Nothing should be unclear about the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla: we learned this week that the Israeli state is willing to massacre innocent civilians of all nationalities, not merely Palestinian Arabs, in order to maintain the brutal siege on Gaza. This was a terrifying moment for people in the Palestine solidarity movement because the Gaza Freedom Flotilla is made up of people like us (second letter).
I’m tempted to respond to some of the ridiculous Israeli hasbara (which means propaganda…but it’s worse, because it’s Zionist) about the flotilla, but I’m not eager to dignify it with attention. If you’re reading reputable news sources, it’s clear that the Israeli line is a huge lie. I also don’t think that it’s a particularly difficult question how we should respond to the attack on the Freedom Flotilla: we must deplore Israel’s actions, we must mourn and honor the martyrs, we must demand accountability, and we must hope–and work to ensure–that the bravery and sacrifice of the Freedom Flotilla activists will lead to the breaking of the siege on Gaza, to the further growth of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, and to the eventual liberation of Palestine.
I’m primarily posting, then, to draw attention to an excellent clip of the British rapper Lowkey at an emergency protest in London on Monday.
Lowkey starts by reminding his British audience of their complicity in the Israeli attack on the Flotilla and the Israeli siege on Gaza. “We were there through our taxes: our taxes were in the bullets that were fired into our friends and our brothers and our sisters…our taxes were there, our Balfour Declaration was there.” But Lowkey transitions from this depressing reminder of complicity to a vision of solidarity. “When they drop white phosphorous bombs on Gaza, they drop white phosphorous bombs on us…we must express our solidarity with those people, because they are us.” We are not only the Freedom Flotilla: we are Gaza. In addition to knowing that we cause harm to befall Gaza, we also feel that harm as if it affects us.
Identifying one’s privilege and complicity with oppressive practices can so often feel like a deadly terminal object. When, as privileged people, we learn about complicated systems of power like capitalism, imperialism and colonialism, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and patriarchy wherein no matter how moral we try to be, our actions, identities, and positionalities implicate us in the oppression of others whether locally or across the world, it is often disempowering and disheartening. Hence it’s exceptionally powerful to find the call for solidarity in that very same network. As we inadvertently cause oppression and violence, knowledge of that can inspire us identify with the victims of that violence. Realizing I am causing Gaza to starve can make me feel that much more disempowered about working to end the siege: or it can heighten the urgency of ending the starvation I’m causing. Lowkey’s point is that an analysis of complicity must also be a call to solidarity. For those with white privilege in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, an analysis of complicity without solidarity is mere posturing or self-flagellation; but solidarity without an analysis of complicity can be a false and privilege-blind claim to victimhood.