The attacks in Gaza are highly controversial with a fierce tug and pull between the sides. LA’s Mayor Villaraigosa and NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg have both taken a pro-Israel stance, as well as the 390 members of Congress who this past week voted “aye” to the passing of House Resolution 34. The resolution “recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirms the United States’ strong support for Israel…” On the streets it seems most people are angry about the situation on the Gaza side, not necessarily pro-Hamas, but more aligned with a ‘pro-humanitarian stop the killing of innocent people’ stance.
I knew how I personally felt, but what I wanted to know is, “Is this a South Asian American issue? As desis, why should we care?” Short of learning that Gandhi was an anti-Zionist, there’s not too much out there on the matter. But at Saturday’s protest, there were many desis out walking the street in solidarity. So I hit the streets and asked them why they were there. This is what they had to say.
“A lot of people were here for the protest,” said Omar of the band Elephant with Guns. “I couldn’t find my friend so I just joined the people I was with and started playing[he starts beating a hand held drum and chanting] one, two, three, four, we don’t want your racist war. Five, six, seven, eight, stop the killing stop the hate.”
“I thought it was great turnout and I was very inspired by it,” states Amy, a young professional. “It’s important for South Asians to be here because we need to show our solidarity. We went through it in India during our fight for independence.”
“I think that this is not particular to Arabs, to people of Middle East orgins, or to South Asian origin but I think that any community that has lived under any kind of occupation or the injustices of any type of colonization should be committed to this cause,” said Naaz, a PhD student at UCLA. “I’m from an Indian background. The types of atrocities that were committed under the British in India and the way that they systematically tried to divide people and divide Hindus from Muslims was unjust. We are still living with a lot of the scars of that British occupation…I think it’s about Western hegemony that is still continuing in the form of capitalism, and in new imperialistic projects, like Iraq, Afghanistan and maybe even Pakistan… As a community of color the west has been manipulating us for a long time.”
“South Asians tend not to be as connected to other communities in general,” said the Mad Guru, wearing an image he had designed pinned to the front of his shirt. “We can’t keep seeing problems as other people’s problems somewhere far away. I mean, you have to understand that if you don’t stick up for other peoples’ rights, then no one is going to stick up for your rights either.”
We are Sikhs who stand against the brutality of Israeli occupation and the ongoing siege, blockade, and massacre of Gaza. Now more than ever, we call on our Sikh sisters and brothers to think about what our faith and our Sikh identity really means. Why did Guru Nanak Sahib seek to abolish the caste system in South Asia? Why did Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib sacrifice his life for the sake of othersâ€™ (non-Sikhs) right to freely practice their religion and live free of persecution?…Because for Sikhs, fighting against all forms of tyranny and oppression is a spiritual obligation. [racewire]
It’s great to see so many people acting in solidarity, but it’s understandable that more people haven’t spoken out because the issue is so confusing and potentially so divisive. South Asian mag Samar posted a well researched myth-busting piece last week to clarify the politics around the issue.
We may disagree with the politics of Hamas, just as we may disagree with the politics of the British Labor Party, but it does not follow that we should condone the slaughter of all leaders and members of Hamas, their families, government employees, and random members of the Palestinian population which elected them to power, any more than we would condone the slaughter of all leaders and members of the Labour Party, their families, government employees, and random members of the British population which elected them to power. The fact that the US and EU cannot see this equivalence demonstrates that they are dominated by the same racism which allowed slavery to flourish and the indigenous peoples of North America and Australia to be exterminated. [samar]
Sure we can protest to express our solidarity but that is by no means the only nor most strategic tactic. I called my representative today to express my disappointment on his ‘aye’ vote on HR 34, and I will call him again tomorrow to ask him to co-sponsor Kucinich’s resolution on the humanitarian issues in Gaza. My office will be hosting a brown bag to learn more about the issue. I’ve been sending action alerts to my friends. I’m not saying you have to pick ‘my’ side on this issue, nor am I saying you have to be a gung-ho freedom fighting activist. But what I will say is this is an important issue. As South Asian Americans, this issue is relevant to us. Do your research and get educated on this complex situation. And if you feel moved by what you learn, do something about it.