“At whatever level we study it… decolonization is quite simply the replacing of a certain ‘species’ of men by another ‘species’ of men. Without any period of transition, there is a total, complete, and absolute substitution.” -Frantz Fanon
“Indeed our words will remain lifeless, barren, devoid of any passion, until we die as a result of these words, whereupon our words will suddenly spring to life and live amongst the hearts that are dead, bringing them to life as well.” -Sayyid Qutb
We, the anti-Zionists and radicals (of color), organized to take over Dutton Hall at the University of California, Davis on May 15, 2013, the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. The administration, Zionists on and off campus, and local media have tried to misrepresent what took place that day, and this is why it is necessary that we send a clear and direct message.
Our action had absolutely nothing to do with the recently failed UC Davis Divestment resolution. The fact that the divestment resolution did not even pass the initial stages of Zionist bureaucracy provides us with another example of the failures of dialoguing and negotiating with racists. The resolution’s failure only made visible the pre-existing antagonisms of Zionism (colonialism) and anti-Zionism (anti-colonialism). We did not organize our action out of frustration from the failure of the divestment process. We were already frustrated! For us, dialogue with the colonizers, with the enemies of the Palestinians, is already a form of defeat. It is already a weak, counter-revolutionary position to sit down at the same table as the colonizer. We have no desire to melt the heart of Zionists. We want to remove the colonizer out of the political equation, so that there is a final end to colonial-relations. We shut down Dutton Hall – an action we recognize to be minimal compared to the worldwide anti-colonial/anti-imperialist struggles – not because of the failure of the divestment resolution passing, but because it was the day of the Nakba, the day of catastrophe for all Palestinians, and we consider it to be our historical responsibility to take a strong oppositional position against colonialism in general, and Zionism in particular.
We want to make sure everyone knows that these were autonomous actions by anti-Zionists and radicals of color. No campus student organizations were involved in the organizing and mobilizing process. The question of organization is not only a theoretical problem but also an important tactical question for us. We know full well that organizational structures that were useful in an earlier stage of history are now obsolete and impotent on the ground – outside of (Zionist) classrooms, and administration-controlled centers. These centers function within the mystifying logic of multiculturalism, in order to not only reproduce the disciplining and policing of dark bodies, but also to create internalized technologies of self-surveillance. The student organizations generally work very closely with these centers, and share with them vital information and documents about events, workshops, training programs, and the students themselves, thereby enabling the (re)creation of both structures of surveillance with a wide pool of data, as well as subjects that monitor themselves in an effective way. It is precisely in this juncture that we witness the slow disappearance of the difference between administrators and students. We encounter students that act in favor of administrators, and administrators that act as soft cops, and the entire structure of surveillance work with its various institutional coordinates in a methodical and coordinated manner in order to identify, target, order and pacify (student) protests that may have resonance in the larger communities of struggle.
The UC Davis Police Department graduated its first student cadets a few days ago. ASUCD President Carly Sandstrom commented: “This program is something every UC campus should take on — training homegrown officers who understand students.” This is an example of how the administration works through a structured cooperation between administrators, cops, and students. The various student centers on campus, like the Cross Cultural Center (CCC), have demonstrated themselves to be spaces complicit with Zionist ideology. Students and staff members affiliated with these centers always mediate rightfully enraged pro-Palestinian students into submission through inter/intra-community snitching which has become central for the smooth functioning of administrative logic. There is no point anymore to talk about reclaiming the CCC by evoking the history of the hunger strike. We have to realize that these centers are fundamentally anti-Black, anti-Muslim, and anti-indigenous. To promote policing is to promote the ideology and political practice of settler-colonialism. It is concretely the continuation of the systematic obliteration and assimilation of indigenous communities, geographies, and economies, and the disciplining of black bodies that reduces them into flesh, into the economic units of slave labor. To promote policing is to promote the ideology of the War on Terror that not only evacuates Muslim bodies out of their material social self-representation and location, but also destroys their societies and modes of life for the purposes of creating new markets. The plundering and re-appropriating of resources requires strategic cooperation with the native Muslim bourgeoisie, and it is in this juncture that we witness the use of soft-power that through various reformist programs encourages the formation of moderate subjects that are complicit with U.S imperialism. Within the United States, the emergence of the “American-Muslim” identity signifies the shift from an articulation of an anti-plantation/anti-racist political-religion, towards an internally re-arranged and re-articulated ideology that is at peace with hyphenated Americanism. The CCC nurtures such counter-revolutionary identities. It will not become less racist with time. It will keep reforming and renewing itself to be better at policing dark bodies, and to train students of color to become cops and informants themselves.
For these obvious reasons we did not work through the given student organizations, nor did we try to prepare for our action at a student center, and as we took over Dutton Hall we made it clear that we did not want administrators in our space. Initially, three administrators came to the occupied building and tried to negotiate with us. But we were successful in having them leave the building as it closed around evening time on May 15. The next morning, we were able to blockade the building. We saw from the inside that cops, a fireman, administrators, and reactionary students tried to enter our space. But they were unsuccessful. We were supported by many students on campus who were sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. They came to look at the banners and signs, and engaged in discussions about colonialism, political-economic and social suffering in Palestine, police violence on and off campus, and student debt with supporting comrades who acted as observers right outside of the building. We thank our comrades for their support.
