On Palestine, apartheid, land, patience, and steadfastness

“No matter how beaten down, she stands back up again”.

I sent a text message to a dear friend I had not seen in a long while, wishing him a happy Eid. He wrote back: “I’m in Gaza.” I knew he was planning this trip, but did not know he had left. He had not seen his family in 10 years; now he had evacuated with them to a relative’s house since every residential tower is (as always) a maximized target for the occupying forces. I said to him: “We are still haunted by the July War of 2006 but we say to ourselves: ‘That was only 33 days.’ Nothing compares to, and we cannot imagine, the months and years and decades of occupation.” He replied: “This is the worst we’ve ever experienced here in Gaza.” Which is basically like saying: “Hell just got 1,000 degrees hotter.”

One is left speechless; and yet such a silence speaks volumes. Nonetheless, for those at a loss as to understanding, or who would seek out information to make up for the black hole that is the de-Voicing of Palestinians in “Western” media, I thought I would assemble some references here that might be useful to balance a playing field that is literally vertical at this point. To continue with my reference above, It has been 15 years since the July War against Lebanon that left 1,500+ civilians dead, including 500+children (I hope to revive the diary this summer to commemorate that particularly lethal aggression against Lebanon). Suffice it to say for now that the lesson I learned at that time is well known to us who experienced it, but is often lost on those forced to assimilate in settler colonial nation-states: Faced with extirpative societies worldwide that do not see us as valid human beings, there is no point arguing along humanitarian lines; to seek inclusion.

“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.”Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography

An aside about land, and why we cannot be silent concerning Palestine: I grew up on occupied Leni Lenape and Delaware lands. I currently live on occupied Kwantlen lands, and work on the usurped lands of the Coast Salish peoples. I admit to growing weary of the Pabulum masquerading as land acknowledgements; these reflect a current passivism that stands in stark contrast to Land Back praxis and activism in the Americas and elsewhere. I provide the following “acknowledgement” in an effort to address and redress this lack:

A statement of acknowledgment, advocacy, and activation: As an adopted person, I speak in a language not connected to my origins, in a place far from my source. My dispossession, disinheritance, and displacement overlaps all others, and my duty is to those of similar trajectories, not to the class that removed me from my land. I currently live as one uninvited on Kwantlen land; I work as one uninvited on the Indigenous territories of the Musqueam, Sqohomish, and Tsleil-Waututh bands. This is an entreaty to shift our focus to the active and ongoing displacement, dispossession, and disinheritance we have experienced, and that remain functional aspects of dominant systems and structures of oppression.

Vandana Shiva, a land activist in India, states: “The [Cartesian] illusion of [humankind] being separate [and separated] from the earth was the justification for separating people from the[ir] land.” To be an adopted or fostered person is to viscerally understand this separation from kith and kin; this atomizing removal from community. Despite our leapfrogged class status, we share more in common with those historically displaced. In this regard, to live and work as the uninvited entails a communal obligation to fully comprehend these, the political and economic justifications for such extirpation and to act to rectify them.

Here in Vancouver we falsely and assuredly speak of ”ceded” versus ”unceded” land; in both instances, however, land was never truly surrendered, it was usurped; stolen; pillaged. I add to this land acknowledgment my vow to actively work toward restitution and repossession, not reconciliation, nor any other deception from within the structures and systems of occupation and oppression that dominate here in what we refer to as the Americas.

For notions of reconciliation, though palliative, do not equate to justice. May the comprehension of this statement lead to revived ideals of indemnification; of atonement; of reclamation; of re-inheritance. May we imagine active stances and resistance; may we share these and put them into practice; may we re-evaluate our connection to the land most locally, to all those networked and connected to us; and to all of nature, to the entirety of the planet, as well as beyond that to realms seen and unseen, known and unknowable.


In the book Red Face, White Masks [link to book ➤] the scholar Glen Sean Coulthard draws attention to the historically internationalist bent of Indigenous activism in the Americas, which in a place as narcissistic and provincial as Vancouver goes largely unacknowledged. I highly recommend this text as a starting point. Connecting back to Palestine, on the federal level in Canada, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement [link to web site ➤] is cynically and ridiculously equated with anti-Semitism. Such filthy and loathsome comparisons do not merit rebuttal, and yet they scream out for such a response as might be addressed again, not as an appeal to those who have written us off from the get-go, but to those who implicitly understand the vacuous nature of such endeavors. When the Vancouver City Council attempted to pass a local variation of this federal mandate, I wrote a response that I was hoping to read at the City Council meeting concerning the resolution; all debate was canceled unfortunately. To quote a small section of that statement:

It is Canada that applies the term “visible minorities” to non–Anglo passing populations. It is the dehumanizing Canadian mythos of multiculturalism that solely ascribes economic value to servile immigrant workers. Furthermore, it was Canada that created internment camps for its Japanese and Italian populations. It was the current Canadian prime minister who dallied in brown- and blackface and was re-elected by seemingly unperturbed citizens. It was Canada that carried through with its arms sales to a Saudi Arabia waging war against a defenseless Yemeni population. It is Canada that maintains imperialist forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is Canada that supported the overthrow of Bolivia’s Indigenous leader. It is Canada’s extractive mining endeavors in South America that target for eradication both Indigenous peoples and democratically elected governments. These actions manifest the very structural bases of the Crown colony itself. They map readily onto the history of extirpation, exploitation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide definitive of such nation-enterprises.


