Culture

The privilege of anxiety | Eurozine

Anna-Esther Younes is a Palestinian German scholar of race critical theories, psychoanalytic approaches, and de/post-/colonial theory. Her research on the ‘War on antisemitism’, race and settler-colonialism provides piercing insights into how the censorship and repression of Palestinians manifest today, in Germany, Europe and beyond.

For more than a decade, Younes has experienced (research and academic) job losses and media misinformation campaigns. In 2019, a secret dossier compiled by the antisemitism and neo-Nazi watchdogs RIAS Berlin and MBR, misrepresenting her and her work as antisemitic, sympathetic to terrorism and sexism, was leaked to a politician (and others) of Die Linke. This resulted in Younes being disinvited from an anti-racism panel being organised by the Berlin chapter of the party.

Opening a series in Eurozine on the censorship of Palestinians in the European public sphere, Vienna-based organisers Salma Shaka and Mars Zaslavsky spoke with Dr Younes about the mechanisms of repression and their histories; about intergenerational knowledge transfer amidst an increasingly isolating political climate; and about fostering solidarity between struggles.

Anna Younes (AY): Rather than an interview, I’d prefer the three of us to have an exchange. I’m more interested in being in conversation with the younger generation than talking about myself. I understand that these days many people in their twenties, especially non-Palestinians, and including anti-Zionist Jews, are becoming witnesses to the severity of a globalized repression of Palestine. So why should we only talk about Germany’s particularities, and why about just one case, when there are so many others?

Berlin 21 October 2023. Image: Montecruz Foto / Source: Wikimedia Commons

Between where you were born, where you grew up, where you live now, you both bring your own experience to the table that would de-centre this German particularity. Otherwise, we remain trapped in a German-centric and Eurocentric political understanding of what is happening. I take you seriously as thinkers and people on the ground contributing to this struggle. So let’s talk instead about what it means to be a politicized young person these days. If that’s ok?

Mars Zaslavsky (MZ): Let’s do it, although I feel apprehensive, which illustrates how censorship and repression work. For instance, I only let a fraction of my politics enter the workplace. There’s a tension between raising critiques or giving my honest political opinion, and the boundaries I institute due to internal censorship. That’s an immediate anxiety – and I use that word intentionally – that arises, which I think is very telling.

AY: Why do you use the word anxiety? Why is it anxiety-inducing for you to think of politics and labour together?

MZ: There exists an unfounded and outsized fear which I’ve been trying to think about psychoanalytically. It’s not necessarily grounded in a material reality. On the other hand, repression is an extremely real political and material process, as demonstrated by your surveillance case. Yet, I sometimes think: the people who fear repression the most are actually those who are not living it in the most explicit ways. Because it’s something that has not yet come to pass for most people. That fear therefore exists most for those who have more to lose in terms of financial, social, and cultural capital, paradoxically because it’s an intangible, not yet materialized fear.

For instance, I have never actually experienced a ban or limitations on speech in the workplace. Yet before entering political discussions at work, I work myself up into a state, not understanding where the anxiety comes from. I struggle to say what I know to be true for fear of crossing an unspoken boundary, as if perversely the violence of the speech act outweighs the violence of reality: namely, that Zionism is a modern settler-colonial political project that has brought about genocide.

Salma Shaka (SS): In my case, I and the entire Feminist Office of the University of Vienna’s Students Union (ÖH), comprised of BIPOCs with mostly precarious visa conditions, were kicked out of the university for expressing our concerns regarding its position on the genocide happening in Gaza. The Zionist Austrian Union of Jewish Students (JÖH) has had the biggest monopoly on defining pro-Palestinian politics on campus, with those critical of Israel facing different forms of repression.

My past experiences of censorship led to the question: how much do I have to negotiate whether what’s happening in Gaza is a genocide? Knowing full well that others in the workplace will not share the same opinion, nor use a specific language to describe the situation, I wonder how much energy we should be spending on this? I think that there is a type of self-censorship we’re exercising, perhaps for the sake of acknowledging that institutionally, there’s not much that can be done. For many in Europe, the use of the term genocide is something they get to agree or disagree with. Genocide and settler colonialism are treated as mere opinions.

