Do you actually want to help me?: On Palestinian, Black and Queer Liberation

“Colonialism is not about bad people being mean to others (“bad” Israelis don’t steal queer Palestinians’ lunch money),” queer Palestinian activist Ghaith Hilal writes. “Being super ‘good’ doesn’t magically dissolve systems of oppression.” Ghaith’s words, which come from the must-read article “Eight Things Palestinian Queers Are Tired of Hearing,” articulate my own view as I come to reflect on student organizing around Palestine and broader issues of justice and liberation.

Two weeks ago, Stanford Israel Alliance co-hosted a screening of “Out in the Dark” with the Queer Straight Alliance. Having watched the film and its portrayal of a star-crossed relationship between a gay Palestinian resident of the West Bank and a gay Jewish Israeli and having spent a month in the West Bank primarily with queer Palestinians, the film felt both compelling (I’m a sucker for most love stories) and violent. What was compelling was the simple human desire to love and be loved, and watching a couple attempt to fight the structural barriers conspiring against them — the violence, moreover, laid in the overlying and underlying messages that come across during these moments of vulnerability and emotional attachment to the film.

“Out in the Dark” portrays Roy, a well-off, Jewish Israeli lawyer as a savior to Nimr, a queer Palestinian student who apparently must flee from his repressive, homophobic society across the apartheid wall in Ramallah. While the film does show parts of the oppressive nature of the Israeli Occupation Force, it casts every Arab male character besides Nimr as homophobic and violent or effeminate and non-threatening, playing into stereotypes about Palestinian/Arab men and gay men without delving into the complexity of resisting colonization and occupation or of finding balance around being Palestinian, religious and gay. Glimmers of statements against the occupation highlight a corrupt Israeli security apparatus without challenging the underlying problem (settler colonialism and its effects on the indigenous population). Roy’s parents’ aversion to his sexual orientation and his Palestinian boyfriend do not cast Israeli society as homophobic or racist, but as relatively reasonable responses within a complex society.

Continue reading at The Stanford Daily.


From Black and White to Shades of Grey: Reflecting on My Activism at Stanford

I began senior year pretty jaded, feeling like I had very little left to learn at Stanford. I had spent time in Cape Town, Detroit and Palestine over the prior nine months watching people who were directly engaged in social movements, and so I was eager to escape the over-manufactured Stanford bubble for the real world. But the intervening months have proved my self-assuredness and cynicism very wrong.

I spent all of last quarter teaching a class on theories and methods of affecting social change with my best friend, in preparation for an Alternative Spring Break trip we led looking at Black, Arab and queer organizing as case studies for doing our own justice-based work. Some of the biggest lessons I learned during ASB came from my fellow participants. During one of our nightly reflections, one friend asked whether how he — a white student — might ever contribute to a place like minority-majority Stockton, where we spent the day visiting.

The answer our group came up with — that you can work across identity and perceptions if you approach a community with humility — recalled exactly my experience in Detroit last summer. And I reflected that while I was a black person entering a predominantly black city, my skin color did not imply that I was immediately accepted or that I could identify with Detroiters’ struggles. While not ignoring the reality that I likely did have an easier time integrating into the community as a black person, the privileges of my educational and social background make me closer to my white friend than not. Regardless of background, we all share the associations of our common denominator — Stanford University.

Continue reading at The Stanford Daily.