Skip to content Skip to footer

This Is a Politicizing Moment. Let’s Spread Our Wings and Lift Up Palestine.

The wisdom of birds in flight can inspire our collective movement to flock together for Palestine’s liberation.

Pro-Palestine protesters gather outside of Columbia University in New York City on April 18, 2024.

Part of the Series

I have said a few times recently that confusion is a colonial tactic. You can get away with a lot of oppression and displacement while people are dissociated, overwhelmed, mis- or uninformed, or trying to figure out what’s going on. The level of multiple crises unfolding concurrently makes it impossible to keep up with everything, even with our own impact on the world.

Especially for those of us living within the boundaries, media mess and colonial narratives of a declining global superpower, we generally don’t know we are dehumanizing a people until we are made to know. That’s how these systems maintain themselves. As I write this, there is a ton of confusion around the right stance on Israel. Oppressive regimes count on the reality that few of us have the capacity to become experts on every region or struggle. The good news is that we don’t need to become experts in any region to move with and towards humanity, connection and solidarity. When oppression is unfolding, I rely on trusting my community of organizers and those living in the oppressive conditions to inform my stance. Palestinian, Arab, and anti-Zionist Jewish organizers have taught and continue to teach me how my politic of freedom, justice and interdependence can be advanced in this moment on the front line that is Palestine.

My informed stance is that Israel is an apartheid, colonial project, and that Zionism is structured supremacist thinking. What keeps me grounded when others are confused is remembering that my nation is generally on the wrong side of history — the colonial, imperialist, capitalist side. The U.S. tries to maintain dominance at any cost. When I feel confused about a global issue, I often look to the Global South, including Palestine, for direction. Through that broader lens, I can see that the U.S. is out of alignment with most of the rest of the world, which has been trying to intervene on Israel’s apartheid behaviors for decades. Here in the U.S., there’s not just endless rhetorical support for Israel, there’s structural and material support beyond all comprehensible measures, flowing as an unchecked resource from the United States government, most of the mainstream media and U.S. corporations. The overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens want a ceasefire in the current bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli government, but our government won’t even consider it. This is not just demoralizing — because paying taxes is nonnegotiable for most of us, having no ability to stop taxes from flowing to war and genocidal campaigns is a form of economic abuse.

What keeps me grounded is remembering that there are always openings, often in the places where people are asking me to feel my connections to humanity, and to feel the pain of all the people being harmed and killed. I don’t have to know all the answers — given the state of dysfunction in the U.S. and the colonial history and ongoing occupation of this land, it’s ridiculous to think I or we have any authority on what other nations should do. What I know is that no people are deserving of genocide and erasure, and that I can intervene at the point that my nation is participating in that. What I see is that with each act of violence from Israel, more of the world sees that Zionism is inhumane, which means the portal to a free Palestine opens wider.

What keeps me grounded is the practice of offering loving corrections. I can love all of the people of Earth, I can extend compassion to each one, and I can see how our current systems make people feel so unloved and unprotected that war feels like the only way to live. I bear witness to the inhumanity of war, and the horrific consequences of apartheid and white supremacy, which are basically ideologies of constant war. I summon my stamina to listen, I share what I’m learning with others, and I oppose denialism, hatred and the dehumanization of Palestinians.

I’ve brought some different reminders and resources together for U.S. movement workers, artists, activists and friends as we flock together. In this moment, with this murmuration, we are casting spells to move our species beyond the reach of genocide.

People Are Overwhelmed by Grief and the Concurrent Catastrophes of the World

This is not the beginning of this crisis, and it is not the only unfolding crisis. I know a multitude of people who are so steeped in their own crises, loss and burnout that it has been hard to turn and face this latest battle. Do not assume anything about other people’s lives, stances or capacities. Lean into relationship. Ask what’s needed and how people are, with real care. Then, give people a way to be in solidarity.

Practice: I have been sending my loved ones specific actions they can do, including donations they can make, and moves that are quick, necessary and efficient. This ties them into the growing movement without requiring participation in the quagmire of social media. I check on them with love, and I share the actions I take so they have opportunities to join in.

We must remember that genocide cannot happen without the exact kind of suppression and dehumanization of one group of people that we are currently seeing. We are on the side of life and love, not policing and control; be a fractal of welcome, belonging and solidarity.

We know history always lands in judgment of genocide and apartheid. One day it will be normal to honor the humanity, political existence and sovereignty of Palestinians. But being on the right side of history usually means we watch with horror as others realize the truth too late.

