Keeping Us From One Another

Episode Summary

How does Zionism impact Palestinians? *** We want to hear what you think! What does the word “diaspora” mean to you? Do you think of yourself as living in diaspora? Record your answer - you can use the voice memos on your phone -  and email your recording to podcast@jvp.org, and we might include it in a future episode! We’d like to thank Phyllis Bennis for factchecking this episode. Music in this episode: "Marty Gots A Plan" by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) and "Somewhere To Be" by Otis Galloway (https://filmmusic.io) License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Our theme music is "For Our Stories" by decibelists, off their self-titled debut album. Diaspora Podcast is produced by Tallie Ben Daniel, written and hosted by Tallie Ben Daniel and Nava EtShalom, and edited by Jenny Asarnow.

Episode Notes

Tallie and Nava hear from Dr. Sherene Seikaly about the impact of Zionism on Palestinians, and then from Maisa Marror and Nadya Tannous from the Palestinian Youth Movement. We discuss three key dates in Palestinian history: 1948, 1967, and 1993.

Follow and suppport the Palestinian Youth Movement: https://www.pymusa.com/

Dr. Seikaly's book can be found here.

For more on the closing of Osirin, see B'Tselem's report here.

We’d like to thank Phyllis Bennis for factchecking this episode.  And big thanks to Dr. Sherene Seikaly, Maisa Marror, and Nadya Tannous for contributing. 

We want to hear what you think! What does the word “diaspora” mean to you? Do you think of yourself as living in diaspora? Record your answer - you can use the voice memos on your phone - and email your recording to podcast@jvp.org, and we might include it in a future episode!

Music in this episode: "Marty Gots A Plan" by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) and "Somewhere To Be" by Otis Galloway (https://filmmusic.io) License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Our theme music is "For Our Stories" by decibelists, off their self-titled debut album.

Diaspora Podcast is produced by Tallie Ben Daniel, written and hosted by Tallie Ben Daniel and Nava EtShalom, and edited by Jenny Asarnow.

Episode Transcription

Nadya Tannous: in order for Zionism to maintain its legitimacy, palestinians need to be either expunged or at least invisibilized from existence, from the realm of reality, from any formal presentation. Zionism, by default, wants Palestinians who are here, particularly the youth, the future, to not know who they are, to not have connections with each other, to not feel empowered to be able to change things. And so our response is to say - we're here, and we are here to actually collectively, through a collective process, build our future. and that's really powerful.

Tallie Ben Daniel: Welcome to the Diaspora podcast.

I’m Tallie Ben Daniel, I’m a political educator working for Jewish Voice for Peace living in Oakland.

Nava EtShalom: and I'm Nava EtShalom. I’m a poet and educator living in Philly.

And you heard Nadya Tannous a minute ago -- she’s an organizer with the Palestinian youth movement, and we’re going to hear more from her later.

So, Tallie in episode one and two of this podcast, we talked about how Judaism and Zionism are really tangled up together and how they got that way. And we talked about what that means for American Jews like us. But Zionism of course means something completely different to Palestinians. And in a lot of ways the impact of Zionism isn't actually about Jewish people. It's about Palestinians.

So, this episode - let’s talk about that.[01:49]

Tallie: Before we started working on this, I would have told you that I knew how Zionism impacts Palestinians -- that Palestinians have to live under military occupation, that refugees couldn’t go home, that people under Israeli control couldn’t make basic decisions about their lives.02:01

Nava: yes

Tallie: And that’s all true, but that’s not the biggest way Zionism impacts Palestinians, according to the Palestinians we spoke to.

Nava: Right, right, like Dr Sherene Seikaly - who we talked to in episode 2. She's a professor of history at UC santa barbara.

Dr. Sherene Seikaly: and I think one of the ways to understand what Zionism has meant for Palestinians from 1948 through 1967 through 1993 is that the challenge that Zionism faced in the 19th century continues to be the challenge that it faces today: how do we create a Jewish and Democratic state, in a plot of land where the majority of people are not Jewish.