MZ: On this point of: ‘what is the point?’ – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, Anna, because it’s a question of organizing: where do you put resources? How do you choose targets? I wonder if it’s a strategic justification, or if it’s one of avoidance, to say: the neoliberal workplace is one in which radical politics go to die, no matter how politicized or ‘leftist’ a place of work positions itself to be. It cannot be a place of actualizing one’s politics. So then, what is the point? It’s a question that within student organizing, we ask ourselves constantly: what is the site of struggle? Is the academic sphere a site where we act? How much is possible, and how much is still within a reformist frame?

AY: Well, first of all, academia and the workplace are sites for a decolonial struggle – and always have been. But I want to come back to what you said at the beginning, when you brought up psychoanalysis. You said: ‘I don’t know where that anxiety comes from’. In psychoanalysis, anxiety and fear are two different spheres. Anxiety is fear that has been repressed into the unconscious, and we therefore no longer know where it comes from nor what it is about – all that’s left of that ‘knowledge’ shows itself as anxiety. Fear, on the other hand, is something that we do know: there’s the person with the gun in front of us, or the boss threatening us directly with redundancy. That’s very palpable, understandable, immediate fear. So, anxiety – a fear repressed into the unconscious – is really what we talk about when we speak about what you called ‘self-censorship’.

And when we then link anxiety and fear to a colonial capitalist political economy, what you are talking about is people’s very deeply rooted, immanent understanding that the capitalist economy that we are living in today is immanently political. So, no matter what we say, whether that is about Palestine, the genocide in Sudan, or the war on Yemen, we understand that the one thing we’re not allowed to talk about is the actual production and maintenance of the workings of colonial capitalism. We may be able to talk about workers’ rights in Europe, and we’re not as scared of doing so as talking about genocide and workers’ rights in today’s South Africa, Namibia or Palestine – and how that relates to the maintenance of ‘the West’. In that sense, anxiety almost forecloses a political conversation and traps you in this moment of ‘phantasmatic angst’, and you don’t know what to do with it. Eventually, this phantasmatic anxiety becomes persecutory – you feel somebody is out there to hunt and hurt you.

That’s why it’s crucial to understand the difference between anxiety and fear these days. What we’re dealing with predominantly is anxiety, especially in the Western world. Which is why you said people who fear repression the most, are actually those who are not living it, which I think is quite poignant. In the post-colonial moment, those living under repression, getting killed or fighting to survive don’t have the luxury to have ‘phantasmatic anxieties’. Their fears are very real: they know very well whom they are afraid of and what to do or not to do against it. To be caught up in anxiety and rendered ‘inactive’ really is a predicament of privilege. In a crude sense, European anxiety still profits from the fear of others: their real-life fear becomes our phantasmatic anxiety.

The point you both raised in relation to various sites of political and social struggles – such as academia, journalism, or activism – and how much time and energy we invest in debating whether or not this is a genocide, settler colonialism and so on, is an important one. Maybe another question could be whether liberty and freedom over the past 500 years of settler colonialism and colonialism were ever actually negotiated with the people being subdued by it or rather fought for, struggled for?

This idea of ‘negotiating freedom or one’s recognition as human’ strikes me as a very liberal consensus that arose in a colonial timeframe, that today is fuelling and sanitizing the further dispossession of the colonized. To my mind, there is no rational debate to be had or won, not even in the legal framework, that can actually liberate us – whatever liberation means. It seems to me that each generation tries to understand what ‘liberty’ they need to fight for and for what end.

So, while the question of liberty and freedom needs to constantly be thought anew, another question might be: to what extent may liberal law be able – perhaps! – to prevent our political destruction? I wouldn’t say that most atrocities were legal from the get-go; in fact, most were legalized as they unfolded. That is why we need to stop negotiating the understanding of an ‘event’ and start negotiating futures. We need to invest more into theories and arguments about ‘breaking with the present and past that hurt us’, rather than attempting to repair or negotiate those pasts. As Angela Davis said, ‘freedom is a constant struggle’.