Right now, we are already lifetimes too late; we are grieving unnecessary deaths and losses. Don’t let your own shame and guilt about that lateness turn your call to action into an attack on others coming through the door behind you. Everyone has to find the actions that generate their inner peace, their inner knowing that they are doing all they can in a time when nothing feels like enough.

Remember, social media is not the whole world. Many people are moving behind the scenes to hold and support each other in right relationship with the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Some people are making calls and planning actions or having crucial conversations instead of making and sharing posts. Some people are on a different app than you. Rather than policing each other’s social media presence, be concerned if people you know and have respect for are being impacted by the suppression efforts. Celebrate, flank, and embrace each risk people take to speak up “even as their voices shake.” Welcome these acts of courage, even if they aren’t perfect in your eyes, or an exact replica of your actions. Invite and share perspectives, rather than screaming corrections. You don’t know everything that anyone else is up against, or how fragile the limb they are inching along feels to them.

Don’t forget that we are in a backlash moment, a slide-toward-global-fascism moment, a moment when misinformation, hacking and fake news are being deployed to keep us divided and disempowered. When those who appear to have the most power feel like they have the least room to speak honestly about the injustices of the world, we are all in trouble.

When suppression happens, when people are fired and defunded and offers rescinded, we must understand that these are minor consequences compared with how Palestinian people are suffering; they are paying with their lives, their homes, their physical health and their safety. We must offer support, gratitude, jobs and community.

After all, we don’t just want to be on the right side of history, we want to be an intervention in the present that changes history. We aren’t performing solidarity; we are in it together. We are not police; we are the movement that liberates all of us from every kind of cage.

We have to show the world that we are irrepressible multitudes. We have to invite people into our movements with certainty that we will win, and with gratitude that they have come. We have to build an abundant future in which we can celebrate what we give up when we divest from oppressive systems.

Practice: I am intentionally commenting on posts that support ceasefire and an end to the occupation, and privately expressing gratitude and acknowledgment of the risks people are taking to add their voices to this intervention.

I am a student of belonging and I recognize that my liberation is tied up with the liberation of all oppressed peoples. I invite you to join me here and learn as we go.

Part of the confusion of this moment is rooted in a durable, commonly shared U.S. politic that is liberal or progressive but has accommodated and accepted the apartheid state of Israel. Many of us have been critical of this “progressive except Palestine” stance. We have encountered movement comrades who support reproductive justice, immigrant rights, LGBTQIA+ and gender equality, Black Lives Matter, unions and labor, and oppose the crimes of U.S. empire, but remain silent, or resistant, about Israel’s crimes.

And, sadly, many of us have been slow to challenge these gross misalignments, in relationship and within our communities. This reticence — within movement and non-movement spaces — has had devastating, undermining and deadly consequences. We have needed to break this down for many years. We must offer these loving corrections now.

Remember the Rules of Flocking

Move in right relationship to those closest to you, maintaining the right distance to feel each other’s shifts. Don’t crash into each other. Avoid predation. No one is setting the permanent direction for the whole flock — each one is finding the next best adaptive step when they are at the front, and following when they are at the middle or the back.

Practice: Right now, we are trying to build the largest and most effective possible murmuration for Palestinian freedom in history, which means following Palestinian leadership and calls to action.

Stagger

No one can sustain being in the front of the migration from old ideas to new ideas indefinitely.

If you already know a great deal about Palestine but are too exhausted or in too much grief and shock to be a teacher in this moment, please rest and grieve. This is especially true for the most impacted communities, those who have lost homes and loved ones. This is long-term work in a devastating time.

If you have been organizing hard and nonstop as if you alone are going to change the outcome of this moment, trust the millions of other people mobilizing for Palestine to keep going while you refill your cup.

This Is a Politicizing Moment!

If you have always believed something racist or dehumanizing about Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims or Jewish people, the light of this moment may feel sharp or confusing or painful for you.

Feel for the Palestinians who have, like Indigenous people of North America, been violently displaced from their homes, cast as “savages” in the narrative of development, used and discarded to serve the material desires of those with more power, and crushed into the unjust living conditions of apartheid. Despite all this, they are expected to be docile, compliant, unified and civil in their resistance, even though the rest of the world has never responded adequately to their nonviolent efforts at liberation.

I have had so many people ask me if my heart is big enough to also hold Jewish and Israeli pain. Jewish pain is easy for me to hold — I have been moved many times in my life by the solidarity of suffering and liberation between Jewish and Black peoples, and I have many friendships and intimate relationships with Jewish people, which have given me deep love and respect for the culture, the sacred love of life and family, and the long journey of recovering from obliterating trauma.

