annually—in addition to U.S. corporate and banking investments in the billions link the consequences of U.S. imperialism “at home” to those in Palestine. This is represented most profoundly by the fact that Israel’s apartheid wall around and inside the occupied territories of the West Bank is built and maintained by the same set of construction, technology, and security firms and subcontractors as the wall along the U.S. and Mexican border (www.stopthewall.org/downloads/pdf/companiesbuildingwall.pdf)
Indigenous peoples in the U.S. also know the powerful force of religious ideologies and narratives in state discourses rationalizing indigenous genocide and dispossession, disguising hateful and violent racism as an evolved democracy. The Zionist arguments regarding Israel as the promised land, given by God to His Chosen People, smacks of the same kind of religiosity used by the “founding fathers” of the United States to justify land theft, genocide, and slavery.
“I felt my humanity in armed struggle. Now I feel humiliated.”

– Leila Khaled (January 11, 2014)

2) Non-violence. Since I can remember, I have always been committed to a non-violent ethics of dissent consistent with my pro-choice, anti-death penalty, and anti-second amendment argument politics. I have always had a difficult time with writers like Franz Fanon and his many intellectual followers within the United States, who seemed to me to embrace and even romanticize the notion of an armed, violent mode of resistance as a universal truth. As a strategy of the truly radical revolutionary, applicable in all times and places of oppression.
Khaled’s remarks made me think about the potential orientalism of a non-violent ethics within the United States as a different kind of universalism. What I heard her say, and I heard from many others over the course of our delegation, was that Palestinian armed resistance against Israeli occupation has been too quickly dissed and dismissed by non-violent activists in the U.S. in ways that perpetuate orientalist ideologies and representations of Palestinians and other Arabs as an inherently violent and irrational people. And that such representations fail in profound ways to understand the relentless legal, economic, and cultural forms of apartheid and discrimination that Palestinians have to live with everyday of their lives under Israeli occupation.
I am not saying that I am ready to reread Fanon or buy a gun, only that I have a lot more thinking to do. How much does an anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, or Zionist project rely on an orientalist notion of non-violence? Or, how deeply does orientalism–anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian–(in)form non-violent arguments in the United States?
Recommended Readings/References

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 1: Introductions

Between the 11 and 23 of January 2014, a delegation of six academics and one labor rights activist based in the U.S. and Canada went to the West Bank and the 48 of Palestine.

The West Bank and Gaza are occupied territories of Israel. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) exercise military jurisdiction over the territories, purportedly in cooperation with the Palestinian National Authority (PA). IDF jurisdiction is reinforced by a 26-foot high concrete wall inside and around the West Bank, which is secured by 34 checkpoints and 634 “obstructions” (see stopthewall.org), and a barrier enclosing the Gaza Strip. The IDF claims full jurisdiction, in cooperation with Israel’s civil authorities, over the 48.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, and the International Court of Justice have identified Israel’s relationship to Palestine as that of an apartheid regime, characterized not only by the wall around the West Bank and the barriers around the Gaza Strip but by Jewish-only settlements and roads and a discriminatory water system, use of identification cards, marriage and other civil restrictions, labor practices, and social services.
In respect of Palestinian rights to self-determination, members of the academic and labor delegation have supported the 2005 call by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Some delegates are members of the Asian American Studies Association, the American Studies Association, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, all of whom signed resolutions in 2013 in support of BDS.
The delegation bore witness and studied for themselves Palestinian experiences under and perspectives about the occupation. They established working relationships and furthered their solidarities with Palestinian scholars, artists, and activists engaged in BDS and other efforts against the occupation.
Repeatedly, they witnessed the realities of apartheid, racial discrimination, ethnic cleansing, and the undermining of Palestinian rights by the Israeli government and military.
This notebook will be a selection of my own personal notes, reflections, and photos of those experiences and witnesses.
Recommended Readings/References

In the Name of Solidarity (Queer and Indigenous)

I continue to think about our upcoming panel at the Transnational American Studies Conference at the Center for American Studies and Research at the American University of Beirut (January 6-8, 2014).

Indebted to conversations with Jodi Byrd (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma) and Kehaulani Kauanui (Kanaka Maoli), though I take full responsibility for the problems here.