Islamophobia is actively present at UC Davis. But we do not want to think about the hatred against Islam at the level of psychological disposition or cultural misperception. But rather, we want to think about the objective conditions that structure certain kinds of social behavior that target and demonize “non-secular” bodies. When Islam is made flesh through various movements of the body of the mu’min, whether they are religious rituals or political acts in the public sphere, it provokes the racialist order to think about its own foundational sins. In order to maintain its own metanarrative, white supremacy constantly refounds and reproduces itself in a new historical plane. Islam is seen as a deliberate transgression, an embodiment of infidelity towards America. While there is a general hatred against Islam, patriarchy enmeshed with whiteness targets Muslim women in a particular manner. The precision of this kind of peculiar targeting of veiled Muslimas gets its substance from the specificity of colonial social relations. In order to examine the substance of this specific hatred against Muslim women, we need to look at the dream content of the colonialist. The colonialist dreams about unveiling and penetrating the colonized woman, and this is structurally linked to political-economic penetration and domination. But the veil marks and makes visible the political separation between the colonizer and the colonized. If it is used in a non-assimilationist way, against multiculturalism in accordance with the embodied practice of the sharia, the veil creates a sense of terror in the hearts of the unbelievers. It signifies resistance. It signifies separation. But most importantly it signifies unknowability. This is precisely why for the colonialist there is a need to understand the veil. The understanding of the use of the veil is central to taming of the body that uses the veil. Fanon examines the relation between visibility, colonial gaze and dream of unveiling. He writes: “This woman who sees without being seen frustrates the colonizer. There is no reciprocity. She does not yield herself, does not give herself, does not offer herself [...] Thus the rape of the Algerian woman in the dream of a European is always preceded by a rending of the veil.” Beyond the veil-fetishism, colonialism has a direct interest in targeting bodies of dark women. Women are specifically targeted in Gaza because it is through their bodies that the struggle reproduces itself. Palestinian women and children are seen as a threat to the future of Israel. Their deaths are not accidental. Israel even sterilizes its own immigrant African women, demonstrating a fundamental anxiety over the reproduction of darker bodies. These genocidal acts of the Israeli State against the bodies of darker women make it structurally similar to the United States[i]. During our occupation of Dutton Hall, as we positioned ourselves against the regulative principles of the administration, practicing Muslims – particularly our sisters – observed their religious duties. There was a salaat (prayer) schedule, and the Muslims prayed in congregation. The practitioners agreed that making salaat together inside an occupied building, in the midst of political encounters, is consistent with the spirit of Islam that aims to bring order out of disorder, without making the forceful distinction between religious practices and political action. Jahiliyyah[ii] is a condition of non-Islam, a condition in which we experience the world in an inverted manner. Our bodies feel disoriented, and the world as a totality seems disrupted. Under these extreme conditions, when we take it upon ourselves to critically engage with the disrupted/disruptive world of colonialism and capitalism, and force ourselves to struggle against the causality of this disruption, we fundamentally work against the material causes of Islamophobia, and take the first step towards disalienation[iii].
Palestine is central to decolonization proper. It is not a side issue. We are at the beginning stage of the formation of an uncompromising anti-Zionism on campus that does not take soft positions for the sake of political, legal, social expediency. Anti-Zionism helps us determine our friends and enemies in a historical manner[iv]. Post-Zionism is just another name for the justification of the occupation of Palestinian life and social consciousness through a reified genealogy that aims to evoke the settler-socialist fantasy of civil integration. Far leftists will have to call for a decisive break with Zionism if they are to be credible in the Islamic world, in the third world. Post-Zionism may have the appearance of a political pragmatism, but it is fundamentally a counter-revolutionary, reactionary position. Zionism cannot be improved. It has to be dismantled. But this task of dismantling requires that we understand Zionism as more than a mere political ideology. It plays a central role in structuring, specifying and organizing neoliberal economic programs[v] in the Middle East within the totalizing logic of capitalism. The economic domination of Palestine foundationally relies upon the Zionist occupation that emerges out of a racialized social-political, historical-ontological difference between settlers and natives.
We had to write this note from the point of view of revolutionaries of color because we find ourselves in colonial relations, in antagonism with white supremacy. And, we are sure that true (white) abolitionists will understand this position. Colonial-relations are reproduced in capitalism. Capitalism has to persistently racialize and colonize. The Nakba is a historically specific event. And, we cannot lose sight of this specificity and the details of our social experience and the differentiating grammar of struggle as we make general propositions about the structure of capitalism, and by extension, imperialism. We have to understand that while capitalism absolutely totalizes and homogenizes, it also necessarily differentiates. It necessarily makes distinctions between the first world and the third world. It necessarily reproduces bodies of slaves and servants in a new historical plane. As always, we are against identity politics[vi], but that in no way seduces us into carelessly upholding empty universals. Fanon writes: “Challenging the colonial world is not a rational confrontation of viewpoints. It is not a discourse on the universal, but the impassioned claim by the colonized that their world is fundamentally different.” We cannot forget the historical specificity of the dynamic between determinations and struggle.
Death to Jahiliyyah.
Death to reified conceptions of struggle.
Long live the Intifada!
[i] We know about the sterilization of indigenous and black women in the United States in the past.
[ii] This concept is discussed by Qutb in the modern context. We have discussed it differently here.
[iii] This notion of disalienation comes from Steve Biko’s work.
[iv] The friend-enemy distinction is inspired by Malcolm X’s speeches and his theorization of the “collective white man”. A comrade/sister from Palestine reminded us as we were preparing this note that we should be careful about the friend-enemy distinction because there are too many so called “allies” for the Palestinian cause who are interested in dominating the way we talk about resistance to Israel. This is precisely why Malcolm X’s focus on white-supremacy in relation to slavery and servitude is the correct political move.
[v] Adam Hanieh talks about neoliberal programs in Palestine in more detail.