by Derek Scarlino / Love and Rage
HONOLULU – For Palestinians in Gaza, last week started out with characteristically violent encounters with the Israeli Defense Forces opposite the buffer zone outside of Gaza. Well over two thousand unarmed Palestinians, including over a dozen each of journalists and paramedics, were injured on May 14 as ongoing Day of Return demonstrations, which began in March, coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba and the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Over 60 Palestinians would lose their lives in the violence.
The Nakba refers to the initial Palestinian exodus of refugees from 1947 to 1949. Palestinian refugees, who have since lived in camps in countries like Iraq and Jordan, are denied the right of return by Israel.
Solidarity demonstrations spotted the globe, in and the city of Honolulu, on the opposite side of the world, residents and activists would also observe two separate days of demonstrations in support of the Palestinian liberation struggle organized primarily by Refuse Fascism Honolulu and UH Students and Faculty for Justice in Palestine. Given that Israel and Palestine are 13 hours ahead of Hawai’i, Monday’s violent events had been well recorded and commented on by the time demonstrations began on outside of the Federal Building in Honolulu at 4 PM.
“It’s not like there’s never violence, there’s always violence directed at the people of Gaza and the West Bank,” said Cynthia Franklin, a professor of English at the University of Hawai’i and member of the organizing collective at the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Franklin, who had recently completed a teaching residency at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, was also present for the beginning of Day of Return protests.
“This is not ‘cycles of violence’. This is not ‘clashes’ that are started by Hamas. This is a case of a settler-colonialist regime practicing apartheid and ethnic cleansing, and occupying a people in contravention of many international laws.”
Since 2000, roughly the beginning of the second Intifada, 87 percent of the over 8,000 casualties have been Palestinian.
Indeed, the Palestinians under UN Resolution 242, do have an inviolable right to establish a state. This resolution was passed unanimously by the UN Security Council in 1967 and calls for:
“…respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”
Additionally, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied territory also violates international law, as well as multiple UN resolutions. Israel’s repeated acquisition of resources, such as water and more land to support its settlements, also violate the Hague Regulation of 1907 which prohibits the appropriation of resources from occupied territory to benefit the occupier. While the United States government officially opposes the settlements, it does nothing to prevent their expansion, routinely blocks measures to address the issue, and allows the Israeli government to act with impunity in the region.
“Palestinians are sick of year after year of the US funding this occupation. They’re sick that the US holds so much power over their lives. And putting the embassy in Jerusalem was widely seen as a provocation to violence and just too much to say that Palestinians no longer have access to Jerusalem, which is an important location to people of all religions. It’s also saying that Israel owns Jerusalem. It’s a continuation of the expansion of the occupation.”
Border declaration has also been a long-standing issue between Israel and territories in Palestine, as well as Syria and Lebanon. The country is often accused of using its ambiguity on borders to expand its own territorial claims.
One of the reasons why the protests gained such notoriety was due to the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, commission by US President Donald Trump. The move was widely condemned internationally as another instance of provocation that has become a trademark of Trump’s short time in office.
“[Palestinians] varied between calling Trump a clown and a king. ‘We don’t like your king’, they would say,” Franklin added. “I think that people felt like he was throwing a lit match into the region and didn’t know what he was doing.”
As Monday’s demonstration in Honolulu grew to approximately 30-35 people, the voices contained within were diverse.
“I’m an American and I’m Jewish,” said Honolulu resident George Hudes when asked what brought him out. “Both of those are strong identities, being brought up as the son of Holocaust survivors. I’m out here because of the nauseating feeling I get in response to who claims to represent me. Having spent time in Israel, I don’t identify with Israel at all. There’s a regime there that I don’t feel in any way represents the values and traditions of Judaism.”
During the second demonstration on Wednesday, two Israeli citizens approached the crowd and sparred with them over whether or not they actually knew anything about Israel. In attendance for the second time, Hudes replied that he had. Then they asked him when.
“The first time was 1959.”
Hudes has family on both sides of the debate. While his family’s story in the United States is rooted in New York and Jew Jersey, he has cousins, also born in the US, who are Israeli settlers noting that the issue is one that is “close to home.”
Occupation being the dominant theme associated with Israel and Palestine was not lost on Native Hawaiians in attendance, either. For many Americans, knowledge of Hawai’i boils down to paradise, Pearl Harbor, and palm trees. For many kanaka (Hawaiian people), however, it is a sovereign kingdom lost. A monarchy overthrown by the United States at the behest of influential capitalists in 1893 and occupied ever since.
Tatiana Kalaniopua Young, a lecturer at UH West O’ahu, member of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and a grassroots ohana from Waianae joined the rally with her husband and cousin, feeling that it was important for Hawaiians to show solidarity with the people of Palestine.
“Like in Palestine, as you can see in Hawai’i, these settlements are completely destroying our a’ina (land) and destroying the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples here. You see the rate of homelessness, land displacement, unemployment, disease, all of those quantifiable statistics point to slow death. And there’s a lot of correlation between what’s happening to kanaka here in Hawai’i and what’s happening in Palestine — especially in regards to the military occupation.”
While Native Hawaiians comprise just 10 percent of the state’s population, they comprise nearly 40 percent of the homeless.
“It’s precisely the military occupations that have displaced kanaka, and why you see so many kanaka homeless,” Young added.
Each demonstration drew similar numbers. The first being held outside of the Federal Building and the second at the entrance of Ala Moana Park. Horns beeped in support, especially on Wednesday after news of the loss of life in Gaza had more time to spread. Jeers and insults were also traded between drivers and demonstrators. Antisemitism was one of the most common criticisms of those who protested Israeli government policy.
“I feel there’s total confusion between criticism of Israel, and anti-Zionism, and antisemitism,” George Hudes would remark. “Israel is almost a complete turnabout from Jewish tradition. 100 years ago, almost nobody was behind the idea of a Jewish state because they did not see Judaism as a form of nationalism. Over that 100 years, nationalism has supplanted ethics. We traded our ethics for land.”