It would be fair to assume that American Muslims are likely breathing a sigh of relief and welcoming the rank and file of Occupy protesters now brought into the folds of the War on Terror – and it’s certainly not because American Muslims enjoy seeing others being put through the wringers of surveillance.
Just shy of two months, Occupy has proven to be the platform where Americans of all backgrounds now come together to engage in long overdue civic dialogue – Occupy’s indisputable shining accomplishment. The interfaith presence at Occupy is one of the most encouraging signals. The “protest chaplains” from Boston, MA have been present since day 1 at Wall Street and are now camping out at Occupy Boston. Occupy Judaism have been at Wall Street, as have Hare Krishna’s been spotted turning up at various camps to provide free vegan food.
A few weeks ago, Occupy Wall Street hosted Muslim Friday services, or Jummah prayers, at Zuccotti Park. The beauty of the event was not only the Imam who in his sermon stated to the listening Wall Street crowds “I’m not here to talk about anything but social justice” but that the live tweets were coming from the Occupy Judaism twitter account.
Following this rush of excitement, one can understand why it was to my dismay when I began to see certain sentiments arising from Wall Street. The Israeli Palestinian conflict, as Ben Lorber so eloquently put it, “continues to be a fault line” at Occupy.
Let me begin by clearing one major misconception. Supporters of Occupy who are pushing the Palestine issue are not doing so because they want to highjack the Occupy agenda. Rather, it is because those who are pushing Palestine are doing so because they’re connecting the issues.
Palestine should not be the focal point of Occupy. However, when you talk about the crimes of the American 1%, then talk about all of their crimes. It is correct to point out that Palestine is not the sole external issue to Occupy – but it is the most glaring.
If Occupy wants to talk about the bad behaviours of billionaire Americans, one need not look much further than Sheldon Adelson from Boston, Massachusetts. Currently, Adelson is 8th wealthiest American and 16th wealthiest person in the world and has a reported net worth of approximately $21.5 billion through various casino enterprises and is perhaps best known for his less than palatable business practices and various controversies.
Never heard of him? Try dropping his name in Israel and one might have better luck. Adelson is one of Birthright Israel’s largest donors contributing $25 million annually. Adelson is also one of the major figures responsible for the attack on the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Centre attempting, unsuccessfully, to shut down the building of the mosque.
This connection is just the tip of the iceberg.
It is worth knowing that the heavy “less-lethal” artillery raining down on Occupy protesters in parts of the United States carry the very same labels as the ones that rain down on Palestinians in the West Bank. The corporations who are selling these “less-lethal” products are certainly making a “killing” in profits these days.
The 1% have haven’t merely secured their wealth domestically over the past 10 years, there has been an entire global campaign functioning simultaneously. Simply put, our fiscal insecurities have resulted from the deaths of people all over the globe. Helena Cobban writes:
“The U.S. military has turned out to be such a force for mayhem in the world in recent years that I can almost not bear to think about it. From Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Pakistan, to Somalia, to Yemen—and now, to Libya… What has the U.S. military brought in its wake?? The collapse of communities, of whole economies, of institutions, and families… Tragedies, wherever you look.”
When attempting to express the necessity of taking up war related issues, including Palestine, I was shocked by the responses. “Palestine has nothing to do with OWS”, “We have our own problems to sort out first”. Palestine clearly still too provocative to touch. When the Occupy Wall Street twitter account expressed solidarity with the flotilla, it was heartbreaking to see the tweet was removed four hours later.
This is a major flaw with Occupy. As one Muslim tweeter put it sharply: “So this is how OWS succeeds in America, ignore the poor bastards killed in the world but focus on the money…”
I cannot help but to feel that there is a latent Islamophobia operating at Occupy. While this may sound like a leap of judgement, allow me to add that many protesters also expressed concern with the terrorism label that comes with openly displaying sympathy with Palestine. It is a fair concern, but it is also a concern many Muslim Americans have had a decade to grow accustomed to. In pushing the Muslim American concerns, I was astounded when a tweeter told me that “I care what Muslims think, but don’t think it is relevant to OWS”.
Americans have spent the past decade being heavily misinformed about the Muslim world. The hesitation to touch Muslim concerns at Occupy reflects the fact that through the discourse of extremism and terrorism, Muslim concerns have been dangerously isolated. I do believe that this is the effect those pushing the Islamophobic agendas have been going for. For inside Muslim American politics undoubtedly lies America’s most painful lessons. Protesters would be wise to start making these connections fast because Occupy will cease to be a genuine success with Muslim Americans alienated from it.
It is infuriating that many protesters at Occupy are still resistant to dig deep. What these protesters need to understand is that the American misinformation subterfuge has been the Muslim Worlds nightmare for 10 years. The other portion of the American 99% are now just getting their toes wet. Mind you, most Occupy protesters didn’t even bring up Palestine before they began to be treated as terrorists.
While Occupy certainly has an anti-war slant, it is no longer acceptable to chant meaningless anti-war slogans out into thin air. It is the onus of American Occupy protesters, who have just woken up to reality to finally come to grips and understand the ugly, dirty, and intricate politics behind the disastrous mess the United States has lead the world into – and they should certainly start by using the civil dialogues at Occupy to do so.
So welcome to the War on Terror. Your first lesson, if your views happen to counter the established narrative, expect to be dehumanised, then treated like a terrorist.