Sustainable Economies Law Center joins the chorus of voices from around the world demanding an immediate ceasefire, an end to the siege on Gaza, and the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. We affirm our commitment to a world where all people live in their full dignity, free from subjugation and apartheid. We commit to honoring Palestinian self-determination. We commit to putting continued political pressure on our elected representatives, attending mass protests, and participating in boycotts. And as our friends and partners at Movement Generation have reminded us,
…we must continue to be visionary while oppositional. A ceasefire is imperative to stop the bad, but the battle will not end there, leaving Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the status quo of cyclical violence. Moving in the same direction as the ongoing movement to end Israel's occupation, genocide, and apartheid gives us a pathway to restore Palestinians’ right of return, self-determination, sovereignty, and land back. -
Colonial laws have displaced and made way for violent theft of Palestinian land, just like the lands of Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and beyond. We acknowledge that the law has consistently upheld the theft of communal land and wealth, which is why we practice and train other legal workers in nurturance lawyering in our work to support land return to Indigenous and Black land stewards of Turtle Island. We must keep our hearts and minds open and engaged as we work towards a transformative shift away from privatization of land, which justifies racial and colonial violence, and remember that it is a “fictitious notion” created to restrict usage, to increase profit, and to create scarcity.
In this blog post, Law Center staff share how they’ve experienced and witnessed the impacts of settler colonialism in their lives and work, and how that experience helps us make sense of the ecological violence, displacement, and genocide currently happening to the people of Palestine. They also share resources on how to support and be in solidarity with the people of Palestine during this devastating time. With this piece, we’re also trying to be in conversation with each other, with our community, in hopes of supporting one another. We’re pushing back against professionalism and liberalism, which often has people afraid of speaking out, sharing individual experiences, and connecting with one another.
For the Mothers of Gaza, for our Mother, for all Mothers
“The Winnemem Wintu Tribe stand against Israeli invasion and occupation of Palestinian lands. We watch from our territories and are reminded of the genocidal tactics the United States and California governments used against our people; violating universal laws of humanity. These violations of the sacred will be felt for generations and the perpetrators will be held accountable by the laws of the sacred. We stand against genocide and rebuke United States governmental support of Israeli murder of Palestinian people via military aide. We pray for a quick resolve so no more people have to suffer at the hands of such an extreme injustice.
Under one sky”
-A statement from the Winnemem Wintu Tribe
My heart breaks over and over again as I scroll through Instagram posts exposing the horrific realities of death and destruction in Palestine. Sitting alone absorbing the videos and images from Gaza wreaks havoc on my nervous system. We weren’t meant to process grief in isolation. As a mother, I can’t begin to fathom the pain of watching your children live in fear of a deadly air strike, let alone losing a child in this way. If they survive, the trauma that will live in their body and remain for generations is immense and too overwhelming to comprehend.
But we have seen how this type of trauma moves through generations. We need only look to the intergenerational wounds of the people who are indigenous to this land, the first people of Turtle Island. To overcome the violence of colonization and still maintain the will to fight for survival in the present day is the definition of resilience and resistance.
I see these qualities of resilience and resistance in Chief Caleen and Michael “Pom” Preston of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in their efforts to get their land back and return the salmon to the McCloud River. They came to us a little over three years ago and I remember the piercing clarity of Chief Caleen’s voice as she stated, “We are fighting for survival.” I understood, and I made a commitment to do what I could to help.
Continuing to scroll, in my self-guided quest to inform myself about the situation in Gaza, I saw that there was an emergency action planned for October 28th in San Francisco. I knew I wouldn’t have childcare, and my partner works on Saturdays, so if I wanted to go and march I would need to bring my almost five year old daughter. I’m not gonna lie, I have decades of experience marching, occupying buildings, and shutting down city streets but when it comes to my daughter’s safety and well-being I don’t mess around. I thought of the heightened stakes, big crowds, and uncertainty around whether there would be civil disobedience or counter protesters.