One of the most difficult political issues of solidarity between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (herein queer) and indigenous communities in the United States and Canada concerns the politics of identity.
Two quick qualifications—or deferrals—that matter. 1.) Queer and indigenous are not necessarily mutually exclusive categories of identity and experience: of course, there are queer indigenous. 2) The politics of identity associated with queer appropriations of indigenous cultures—teachings, spirituality, and ceremonies—is the usual direction of these kinds of musings.
My comments for here are written to queer allies of indigenous peoples in their struggles against the heteronormative imperial formations of U.S. and Canadian society.
What I am concerned with is how the politics of identifying and being identified as queer is often conflated with the politics of identifying and being identified as indigenous in ways that presume sameness and solidarity. These presumptions seem to lead to the obfuscation of historical and social understanding and can undermine the kind of ethics of cultural relationship and responsibility needed for any viable practice of queer solidarity with indigenous communities.
ID Queer
Historically and socially, identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer has been dangerous in a legal system and culture predicated on criminalizing, eradicating, and harassing queer people. It has come with great personal expense to one’s sense of belonging and well-being. It has come with hate, despise, and confusion. It has resulted in public and interpersonal rejections, denunciations, and bullying. Fred Martinez, Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, Scott Jones, Luke Fleishman and too many others have been beaten, set on fire, tortured, raped, murdered, and incarcerated because of who they are (and are not).
In some ways, what these experiences have meant for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer is a strong sense of the right and the risk in identifying and being identified. Identity, in other words, is not easily claimed or lived. It takes a lot to say and be who you are.
These experiences have also meant deep empathy for those who chose not to identify and genuine disgust for those who are queer and publicly condemn homosexuality for the sake of their careers or status.
ID Indigenous
Historically and socially, identifying or being identified as indigenous has been dangerous. Policy-sanctioned (and financially compensated) public murders of indigenous people occurred throughout north America. Physical and sexual violence against indigenous people occurred without consequence and were often popularly condoned. Indigenous peoples have been beaten, tortured, raped, murdered, and incarcerated because of who they are (and are not). And this is not something of the past. Vern Traversie, a blind and elderly Lakota man of South Dakota, was branded with “KKK” by a Rapid City surgeon. Patty Dawson, a Navajo/San Carlos Apache woman, was beaten on a public street to unconsciousness by a woman in Fresno, California.
At the same time, people have falsely and fraudulently claimed to be indigenous in order to gain access to indigenous lands and resources and to undermine indigenous governance. The zenith of this kind of fraud is conventionally understood to have occurred during the allotment period (1887-1930), but it occurred before then and has continued through today—as non-indigenous people attempt to secure revenue shares and property rights in and on trust lands and away from indigenous people.
In some ways, what these experiences have meant for indigenous governments are stringent citizenship (membership) criteria and the preservation of extant genealogical documentation to ensure that only those individuals who are verifiable lineal descendants are extended citizenship status (enrollment).
In other ways, while many indigenous people have much empathy for those who cannot enroll (for all kinds of reasons, including corrupt leadership), there is a genuine concern about those who claim to be indigenous and yet have no lineal ties to the community with which they identify. No immediate family, no extended relations, no one who recognizes or claims them to be related.
Some Differences That Matter
Lots of issues here, but I want to focus on the queer politics of indigenous alliance.
It can be the case that presumptions of the historical and social dangers of identifying and being identified as queer can be read in problematic ways into the historical and social dangers of identifying and being identified as indigenous. Not being claimed or recognized by your family because you have identified yourself as queer is not the same thing as not being claimed by a community or family that you have identified yourself with as a member or descendant.
One of the important differences concerns lineality. Not genetic inheritance, not DNA, not blood quantum, not enrollment status. Lineality as in a relationship of/to belonging. Lineality as being related to (descended from)—by birth, by naturalization, by adoption. As in being claimed and known; as in belonging; as in a set of relationships and responsibilities to one another (family, citizenship, ceremonial).
Another difference is ethics. The ethics of the closet are not the ethics of affiliation.
For queer people, identifying and being identified can be understood as an individual right that puts at risk one’s familial and interpersonal relationships. Deciding not to come out, and deciding to come out, is about how an individual navigates these risks. (This is not to suggest that everyone experiences “being out” in the same way or as an option.) Much outrage exists for those who do not come out and who work to conceal their sexuality by denigrating “homosexuality.” Much empathy exists for those who do not come out and project asexuality or allow themselves to pass for the sake of survival in an environment of violence, hate, and misunderstanding.
These negotiations are not the same for indigenous peoples.
The expectation among many indigenous peoples in the U.S. and Canada is that an individual who identifies a group in parenthesis after their name—“Jane Doe (Cherokee)”—is claiming to be a citizen or member of one of the Cherokee nations (i.e., the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina). An individual who identifies “as a descendent of” a group—“John Doe is a descendant of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma”—is claiming genealogical lineage but also that they do not possess official citizenship or membership in the group. The distinction between enrollment and descent is a legal one but both point to lineal relations to a specific community. In these examples, both Does are claiming a lineality as Cherokee that implies a set of cultural relationships and responsibilities to a specific Cherokee community (a “tribe”).
These identifications—of enrollment, of descent—matter in the context of a four hundred year old history of struggle against European and American genocide, dispossession (removal), and forced assimilation programs aimed at eradicating all things Cherokee in order to secure Cherokee lands, resources, and labor. They also matter in the context of the rampant fraud of claims to being Cherokee in order to secure access to Cherokee lands, resources, and revenue. Cherokee nations have their own criteria and protocols for identifying lineality (represented in the differences between claims of enrollment and claims of descent).
And, of course, there is a swirling mess of social and interpersonal politics in how Cherokee nations and citizens have developed and enforced their enrollment criteria—often as a substitute for their cultural protocols and often in violation of their treaties. But those messes do not trump their sovereignty: it is not an issue of whether or not the Cherokee are sovereign but what kind of sovereignty they define for themselves in practice.
Some questions for discussion:
  • Can queer allies ignore or deflect without suppressing concerns about an individual’s claimed affiliation with an indigenous group (enrollment or descent, lineality)?
  • What responsibilities do queer allies have to the politics of indigenous identity, to the politics of enrollment and descent, to the politics of lineality?
  • Do queer allies unwittingly endorse or condone histories of colonialism (genocide, dispossession, forced assimilation, fraud) by embracing those who claim to be and are not in the name of solidarity?
  • What ethics are possible for queer allies in the relation that they have to ongoing histories of colonization by identity fraud?
  • What responsibilities do indigenous peoples have to inform queer (and other) allies about fraudulent claims to enrollment, descent, affiliation?
  • How do the politics of “identity policing” frame, or hinder, effective political solidarity?