However, what repressive social organization does is interrupt intergenerational knowledge transfer. As members of a younger generation, how are you experiencing what is happening today? Not only regarding Palestine, but other anti-colonial and anti-policing struggles in North America, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere? What do you think and feel has changed, and how does it come to the fore in your activism and politics? For instance, anti-colonial armed struggle was common sense in the immediate post-WWII decades, whereas today we think about not getting fired, as you mentioned.

MZ: I’m 28, raised in a secular post-Soviet/Russian Jewish family that immigrated during the big waves of Soviet Jewish immigration in the ’70s and ’80s. I started organizing within the Palestine solidarity movement in Canada, mostly within antizionist Jewish collectives.

When I came to Vienna, I felt politically defanged because I wasn’t getting organized (although I did join the Judeobolschewiener*innen, an antizionist, anti-capitalist Jewish collective). Part of it was the language barrier. But one of the biggest shocks – though it shouldn’t have been – was that much of the so-called left was unabashedly Zionist. This is in part due to the influence of antideutsche ideology, a unique and paradoxical political segment within the German-speaking ‘radical Left’ that promotes unconditional support for Israel and Zionism. It was shocking to see self-proclaimed ‘antifascist’ and ‘anarchist’ collectives viciously attack pro-Palestine protests; and it was shocking to be told to my face, sometimes even by descendants of Nazis, that I am an antisemite for organizing as an antizionist Jew.

Based on my perceptions, you have a younger generation, mostly migrants, people of colour, students on precarious visas, which is something to note when we discuss censorship and repression because there is a fear of losing one’s legal status in the EU. We see it in speeches, official announcements by high-ranking politicians: we have to deport. This illustrates the politics of securitization at play.

You have many people who have not organized before and are being politicized by the genocide in Palestine. The bonds forged in solidarity are powerful, but intergenerational transfer and organizing can be difficult.

Something that stands out to me is that the younger generation organizing for Palestine is often queer and trans. I don’t think this is incidental, nor is it actually that new – our struggles are shared, and a commitment to queer politics necessarily means having to confront the colonial, capitalist structures that produce the cis-heteronormative world we live in. Where I was organizing in Canada, we sometimes ran into intergenerational conflict over the fact that the ‘old guard’ was not as attentive to queer politics. This kind of conflict was sometimes amplified to make a facile, and in my opinion incorrect, argument about a more ‘Marxist’ old guard and a younger generation that focuses more on ‘culture’ or ‘discourse’…We have to learn from the ‘old guard’s’ decades of struggle, but it must be a mutually reinforcing circle.

SS: I’m 24, born and raised in the UAE, and lived between there, Cyprus, and Jordan. At the age of 11, my parents decided to move to Nablus, where I grew up until I graduated high school and moved to Vienna. I have an Austrian grandmother, which is why I ended up here, her and my grandfather met in the ’60s due to his own migration from Palestine. He pursued his studies in Europe after completing his high school diploma in Jordanian prison, because he was a communist. It’s funny how that changed following the ‘oil boom’ in the Gulf and his moving to the UAE, where home for a long time became where he made money.

To me, armed resistance was very normal by the age of 12. I was deeply influenced by a social studies teacher of mine who had been kicked out of university in Nablus because of her militant ideas. She ended up as a schoolteacher rather than a university professor for being ‘too radical’. At least that was what was said about her, and there was my radicalization.