My path toward compassion for the Israelis has been more complex, as I have come to understand the path of Zionism as one that aligns its practitioners with white supremacy. I know that Israelis have as many perspectives on themselves and their government as we do in the United States, so I hold space for the ways we all work against the legacies and ongoing traumatizing choices of our governments. Those committed to Zionism receive the same kind of compassion that I offer those who believe in white supremacy — I hurt, to feel that such fear and hatred has blossomed in their hearts and communities. And I pray that they are able to return to humanity, to belonging, to relationships that aren’t defined by domination or isolation.

Practice: For those of us who have the capacity, we need to meet those awakening right now with love and abundant resources. That is forever the work of the organizer, the movement worker and the artist — we are not above the people, we are flocking with the people. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow, and we always learn. We are making the revolution irresistible (as Toni Cade Bambara told us to do), and we are loving our people enough to make them conscious of what they don’t see (as James Baldwin taught us).

As embodied movements, movements that are not just strategizing from the head but building a liberating path from our bodies, it is our responsibility to help these massive and appropriate feelings ground people into righteous action.

Feel your feelings. But don’t despair, not as long as Palestinian people live and have hope. As Grace Paley said, “the only recognizable feature of hope is action,” so (as Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes teach us), “let this radicalize you!”

Spread your wings, notice who you are flying with, and keep moving.

One of the main ways I have stayed present in this moment of loss and movement is through poetry. Here are three poems for Palestine:

free palestine

the grief builds up
when it spills over
it touches everyone

can you imagine
. . . upon hearing this news
that it is not one pain or the other
one grief or the other
one safety or the other

one wound winds through us all
gaping wide
festering, blooming

can you not imagine
. . . hearing this news
with a wide enough heart
for the grief of each parent
for the grief of each child

the land grieves too
the whole earth breaks
on the shores of gaza

we must imagine
. . . before the fissure scars
we must all imagine freedom
if we want that future
beyond all war

the border is the wound

i will not let my heart
shrink to the size of my oppressor’s
i will stay soft

i will pray with dignity
for the absolute freedom of all humans
from hatred and the myth of separation

i will dance pure love upon the moon
so far from my oppressor
that i can return with her heart
here is how i practice

in war i keep the dead unsegregated
dreaming together their spirits
who know what flesh cannot

i shake off monoliths
i ask, right now, who are the prisoners
and who are their guards

i do not let those
at peace with oppression
tell me i am heartless

i do not perform my grief
— i weep freely at the altar
i pray up their names

i critique abroad what i critique at home
i know every aspect of my freedom
is unexpected here, still precarious

i see all the humanity
the mistakes, the narrow sharp lives
left in the wake of trauma

i know my country well
we always think our motives invisible
we are always naked

in my hands are thousands of rivers
pain, confusion, misinformation, fury
but . . . the eyes of those children watch me

i start at the freshest cut
as the earth whispers:
the border is the wound

even now, between us

the words are full of love and vibrant root systems and small bags of zaatar and the laughter of children and the call for peace

the words are welcome, the words are comfort, the words are witness to atrocity then warning, wait, wait, and then wailing

the words are pacing inside a fence wanting someone to listen to the song of the olive tree facing the roaring bulldozer

the words are growing like everything grows but the world of words is getting smaller, so many mouths filling with fire

the words are older than the border and growing old inside the border and each body is somehow becoming a border

the words are piling up inside of people told their love is violence, weeping over white bags full of all the other stories

unspeakable words become seed or suicide. the words now bloodstained, play without parents, silent under the rubble

the seeds are still love, planted deep in the earth

the seeds know they are always and forever home

the seeds are as animal as we are, as innocent as we are, as ancient as we are

the seeds will grow wild, vast and tall

the seeds are watered by the tears of each survivor and the half of the world who believes in their existence

the seeds dance diasporic grief into a drum that only knows the rhythm of the heart

the seeds are full of freedom, the only fruit which can grow everywhere — even now, between us

the seeds will free everyone, one day — even those who pressed them into the dirt

We have hours left to raise $12,000 — we’re counting on your support!

For those who care about justice, liberation and even the very survival of our species, we must remember our power to take action.

We won’t pretend it’s the only thing you can or should do, but one small step is to pitch in to support Truthout — as one of the last remaining truly independent, nonprofit, reader-funded news platforms, your gift will help keep the facts flowing freely.