I texted a bunch of friends to see who was going, including friends who have been organizing with Arab Resource & Organizing Center and Jewish Voice for Peace. It is not lost on me the relative luxury and privilege I have to be able to consider my child’s safety in this way, nevertheless I talked through my concerns with a friend and got the reassurance I needed. With an offer of support in place, I packed all the essentials (snacks, sandwiches, changes of clothes, water…) and my daughter and I hopped on BART to meet up with folks. Trust me when I tell you that it was such a relief to share my feelings with friends, listen to theirs, chant, march, cry, and march some more. Also, it helps to have a crew of support when navigating a large crowd with a four, almost five-year-old. I can’t emphasize enough how important it was for me to grieve with thousands of others who also felt powerless in isolation.
My daughter made a “Free Palestine” sign with cardboard, markers, and glittery stickers. At the protest, she held it steady with confidence and resolve. She told me that she wanted to help keep the families safe and asked if she could go there and help them. I assured her that there were helpers there already, but I was proud of her for offering.
Her ears perked up when she heard México and the Philippines included in chants. “That’s where we’re from!” It took her a few times to get all the words right, but she chanted along:
Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go!
From Palestine to the Philippines, stop the US war machine!
From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!
These chants were a good reminder that this action, this struggle—the struggle of the Palestinian people to survive has everything to do with me and my little girl. The US war machine has violated our ancestral lands, from Mexico to the Philippines, with its insatiable compulsion for power at any cost. Their tactic is, as always, to sever our ties with the land—our mother. To accomplish this they know to aim for the heart, they know to target the women. The US war machine and its allies continue to feed us the lie of a post-colonial context for continued exploitation and extraction in the present day. But we remember, we can’t forget, that genocide has always been allowable for colonizers when it is our black and brown bodies that are the fodder for their insatiable appetites.
It is our responsibility, mothers, parents and caretakers, to remember what lives in our bodies. To honor the struggles of our indigenous ancestors and heal the collective trauma through collective remembering and collective action. Our hearts are with the Palestinian mothers, parents, and caregivers today and so must be our commitment to do what is necessary to protect the children of Gaza.
Resources for kids, parents, and educators:
The struggle for a Free Palestine is intertwined with the struggles of our unhoused clients in East Huchiun (Oakland), in that they both are characterized by resistance to white supremacy and settler colonial violence.
Two months ago, I visited the Palestinian village of Umm al-Khair in the West Bank on a solidarity trip. I spoke to activists who explained how Israel uses bureaucratic violence to destroy Palestinian homes and keep them unhoused. In order to build any structure in the West Bank, Palestinians must be granted building permits by Israel’s so-called “Civil Administration.” But 99% of these permit applications are rejected. As a result, Palestinians have no choice but to build unpermitted homes, which are then issued demolition orders. One activist, Awdah Hathaleen, described the daily terror he faces of never knowing when an Israeli bulldozer, accompanied by Israeli Occupying Forces, will show up and destroy his home, which has happened three times.
Permits are not only used as a tool of bureaucratic violence in the West Bank. Our client, POOR Magazine, and other houseless/landless people across Huchiun, experience the violence of what Tiny Gray-Garcia calls “permit gangsters,” when they try to build their own homes. Unhoused people are routinely told their residences aren’t up-to-code and face traumatizing demolitions of their “unpermitted” homes and encampments. Amir Cornish, a POOR Magazine Youth PovertySkola, recently described watching a bulldozer, surrounded by Oakland cops, destroy Wood Street Commons, the city’s largest encampment.
For the past three years, we have helped POOR Magazine navigate the permitting process to get city approval for the permanently rent-free homes they designed and built themselves. Today, we stand in solidarity with Gazans experiencing constant bombings in the midst of a siege and call for an end to Israel’s settler colonial occupation that has dispossessed Palestinians across the region of their homes and land.
Since October 7th, while the world's eyes have been on Gaza, Palestinians in Umm al-Khair and throughout the West Bank have been facing violent attacks from armed settlers, often dressed in the uniforms of Israel’s occupying military. Palestinians are told they must fly Israeli flags or else their homes will be destroyed. Some are told they must flee within 24 hours. Palestinian activists in the West Bank have organized a donation campaign to respond to this crisis, which you can contribute to here.