Homonationalism and Indigenationalism

Comments I am working on for for Panel 1: Pinkwashing and Transnational Alliance: Challenging Settler Colonialism in Palestine/Israel, the United States, and Canada at the Transnational American Studies Conference at the Center for American Studies and Research at the American University of Beirut (January 6-8, 2014). 
Both Israel and the United States claim a state of exceptional expression of democracy and civility in an otherwise barbaric world that absolves them of accountability to international human rights. This state is articulated through the ideology and discourse of social evolution wherein Israelis and Americans have progressed beyond savagery to civilization, having successfully waged a particularly modern and righteous war against the barbarities of racial hatred, religious persecution, and class tyranny. Against great odds, the story goes, they have evolved into all that is democratic and civil—all that is fully human, and so all that is fully righted as human. This is reflected in the way that human rights function within the marketing of Israel and the U.S. as democracy par excellence—with human rights extended to and enjoyed by even the barbarians amongst them.
The discursive production of Israeli and American exceptionalism through evolutionism necessitates that the difference of the barbaric other be contained andlocated elsewhere. The barbarian cannot be allowed to speak on their own, for themselves. They can only mime their barbarity. Their experiences of state genocide, dispossession, and brutality must be deferredbecause those experiences undo the state’s global cred and demand legal and social remedy.
But the work of deferral is never complete. It calls attention to the structure that needs the other to be lacking (lacking of modernity, democracy, civility, humanity). This is not merely about name calling (you are a barbarian!); it is a logic of genocide, dispossession, and brutality by representation (you are only a barbarian) that vacates all that is human and so all that is righted from an other treated inhumanely.
But these remarks are a bit of a distraction. My comments are not aimed at understanding the structure of oppression, or the institutional mechanisms that naturalize apartheid as merely a challenge of administrating against barbarity. I am more interested in prompting a discussion about how the deferral of ongoing historical experiences of oppression and apartheid in Israel and the United States—by the governments of Israel and the United States—are perpetuated by those communities whose barbarity is so central to the invasions and occupations of Israeli and U.S. policy. My thinking is that it has to do not only with the ideological workings of a public consent coerced, invited, et cetera, but with the promise of state citizenship—a status and set of rights possessive of the entitlements of state capital – propertied to its financial systems and benefits, territories and resources, and status and reputation. Herein, public consent, as a form of consumption, easily transforms human rights into a use value for state citizenship that advances a state’s global-cred and thus enables international cooperation with insatiably expansionist aims. A quick definition, an example, and a provocation for discussion.
In Terrorist Assemblages, Jasbir Puar defines homonationalismas a queer liberalism that stages state nationalism through Islamaphobic representations of Arab and Muslim sexuality. These representations—in law and consumerism—advance imperialist military and economic projects by upholding the norms of white heterosexuality against Arab and Muslim deviance. Same-sex marriage, military service, and consumerism are embraced as queer forms of patriotism, distorting the ways by which marriage rights, the military, and consumption perpetuate the invasion and occupation of the Middle East. For instance, in an article for The Jewish Daily Forward, NY-based attorney and Human Rights Watch trustee Kathleen Peratis writes that,
Al-Fatiha — which calls itself the principal international organization promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arabs — is located not in Beirut or Cairo, but in Washington, D.C. And no wonder: The international movement for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people hardly exists inside the Muslim world. Arab human rights organizations sometimes advocate for gay rights, but they do so sotto voce. In fact, the only country in the Middle East in which gay people may safely leave the closet is Israel. Which is why, for gay Palestinians, Tel Aviv is Mecca. Gay Palestinian men flee to Israel because they are not safe in the West Bank and Gaza…. If the sexuality of a gay man in Palestine is exposed, his family might torture or kill him and the police will turn a blind eye. Because they are so vulnerable to blackmail, it is assumed by the families and neighbors of gay Palestinian men — sometimes correctly — that they have been blackmailed into becoming informers, either for Israeli intelligence or for opposition Palestinian factions.
