Photo illustration by Michael Gould-Wartofsky
Dear Occupy Wall Street,
You're getting a taste of what it is to be Palestinian. You're starting to know what it is like to not have a job, know why, and know the names and addresses of the people responsible for depriving you of dignity and justice. So now, like Palestinian and Arab youth, you're taking to the streets and making demands, you're calling for real change.
But us Americans, unlike Palestinians, are free. In fact, we have been too free. Our freedom came at the cost of others. Free markets were only free because we were taking everyone else's freedom.
It's OK, I know most of us didn't mean to be occupiers. We were shocked and mourning 9/11, so all of our blind eyes, all of our xenophobic, nationalistic, religiosity makes sense. But honestly, and I tell you this as your friend, it would have been better for us to listen to our international counselors before blowing our money on more bombs to the Middle East -- again.
I know we tried to make it right in 2008, that we wanted to clear it up with the world. But unfortunately, electing a black man couldn't save us from our sins. It was already too late, far too late. And now, our knight in shining armor became a sinner too, in the White House Obama just couldn't stay black.
So here we are on a sinking ship, on a warming planet, and we may have missed the tipping point. It may be generations before we return to our foreclosed homes or get back our stolen jobs. Because America, we're both occupied and occupiers. We have a lot of work to do.
But this is good work and many occupied peoples (the Palestinians included) are excited for us. For if we will succeed in occupying Wall Street, we will not only free ourselves, but free Palestines everywhere. That commitment is what truly makes us a part of the global 99 percent, "We the People," if you will. So here are some words of wisdom from the Palestinians, who have been working to end occupations for hundreds of years:
Nothing lasts forever -- the wall will fall.
Of course this wall won't fall without clear demands. We may know why we are occupying Wall Street, but we also have to know what we have to do to end Wall Street's worldwide occupation. And so I'm writing to you, Occupy Wall Street, from Palestine, and asking that when you're sitting in your people's assemblies, when you're putting your names on the stack, virtual and real, please make this one demand clear:
End American military aid to Israel.
This military aid is not being used for what you think it is. It is not being used to protect Israeli citizens from terrorists or hostile neighbors. It is being used to systematically steal water and land from the indigenous people. It is being used to destroy homes and displace communities, purchase weapons that are used against civilians (Palestinian, Israelis and internationals) and to imprison children and non-violent leaders without fair trials... the list goes on.
But all of these human rights issues aside, this money is being stolen from you! Since the end of the second World War, billions of American tax payer dollars have been given to Israel, the Middle Eastern superpower whose citizens enjoy some of the highest living standards in the world. In 2008, a ten year commitment to giving Israel $3 billion a year began, and by 2018 we will have spent $30 billion on military aid to Israel in the past decade. But why?
Well, Wall Street knows. 75 percent of the American military aid to Israel is conditional and must be used to buy military arms from U.S. companies. These companies make millions of dollars annually off of this policy. To protect their economic interests, they invest thousands into insuring that representatives who support their economic interests are elected and pass all of their favorite bills.
This is not a Jewish issue. This is an American issue. You are not an anti-Semite if you don't want your taxpayer dollars to be spent on weapons. You are however, an anti-Semite if you treat the Jewish people differently than you would treat any other people -- if you privilege them, pity them or punish them.
So this is the moment to occupy the streets, mailboxes and telephone lines of our representatives. To make clear demands and tell our representatives, "Stop being more pro-Israel than pro-American. Give us back our $30 billion!"
With Love from Palestine,