Whose history do we select?

| Senior Forum Editor

The most talked-about cancellation this year had its planned event happen Tuesday. Instead of being hosted by the Missouri History Museum, though, the panel on Ferguson, Ayotzinapa and Palestine occurred in a small event space with a fridge, a basketball backboard missing a hoop and a decorative canoe hanging from the roof.

The panel, a precursor to the Ayotzinapa solidarity march on Friday at Kiener Plaza, included representatives from the Saint Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, Organization for Black Struggle, Black-Brown Solidarity and Latinos en Axion. The event saw a solid turnout of Washington University AltaVoz organizers, community members and students. Clearly, more students would have showed up had the event been held at the museum, but the abrupt cancellation delivered a message seized upon in the rescheduled event.

“The fact that they kicked us out tells us that we’re powerful,” panelist Juju Jacobs from OBS observed.

A coalition is forming between oppressed communities of all backgrounds, and anyone dismissing it would be unwise to do so. As Jacobs added, the movement is based in more than a collection of moments. It is about more than Darren Wilson, Ferguson and even a nationwide, America-long epidemic of police brutality against people of color. It is a movement against state violence, a legacy of imperialism and the capitalist orientation of global economics.

Truly, the coalition between blacks and Palestinians battling state violence has been around for years, as alumna Ayah Abo-Basha points out in an op-ed submission today. And the alliance is grounded in the more radical ideology that a state history museum would be loath to sponsor, especially when donors make possible a third of said museum’s budget. Thus, we hear the chants and hashtags of “selective history.”

Yet history is a collection of narratives, and every narrative is inherently selective. For instance, Abo-Basha writes about Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver’s work on behalf of the Palestinian cause but does not mention that Cleaver later became a conservative Republican and ardent Zionist.

However, Abo-Basha’s argument is not diminished by the omission—because battles over history always in some way relate to battles over the present, and the present situation for human rights in Israel is bleak. Israel just re-elected as its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who ran an intentionally racist and Islamophobic campaign capped by the promise that Palestine would never become its own state under his leadership.

Months after the latest flare-up that resulted in Gazans dying by the hundreds, Netanyahu’s campaign broadcast a television advertisement featuring him as a babysitter—the only man “who will care for our children.” The normalization of violence and repression, followed by an appeal to Israelis based in mongering of fear and war, revealed the contemptibility of a common American practice to see no evil and hear no evil when it comes to Israel.

In some ways, the phenomenon of willful (and passionate) blindness is even more extreme than that which exists in America related to Ferguson.

“Once we added the Palestinian part, that part scared them because it meant we were putting Ayotzinapa and Black Lives Matter, and we were going to make them morally equivalent,” panelist Jessie Sandoval from Black-Brown Solidarity said. “And they’re not ready for that because Palestine is such political fodder for so many people…it’s too hot to handle.”

The topic is certainly heated, but institutions must make an honest effort to handle it, and that includes Wash. U. The question is whether we are capable of listening to voices in a context that also represents their narrative. The history museum and Wash. U. will host debates about Israel and Palestine but fail to acknowledge a solidarity movement between marginalized communities that has lasted for decades.

Perhaps in the American social and political climate, expecting powerful private institutions (Wash. U.) or public-private partnerships (Missouri History Museum) to recognize the coalition on its own narrative terms is a naive hope.

Yet rejecting its existence is not only selective history but a selective interpretation of our present world.

  • Arafat

    This is what Alex supports even though he doesn’t even know it:

    A beheading in Woolwich, a suicide bomb in Beijing, a blown-up marathon in
    Boston, a shooting in the head of a young Pakistani girl seeking education, a
    destroyed shopping mall in Nairobi – and so it continues, in the name of Islam,
    from south London to Timbuktu. It is time to take stock, especially on the
    left, since these things are part of the world’s daily round.

    Leave aside the parrot-cry of “Islamophobia” for a moment. I will return to
    it. Leave aside, too, the pretences that it is all beyond comprehension.
    “Progressives” might ask instead: what do Kabul, Karachi, Kashmir, Kunming and
    a Kansas airport have in common? Is it that they all begin with “K”? Yes. But
    all of them have been sites of recent Islamist or, in the case of Kansas, of
    wannabe-Islamist, attacks; at Wichita Airport planned by a Muslim convert ready
    to blow himself up, and others, “in support of al-Qaeda in the Arabian
    Peninsula”. “We cannot stop lone wolves,” a British counterterrorism expert
    told us after Woolwich. Are they “lone”? Of course not.

    A gas facility in southern Algeria, a hospital in Yemen, an Egyptian police
    convoy in the Sinai – it’s complex all right – a New Year’s party in the
    southern Philippines, a railway station in the Caucasus, a bus terminal in
    Nigeria’s capital, and on and on, have all been hit by jihadis, with hostages
    taken, suicide belts detonated, cars and trucks exploded, and bodies blown to
    bits. And Flight MH370? Perhaps. In other places – in Red Square and Times
    Square, in Jakarta and New Delhi, in Amman and who-knows-where in Britain –
    attacks have been thwarted. But in 2013 some 18 countries got it in the
    neck (so to speak) from Islam’s holy warriors….

  • Arafat

    The big picture…

    Muslim terrorists have killed 5,000 Buddhists in southern Thailand in the last five years. Why?

    Muslim terrorists have gang-raped, killed, maimed, destroyed and created 500,000 refugees in Mali in the last 18 months. Why?

    Muslim terrorists have slowly but surely destroyed the ancient Coptic community in Egypt. Why?

    Muslim terrorists have slowly but surely wiped out the ancient Hindu community in Pakistan. Why?

    Muslim terrorists have killed or forcibly converted every single Buddhist in Afghanistan – once home to a great Buddhist civilization. Why?

    In Nigeria, Syria, Somalia, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and throughout the Muslim world there is anarchy, repression, violence, sadism. Why?

    This brings us to Israel (or Kashmir if you prefer). In Israel Muslims call for the murder of Jews and their supporters rationalize it by saying it is the “only thing they can do since Israel has so hurt them.”

    That’s strange since Muslims are doing – or trying to do – that same thing throughout Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

    Why don’t leftists see the bigger picture, that of Islam being a supremacist religion for whom aggressive jihad has been utilized since Mohammed moved to Medina and started his life-long pursuit for unlimited power no matter what violence was required to achieve it.

    I hope Muslims do not kill me for writing this.

  • James S Bushmill

    Actually when you aligned with the cause of Hamas racist, sexist, homophobic, miscogenistic, anti-democratic, anti-human rights, anti-free-speech, anti-American, anti-christian, anti-jewish, terrorist murderers, you sort of undercut the legetimacy and credibility of your message and event.

    Open your brains — if you really had any care for the welfare and civil and human rights of Palestinians, your protests would be directed at Hamas and Iran, and Hezbolluh and Syria and Lebanon and Abbas, etc.

    Curiously, In the last month Israeli Arab candidates got to campaign freely, and Israeli Arab citizens all got to vote just last week. When is the last time Palestinians got to vote!?!? When is the last time Palestinians Gaza and PA got to voice their opinions freely against their ruling regimes. How’s President for life Abbas doing?

    • Arafat

      President for life? Just because he’s serving his eleventh year of a four year position simply means he’s your typical Muslim dictator. Like Yasir Arafat and all Muslim leaders he is now probably worth more than one hundred million dollars. Arafat died with hundreds of millions looking out for the well being of…himself and his mafia followers.
      Leave it up to leftists to embrace Muslim warlords.