Herein, Israeli apartheid is deferred in a story of Israeli and Palestinian queer human rights.
I would like to suggest that indigenationalism works similarly, as an indigenous liberalism that stages state nationalism through a simultaneous embrace of Israel and revulsion of Arab and Muslim people and society. These discursive practices advance imperialist military and economic projects by upholding what Cheryl Harris has termed the “property of whiteness” through the norms of heterosexuality, raciality, and class mobility. Therein, Christian family values, military service, and consumerism are embraced by indigenous peoples, distorting the ways by which religious conservatism, the military, and capitalism have perpetuated their oppressions and rationalize the military invasion and occupation of the Middle East.
            For instance, according to Sherwin Pomerantz for The Jerusalem Post, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana (Muskogee) was the first federally recognized tribe to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. In 2008, the same year that the tribe created its Department of Commerce, it hosted “an affirmation of friendship event with Israeli consular officials” and issued a proclamation establishing May 14 as “the day to honor Israel.” A year later, the tribe sent a delegation to initiate its first commerce-related project with Israel, “becoming the exclusive distributor of Aya Natural, an Israeli start-up skincare company based in the Druse community of Beit Jann in the Galilee. David Sickey, the head of the tribe, has made a number of visits [to Israel] since as well to promote additional cooperative business activity.”
            For instance, Chief Annie Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe of Virginia, a state recognized tribe, was meeting with Israel’s Minister of Infrastructure Uzi Landau and told him that “American Indians support the State of Israel and its right to the land of Israel.” In presenting Landau with a traditional headdress, she said, “We believe that God has given you this land and we want you to fight for it.’” In an interview with Carl Hoffman for Esra Magazine, Richardson explained her outreach to Israel:
Well, I’m a Christian Zionist. And the reason that I am is because of the similarities between Native Americans and Jews. We share persecution. We’ve both been hated. We’ve both lost loved ones—we to racism, you to anti-Semitism. And yet, we’re both still here. We’re both survivors…. We see you on the news being persecuted because you don’t want to hand over your land. And my people agree. We watch and say, “DON’T DO IT! IT DOESN’T WORK!”
I am not interested in marking out those who consent (as traitors, sell-outs, spies) from those who dissent (as revolutionaries); in denigrating Peratis, the Coushatta, or Richardson and romanticizing Palestinians and indigenous activists within the United States. Within an imperial state formation and its myriad capitalisms, the lines are never so clearly legible or experienced, despite mass representations and self-presentations to the contrary.
I am interested in understanding how and why those figured as the barbaric other by apartheid and imperialist states work so hard at presenting their collective and individual patriotism to that state.
If you read David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years with Winona LaDuke’s The Militarization of Indian Countrytogether, it is clear that there is a foundational relationship between states, capitalism, and the military that is aimed all at once at expansion. Rather than consider these operations within the structural context of oppression that defines the nations of Israel and the United States, I would like to prompt a discussion of why those whose human rights are so profoundly violated by Israel and the US would absorb or perform the tales of social evolution that define their otherness, participate in the structures of oppression that continue to define their experiences of genocide, dispossession, and brutality, and herald their patriotism through shared family values, marriage rights, military service, and consumerism.
What does homonationalism illuminate about indigenationalism, and vice versa?