I grew up in an upper-middle-class family from Nablus that just didn’t want to talk about politics all that much, nor about them being active back in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s… Reflecting on this history, and how I perceive myself as part of this ongoing generational struggle, I continue to navigate what I was (not) told growing up, as well as what I and my family have been exposed to. For example, having an Austrian grandmother who lived in Nablus for 15 years, learned the language, learned the accent, and was part of the fight for Palestinian liberation, I nowadays find myself thinking about the European antisemitism she inherited. Being in the UAE, too, was an entirely different experience; I experienced very different socio-political and racial structures which shaped my understanding on the types of discrimination that exist there as opposed to in Palestine, and how through its normalization with Israel the UAE is directly complicit in the Palestinian’s repression.

When I moved to Austria at 18, the BDS was the first movement I joined because it was the only Palestine movement that I knew about, as I had some Palestinian friends who recommended it. Those three years being part of the BDS shaped how I organized politically. Because the movement keeps being attacked, some BDS activists would express forms of entitlement or self-righteousness over other pro-Palestinian groups, convinced that they are the ones who are going to save Palestine from the Austrian state. Realizing how I was treated differently as opposed to white activists, or allies in general, and better understanding how saviourism worked, I left the BDS.

A year ago, I moved to Athens for six months and found myself in anarchist spaces, organizing with Palestinian refugee men coming from Syria and Lebanon. I was pushed into having conversations within the Palestinian community itself on what it takes to engage in, let’s say, feminist and abolitionist structures within our movements. The careerists, saviours, opportunists that a lot of us seem so grateful to have, how much we can allow them in, and how much are we also willing to reflect on our own internalized racism? Our racism and discrimination towards others?

In October 2023, the pro-Palestinian movement in Austria saw a new start, something that would perhaps challenge the structures that have existed for the past decade or so. Students started organizing, and new people started to mobilize. Most come from other places, other countries, immigrants on student visas, and most also from a US-specific context, meaning they have this language and understanding of how to have this conversation. I saw potential in this intergenerational organizing, involving those with a background in it and those with none. Yet as a Palestinian, I still do not feel that I am centred in any of this and realize how for the past four years I was operating from feelings of guilt and shame.

Now I find myself watching from afar, seeing how everyone is trying to liberate Palestine on their own terms. But I no longer feel I have the agency in these spaces to come and talk about it, because it’s constantly being negotiated who is Palestinian enough to dictate this. What means of liberation are we using? What is the vision, really? There has been a lot of effort to implement care structures within movements because, without them, every single one is doomed to fail. That is a very difficult feat, but we are still trying to push for what we believe in and to hold ourselves and our communities accountable. I’m interested in hearing how this all relates to anxiety, shame, and how much I can learn to compromise in order not to be put in this constant position of attack and be attacked. Where do I say: I would rather remove myself from a situation and build my own thing, rather than trying to merge with something that I do not necessarily agree with?

AY: Wow! I asked about intergenerational differences in struggle and how you perceive them, and the first thing both of you did was relate to your family background. Interesting. In many ways, your responses circumscribe a social structure in which speaking about ‘systems’ already becomes too abstract for many. The individualized biography becomes the prime way through which we can narrate and convey the history of violence, while anchoring our reality as ‘true’ in a political culture that often disavows or downplays these very histories of colonial violence.

I agree with what you said about your respective communities and the old versus the new guards, although you didn’t put it like this. I think that is where the more Marxist ‘Old Guard’ has issues with what they call ‘identity politics’. Others would say that colonial capitalism is the ultimate ‘identity politics’.

But when thinking about these ‘intergenerational clashes’, maybe we can salvage more spaces of radical politics by focusing on what repression does to us, instead of whom it necessarily is about. In those debates, people often focus more on the bodies that are repressed and the struggles they face, versus the structures that generate the repression. These structures repress transgender women the same way they do a hyper masculine fighter from Palestine, right? The ways of attack might look different, but both risk death at the end of the day. The new generation understands that better than the old guard, and I think the strong queer and feminist impetus in the current Palestine solidarity movement is testimony to that. Again, we need to focus on the bodies afflicted by violence just as much as on the structure generating it.