The way to understand it - the way I've understood it - I myself am a child of people who were born in 1944 and survived the nakba, and I'm married to a Palestinian who has citizenship in the state of Israel, and I also myself grew up in Lebanon and was there for the first seven years of my life; so in all of these contexts, if I had to sum up what Zionism is in one sentence for all of these different kinds of Palestinians it has meant the imperative of keeping us separate from one another. 
So it's not just about separation from the Arab world or being kept apart from Israeli Jews, it's about being separated from one another. 03:29

Tallie: In the context of a military occupation, being separated from other Palestinians might seem low on the list of what impacts your daily life. But I want to take a second here to really think about what “being separate from one another” really means.

It means families being unable to see each other. It means war and violence destroying the connections you have to your home. It means the basic ways people have community with each other - celebrating weddings, or having your family at your graduation, having your grandparent in your life - at the control of an occupying power.

Its generational trauma.

Nava: So Tallie, how did this happen? To explain it, we want you to remember three dates: 1948. 1967. 1993. 04:21

So, first, 1948. At the time, the region had been under the control of the British Empire. And then the British ceded control to the United Nations. War broke out immediately. And obviously, this is the short version.

Tallie: During that war, the State of Israel declared itself an independent state, but it also destroyed over five hundred Palestinian towns and villages, and expelled about eight hundred thousand Palestinians from their homes. This is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe. According to Dr Seikaly:

Dr. Seikaly: So what you have from the very outset is a deep and irrecoverable fracture and dispossession. 05:06

Nava: So, after 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians ended up displaced within Israel, or in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, or living in Europe, and South America, and the United States, all over the world. Because of 1948 and everything after, Palestinians are one of the largest groups of refugees in the world. And returning home after the nakba -- that’s always been at the heart of most all Palestinian organizing.

Tallie: Absolutey. I heard about this from Maisa Marror. She's an organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement, which is a global movement committed to radical Palestinian unity. 05:44

Maisa Marror: So for many palestinians, we talk about when we are going to return, when we are going to return, because when people left during the nakba they held on to their keys, and some people - they left with their food still on the table. And their intention was always to return. I think a lot of people, at least within the Zionist movement, they frame it as oh, these people just left.

And we didn’t just leave. We were kicked out. Our ancestors never imagined themselves not living within their homeland.

Tallie: Maisa explains that this is very personal.

Maisa: When my parents first came here, they never envisioned themselves staying. My father’s idea of "I’m coming to America to be able to seek an opportunity so I can go back to Palestine and I can take my children and raise my children there.” I don’t think he ever thought that he would live off the rest of his days here. It tricked down to us, the children. When my siblings and I - we always thought about how we were going to return. What would return look like, how would we function.

Nadya: As Maisa said, basically, return inherently goes back to the demand of the return of all our people. 07:06

Tallie: That's Nadya Tannous, also with palestinian youth movement. you heard her at the beginning of the show. and she points out that many of the refugees from 1948 ended up in Gaza, or the West Bank, or within the new State of Israel.

Nadya: and even folks who are internally displaced people. Which is a small amount of our population, they might live within 2-5 kilometers from where their village is. Very few actually live within the village, within the place that they’re from, and we demand the return for them to their homes and to their villages. 07:39

Tallie: As you said Nava, 1948 is the first way Palestinians are separated from one another. One of the first things the new Israeli government did was pass laws preventing the Palestinians who had been kicked out from returning to their homes. The government gave those homes to Jewish settlers.

Nava: yeah, and they didn't stop there. Many of those villages were renamed in Hebrew. So roads, villages, buildings, often had names nearly identical to their names in Arabic, but always in Hebrew instead. It’s all if to say: this has always been a Jewish place.

Like Nadya says -- in order for the Israeli state to exist, Palestinians had to disappear.

Nadya: I think when you talk about nakba as being something that happened between 1947 and 1949 - we have to underscore again and again that we are still going though nakba, we are still going through catastrophe and dispossession. 08:35

Tallie: The Israeli state continues to take land - this started pretty soon after the Nakba, right?

Nava: Right. And This brings us to 1967.

There were a few pieces of land that hadn’t been claimed by the new Israeli state - like the Gaza strip, which was controlled by Egypt, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which were controlled by Jordan.

