[News] 'This is Not a Border': How Israel Has Turned the U.S.-Mexico Border into Gaza

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 22 11:17:07 EDT 2019


  'This is Not a Border': How Israel Has Turned the U.S.-Mexico Border
  into Gaza

/October 22, 2019 <http://www.palestinechronicle.com/2019/10/> – Benay 

In the title quote, the words refer to a collection of readings from 
several years of the Palestine Festival of Literature, an annual 
literary event that allows performers to interact with Palestinians on 
their home ground, despite the many barriers in doing so. For some 
Palestinians, the U.S.-Mexico border feels the same.

When Ahmed Abu Artema, Gazan poet and lead organizer of the Great Return 
to the Southwest in March 2018 he visited the border. Recalling the same 
tragedy in Rafah, an area where a border fence also splits families 
apart, he declared:

    “Borders are a declaration of moral and political failures.”

For both Palestinians at the Gaza fence and refugees from South of the 
border seeking entry into the United States, borders represent a form of 
imperialism, a line that excludes colonized populations while also 
denying citizenship privileges and worker’s rights.

There are many similarities, then, between both borders. The most 
obvious appears in tactics that have been exported by Israel to the 
United States. Such procedures left many Americans shocked when Trump 
first voiced them but closer inspection shows that they have long been 
used by America’s closest ally.

As Michael Arria notes 
when Trump suggested shooting migrants in the legs in order to halt 
their progress across the Southern boundary, he was merely borrowing a 
page from Israeli snipers at the Gaza border who target legs over any 
other part of the body. Trump appears to have taken a page out of a 
horror movie when he added that he “wanted the [border] wall 
electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh,” as 
reported by Arria, who writes that the President even “floated the idea 
of a trench in front of the wall that contained alligators.” But again, 
given the inhumane treatment that Palestinians experience at the hands 
of Israel, Trump’s pronouncements do not seem all that extreme.

As the increase in migration creates new communities, so also does the 
language of ‘borders’ and ‘Diasporas’ acquire new meaning. For example, 
in Borderlands / La Frontera (1987), Gloria Anzaldúa, writing from her 
own experiences growing up in the Southwest borderlands, constructs a 
natural connection between women like herself (/los atravesados/, the 
“mongrel, the mulato, the half-breed, the half dead”) and others who 
feel marginalized by society.

Conceptualizing the U.S.-Mexico boundary as a metaphorical space, 
Anzaldúa believed that female border crossers often negotiate in ways 
that allow them to claim contested spaces as their own. For Summer 
Masoud, a Palestinian American who grew up on the US-Mexico border, this 
concept is particularly relevant.

Because of her ethnicity, she understands 
<http://borderzine.com/2019/01/palestinian-on-the-border/> that the 
concept of walls and borders for Palestinians is all common. Her father, 
who immigrated to the U.S. for school, stayed on in El Paso where he has 
worked as a civil engineer for over 30 years. Nevertheless, he feels at 

You wouldn’t think of El Paso, Texas, and Palestine as having anything 
in common, but you’d be surprised how similar these two regions are. On 
the surface, they look the same. My father often jokes that’s why he 
chose El Paso to begin with. Both areas feature a desert landscape with 
craggy rocks and spindly shrubs.

Beyond the commonalities of landscape, though, both regions are 
settler-colonial societies that have constructed borders to keep the 
unwanted outside altogether and/or at the very least keep them in their 

Like Anzaldúa, Masoud has created for herself a dual identity, a 
blending of “two identities,” she says, “that are in conflict” with 
mainstream society’s perception of who she ought to be. In the U.S., 
Latinos are perceived as “invaders” who seek to destroy the American way 
of life.

Despite the fact that many have lived in the Southwest for centuries, 
much longer than the true invaders, the Anglos, this false perception 
has been constructed partly to maintain the desired demographics of the 
Euro-American majority who are citizens.

In Palestine, the Indigenous are viewed as “terrorists” who seek to 
destroy Israeli’s sense of security in their newly adopted land. Because 
of El Paso’s multiethnic population, Summer and her family have enjoyed 
a measure of freedom that perhaps they would not have had at home.

Growing up almost my entire life on the El Paso/Juarez border has shown 
me the actuality of the situation. El Paso and Juarez are sister cities 
and the border blends to create a culture of harmony between Mexicans 
and Americans here. Conversations switch fluidly between English and 

Pesos and dollars can be interchanged in many shops on both sides of the 
downtown international bridge. Most people in this region would agree 
that it is our relationship with Mexico that makes our city one of the 
safest in the United States.

Nevertheless, Anzaldúa’s theory of cultural intersections can only go so 
far. As Ramzy Baroud observes 
there are increasing aspects of border life in the United States that 
are troubling.

In particular, Israel has been exporting “surveillance technologies, 
walls, border monitoring equipment, and violent tactics” to beef up 
border security as well as subdue activists who protest his policies. 
“Israel’s illegal tactics are now the model through which the US plans 
to police its cities, monitor its borders and define its relationship 
with its neighbors,” Baroud explains, an exchange that makes Anzaldúa’s 
positive concept of the borderlands at best outdated.

Beyond pointing out the obvious concern over Israel’s export of the 
Occupation to the United States, what are the advantages of comparative 
studies between the two borders?

Drawing on Steven Salaita’s concept of “reciprocal communalism,” 
focusing on such relationships, he says, “move[s] beyond dialogue into a 
more defined cross-cultural political consciousness”. While tied to 
their space of homeland, Palestinians and border activists elsewhere 
demonstrate a commitment to mutual liberation founded on reciprocal 
opposition to colonial power wherever it exists.

For example, The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights reports 
that on Indigenous People’s Day in 2017 a delegation of leaders in the 
immigration rights movement arrived in Palestine to learn about the 
Israeli Apartheid Wall. The delegation included journalists, students, 
and activists from both sides of the US/Mexico border wall, including 
members of the Tohono O’odham tribe whose land is divided by the barrier.

 From the meeting, the delegates hoped to share information as well as 
build a world-wide movement against such borders. As Cynthia Franklin, 
co-editor of “Life in Occupied Palestine” notes, /sumoud/ is a 
Palestinian tradition, but it gains strength through international 
solidarity, certainly as demonstrated here among activists at both borders.

/– Benay Blend received her doctorate in American Studies from the 
University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and 
Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “’Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words’: 
‘Situated Knowledge’ in the Works of Palestinian and Native American 
Writers”. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle./

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