I think the generation that was active in the 1980s had way more space to have these conversations than you have today, and even more than I had 10 or 15 years ago. So, on the one hand, we are battling a structure that doesn’t give us the space to have these interpersonal, intergenerational, and transnational conversations, and then we are trapped as the people who were born by the system with our own often unconscious neoliberal agendas. It’s not easy to organize amidst all that while having conversations with the ‘old guard’.

When you were telling me about these biases that are thrown at you from your own communities, from men, from white people, from everyone essentially, it’s very painful. What I hear predominantly is that nobody takes the time to listen to the other and what happened to them, regardless of what your social identity is per se. I don’t want to romanticize anything – it has never been easy. Power is always there, even in the most anarchist space. The white dudes dominate, even if it’s through their mere physical presence or the act of going to war whilst those who are socialized as women or feminized do the so-called reproductive labour of care work.

I was born in the GDR to a Palestinian father and a white German mother – my mother’s side also had a Jewish side that branched off from my grandmother and her father. Most of them were killed in Theresienstadt, others survived in Switzerland and Russia, and some of them live in Israel today. In the GDR I grew up knowing I could not speak freely to anybody about anything, especially not about politics or what we ‘think at home’. To my frustration as a child that just wanted to belong, I was not allowed to become a ‘Young Pioneer’, which to a large extent excluded me from class and school life. I was first interrogated by the GDR intelligence when I was around seven, which was stressful for it might have meant prison for my mother. All of that fundamentally shaped me and gave me an understanding of a political system that is predatory and dangerous. On the political level of state violence and what the ‘State’ means, I learned to act and lie to the sovereign for the survival of the family. They would often interrogate the children first – kids talk, because they don’t know, or so they thought.

When I read the secret file compiled on me in 2019, I was reminded of what I knew from my mother and the files the Stasi had kept on her. That was the tipping point for me: seeing how extensive the surveillance was and how brazenly it was being carried out. Normally, I wouldn’t have taken legal action because I lack the funds to go to court and fight for my rights. But then the ELSC, which had just started its work, offered help. With them I felt I had to fight this in the courts.

These mechanisms, how the State keeps records to intimidate or even kill, really riled me. I know how the GDR functioned, and I learned what fear was – or at least the beginnings of it. That is why I couldn’t understand people around me in West Germany, who would constantly be so scared of everything. At the end of the day, I thought: ‘the only thing that happens to you is you lose your job’. You don’t disappear like in the GDR, you don’t get incarcerated, tortured or killed. What are you scared of? It comes back to what you said. Those who are the most scared are the ones who have not experienced immediate violence on their bodies, and instead want to believe in this white, western, colonial lie that we can reform and repair: that we are living in a Rechtsstaat that guarantees rule of law. No postcolonial or racialized subject believes in going to the police and asking for their rights, and those who do don’t know what repression means. In Europe, people don’t want to talk about that violence for fear of parting with that ‘fantasy’, while in other parts of the world people often don’t want to talk about that violence because it’s all around them and never stopped.

If I were to peddle my family history, I would use it not to claim a certain identity, but to show the recurring techniques and methods used across generations, which though not identical (they never are), are similar. Then it becomes easier to have conversations across generations, groups and people that think they are the ‘first’ victims. I’ve also heard similar things to you two: ‘you’re too white, you’re too western, you’re too this and that’. You’re only ‘playing Palestinian’, because the real Palestinian is the one who lives in poverty under repression in Palestine, and so on. But you need to rise above it, because that’s part of it. Colonialism is a structure that acts on us and through us: the sexism, racism and classism are inherent to it.

Something I noticed about the younger generation is that people are anxious of being attacked, or of not finding care structures. There is nothing wrong with that, but once people understand that colonial capitalism is always violent, and that it’s just a matter of degree, you understand that not being attacked is already a privilege. The question then becomes not how to escape attack and save myself, but rather: to what extent can I continue struggling without breaking? What am I willing to pay? Palestinians in Palestine are teaching the world about struggle in this respect. Even when you get hurt, you persist. This is not about you personally, it’s about the next generations and the world we are building for them now. It’s not about escaping violence; it’s about ensuring the next generations know what’s coming and preparing them accordingly.