J’accuse; and I await a response that merits the original accusation without resorting to debased arguments found in identity politics and nation-state mythologies. The link to this statement can be found here: “BDS and the Land Back Movements: Existence is Resistance” [link to article ➤]. I also highly recommend the special issue of The South Atlantic Quarterly, entitled: “Getting Back the Land: Anticolonial and Indigenous Strategies of Reclamation” [link to journal ➤]. Jadaliyyeh has also just published on its web site an excellent overview of past articles and links that describe and define the current moment, in an antidote to prevailing media and social mediated mythologies and fronting: “Palestine: Sheikh Jarrah, Expulsion, Occupation, and Settler Colonialism” [link to site ➤]. Finally, from my office library which is open to the entire university community, I provide this selection of books on Palestine that might be of interest. I particularly recommend the new title, A Socialist Introduction to Palestine from Haymarket Books [link to library ➤].


For updates and information on Palestine, I highly recommend The Palestine Chronicle, from scholar and journalist Ramzy Baroud [link to site ➤]. Vijay Prashad has revived The Tricontinental, which similarly provides an overview on international Land Back and other activisms, with an amazing focus on cultural and artistic manifestations [link to site ➤]. This work from the realm of art and poetry resonates quite deeply, and I humbly offer up two prose poems that attempt to voice the emotion felt in the face of the Usurping Entity: “Words From the First Intifada (dedicated to Gaza)” [link to poem ➤], and “O, Destroyer!” [link to poem ➤]. Along similar lines, our Beirut- and diaspora-based artists’ collective Jamaa Al-Yad was honored to see in a televised interview with Mohammed El-Kurd from Sheikh Jarrah (image above) one of our BDS posters reflecting the Lebanese proverb “no matter how beaten down, she stands back up” (the top image in this missive). If you are manifesting your anger actively in the streets you will find all of our posters are free to download. All of the projects also provide frameworks and links in support of such activism [link to Jamaa Al-Yad projects page ➤].

“Do you support the violent dispossession of me and my family?” [in response to a CNN reporter’s question] —Mohammed El-Kurd [link to video ➤]

There are so many other resources out there, but I will stop here in the interest of being brief and not overstating the case, which, in fact, could never be overstated. Amidst the grief and horror in the face of ongoing usurpation spanning generations and lifetimes, I would like nonetheless to stress concepts ingrained in me during the years spent in the land of my birth: Steadfastness (صمود). Patience in the face of adversity (صبر). The “small kindnesses” that stitch community together (ماعون). Mutual aid and communal support (تعاون). As an adoptee, “Small Kindnesses” [an untranslatable term from the Arabic] is the name of my favorite surat from the Qur’an:

Have you seen the one who denies the Reckoning? • For that is the one who drives away the orphan • and does not encourage the feeding of the poor. • So woe to those who pray • [but] who are heedless of their prayer [when it is not witnessed]; • those who make show [of their deeds] • while withholding the simplest of assistance [that ties the fabric of community together].

—Surah Al-Ma‘un [107]

Such is the nature of the hypocrites and oppressors, and here is revealed the antidote to such their deleterious nihilism and anti-human chaos for chaos’s sake: communal solidarity across barriers, borders, identities, classes, and ways of being. In this light, and again, while we mourn, we need also regroup and stand tall. The Eid at the end of Ramadan reminds us that “So, surely with hardship comes ease”. This recalls for me the words of a member of the Black Panther Party, in a conversation I had with him during the Oscar Grant trial, while presenting our collective’s work at the Socialism Conference in Oakland in 2010: “I may not live to see the Revolution; but I need to carry the banner forward for those who follow me”. These are words I take deeply to heart, and in which I find comfort at such times. I wish everyone peace and blessings for this Eid and always; I wish strength, patience, resilience, and perseverance for all those suffering oppression in Palestine and everywhere. May the oppressors come to their just ends, and in our lifetimes. And next year in Al-Quds, inch’Allah.

About Daniel Drennan ElAwar

Adoptee, rematriated.
This entry was posted in Adoption activism, Adoption Reading, Art and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to On Palestine, apartheid, land, patience, and steadfastness

  1. Rosine says:

    Thank you Daniel. Well written, as always. I am passing this on to others. Most Sincerely, Rosine.

  2. Speculating Sunrise says:

    Thank you so much for this piece! Small correction- Mohammad el Kurd is from Sheikh Jarrah, not Gaza. 🙂

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