Partition. In Gaza.

Protest Flags.jpg
Flags flapped in the 75 degree perfect Californian weather, flags of Mexico, Cuba, the Philippines, the U.S. and of course, Palestine. I was standing in front of the Federal Building in Los Angeles, in solidarity with thousands of people of all races, ages, and religions. I was one of many who this past Saturday, congregated in their city centers to protest the attacks on innocent lives in the Gaza strip. As of this post, we are 20 days into the attacks and over 1,000 people in Gaza are dead.

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.

Protest Holding Flag.jpgI 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.”

The protest was great, but there are other ways people in the South Asian community are showing support too. Some in the Sikh community jumped on board earlier this week. Protest Omar.jpg

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 others’ (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.

Protest Streetlight.jpg

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About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

320 thoughts on “Partition. In Gaza.

  1. 291 · Ponniyin Selvan said

    I need to assume that similar temples existed in the North but were demolished by the idol destroying crowd and that assumption is proven right by various chroniclers of the time.

    ponniyin, to mangle a favorite apocryhal quote attributed to my beloved ann coulter, “I don’t have enough ink in my pen to keep a running list of what you have to assume.”

    he.he..

    how conveniently the “north” resembles the south, except when it doesn’t, right? we are foreign when it suits your argument, domestic when it doesn’t.

  2. 291 · Ponniyin Selvan said

    It is not true that Hindu monumens do not stand on their own for thousands of years on their own.

    yeah, that reminds me of my hindu bf……

  3. to mangle a favorite apocryhal quote attributed to my beloved ann coulter, “I don’t have enough ink in my pen to keep a running list of what you have to assume.”

    he..he.. I also said, from Muslim chronicles they are proven facts, not just my assumptions. BTW, What do you think abut the Qutb complex in Delhi?. Do you think the Jain temples fell down because of earth quakes ?.. :-)

    how conveniently the “north” resembles the south, except when it doesn’t, right? we are foreign when it suits your argument, domestic when it doesn’t.

    Well, In the context of religion, there is a lot of commonality between north and the south. Whether one denies it or not the fact is that Hinduism is the one important factor that unites the diverse peoples of India.

  4. 304 · Ponniyin Sevan said

    Do you think the Jain temples fell down because of earth quakes ?.. :-)

    thank goodness ponniyin brought up brihadeeswarar and the jain temples to point out a big weakness in our commie progressive anti-hindu textbooks, which fail to mention how hindu rulers in the south killed buddhist and jain followers, and mutilated and destroyed their temples and structures during the 400-600 CE period (roughly). this seems to have been a regular feature of hinduism because such behavior has also been documented about the hindu rulers of cambodia several centuries later, roughly 1100 CE. Not to mention the internecine fights of Saivite rulers persecuting Vaishnavities, or Hindu Chola rulers sacking and pillaging the traditional Sinhalese capital of Anuradhapura. And I’m not even talking about how my blood boils whenever I see that leftist structure, the nagarjunasagar dam, which as recently as 1960 or thereabouts, flooded over one of the oldest buddhist settlements in india. why don’t our textbooks teach all this?

    death to twinkle twinkle!

  5. 304 · Ponniyin Sevan said

    Well, In the context of religion, there is a lot of commonality between north and the south

    oh yes, let’s just say shit and not back it up. take the kind of religious practices sindhi hindus or punjabis follow. they have much more in common with sufi muslims and the sikhs than with the tamil hindus. now let’s insert a mandatory silly chuckle here he..he.

  6. For me, the “tell” as to what the truth is is the “taboo” nature of certain topics and indeed sources to those who oppose the longstanding interpretation of Indian history with this “revisionist” nonsense. Look, for my side, at least as far as I’m concerned, nothing is verboten. For the other side, certain documents are to be read as saying “not X” when the contemporaries wrote “X.” I mean, we have a written confession, and it’s laughed off by the revisionists who “know” how to read it. How do they know that it means “not X”?–b/c they already knew the answer. How about contemporary European scholars then? Again, they can be dismissed–he’s a “Belgian Catholic.” (oh, my–they’re going to sic Tintin and Hercule Poirot on us!). Inscriptions written in stone? Attack the author who tells us what they say. . . . but note no dispute over the facts.