Kurdish comrades have done this for decades: they keep records and interview the woman and men in struggle, in order to pass it on to the next generations. To move away from violence, we need to look violence in the face, embrace it, understand it, and dance with it if need be. Most importantly, we need to maintain our own archives of struggle.

MZ: You have touched on a set of questions I had about fighting repression. First, I want to comment on this point about space: on the one hand, there are discursive spaces, and on the other hand, physical spaces, which are crucial for political organizing. I have this romanticized mental image of the leftist bar in which everyone congregates; but those are in fact real and necessary spaces, and they are disappearing as a result of repressive tactics. In Vienna, spaces and collectives are repeatedly defamed, threatened with closures and criminalization. In Berlin, we’ve seen closures due to bogus accusations of antisemitism. This is intentional and works to fracture political communities.

On the point of repression being an individualizing force – this is key, especially for the ways we strategize against it. Differing subject positions entail varying levels of risk – people understandably seek to minimize the violence they may face. But we remain in the legal dance. Here I want to mention the anti-repression group antirep_ibk in Innsbruck, which is doing important work, because their framework is not about how to legally protect individuals; rather, it is about making political cases out of political repression. It is about observing the tactics of the state, unveiling the structures animating repression, and supporting people so they can continue their political work. It’s also ultimately about creating an archive of state repression.

There’s also the European Legal Support Centre (ELSC), that you mentioned already, which supports you in your struggle in the courts. There’s now an ELSC monitoring group in Vienna that documents cases of repression and criminalization of Palestine solidarity. We’re seeing a network starting to build.

AY: The ELSC is doing incredibly important work and is of great help to many students, migrants, activists, artists and academics. In terms of how we fight: much of organized anti-repression work is often bit too late by now, to my mind. We’re plodding behind the system to minimize its violence. We missed the time where we could have prevented the worst. But that’s a general problem in political organizing, I suppose.

When I began organizing for Palestine in my twenties, ‘antideutsche’ ideology was a state ideology in the making. Over one, maybe two generations, its proponents have taken up key positions in politics, journalism, intellectual venues such as schools, universities, cultural centres. They function as militarized counterinsurgent intellectual elites perpetuating a white supremacist colonial discourse under the guise of a left-wing, ‘anti-authoritarian’ but not anti-colonial rhetoric.

Back then, as these people gained prominence, organized, wrote policy papers, and received state funding, there was no effective oppositional front seriously engaging their nonsense. And those that countered them were not connected to the Palestinian movements or other feminist or queer movements – it was in many ways what we called the ‘Old Guard’ that saw their dangerous rise, but they weren’t capable of stopping them. During the financial crisis in 2008–2009, the Antideutsche argued that protesting against banks was inherently antisemitic. As though all ‘banks’ are ‘Jews’ – such statements were antisemitic already then but seemed to go unchallenged. Palestinians and antizionist Jews often moved in very different spheres, with very different political objectives, and they didn’t care that much about the German state and what I call ‘the new German ideology’.

Of course, antisemitism has taken on many different forms throughout history. To make Nazism the paradigm of antisemitism is convenient for a certain mainstream politics that is still mainly illiterate in the histories of race, racism and colonialism. At the same time, Nazism also becomes the main definition of fascism. That take forecloses any other understanding of how fascism has unfolded differently in history, or how antisemitism has changed in time and space.

Making Nazi fascism and antisemitism the paradigmatic stops us from understanding one essential truth: namely that race and racism are always shapeshifting, as Alana Lentin writes. This prism also stops us from understanding the relationship to colonialism and anti-Palestinian racism in today’s world, where every opponent to Israel is essentially called an antisemite and terrorist. Today, definitions of antisemitism should include the statement that ‘Jewish opposition to antizionism is not antisemitism’ – in other words: that being against a racially exclusive state is not racist but anti-racist. That we even need to say this shows the trouble we are in. I prefer the term anti-Jewish racism over antisemitism, to mark anti-Jewish racism as one of the many racisms in the world, not as a special category.

