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Today is:

Journey Through Palestine:
Colonialism at Home and Abroad
Part 1

By Nijime Dzurinko

I went to Palestine

I went to Palestine from November 2002-February 2003, and from August 2003-December 2003. There is no simple way to explain why or to sum up my experiences. I went because I have Palestinian heritage, and also because I have African, Indigenous, and European heritage. I went because throughout my life I have been under attack for being who I am, and as I grew to understand the ways I have been mis-educated about the reality of my self and all of my peoples, I needed to understand that reality first hand. Part of that reality exists here in Philadelphia, and part of it exists in Occupied Palestine (as well as many other places around the world). Even though my mother’s mother’s family left Palestine between 1916-1921, I still feel a connection to that place that has been transferred down to me, culturally, through my grandmother. Growing up I didn’t really understand the situation with Palestine, only that I was somehow connected to it. Now I perceive that connection in greater depth – not only because of a direct bloodline, but also through the lens of colonialism, internalized colonialism, and economic and racial oppression. Understanding the issue of Palestine through these various lenses has given me a deeper and broader perspective. Now I see Palestine not as it’s own unique ‘puzzle’ of religious/ethnic strife in the ‘Holy Land’, but in terms of the overall legacy of imperialism, colonialism, white supremacy, and the growth of capitalism of the last 500 years.

I unlearned my mis-education

I cannot in this short piece describe to you everything about the history and context of the conflict over Palestine. But I would like to alert your attention to some of the ways the issue gets clouded and warped for the purposes of confusing the general public and getting the majority of people to support things they otherwise wouldn’t if they had clear information.

The Palestinian/Israeli conflict is not:

* The result of an age-old and inexplicable ethnic or religious hatred between Arabs and Jews
* The result of Arabs hating Jews for being Jews – also known as anti-Semitism.
* A conflict that has no foreseeable end.
* A conflict in which the United States plays ‘honest broker’ and sincerely wants to see a resolution.

The Palestinian/Israeli conflict is:

* A conflict about the confiscation and exploitation of land, resources, and people.
* A conflict in which an indigenous population of Palestinians has been uprooted and had their land forcibly colonized
* An asymmetrical conflict pitting an indigenous Arab primarily agricultural population against a European heritage group seeking to uproot the majority of the original inhabitants and bring the remainder under control, and doing so with the weapons, funding and expertise of the United States.

I Learned About the Reality of the Occupation

I spent seven months in the Occupied West Bank. By no means does it make me an expert, but it does give me a taste of what daily life is like living under occupation and settler colonialism. Because I lived in Palestine during the second Intifada (uprising), I got to experience a lot of the repression that followed this attempt at securing freedom from Israeli oppression. Here are some elements of the occupation that I witnessed first hand:

*A complete militarization of the daily lives of Palestinians through the overwhelming presence and force of Israeli military personnel, and their jeeps, tanks, guns, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, and other weapons.

*The ongoing harassment and oppression by this personnel of Palestinian civilians including children, which includes beatings, various forms of torture, killings, assassinations, collective punishment, home demolitions, destruction of property and trees, sexual harassment, and verbal taunts and insults.

*Preventing Palestinians from moving freely in their daily lives through an apartheid-like system of roads, as well as checkpoints (where Palestinians have to show identity cards which they must carry with them at all time), roadblocks, and constant military presence.

*Actively destroying the Palestinian economy through these movement restrictions that also prevent the flow of goods to market.

*The building of a Wall almost entirely on Palestinian land, which separates families form each other, farmers from their crops, children from their schools, and people from their jobs. This wall does not follow just one path, but curves to put settlements, water, and fertile land on the “Israel” side. It also completely encloses some Palestinian towns and groups of villages, creating walled ghettos where there is only one way in or out. This wall has the effect of forcing people to want to leave because they can no longer sustain themselves. It is a method of brutal yet subtle ethnic cleansing, by making life so unbearable that people will ‘voluntary’ emigrate.