Tallie: ya, and in 1967, the Israeli military occupied those areas, where over a million Palestinian people lived.

This was and is illegal under international law.

Nava: completely

Tallie: So, the UN drew a line -- it's called "the green line" -- between the land Israel claimed in 1948, during the nakba and the land it occupied in 1967. but, that made new problems for the state of Israel, according to Dr. Seikaly:

Dr. Seikaly: questions begins to arise about how do we deal with not just the 20% of the population that's inside the green line that has citizenship, but how do we deal with these people who are basically our colonized subjects? what do we do with them?

Tallie: Here’s what Israel does with them: it separates them from each other. 09:41

The Israeli military controls almost every aspect of their lives

Nava: Right

Tallie: access to farmland, electricity, airspace, medical care, and work. Like, for example, to this day, Israel controls all of the water in the West Bank and Gaza, and uses it as it sees fit, mostly to serve the needs of the settlements. Palestinians in the occupied territories are living in a man-made water crisis.

Nava: But from the very beginning Tallie, Palestinians pushed back against Israeli control. In villages and cities, they formed armed resistance groups, practiced civil disobedience, they built general unions, and they had intense disagreements with each other, while they debated the future of Palestine. Many Palestinians believed that nothing short of a revolution would end the occupation.10:32

That continued until the late 80s, and then many of these groups came together and organized a widespread uprising called the intifada.

It included all of these different factions - socialists and students and Islamists and feminists and organizers of all kinds. and together they disrupted the daily life of occupation in the Palestinian territories for almost six years. And Israel reacted to these mass protests with intense violence. 11:00

Tallie: this brings us to our third and final important date for today:


The Intifada was going strong. But meanwhile Israeli and Palestinian leaders were meeting secretly in Oslo, Norway, and they signed... the Oslo Accords.

Nava: Tallie, when did you first learn about Oslo?

Tallie: it’s such a good question.

I actually have a very distinct memory of it.

I was watching the signing ceremony with my entire family on TV - I was maybe ten years old? - there was this moment when Yitzchak Rabin

Nava: the Israeli Prime Minister

Tallie: yeah. and Yasser Arafat, the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, shook hands in front of Bill Clinton. And my family was just crying with joy.

Nava: Oh my god I remember that too, it was your family, my family, and the Nobel committee all crying. They won the nobel peace prize the next year, remember?

Tallie: I totally forgot.

Nava: Tallie, I was twelve when the first accords were signed, I remember it so similarly to you. And for years after that I used to march in peace rallies where we’d carry signs that said things like “pro-Oslo, pro-peace.”

In my social world, we thought that Oslo was the culmination of a long struggle for peace, it was the most beautiful possibility for coexistence. It was a roadmap where finally Israeli Jews and Palestinians would live together in peace

But it wasn’t any of those things.

Tallie: Nava, it like really wasn’t, it was so emotional to see these two men shake hands on the White House lawn, I really believed for many years that the solution to this violence was happening.

Nava: you and me both

Tallie: But I was profoundly misunderstanding what Oslo was. Oslo is the third and maybe most insidious way that Zionism keeps Palestinians apart.12:57

Oslo created this governing body called “the Palestinian Authority.” And the Palestinian Authority has municipal control over major Palestinian cities and towns, but not the land in between. So the result is, Palestinian land is fragmented by border after border run by Israeli soldiers. In some areas, the Palestinian Authority controls education, health, and parts of the economy, but not security or policing.

Nava, it’s a mess. The Israeli army is everywhere, protecting power lines or cell phone towers or Jewish-only roads. 

Nava: Yeah. Oslo - it was supposed to be this interim agreement, with the promise of a long-term solution and Palestinian statehood within five years. It’s so weird to think about that now, because this temporary agreement has remained for over twenty-five years.13:53

Israel is still in charge of most aspects of Palestinian life. Refugees can’t return, Palestinians inside of Israel are second class, i don’t know, or fifth class citizens, and in the occupied territories, the movement of people and goods and money is tightly controlled by the Israeli army’s soldiers and its permits and its checkpoints.

