Gaza, Oakland. Not the same shit.
By Ryan Ariel Simon
Oscar Grant was back in the news again last week as the short prison sentence for Mehserle angered many in Oakland.
An often overlooked, though pervasive thread is the attempted linkage of Grant’s cause with the suffering of Palestinians by activists organizing under the rubric of uniting struggling “communities of color.”
Right after the killing of Grant, hip-hop group Asthetics Crew released a song comparing police brutality and community relations in Oakland, (and L.A.) with the Israeli blockade and invasion of Gaza.
Signs saying “End Government Sponsored Murder in the Ghettos of Oakland and Palestine,” “Every Zionazi Is a Legitimate Military Target,” and “Target All Zionist Businesses,” and “Jews are terrorists,” soon began appearing at protests around the Bay Area.
Bay Area hip-hop icon Davey D even got into the act accusing Zionists of being behind the wall on the U.S. border, the Iraq war, and dividing “communities of color.”
In the process he ignores both the mainly non-Zionist actors behind those projects, and Zionists of color, engaging in mass generalization of Jews, and Zionism in the process
Then the New England Committee to Defend Palestine (NECDP) appeared at an Oscar Grant community organization meeting in late January of 2009 to say Zionists had infiltrated ruling elites in every important country in the world; the media, entertainment industry, Wall Street, the government, the corporate power structure, human rights and civil liberties groups, and the antiwar left.
I’m hesitant to make accusations of anti-Semitism after so many have cried wolf so often, but when the real wolf comes I would hate to see it eat our flock, and this protest rhetoric is racist against the Jewish people.
Now the failure of the Oakland’s leaders, and global leadership to solve complex burning problems means frustration is inevitable, and the comparison speaks to a boiling rage and frustration with the political status quo in the Middle East, and the police killing of Oscar Grant.
Though I think they’re misguided, I know many activists are simply angry at the death of innocent civilian life.
The vitriol and hatred spewed at police officers and Zionists exemplifies the need to find someone, anyone, to take responsibility for the problems of struggling communities.
It’s empowering to pick a scapegoat, and it’s easy to blame Israel for global problems (especially those of underdogs), because it is also struggling; to define borders, for greater inclusion in the international community, and is often insensitive to others struggles.
Of course a few just choose to hate because it’s easy. It is fun to be the underdog and yell at police, they are an easy target. I would know, I did it as a teenager.
While human rights connect many issues facing the world today, it is altogether inaccurate to directly compare police brutality and the police-community relationship in Oakland, and the Israeli-Palestinian relationship in Gaza.
One is a struggling urban community in the richest country on earth. The other is an international conflict. The comparison is intellectually lazy, and dishonest.
The way forward is not empty rhetoric and bandwagon politics, but good faith cooperation between people willing to work together, in the City of Oakland, and between Israelis and Palestinians.