This feels pretty stretch-y for me so definitely welcoming feedback. I’m writing from a very self-centered point of view, and my goal with that is to take a leaf out of Janelle’s book in that centering your own experience in a true way tends to resonate with people.
I feel scared for us to put out a statement in support of Palestinians. With all my privilege, a 27 year old half white, half Japanese US citizen and graduate of a top-tier law school, who gets paid to work with Indigenous communities rematriating land in California, I still feel scared for us to call for simply stopping the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian people.
There’s something happening in the world right now that feels different than anything that has happened in my lifetime before. That’s not to say, of course, that genocide and colonization are new; but it’s so strange to experience this in the age of social media. I’m scrolling on TikTok and seeing videos from people in Gaza whose neighborhoods have been completely decimated, crowded and frantic hospitals, and people breaking down from exhaustion. I’m seeing people from across the world talking about what is happening and speaking out in support of Palestinians, both online and in the streets. They’re saying, “look at the numbers of people using #standwithPalestine vs. #standwithIsrael, we can see that the people are with Palestine.” And yet in western media, I’m hearing the same points over and over again about how Israel “has the right to defend itself” against the Palestinian people and against “terrorism” (however Israel chooses to define that term), about the attack from Hamas that somehow justifies the collective punishment. And I’m hearing whispers from all directions about people in the US who have lost their jobs, nonprofits who have lost their grant funding, and people who have been doxxed, threatened, and attacked for speaking out in support of Palestine. It feels difficult to wrap my mind around this divide or fully understand the forces behind it. But I think the only way to respond to this moment of propaganda and fear-mongering is to speak up for what we believe is right. We know that our politicians will be the last to cave to the weight of the will of the people, and that they hold the purse strings funding this genocide. We must stand together, and put the weight of the privilege and institutional power we hold on the line behind the movement to Free Palestine to pave the way for others to do so as well.
Remember / Resist (Armenian: յիշել / դիմադրել | Arabic: تذكر / قاوم) by Entangled Roots Press and Bint Bandora
It’s September 27th, 2023. In my journal entry, I wrote, “Artsakh Armenians have just been ethnically cleansed from their homeland, where our language's first school was established in the 5th century. The world turned away. The so-called international bodies - the UN, ICC, EU, and USA – sent 'we are concerned' statements but failed to stop Azerbaijan from committing this horrific ethnic cleansing. Which nation will be next?”
Less than a month later, it would happen to Palestinians in Gaza, except this time, the global powers couldn't even pretend to care. Instead, they actively aided and abetted the mass slaughter of an already dispossessed nation, the descendants of the1948 Nakba.
I couldn’t stop seeing the parallels between these two recent aggressions. The second forceful displacement of over 120,000 Armenians occurred after a brutal 9-month blockade and starvation imposed by Azerbaijan’s petro-dictatorial regime. This included cutting off electricity, food, and fuel, and subjecting Armenians to ongoing psychological warfare by publishing videos of horrendous war crimes committed against soldiers and civilians. Azerbaijan, the main supplier of oil to Israel, exports its oil through tankers that transport oil by sea from Azerbaijani ports, such as Baku, to Israeli ports or terminals like the Ashkelon port near Gaza. In exchange, Israel provides high-tech weapons to Azerbaijan, including white phosphorus munitions, anti-aircraft systems, and other military equipment to ‘modernize’ its military and support its petro-dictatorship regime. Azerbaijan also spied on Armenian civil society and public servants using Israel’s Pegasus spyware. Israel has supplied Azerbaijan with nearly 70% of its arsenal between 2016 and present, significantly aiding in the ethnic cleansing of Armenians and other oppressed nations.
