Sunday Reading: November 26, 2023

Indigenous Justice on Movement Memos

On November 23, thousands of Indigenous people and allies participated in the annual Indigenous Peoples’ Thanksgiving Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz Island organized by the International Indian Treaty Council. These gatherings began in 1975, first to honor the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island by Native activists, and, later, to counter popular narratives of Thanksgiving as a peaceful convening of native people and colonizers. This year’s assembly had another function, too: solidarity with Palestine. In a new episode of Kelly Hayes’ excellent podcast, Movement Memos, she hosted Morning Star Gali and Ashley Crystal Rojas of Indigenous Justice to discuss this action, solidarity between Native people in the US and Palestinians, dam removals to restore salmon’s life cycles, and harm reduction strategies.

The thread between these communities is not only symbiotic and life-giving relationships with the land, but also the ways that colonialist superpowers create surveillance and policing states that rob those they oppress of their self-determination. Indigenous Justice’s work is particularly instructive because it approaches community support and liberation from an abolitionist perspective. In April of 2022, Morning Star Gali appeared on Movement Memos to discuss ongoing Native resistance, survival, and world-building. One major focus of Indigenous Justice’s work is addressing what is typically referred to as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis (or Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR)), understanding the violence against women and gender-expensive indigenous people as entrenched in the history of violence and land relations. Rather than taking a traditional NGO-ified approach—in which violence against women and children is separated from violence against men, thereby retaining racist and colonialist ideas about these men as threatening—Indigenous Justice understands the MMIR crisis as intertwined with the crisis of stolen relatives caged in the prison system, mostly men. Native people are incarcerated at rates 2-4x those of white people in the United States, and Native men have the lowest life expectancy of any group in the United States. Another connection to Palestine emerges: the global “humanitarian” focus on women and children often functions directly to obscure the obscene violence enacted against Native, Arab, and Muslim men.

Instead of trying to piecemeal a solution to symptomatic gendered violence in a prison state, we must dismantle the prison state itself. This involves reducing the influence of the prison-industrial complex on people’s lives while simultaneously imagining and enacting new solutions. As Hayes argues in “Indigenous Abolitionists are Organizing for Healing and Survival,”when we are only equipped with the hammer of violence and alienation, everything looks like a nail. Perhaps “new solutions,” though, is a misnomer—much of the abolitionist work that Indigenous Justice undertakes is rooted in indigenous cultural norms of interdependency, self-determination, and relatedness. In direct opposition to colonialist vagueries about breaking bread on Thanksgiving, Indigenous Justice is creating practical solutions for a better world.

Hammer and Hope

In a November 15th conversation, Hammer & Hope editor Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò asked Radhika Sainath of Palestine Legal and Mohammed Nabulsi of the Palestinian Youth Movement whether Isreal was, from their perspectives, committing genocide. “We don’t need to read between the lines to understand,” said Mohammed Nabulsi of the Palestinian Youth Movement. “They have made it explicit.”

“We should take the Israelis at their word,” responded Sainath. “The Israeli minister of defense called Palestinians ‘human animals;’ he said Israel’s military will ‘eliminate everything’ in Gaza, and there have been calls to flatten whole neighborhoods.” While legal experts refuse to define the conflict as a genocide until, paradoxically, it’s over, Nabulsi and Sainath refuse to waste time “close reading” what is by now increasingly obvious. Instead, they offer historical materialist context and emergent political strategies currently being developed by both groups.

Nabulsi lays out the PYM’s strategy for mobilizing Palestinian and Arab youth “The biggest stakeholders in the liberation of Palestine are the communities in the diaspora, who have been severed, both geographically and politically, from our national movement. PYM’s role is to reconnect the Palestinian diaspora and its struggle, especially youth who have been largely disenfranchised both within local institutions and the national movement more broadly.” While PYM has organized mass protests across fifteen cities in North America and Britain. However, this struggle, as Nabulsi notes, has been waged “across every front,” targeting increased US foreign aid to Israel and the media’s manufacturing of consent for Palestinian genocide. “Our priority right now,” says Nabulsi, “is to raise the political cost of the U.S. government’s policies.” What would it actually mean for the US to face consequences? And what needs to happen in order to make that possible?

Sainath’s explanation of the role movement lawyers play in the current struggle is also clarifying. “We have been getting a record surge of requests for legal help,” Sainath notes. “In the past couple of weeks, over 300 people have come to us for legal help,” a statistic that, by the time of final publication, had increased to over 600. The demographics from those needing legal protection ranged from activists like Mohammed, which Palestine Legal had represented when he was a student, to tenured professors.