Tallie: It’s honestly so enraging. Since Oslo, there are so many ways that daily life just becomes a series of absurdities.14:25

Here’s just a small example from last summer: The village of Osirin in the West Bank is pretty small - about two thousand people?

If you look at it on a map, it kinda just looks like a small town next to a highway bypass, like the kind of place you would stop by for lunch on a road trip, right?

The Israeli army closed the road between the village and the highway for a month.

Nava: ugh god 

Tallie: This means everyone in the village either can’t leave, or they have to go through these poorly maintained, winding roads that connect this village with other ones, taking these really circuitous routes to where they need to go.

ok so i feel like you are imagining like, this really proper thing that is shutting down this road but it's literally just this giant boulder in the middle of the road so cars can't pass through. and now, it adds at least an hour to trips that used to take … twenty minutes? Think about this - like, all of a sudden, you’re now an hour farther away from work, or from a hospital, from university, from your whole life - for no reason. For a month! For a month. 

So, to justify this, the Israeli army claimed that some teenagers threw rocks at cars on the main highway. 15:43

They didn’t question anyone. They didn't arrest anyone. We have no idea if that rock-throwing incident actually happened. And so thousands of people’s lives are disrupted. Its a form of collective punishment.

It’s an arbitrary abuse of power.

Nava: Yeah, and that one incident you just described Tallie, this very specific, small thing - it’s just a very normal part of how Israel controls Palestinian movement ever since Oslo. There's check points, and travel permits, and building a wall through the West Bank. which Israel claims is for security, but Dr. Seikaly explains that:

Dr. Seikaly: people often think that it's about keeping Israelis Jews and Palestinians separated. No, in fact what that wall has done has been to isolate Palestinians communities from their schools, from their land, from their work, from their homes, and so what happens as a result is that Palestinians are kept from apart from one another. 16:38

Nava: Again.

Like the Nakba in 1948. And like the occuption that started in 1967. In 1993, In response to Palestinian resistance, to the enormous energy of the intifada, Oslo divided and subdivided Palestinians and that was always what Oslo was supposed to do.

Tallie: Yeah, and that deep separation: Zionism is still doing it now.

Nava: yeah, all the time

Tallie: So let’s hear more about how Palestinians in the United States are pushing back against that separation. Maisa and Nadya, the two organizers with the Palestinian Youth Movement who we heard from earlier, are so great and I wanted us to hear more of that conversation...

Nava: yes, more Maisa and Nadya

Tallie: Well, there are more Palestinians now than ever in history, and the biggest group is youth.The Palestinian Youth Movement, or PYM, has been organizing youth internationally - in the diaspora - for ten years. I was able to talk to Maisa and Nadya in a radio station in Oakland, about their work with PYM.

Nadya: PYM did develop and grow, and was created as a response to Oslo. And as a response to dispossession and the specter of disempowerment. “Just give up and go home.” Fatalism. And, we know, or I know, that even as some of the older generation, particularly my grandparents might have said things, like “We’re never gonna be able to return,” you know? “This is it. We were conquered. We lost.” Which I can’t blame them for. They survived—my grandparents survived four wars? its like, they also imbued in me this pride of saying “Don’t forget who you are. Never give up the fight.”

And we know that return is not only a non-negotiable demand, but it’s also not unrealistic. It’s very very possible, and we won’t let go of it, because what does it mean for us to accept a future where we never return home? And our children never return home? That’s not something that we’re willing to give up, even if many of the folks who are supposed to be representing us on an international level, and share our identity as Palestinians, are willing to give up. We are obstinate, we refuse.

We are the conscience and the voice that says no.19:02 

Maisa: Where is Zionism definitely made to keep us separated from each other, PYM is the exact opposite. We have been able to connect to our youth and people in the way that we haven't been able to do for the past 20 or 30 years. And it's very evident when we see each other in spaces, you see this excitement with many youth that have never built with a Palestinian - or even know what it means to build with a Palestinian run owned and governed institution. Zionism is meant to keep us separated and PYM is like okay we're here to bring everyone together again.