The genocidal intent towards Palestinians in Gaza became starkly clear when Israel's Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant declared war on Hamas and called the Palestinian people of Gaza 'human animals.' I understood what that meant. The ability to use such dehumanizing language towards people already subjected to military occupation and an ongoing apartheid system can only signify one thing: near- extermination. Following the horrific massacre of over 1,200 Israelis and the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7th, 2023—a day marked by mass trauma and collective grief—the Israeli government escalated into an outright genocide of Palestinians. Then there is the depraved act of providing nearly 1,000 assault weapons to settlers in the West Bank so they could escalate their pogroms against Palestinians there.
Witnessing genocide unfolding in front of our eyes has been unbearably painful. I cannot imagine what the families of the murdered are enduring. Families removed from the registry, entirely erased from their lineages. Is this our reality? Is our humanity collapsing before our eyes? Why do these legal institutions, tasked with preventing genocide, appear so remarkably ineffective and powerless? How many United Nations resolutions and international agreements do we need to enact to halt this ethnic cleansing? What accounts for the inefficiency of the legal mechanisms in place? I often think about how these legal-political frameworks are drafted for settler-colonial powers to uphold their interests and maintain the status quo, rather than to truly address the suffering and injustices faced by oppressed communities.
What can we, especially descendants of survivors of genocide, do to stop this? I find inspiration in the mass protests and direct actions taking place everywhere. Dockworkers in Barcelona are refusing to load or unload ships carrying war materials for Israel. In Oakland, activists delayed the boat containing weapon materials to Israel, bound for its next stop in Tacoma. In Tacoma, activists blocked port entrances, and Indigenous activists prevented the ship from leaving the Tacoma Port using canoes, while others blocked entrances at the Boeing factory in St. Louis to stop the shipment of bombs. People are actively participating in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns. Leaders and public servants of major political and NGO bodies are resigning in protest because they could no longer bear to be complicit in collective punishment. Many of these actions are also aligned with the calls from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), which advocate for an end to arming Israel, cessation of Israel’s apartheid regime’s aggression on Gaza, lifting the Gaza siege, and advocating for urgent medical and humanitarian aid.
In the face of such immense suffering and injustice, our collective conscience must rise to the occasion. We must continue to speak out, organize, and stand in solidarity with oppressed peoples everywhere. History has shown that change is possible when people come together with unwavering determination. The struggle for justice in Palestine, as in many other parts of the world, is a long and arduous one. But it is a struggle that we must embrace with courage and compassion, for the sake of a more just and humane world for all.
When I dig down to find the foundations of law, sometimes I wonder if it is simply this: When I see a human is suffering, the deepest part of me wants to extend a hand. Before this instinct gets disrupted by thoughts, words, political concepts, and categories of separation or superiority, I believe the gut instinct of every human is to nurture the life of other humans and living things. The basic law of life is to support aliveness. It helps me to remind myself that it’s simple, especially when I see law and politics becoming so complicated and disruptive of this everywhere from Oakland to Palestine.
For a few weeks, what I noticed about talking about Palestine was: It’s hard to talk about. People are taking sides and deepening polarization. Every word we utter could be taken by one side in ways we do not intend. If we call for ceasefire, boycotts, or sanctions, someone will inevitably hear this as antisemitic or supportive of terrorism. If we express compassion for Israelis who have been harmed, then someone will hear this as being unsupportive of Palestinians. When we divide the world into self and other, and when a dispute becomes so deeply polarized, the effect is to silence the many voices who want to speak from the heart.
Israel is attacking Palestine, and more than a million people may permanently lose their homes, communities, families, or lives. I believe the deepest and wisest part of every human knows: No, we do not want this. If we come face-to-face with a family, fleeing violence on foot, hungry, thirty, cold, and desperate for shelter, then our deepest yearnings will be to offer shelter and support. That’s before we know the family is Palestinian, Israeli, or otherwise. No matter who they are, we would yearn to stop the violence and help them return to a safe and peaceful home and community. But most of the world is not on the ground in Palestine and coming face-to-face with human suffering. Instead, we comment from our armchairs, where our deeper bodily wisdom is not engaged.