    You know, I think that the proponents of the “Big Lie” fall into two main camps–the first believes the lie b/c they only read a narrow range of sources and/or b/c it’s congenial to them to believe it. The more sophisticated group doesn’t believe the lie, but thinks, for reasons of political prudence, it’s best to spread it to the former group. But I think that the latter group misunderstands the political landscape–far better to tell the truth, and deal with it, than to bottle it up only to have it come whooshing out in outraged form in the future. Latin Americans acknowledge the Spanish conquests (they don’t have a “Big Lie” about the Spanish being tourists blown off course), but that doesn’t mean that the indigenous types are going around killing and expelling the Spaniards.

  7. yes, you’re open-minded, rob. divya has kindly provided links upthread. let’s read. according to him, no blame can be laid at the hand of hindu extremists; it’s only the islamic religion that is problematic because of its political monotheism. he doesnt need to examine any situation for its specifics, it’s just enough to find particulars of islamic extremism and denounce the secularists/marxists.

    I strongly deny having ever been ‘anti-Muslim’, for I make it a point to frequently insist that not Muslims but Islam is the problem.
    All the factors of the communal conflict, far from being the creation of Hindutva strategists, were in place from the day the first Islamic invader set foot in India

    oh and maybe you want to read this speech given to catholic priests to find common cause with hindus, ignore their pagan idols, and fight the threat of islam together.

    demographic siege: Using Kafir women in the service of Muslim demography

    western critiques of the caste system are unjustified; he makes his point by playing into hindu victimhood wrt africans and arabs:

    Hindus could have guilt-tripped modern Westerners into leaving the injustices of Hindu society alone if they had been Africans or Muslims. More perceptive Westerners would not be inhibited versus these two either (Muslims traded black, white and Indian slaves; while Africans enslaved and sold off their own brethren to Arab and European slave-traders), but most of them, and especially politicians, don’t dare to speak against those two groups. But Hindus are a different matter altogether.

    let’s not talk about hindus complicit in mughal rule and british imperialism.

  8. what i like about elst: agnosticism on the aryan invasion theory and acknowledgement that research does not bear out any confirmation of any position. and cynicism about the desi political establishment’s stance wrt history:

    I don’t have the impression that the BJP’s coming to power has made much of a difference. Earlier, you had schoolbooks denying historical facts that Tipu Sultan forcibly converted thousands of Hindus. Now, you may get textbooks denying that the Vedic Rishis ate beef. Apart from that, not much has changed. In the media, and academia, Hindutva is still in the opposition. True, under the market system, dissent is marginalised, ridiculed, suffocated financially, or rendered ineffective in other subtle ways, but I prefer all that to being murdered or imprisoned in a Gulag camp. And if you want to know whether Hindutva poses a threat to freedom comparable to Communism, I don’t think so.

    i do not believe his panic wrt islam, but maybe i’m a fool. we’ll know when the world blows up. at least, i can be superior about atheism then :)

  9. rob, not that I put much stock in this forensics of motivation, but why do you believe Bobby Jindal is religious only in name even as he writes extensive pieces of his coming to Jesus – or vice versa (Mountain, Mohammed; Mohammed, Mountain), pushes policies driven by religious ideology, and organizes voting blocs based on this philosophy, but are willing to believe that some Muslim leader centuries ago wasn’t using the same ploy? Are Muslim rulers not smart enough to have figured out the ideas that Machiavelli codified? Why are Muslim conquests and assorted pillaging – de rigeur for those days – from centuries ago more chilling than what was the norm for every conqueror, even Hindu, of those times? I point out multiple examples of assorted omissions of Hindu depredations from Indian textbooks, does that lay the responsibility for any militant right-wing Jain or Buddhist movements that might arise at their doorstep too?

    And if you believe Romila Thapar’s musings on Ghazni and the lack of respect given to Koenraad Elst style rhetoric is the reason for the rise of the Sangh, rather than their emulation of the same tactics you would like to be discussed more – after all, despite several years of small-scale efforts, the BJP and Advani did rise to national prominence only after they mobilized to demolish a mosque, that is certainly, and I say this with due open-mindedness, an interesting reading.