Nadya: There isn’t one type of Palestinian. Because of our exile and because of our protracted refugeehood and because of our diaspora, we have so many different experiences that shape who we are. Yes, we’re all Palestinian or Arab, but we have folks who have multiple different—I don’t know how to say this. We have a diversity of genders, of sexual orientations, of racial and ethnic backgrounds, within being Palestinian and Arab.

You meet youth who have a totally different upbringing than you. Totally different political ideology. Folks who are religious, spiritual, atheist.

Maisa: Different dialect of Arabic. [laughs]

Nadya: Totally, right? Come from totally different political ideologies. And, you’re in a space that is absolutely, underlyingly, overtly stated, in all forms, a unity platform. Which doesn’t mean that we all have to agree. We have many people in the PYM who are not like each other at all. And that expands to places that our families have been. My family, my father, grew up in an orphanage in a camp in Jordan. Maisa’s parents, Maisa’s mother—

Maisa: My mom was born in Venezuela, where there was a lot of Palestinians that moved to South America at a certain period. So, building off of Nadya, it’s interesting to see the different backgrounds that we all share and bring. There’s people that left because of nakba, but then there’s also people that left for other reasons, and nakba might have been the underlying cause in it all, but it wasn’t the moment in which they left.

So, these spaces are very special. 21:27

Nadya: And we are still talking about liberation in a way that encompasses all of us. And to not, also, be the only Palestinian in the room. Which opens up a whole new aspect of what it means to work for Falasteen. whereas many times the Palestine solidarity movement, often, kind of hand-selects the Palestinians that they want to hear from, and lifts them up, and sometimes really away from their base. It’s a really good thing to remember that none of us are superstars. We are all here in order to push for a vision, and what PYM offers is the ability challenge one another, to make sure we are all staying - i don't want to say authentic because it has a lot of baggage but a real genuine engagement.

Maisa: It’s been challenging for me for these past ten years to maintain something that has everything working against it. Even our own family members they support but they are lost, like what are you doing? And then

the external challenges of Zionism, of imperialism, of all of these things that have really kind of hit us. For me, I always kind of have to reflect on why this is important to me. And I go back to the feelings I had when I first joined PYM. And, at the age of 18, I remember thinking, this is gonna be the movement that liberates Palestine. 23:08 

Nava: Tallie, you know what today makes me think of?

Tallie: what

Nava: I keep getting remindedthat diaspora

Tallie: Diaspora! That’s this podcast!

Nava: Right right. I keep getting reminded that...diaspora is a powerful word for lots of different kinds of movements, full of loss and full of political possibility.

We talked in episode 2 about the radical potential of diaspora as a way Jews push back against Zionism.

And today we heard about how Zionism *caused* diaspora for palestinians… and it’s also a place from which Palestinians organize for their liberation.

Tallie: I think that’s why I like the word so much. And we are going to keep exploring what it can mean. Join us next time when we talk about land, power, and Christian Zionism.

Tallie: Thank you for listening to diaspora.

Nava: We want to hear what you think. What does the word “diaspora” mean to you? Do you think of yourself as living in diaspora?

Tallie: Record your answer - you can use the voice memos on your phone - and email your recording to podcast@JVP.org, and we might include it in a future episode.

Diaspora podcast is produced by me, Tallie Ben Daniel. It’s written and hosted by me and Nava EtShalom, and edited by Jenny Asarnow.

Nava: Our theme music is the song “for our stories” by the decibelists, off their self-titled debut album.

Tallie: If you like this podcast, please spread the word, and rate and review us on wherever you listen to podcasts.

Nava: And you can follow us on twitter @diasporapodcast, or email us at podcast@jvp.org

Tallie: We’d like to thank Phyllis Bennis for factchecking this episode.

We’d also like to thank Professor Sherene Saikaley, and a big THANK YOU to Nadya Tannous and Maisa Marror for talking to us about Palestinian history, and the Palestinian Youth Movement.

Just so you know:

Maisa: And, if you’d like to reach us, you can find us at pymusa.com. Also on Facebook, at Palestinian Youth Movement, and Instagram, @palestinianyouthmovement, all one word.

Nadya: Until return and liberation!