MZ: European fascism and Nazism thus remain aberrations rather than the logical unfolding of the structures of colonial capitalism, the unleashing of European colonial violence onto its own, as Aimé Césaire wrote. Conceiving of Nazism as the aberration conveniently absolves Europe and Europeans of the responsibility of reckoning with the fact that its annihilatory roots were laid in western philosophical, political and economic thought and practice.

AY: Exactly. People were neither interested in nor able to critically oppose these new racial formations as they appeared in a post-socialist but not postcolonial Europe, which positioned the Muslim Other and the Palestinian as its political epitome, as the direct opposite to the figure of the Jew. We had a white, German-centric discourse on what antisemitism and fascism supposedly were and are. People who didn’t agree with this consensus weren’t allowed to take part in the discussion.

On the one hand, we need more racial literacy and historical knowledge, and on the other hand, it’s too late. Ever since the advent of colonialism people have been killed as surplus populations. What we see happening right now is precisely that: a surplus population in the settler colonial state that is not needed for Capital to function. The western world doesn’t need Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank. Palestinians don’t produce anything of value for the workings of global Capital, their resources can be stolen by the Israeli state or simple settlers, and there’s almost no political consequence for killing them. It’s bleak what I am saying, but that’s how a sovereign thinks and sees. But it will all come home to roost eventually, as Césaire said.

MZ: The imperial boomerang.

AY: Indeed. And if people don’t understand that, we’re doomed. I mean, they’ve been throwing more bombs on Gaza than they did on Germany against the Nazis. Can you imagine that?

MZ: I can’t. The horror of the world that we live in is that this is outside of my/our imaginaries. This is how imperialist terror is spatialized; it exists elsewhere. 

AY: The neoliberal moment is one of individualization and isolation. Unless we understand that everything is connected and related…survival in capitalism at the end of the day is conditional, and usually comes at the expense of others. That’s a question that anti-colonial thinkers have been debating for a long time. In that sense, modern day state education has never been radical, it’s political organizing that has been the radical space of and for education connected to politicization. But how do we make that possible if we are cut off from each other?

MZ: Wasn’t it Thomas Sankara that wrote that ‘we can never stop explaining’? Education is often a tool of indoctrination, of very intentional ideological erasures, but it can be a weapon.

AY: Palestinian journalists as well as individual people are educating the world and radicalizing younger generations through reporting on Al Jazeera as well as on social media. But what about all those who live in even more destitute situations than Palestinians in Gaza, who don’t have cell phones and Internet access to report their own genocide and killing? What about past genocides that have been obscured, not taught: the Tamil genocide, the mass killings of communists in Indonesia, etc.? Genocide cannot be understood through the optics of single-issue narratives.

We’re coming back to the question of what it is versus what it does, who is being affected versus what is being done. The genocide in Congo is an important example. Witnessing the genocide in Palestine as an ‘event’ is easier than understanding the capitalist supply chain that produces mass murder in the multitudes. Congo is rich in coltan, the same element inside our phone and AI technologies, mined by slave and child labour. In other words, the genocide in Congo makes the witnessing of other genocides possible. Understanding capitalism means understanding supply chains and the technologies they fuel in order to keep people suppressed and subservient. Here, genocide is the outcome, and not the starting point, from which we would need to organize. Yet, by now it should be clear that genocide is not a single-issue problem!

SS: I would like to stress this point: how does this process of radicalization not stop at Palestine but continue, develop? We consume so many images of violence every day, but that’s coming from one part of the world. As we speak, genocides are happening in the dark.

There is an often-repeated sentence: Palestine is the moral compass. Well, yes and no – but it has to be woven into a broader, global struggle for liberation. Such a statement also places many expectations on Palestinians to do certain things for them to be worthy enough to struggle for. I don’t see this conversation being had right now, because of the sense of urgency under which activists are operating.




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