    As always, death to twinkle twinkle!

  10. Oster is referring to the end of the 12th Century. Another quote from p. 222 “The mahaviharas [monasteries] were not spared when these invaders finally overran northern India and sacked its treasures at the end of the twelfth century.” It is the straight-up denial of this sort of point that I am terming the Big Lie.

  11. oh yes, let’s just say shit and not back it up. take the kind of religious practices sindhi hindus or punjabis follow. they have much more in common with sufi muslims and the sikhs than with the tamil hindus.

    The diversity and variations across regions are certainly large, however the commonalities are plentiful too if you care to look for them. Let’s take two extremes…Punjabi Hindus and Tamil Hindus. Even there the two communities, while differening widely, would have significantly overlapping mythologies, and certain overlapping rituals and spiritual concepts. I’m talking even at an organic, folk level. People worshipped Shiv/Shakti in both regions. The Shiv Ling was common in both. Even the Guru Granth Sahib (which is not even a Punjabi Hindu document) makes reference to a lot of Hindu mythology that would have been familiar to people in Tamil Nadu as well. I think the basic act of puja and aarti would have been common to both. There were significant civilizational connections between farflung regions. All this was very organic and unselfconscious until recent times. This larger civilization MUST be seen as diverse and with regional flavors and NOT as one monolithic entity; but I do think there were some things there that cut across vast distances and disparate ethnicities in the sub-continent; part of a process that occured over centuries and millenia. Why do Sindhi Hindus and Tamil Hindus share (some) common first names? It’s the general larger civilizational commonalities at work (very analagous to “European Civilization” as opposed to French or Greek cultures/civilizations).

  12. 312 · rob said

    It is the straight-up denial of this sort of point that I am terming the Big Lie.

    I don’t see Oster denying it or being ostracised for his statements; rather his book and his scholarship are very well respected, so I am not sure what exactly is being suppressed and who is being kept down as a result of this lie.

  13. That being said I do agree that “they have more in common with sufi muslims and the sikhs than with the tamil hindus”.

    As long as the Sufi Muslims is understood to mean DESI Sufi Muslims.

  14. so I am not sure what exactly is being suppressed and who is being kept down as a result of this lie.

    Apparently (1) Indian schoolchildren and (2) anyone who takes South Asian studies courses here in the US (particularly at a certain school in Hartford, CT). But, yes, the truth is out there! I’m glad you’re on board contra the Big Lie.

  15. 316 · rob said

    (particularly at a certain school in Hartford, CT).

    Vijay Prashad has no relevance beyond a few academics, and the vast right wing conspiracy theorists who obsess with him. His name, work, and ideas are not even marginally popular among the average Indian or Indian American, and not even necessarily among influential businessmen or other elites. One doesn’t need to buy into Prashad’s theories to dislike the Sangh or Modi. As for Indian schoolchildren, I agree – they should definitely study more about what Hindu rulers did, rather than be subject to the big lie.

  16. they should definitely study more about what Hindu rulers did, rather than be subject to the big lie.

    Fine, nobody should be naive enough to think it was all peaches and cream pre-Muslim invasion(s). . . .

  17. 318 · rob said

    Fine, nobody should be naive enough to think it was all peaches and cream pre-Muslim invasion(s). . . .

    So, what was the big lie again? That Muslim invasions are not treated with more extreme prejudice than non Muslim conflicts given that it was by “foreigners”?

  18. The Big Lie is that (1) they didn’t happen and (2) they weren’t horribly consequential for the Hindus.

  19. 320 · rob said

    The Big Lie is that (1) they didn’t happen and (2) they weren’t horribly consequential for the Hindus.

    (1) Not one person says that they didn’t happen – even you agree that disputes are about motivations, not facts, and (2) things that were consequential for Hindu subsects were happening all the time pre-invasion, and those internecine conflicts aren’t talked about either. Also, the notion that Hindus are a monolithic unchanged mass over several centuries is ridiculous – one only needs to look at the textual analysis of various Hindu epics to realize how they mutated over time to reflect the politics and conflicts of their time, surely those too were consequential and should be examined, rather than the descriptions of noble emperors, and antiseptic dynasties with borders, and trade relations, that gullible kids are fed in their textbooks.