What changes when the eyes of the world shift?

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In my Musicology 492 course on music and globalization, our class discussions have often critically examined the processes of globalization, cultural exchange and media ownership. This is a class I would highly recommend to anyone interested in Global Studies or Musicology since Professor Downing does a great job at exposing students to musicians from around the world and their history. This is what I shared in my class’s media sharing forum comparing a documentary we watched in class, Afghan Stars, to the ongoing massacre of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli and American state: 

“The most impactful moment of the Afghan Stars film for me was the ending post-credits where they took a look at the lives of the participants after the show had wrapped up. Nothing changed right? That’s a story I know all too well having grown up in one of the crime capitals of the world, Karachi, and in a country infamous for our large diaspora caused primarily by religious fundamentalism. Time and time again, media outlets have capitalized on the suffering of my people for the aim of filling a news segment or report, all on their own terms. And once the world gets bored and looks the other way, we are left to pick up the pieces.  

“Today [written May 15] is the 73rd anniversary of Youm Al-Nakba (Day of Disaster) in Palestine. If you are American, think back to the news coverage in your country during your lifetime which overwhelmingly supports Israel. I expect it will be a lot harder to remember than it is for me as someone who grew up in Pakistan due to the amnesia in American popular media outlets regarding the Palestinian struggle. While CNN, MSNBC and Fox News were busy portraying a 2-sided conflict or ‘war,’ Pakistanis were on the street, year in and year out despite our crumbling economy and government to stand with Palestinian suffering.* So why can the same not be expected of an educated population with high literacy rate whose taxpayer dollars go directly to the continuation of the struggle?  

“For reference: 2014 and 2018 are the most recent examples of ethnic cleansing and bombardment on the scale we see today. If you do not remember, this is not your fault; it is the deliberate attempt of your country to block your conscience. Consider another country, Britain, that actively supports Israel and look at their long track record of one-sided reporting such as when they censored musician Mic Righteous in 2011 from saying ‘free Palestine.’ In 2021, American media outlet ABC news asked Tamer Nafar, ‘What responsibility do you feel Hamas bears for the deadly attacks happening right now?’ To which he very bluntly responds: ‘What an annoying question… why is it when any time a Palestinian guy comes and makes an interview you want him to take a responsibility. Take a responsibility for what? I don’t own an army, I don’t own weapons, all I own as a rapper, as a musician, as an artist is a microphone. And you are talking about a population which is armed. And you are talking about what are the responsibilities we are holding. We hardly have any tools to deal with. Why when it comes to Israelis and Palestinians you always have to find a way to justify the Israeli side?’ 

“What are the similarities in the treatment of both musicians over this 10-year long period? What is the rhetoric that you have grown up being fed about the billions in aid given to a settler-colonial state carrying out apartheid? And lastly, where does social media factor into your understanding of the Palestinian struggle? Along with Tamer Nafar, Mohammed El-Kurd is another Palestinian who has appeared on countless American media outlets in the past few weeks from Sheikh Jarra to change the popular narrative. What challenges do they still face in convincing Americans of their humanity and demanding an end to the military aid and an end to the amnesia in American awareness?” 

I asked these questions because I want to know how your media managed to ease and subdue your conscience time and time again to see Palestinians’ struggle as a war and not a genocide, as “self-defense” and not ethnic cleansing, as a justifiable use of tax dollars rather than blatant theft which could have been repairing the deep divides in American society. How is it that my supposedly liberal peers at this university shy away from my critiques of their military? Were your reading lists on decolonization scholars such as Frantz Fanon, Edward Said and Aimé Césaire mere fictions happening in another reality separate from this one? How is there not more anger at a government and military that has stolen your hard-earned money to bomb the world instead of fixing the deep scars of slavery and racism within your own borders?  

I hope that these protests continue, and the social media outrage continues until there comes a day when we don’t need to take to the streets and put our hands together to beg governments that Palestinians be treated as human. Until that day comes, every American needs to take a long hard look at their history, the current state of the world, the existence of 800+ military bases worldwide, the billions in aid which have gone to Israel and the hypocrisy of America playing international policeman on human rights. If you don’t already know, now is the time to educate yourself on the difference between Zionism and Judaism to understand why the two are never interchangeable. It is time to educate yourself on the difference between a Zionist state armed to the teeth with American dollars versus ill-equipped insurgents. I am begging you to see your media for what it is; a propaganda machine designed to keep you numb to reality. Do not let this numbness shift your eyes from the images coming out of Gaza for it was paid for by your taxes. Demand an end to the billions in aid given to Israel which has enabled it to continue 73 years of disaster on the Palestinian people — 26,645 Youm Al-Nakba.  

*=I will very willingly explain the flaws of Pakistani support for Palestinians based on co-religiosity to anyone who is curious (shamoonb@lawrence.edu) but the fact still stands that the Pakistani people, along with those of Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon and other various MENA countries have spoken up against the Israeli occupation despite their own domestic issues. 

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