Bernie, Palestine, and Empire

This is a note to those who followed the AIPAC performances and read Sanders’ Middle East policy speech. The standard maintained by Clinton, Cruz, and Trump, Congress, your state legislatures, corporate media talking heads, your high school history teachers, etc. is so bizarrely inhumane, aggressive, and nihilistic that reading Sanders’ position seems hopeful.

In reality, the current paradigm in which Americans see themselves and the world, and the two together, is so dystopian that Sanders’ centrism sounds appealing. And so, in reality, it actually is appealing.

It’s appealing because it’s a welcome relief, after years of frustration, for those who understand the workings of empire. For Sanders’ to tell the 2016 version of American society, a country that has been at war for the longest period in its history (while developing no credible anti-war movement), a country that has accepted the loss of its own collective civil rights and civil liberties (extrajudicial police killings, mass incarceration, loss of voting rights, significant income inequality and class immobility, a failing education system), a country with a fascist demagogue competitively contending for the presidency, a country that has failed in its moral and human obligations not just on the global stage, but more tragically at home as well, for Sanders to tell this America that Israel has gone too far, time and time again, that Palestinians are suffering immeasurably, and that terrorism doesn’t stop terrorism, for Sanders to say these things, in one way or another, is refreshing.

But while that is refreshing, welcome, and a step towards the right direction, it does not mean that Sanders is uniformly correct in his analysis or prescriptions.

The two state solution is dead, and I agree that politicians holding on to that idea are intentionally obstructing constructive peace negotiations. Palestinians are not a violent, anti-Semitic people. They are, rather, an indigenous people who are not just being occupied by a military force, but also ethnically cleansed from their native land. The Middle East is not fighting for the heart of Islam, the people of the region are suffocating and desperate for self-determination, as the Palestinians have been for nearly 70 years. Islam’s theological institutions have been largely corrupted by political forces, and that needs to be acknowledged, but the people of the Arab world, subjects of global and regional autocracy, are suffering and yearning for freedom, all while significantly lacking the civic and political capital and support to achieve such goals.

Our foreign policy, defined by global capital, has significantly destroyed the region, perhaps for generations to come.

This is the crisis of empire and the failed political establishment it has created.

And then there’s the empire that my generation, the millennial generation, was raised alongside. An empire that occupies lands abroad while spying on citizens at home. An empire that forces people to work on a barely living wage, an empire that loses, on average, 22 veterans to suicide every day, an empire that is largely behind the rest of the developed world in arenas such as healthcare, mass transit, education, and economic regulations.

Maybe this part of empire is ready to move our communities and country to a more humane place, beyond even Sanders’ centrist positions, and certainly beyond the hawkish status quo of the political establishment.

And, finally, on the question of Palestine, if I have to remind you that a people or group deserve their human rights, chances are I first have to remind you that they’re human. If you wish to understand anything about what it’s like to be a Palestinian, understand that.

About Laila Abdelaziz 1 Article
Laila Abdelaziz is a Palestinian-Russian-American community organizer in Tampa, Florida. She works on solving social and political problems with transformative and sustainable, progressive solutions and speaks about various subjects such as progressive politics, community organizing, and foreign policy.

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