If the promise of citizenship is the false consciousness of inclusion, what is required for alliances among and between queers and indigenous peoples in Israel and the United States that will undo Israeli apartheid and U.S. occupation in the Middle East? Of lands within U.S. territories in northern America, the Pacific, and the Caribbean? What would that kind of alliance look like?

Are You Queer?

What’s In A Name?
Historically, Lenape did not tell people outside of their family the birth name of their children. The birth name was considered a reflection of the child’s true identity and purpose—making the child known to spirit beings. To protect the child’s identity, and to protect the child from enemies, another name was given and used. This name might change over a person’s lifetime
Label Makers
I write this on Valentine’s Day, the annual eve of my birthday.
This year, being 50, single, and without children during these particular 48 hours makes ever-present in my mind my personal experiences of those oft posed and rarely solicited remarks and questions about my identity, sexual orientation, and mental health.
    Some Conservative Christian family members have assumed I am gay and too ashamed or afraid to tell them. There was a long time, mostly in my 20s and 30s, when they regularly initiated the “I hate the sin but love the sinner” conversation with me–usually over the holidays and always framed by painfully uncomfortable reassurances that would go in one of two directions: 1) if I just told them that I was gay they would still love me; or 2) “as long as you’re not practicing….” it would be okay if I were gay. In either direction, I was and still am fated as the “lost gay sister” they pray for.
    Some colleagues at the campus where I work and on all sides of the racial-ethnic-national-class spectrum of self-definition and self-perception have assumed that I am a “lesbian” because I do not have a “family.” (Stronger but not only in the College of Ethnic Studies where my department is located.) I am regularly introduced by colleagues on campus to the “other one” in their department in a not-so-subtle hope of match-making us into some marriage or civil union bliss that looks like a family to them.
    Some peers have asked me if I am gay or lesbian, as though there are no other options, and then become painfully uncomfortable when I do not answer them. Or answer them but then ask what they mean by those terms. “Can you only be x or y?”
    Some have asked me straight-out, “Are you queer?” And when I say I don’t understand the question or what they mean by the term, are shocked and confused. (After all, queer is the more radical identity.)
    I cannot tell you how many people have assumed I have never married because I suffer from some kind of psychological disorder (like depression) that prevents me from developing a “healthy, long-term relationship.”
    I cannot tell you how many people have assumed I “can’t have children” because, obviously if I could, I would have them. At least one.
    Many, many people assume I must be lonely. Deeply, inconsolably lonely. All the time and in some horribly unspeakable, tragic way. So horrible that they never ask. They just feel bad for me.
    Many indigenous people believe I must not be “traditional” because I do not have children (at the least) or a family (at the most).

In each of these instances, people want me to be something that they know. A label, any label, that would make sense out of my being 50, single, and without children. Because a label would mean that they know me. They could recognize me. They could find me.
Freedom, In Quotes
Of course, claiming and exercising the freedom to say, or not to say, who one is and is not is a privilege of political context and cultural significance.
Many indigenous peoples have not been able to say who they are–have been hidden or lied about by family members trying to protect them from imperialist militaries and local militia that were publicly torturing and killing them for being homosexual, or gang raping women to humiliate them and “their men.”

Many have paid for their lives, even in our “modern,” progressive world, for saying who they are and who they love.