I was recently approaching someone on the street in Oakland who was holding a sign asking for help. A person I was walking with sharply barked at me: “Oh Janelle, you should never give homeless people money.” I instantly got a sharp pain in my chest, like someone had punched me. I’m not sure if the pain came from my rage and grief, or my effort to contain my rage and grief. Our bodies have so much wisdom, we should listen to them. I then received a lecture on the likelihood that a homeless person would use money to buy drugs, and other blah blah blah reasons we should not help someone who is asking for help. It seems every step we take in this life, we are navigating polarized spaces and hearing stories that disrupt our deeper wisdom — that violate the basic law of life.
So in this moment, I’m not here to comment on the history of the Middle East or to link it to political struggles here in the US. At times, this is helpful, but what I feel in this particular moment is that it gets us too much in our heads. Please listen to your heart and am certain you will hear it say: Stop the violence and let Palestinians return home.
The Law Center has represented Reem’s since September of 2020 for a worker co-op conversion. Reem’s is a restaurant making Arab street food with California love. It’s been a long process with a lot of ups and downs since Reem’s is a restaurant navigating the ups and downs of the Covid-19 pandemic. Reem’s has been adapting to survive while also trying to transcend and transform the food system.
Reem’s has centered the idea of Sumoud (صمود, in Arabic, means “steadfast resilience”) in its journey towards worker ownership. Sumoud is a Palestinian idea. It is about both individual and collective resilience and steadfastness. Specifically, it’s a term to describe surviving occupation — unending adversity, limited infrastructure, scarce resources.
Reem’s launched a Sumoud Apprenticeship Program to train employees to handle the worker co-op conversion and take care of the business afterwards. Topics include popular education, how food intersects with system of power and privilege, collective care and governance, finances, business development, social change, leadership and effective cooperation, and governance structures. It trains those most marginalized to pathways of resilience, worker ownership, and an equitable food system.
Reem’s use of Sumoud to describe training to operate a worker cooperative leads me to reflect on the parallels between life under settler colonialism and life under racial, gendered capitalism generally. The degree of extremity is vastly different, but the reality of constant crisis, minimal infrastructure, and limited resources persists in both worlds.
I have appreciated owner Reem Assil’s reflections throughout the process on whether it’s really possible to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house, on whether it’s really possible to change business as a business owner. It leads me to reflect on whether it’s really possible to change settler colonialism on the terms of the settler colonial state.
Most urgently, please consider supporting Emergency Fund for Palestine. Also, consider supporting Reem’s California Kitchen by purchasing their food or, if you live far away, a gift card. Alternatively, consider supporting chef Reem Assil by purchasing her cookbook, Arabiyya, a celebration of being Arab and Arab in diaspora that’s both political and personal. You can also follow them on Instagram to stay tuned to their offerings, teachings, and requests on this issue.
A few weeks ago, I brought my 20 month old daughter Kiki to her first protest where thousands of people came together in San Francisco to demand a ceasefire in occupied Palestine and to end U.S. military aid to Israel. On the way to the protest, syllable by syllable, I taught Kiki how to say “Free Pal-es-tine!” And then at the rally, I learned a new chant: “It’s not complicated. Gaza will be liberated!” I chanted while I nursed her, and she nodded as if in agreement. Looking down at her, I realized just how much I agreed. It’s not complicated.
Kiki watches the protest.
Political leaders will have us believe everything is complicated. They want us to feel so overwhelmed that we have no choice but to trust their policy decisions, even ones as extreme as supporting genocide. In contrast, at the Law Center, we believe everyone can help shape policy decisions. That’s why we partnered with the Community Democracy Project (CDP) to try to bring participatory budgeting to Oakland so that the people of Oakland could vote on the entire city budget.
It may sound complicated but at its core, participatory budgeting imagines a world where people meet with their neighbors to talk about their dreams, and then figure out the best way to redistribute resources to make those dreams come true. My favorite part of participatory budgeting is that it would create neighborhood assemblies where people would meet face-to-face in ways that would make it difficult and unnatural to dehumanize each other in the ways that the Israeli government wants its citizens to dehumanize their Palestinian neighbors. Instead, we’d be working together toward a common goal. I’m convinced that once we get into the habit of governing ourselves in a truly democratic and participatory way, our collective power and sheer joy will be contagious.