While discussion of whether or not the pro-Palestine movement will be coopted and punished like the 2020 George Floyd uprisings has already begun to circulate across the internet, Nabulsi also offers an important clarification: this moment is not about where previous movements fell short, but about their “consolidation.” The years “from the Occupy movement through the Black Lives Matter struggle” informed this current moment, as did “a recent spike in union activity, both in terms of union membership and strikes, whether it’s the UPS, autoworkers, the Writers Guild, actors.” What happens next will happen, not in spite of their "failures", but with thanks to their victories.

This roundtable, as well as a new essay by Michelle Alexander, are a preview of Hammer & Hope’s forthcoming issue, and are both available here.


“Boycotts shorten the perceived distances between moral actors,” write Rainer Diana Hamilton and Shiv Kotecha in “PACBI Now.” Created in 2005, BDS was directly inspired by “the struggle against apartheid in South Africa”; PACBI, established by Palestinian academics in 2004, asks cultural organizations to refuse to take money from or work with Israel’s settler colonial government. As Hamilton and Kotecha point out, “The boycott is not interminable. It will end when Israel ends its occupation of Palestine, recognizes the equal rights of Arab-Palestinians, and lets refugees return home.”

This dispatch––written by two organizers with Writers Against the War on Gaza (WAWOG)––provides a cultural organizing roundup on the current push to make cultural institutions commit to PACBI. Employees share first-person accounts of the various difficulties they’ve faced in organizing their workplaces. Kyle Dacuyen, Executive Director of the Poetry Project, notes that “even though we’re in this broader cultural moment of new attention, for our organization, this was not new reflection.” Others, such as Steven Motika of Nightboat, note that it had been hard at first to see how an institutional endorsement could make an impact, stressing that “the question of small press editorial decisions ‘does not touch the magnitude of the genocide happening in Palestine.’” However, as Hamilton and Kotecha argue, it is precisely “small presses, venues, and publications who are offering a model of cultural support for Palestine that we hope can extend far beyond its current scope… financial independence also affords relative editorial and creative freedom.”

Exposed Bricks

Meanwhile, as people in America returned to their hometowns for the Thanksgiving holiday, they might notice how social media has impacted the way those towns are developed. “When we need conversations about housing and policing, our cities would rather be a ‘weekend dad’ that greenlights ‘infrastructure and attendant institutions of creative-class leisure,’” writes Patrick McGinty in “Exposed Bricks,” his review of The City Authentic: How the Attention Economy Builds Urban America by David A. Banks (University of California Press, 2023). As McGinty and Banks lay out, small cities increasingly try to compensate for local and national budget shortfalls with “authenticity-peddling,” using first generation millennial aesthetics as a cover for the newest iteration of finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE)-based metropolises.

Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, this strategy has not raised tax bases––it’s raised rent and housing prices. Unlike millennials, Gen Z isn’t falling for the same tricks, moving to lower-population states with lower living costs.

PragerU Is In Schools

Who says the humanities job market is dead? PragerU is hiring an Editor and Researcher for History for its dystopian new extension: PragerU Kids. The right-wing non-profit funded by fracking titans Dan and Farris Wilk, the National Christian Foundation, and the DeVos family—best known for its YouTube videos that shill fascist talking points and man-on-the-street interviews where hosts claim to expose the increasingly radical leftism entrenched in college campuses—has now extended its reach to the K-12 classroom. PragerU Kids claims to be an official vendor for use in schools in five states and counting. To no one’s surprise, Florida was the first state to approve PragerU Kids as a school partner. While their CEO, who brags in her bio about her time in the Israeli Defense Forces, manufacturers consent in her PragerU talk show, schoolchildren across the nation can imbibe “Shira prays for peace”, a disinformational video about the history of Palestine.

Of course, the denialism of the United States’ school system is as old as the nation itself, but the conservative war on public education is entering a disturbing new iteration. Teachers, strapped for time and resources, are increasingly turning to technological “solutions” like generative AI and other deskilling mechanisms to handle overwork, and curricula like PragerU can serve this same function. For free, teachers can access lesson plans on the Federalist Papers and American citizenship, and for only $25/year, teachers and parents can join PragerU Resources for Educators and Parents (PREP) to “equip families and teachers with the tools they need to deliver pro-American education to our children and protect them from inappropriate ideas and radical indoctrination in today’s classrooms and children’s entertainment.” This follows the media playbook piloted by Fox News: using an official-sounding name (who wouldn’t want free resources from a university?) and avoiding a paywall is one of the fastest ways to household use for a resource-strapped consumer base. But even if Denis Prager’s bigoted YouTube videos aren’t implemented in schools, PragerU’s presence in the space shifts the Overton window for acceptable interventions in our classrooms.

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