Sunday, January 4, 2009

Facts on the Ground: the Occupation in America

The Los Angeles Times ran a great story today about the 35,000 truckloads of dirt used to fill in a gulch in California, to change the landscape enough to make the earth a barrier instead of a corridor. And then the US government is adding layers and layers of fence, with the result that people will lose their homes, jobs, families, and communities.

It is true that unlike the Palestinians, the residents designated by their birth certificates or other legal documents as Mexicans are not being killed at war. That happened just over 150 years ago, and the losers never mounted another serious armed struggle against the victors. If they had, the US would turn their weapons on them without hesitation (as happened against the Puerto Rican separatists), and the civilians in the borderlands would be praying they were being attacked by the Israelis.

This comes to mind because I am receiving a welcome round of petitions through various listserves, from colleagues venting righteous anger against Israel's bombing of Gaza, including its educational institutions and therefore students.

I endorse their cause, but wonder at the irony. The state of California is using its police and prisons to illegally deport US citizens of Mexican descent. As UC faculty we are not protesting our own employer removing from "the homeland" residents born in Mexico and even the US. The state of California only exists in "our" borders because of occupation, terrorism, and state armies.

This is a point that Israeli nationalists make when challenged for their exclusions of non-Jews: what Israel did is no different from the US expanding into Mexico. (This also was a point repeatedly stressed by someone who was highly placed in Franjo Tudjman's government in Croatia in 1996 , and he included a fine-grained analysis of the US displacement of Native Americans.) The observation is only ever offered for the purpose of naming US hypocrisy toward its own occupation, assuming this is a fait accompli, but perhaps it might be turned to another purpose.

What about ending US hypocrisy on civil rights, human rights, and the rule of law by doing the right thing and allowing free movement, at least starting with those on our borders? (Yeah, if Mexicans could move here freely then the Canadians might make a fuss. There goes the neighborhood, eh?)

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