My interest in Palestine began with the 1967 war when I saw a lone Palestinian picketing the student union at the University of Minnesota. Minneapolis media reported the war with a feverish pitch of support for Israel so over the top that I realized with chagrin that we were being played. When I saw the lone picketer, I approached him hoping to get some understanding. At the time, I couldn’t have told you where Palestine or Israel were on a map. His gruff, terse response was “They stole our land.” That’s all I could get out of him but he was probably afraid of getting beaten up–though at the time Zionist aggression, at least in the US, was no where near what it has become.

As a result of that picketer, I looked up the Arab-American club at the university & got involved in Palestine solidarity work, such as it was. But for a small group, we did some fine work. No Palestinians belonged but there were Arabs, mostly from Egypt, who educated me about Palestine. My other teachers were American Jewish socialists & Israeli Jews from Matzpen. Over the years, I’ve found other teachers but my grounding comes from that lone picketer, Egyptian & Palestinian activists, American & Israeli Jews. I only say this, not as a trip down memory lane, but to show the role that Arab & Jewish activists have always played in the struggle against Zionism & for justice for Palestinians.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC just issued a statement denouncing the analogy made between Nazi concentration camps & the refugee concentration camps on the US southern border. While it is absolutely so that the Nazi genocide of Jews & others was on an industrial scale, with gas chambers & crematoria, what the Zionists behind the museum are objecting to is an analogy that undermines their insistence that no one in human history has suffered like the Jews. It’s an expression of ethnic supremacy, a defining feature of Zionist ideology, which attempts to separate the persecution of Jews from that of black & brown people under colonialism. Not just separate the persecution of Jews from others but Zionism has brokered an agreement with colonial powers at the expense of the international struggle against racism, xenophobia, white supremacy. As we know now, that has only increased the quotient of hatred for Jews, strengthened racism & white supremacy, & not made the world one whit safer for Jews.

The Nazi holocaust was colonial genocide brought to the European metropolitan centers since the peoples of Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Pacific had for centuries known the scourge of merciless, industrial scale genocide, including the Atlantic slave trade where millions of Africans died. The Holocaust Memorial Museum wants us to ignore that history to justify the existence of Israel as a Jewish-only state. How low can you go to deny the undeniable analogy between Auschwitz & what is happening to small children in US concentration camps? The political point of the analogy is not exaggeration or hyperbole but to define the reality & express alarm at where the US & other countries are headed with their barbaric, colonial treatment of refugees if we do not organize to stop them.

Describing the different forms of US & European genocide or the methods of extermination is as difficult as looking at photos from the Nazi holocaust. There have been hundreds of genocides involving extermination of millions of people considered subhuman. Zionism is a right-wing ideology that would deny all that to justify Israel which is why the genocide of Palestinians comes naturally to them.

Jews have long played a progressive role in history, especially in the struggle against racism & inequality & in the struggle against Zionism have always played a leading role in analyzing & educating about the malignant character of Zionist ideology. It’s because they understand that the struggle of Jews against pogroms & persecution is inextricably linked to the struggle of all peoples against racism & white supremacy.

This photo is Herero & Nama survivors of the 1904-1908 genocide (in present day Namibia) by the German Empire after they rose up against German colonial rule. The ugly political truth is that Zionists like the US Holocaust Memorial Museum deny any analogy between this genocide & the Nazi genocide. In fact, as the first genocide of the 20th century, it is the prototype.

(Photo from Wikipedia via Jewish Currents)

Let me just object, as a working class woman, to the Dalai Lama’s expression of profound elitism & racist contempt when he says: “European countries should take these refugees & give them education & training, & the aim is return to their own land with certain skills.” What makes him think the millions of Muslim & African refugees have no education or skills & need Europeans (presumably the white ones) to teach them? Most of them have done more work in one week than he has done in his entire life. They are not dummkopfs just because they are refugees. They are teachers, plumbers, farmers, doctors, nurses, electricians, miners, engineers, drivers, carpenters, builders, laborers.

Many are now trying to parse the racism & Islamophobia of the Dalai Lama when the meaning of his repugnant words are crystal clear. Whilst wars, occupations, & genocides are being perpetrated against Muslims (including those in African countries) & whilst thousands of Muslim & African refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, his comments are nothing less than a racist & Islamophobic incitement to violence against them & can be interpreted as an endorsement of those wars, occupations, & genocides.
His stature does not shelter him from criticism any more than the stature of Pope Francis did him when he collaborated with the Burmese genocidaires in the midst of the Rohingya genocide & with Israel despite the genocide of Palestinians.

The US House of Representatives (dominated by Democrats) & the US Senate passed the ‘Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance & Security at the Southern Border Act’ giving the Trump administration $4.6 billion for policing the border & maintaining the concentration camps. Democrats put no obstacles in the way of the border patrol arresting, abusing, & torturing children on Trump’s orders.

Given their populist rhetoric, one would think Democrats would make sure most of that $4.6 billion would go for humane housing, food, water, sanitation, psychological services, toothbrushes, soap, blankets & beds, & for getting little kids out of those concentration camps. But in fact, $1,426,358,000 goes to the Pentagon (including the Marines & US Air Force), Border Patrol, Homeland Security, Texas National Guard, & judges to deal with “the significant rise in aliens at the southwest border.”

The Department of Health & Human Services, which is setting up but not overseeing the concentration camps, was allocated $2,881,552,000 for ‘refugee & entrant assistance’. Lest we think there’s any humanitarian concern involved, $708 million of that is for setting up more concentration camps & for outsourcing the children to private providers, $160.5 million is for paying overtime to the concentration camp guards & for computer services; $36 million is for transporting “alien” children to court or relocating them to another facility; $21 million is to Homeland Security to investigate human trafficking. Out of the $4.6 billion, nearly $2.9 billion for ‘refugee assistance’, less than $112 million is allocated for “consumables & medical care” for children whose conditions in the camps rival Auschwitz.

The Democrats must be in complete accord with Republicans in setting up the concentration camps because not only is most of the $4.6 for maintaining concentration camps, but they made no provisions within this appropriations bill for oversight of Trump & his immigration minions. There is no way they will be able to determine if Trump officials allocate the money to the wall, use it to pay overtime to prison guards or bribe judges, or outright steal it.
We’d like to ask the Democratic senators running for president in 2020 exactly where they stand on this bill. We’d like to know what they think about referring to small children as “aliens.” Mostly, we’d like to know what they intend to do to organize opposition to those concentration camps other than blow puffballs of populist rhetoric.

Photo is the El Paso del Norte concentration camp for children.

(Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/The Texas Tribune)