I pray that by the time this happens, the people of Palestine will already be free. I pray that they too will succeed in securing community control over the resources they create on the land they lovingly steward with their families, friends, and neighbors. That’s our uncomplicated vision for everyone.
When I was nine years old, I had a neighbor who quickly became my friend. His name is Kahir, and we shared our love of futbol and legos, as well as video games and making money. Every day we would run out into the neighborhood and kick the ball around or run on the beach with their dog. It wasn’t until a few weeks after I met him that I learned that he was Palestinian, and his homeland has been under siege for nearly a century. The occupation of Palestine by Israel, like every other occupation/ colonization of a native land by a colonizer, is not and has never been ok. We are now needing to publish statements because the colonizer has come under attack by the colonized, but I have always believed that the indiscriminate killing and forced removal of Palestinians by Israel needs to be stopped and is disgusting. I send my prayers and energy to the people of Gaza, to the people in the West Bank and Palestinians all over the world who are being killed and bombed for just trying to survive. Kahir went back to Palestine a year later, and ever since I have been worried for his safety, even though he was a child when he went back. This is not ok, never has been and never will be.
A red, black, and green fist drawn in chalk on the street by Ohlone Park. Words inside the hand say, “End Israeli Apartheid”. Art by Veryl.
To stand with Palestine is an ethical practice in defying the logics of racial capitalism and reclaiming my humanity. Racial capitalism is an economic mode of production, built upon the material and ideological foundations of slavery and settler colonialism, which extends the logic of racialization through white supremacy in its eternal quest for profit accumulation. Under this totalizing reality, I have been racialized as Asian. Far from its origins as the unassimilable, perpetual foreigner, my yellow skin in contemporary race-making is a marker of loyalty. The indispensability of my body assuages the guilt that accompanies the necessary violence against, and disposability of, populations racialized as Black and Brown. In the grand theater of racial politics, I play the part of the Model Minority. Amidst moments of existential crises to the American nation triggered by movements of the dispossessed, I am expected to “model” patriotism, apoliticalness, and docility. My complacency to the status quo secures the completion of racial progress in neoliberal imagination, and enables the reframing of liberation movements in other-ing terms such as “deviant,” “criminal,” and “terrorist,” which invite a permanent state of surveillance, occupation, and violence. As the reach of racial capitalism knows no borders, Israel’s determination to complete its settler colonialist project in Gaza through genocide is one such moment of existential crisis, since Israel plays a material and strategic role as America’s watchdog in the Middle East, but just as important, a psychological and metaphysical role in affirming the American national identity – for what is Zionism but white supremacy by another name? Like the Three Ghosts of Christmas, Israel’s invasion forces us to confront the racially and ecologically violent practices of past and present within our own borders that we’ve worked so hard to hide in order to sleep at night.
It follows, then, that Palestinian resistance is both a rejection of settler colonialism and the commodification of land and human relations under racial capitalism. As such, Palestinian resistance invites us each to reckon with the nation’s practices past and present, and to come closer to embracing our collective humanity where we can freely associate, express ourselves, and determine our destinies in a world without social roles assigned by legal constructs and enforced by systematized violence based on racial domination. A liberated Palestine means one step closer to liberating ourselves from all chains of oppression. Our fate is intertwined with the fate of Palestinians now.
For me, having performed the Model Minority for the better part of my life, my decision to stand in solidarity with Palestine rejects the social role determined for me under racial capitalism – the automated rituals of good moral character that have attributed to a life of relative comfort and success but increased alienation, emotional disassociation, exhaustion, and depression. Solidarity here is an act of self-care and restoration of my own being in connection with the entire human community. To echo the chorus of chants I recently joined at a protest in Montreal: “Sol, sol, sol, solidarité! Avec, avec, avec la Palestine!”