For these any many other reasons, self-identifying or being identified as a woman and/or a non-heterosexual (for those biologically male or female) is a defiant political act worthy of respect and honor.
What If I Were Normal?
I write this on Valentine’s Day on the eve of my 51st birthday. Private messages of condolence and “check in” on my mental sense of well-being abound. And so I respond with this:
What if being a woman, at 50, single, without children were considered normal? What would that world look like?
Ageists would be so outdated. Maybe even having come to value all body types and shapes, faces and wrinkles, grey hairs, gravity butts, and age spots. Maybe they wouldn’t even think about themselves and one another in the standards of physical beauty reflected in icons of youth and anorexia.
Monogamists would enjoy all types of relationships. Maybe even stop trying to force every person on the planet into a life-long contract about protecting property rights within “families” and make space for those who value the experience of many different loves and desires and pleasures.
Marriage advocates–heterosexual and non–would be ashamed to admit it. And constitutional, civil rights would not be confined to and by any particular form of marriage or family.
Parents would calm down. Yes, having children is a blessing and important. But there are many other kinds of blessings in this world–for women who are not only important because they can bear children.
Women could relax. They would be honored for who they are. They would not have to fear physical violence.
Homophobes would get over themselves.
In that world, labels would work differently. I and others who have made unconventional choices about their lives and identities wouldn’t have to worry about our status, safety, and well-being. We wouldn’t have to make excuses or defend ourselves. And we wouldn’t be socially humiliated by family and friends for not conforming to their expectations of what happiness looks like (though I remain deeply unconvinced that happiness should be a goal).
Until I live in that world?

Am I queer? My only answer can be this: why do you ask?

When Radical Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

In a recent blog entry by the self-titled Tenured Radical, issues as complicated as the academic and cultural campaign for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, the “abandonment of poor people in the United States,” the “collapse of funding for public and private education,” and “half a dozen others connected to the triumph of a corporate vision for the world” are not only collapsed into all kinds of political equivalences, they are made into a kind of fashionable potpourri of causes for academics who will, ultimately and maybe even tomorrow, leave them all behind for another go at the proverbial buffet table: “Today the special is poverty. Tomorrow it will be the Sudan.”
“Perhaps it is because I don’t fully understand why I would privilege one horrendous humanitarian crisis over another,” the Tenured Radical laments, and then excuses herself from any kind of accountability to any one of the ongoing instances of imperial violence and colonial practice she names as occurring throughout the world (“the continued colonization and immiseration of the Haitian people; genocide in the Sudan; or ongoing French interventions in West Africa”). This dismissal, she explains, is on the grounds of her high moral principles: she will not be forced to pick just one of these causes as though they are the most important by joining up with their campaign–like the BDS. An act of alliance that she will obviously, ultimately and probably even tomorrow, leave for another. Nor will she be forced to take sides on any one of the “hundreds of thousands of small tragedies that few of us who live in the United States ever have to encounter.”
Indeed? “Small tragedies” in the US? I suppose not having to join international campaigns excuses one from knowing one’s own history or political moment. Like the systemic structure of imperialism indigenous peoples in the US confront everyday, one that systematically denies them their rights to self-determination in ongoing acts of genocide and dispossession.
One can, instead, write political dribble for the nation’s top rated journal on the academy and call it being radically engaged. And I suppose the lack of accountability in that dribble extends to how this kind of blog is going to be used by pro-Israelis (Zionists), in the US and internationally, who proclaim victory over Palestinian human rights every time someone minimizes the relevance of the BDS.
Idle? Know More
The biggest problem confronting tenured radicals everywhere is the presumption about and by them that they are already educated. And, apparently, being educated is the e-ticket ride out of political responsibility to anything one knows.
One of the things that has differentiated Idle No More (INM) from Occupy Wall Street (OWS) — a movement it has been incorrectly compared to from the beginning — has been its insistence on the pedagogical importance of and within the movement towards bringing about the changes it envisions. Even the four women who founded the movement did so through an all-day teach-in at Station 20 in Saskatoon that they called “Idle No More” — education towards the action needed to reform Parliament’s anti-First Nation rights measures.
The continued centrality within INM’s efforts of developing its own pedagogy is not merely about “being informed” for the sake of being able to argue with someone at a bar about First Nation treaty rights or Inuit land claims or how they are related to American Indian and Alaska Native legal rights (for instance). INM’s — pedagogy has been about an education that builds interpersonal and social relationships of responsibility — you cannot know without being responsible, within the unique but related contexts of your relationships to one another, to nonhumans, and to the lands and waters and ecosystems in which you were born and live and on which you depend for life. A pedagogy interconnected with INM’s dancing and singing–reflecting, honoring, and reinforcing relations of responsibility with one another and the earth with a view to changing those laws and social conditions that undermine them.
This is so far removed from the kind of position the “tenured radical” assumes as to be that “far far away” galaxy in Star Wars. Apparently in that solar system you can know and not be responsible.

See David Shorter’s reply.