*The complete and enforced separation between Palestinians living under occupation and Israeli Jews and Palestinians that live inside of Israel. This separation is enforced by virtue of the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have special identity cards, license plates, and roads to travel on that distinguish them from citizens of Israel.

*The ongoing confiscation of Palestinian land to build settlements, military installations, create buffer zones around Israeli settlers, bypass roads, and any other ‘security’ reasons.

And that’s not all…

Colonialisms, at home and abroad

I wrote the following during my most recent trip:

It is very clear to me now, the blueprint of how to render a population subservient. By force of arms, prove you are stronger than them. Establish methods of control over their lives, through administrative and military systems, which they must abide once they are conquered. Set up an alternative system of justice, identification, and transportation, and isolate them from the outside world as well as your own population. Take control of their natural resources. Through your control, make their lives difficult. Commit systematic physical and psychological violence to weaken their spirit. Take away their last source of control, their agricultural livelihood, by annexing vast tracts of the most fertile land. After this they will be left with no way to survive. Some of them will leave, and the rest will be a captive market for your products since they no longer have the ability to produce their own. Their cultural heritage will slowly dissolve under the pressure of their daily lives and they will start to annihilate each other, doing your work for you. The remaining people will survive on aid, and be so desperate for work you can use them for laborers at slave wages. In a couple of generations, no one will remember that they were ever a great people, including perhaps themselves. Their poverty and illiteracy can be explained easily to the rest of the world as a result of their own backwardness and lack of culture. In short, they are a people who deserve to be subjugated, because they obviously cannot take care of themselves. And so it goes.

This excerpt is from a longer e-mail I wrote back to my list entitled ‘clarity’. This is probably my clearest attempt to put in words what I saw happening in Palestine – and what I see happening among my people in this country. The difference being that many of the things that are happening to Palestinians at this very moment happened to Indigenous people of the Americas and Africans hundreds of years ago. There are so many connections when we look at the reality of internal colonialism with the United States as it effects the disenfranchised here. Following are just a few examples related to the bold phrases above.

A subservient population

One sure way to tell if you’ve got a traumatized and colonized people is to test them. In Palestine, the Israeli colonizing authority continues to strip away basic civil and human rights from the people. Curfew, land confiscations, checkpoints, daily humiliations. They want to know, how much will the people take? How well will they adapt to each new horror, just in order to survive a little longer? How much can you take away from them before they rise up?

Stateside, if you can enforce conditions such as one in every four Black men being under the control of the ‘criminal justice’ system at some point in their lives (the majority for nonviolent offences) without a massive outcry from the people, you know you’ve got a subservient population.

Methods of control

In Palestine, control is direct, physical, and brutal. Everyone understands it. If you try to walk directly through a checkpoint instead of waiting in line in the hot sun for hours without knowing if you’ll be allowed through, there is a good chance that the soldier on duty will remind you who is in control of the situation by beating or shooting you, especially if you do it alone.

Here in Philadelphia, control is sometimes direct – and sometimes indirect. There is police brutality to keep folks in place, and there can be violent results when people take to the streets to protest. Controlling forces in our lives also include the corporate media (who very directly control what we do and don’t see – such as US soldiers who have died in Iraq, much less Iraqi civilians who have died). So much of the media we consume amounts to a severe level of brainwashing – teaching us to be concerned not with rights and power but consumption, image, and status symbols.

Nijmie Dzurinko, May 2004

More helpful resources:

Read Part 2 of The Nij Report


More Reports
- Journey through Palestine
- What is it Going to Take?
- Sacrafice






Palestinian family harvests  olives Nov. 2003. Olives are the backbone of the Palestinian economy.




Palestinian children come through a gate in the Aparthied Wall in order to get to school.  Ar-Ras, Northern West Bank







Baby examines fencing that is part of the Apartheid Wall. Mas'ha, WB

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