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For weeks people around the world have been witness to Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza. Today, we uncover the military corporations profiting from the war, and highlight the activism in every corner of the world in support of Palestinian liberation.
We’ll hear from Rami Almeghari, a Gaza-based journalist, to get insight on the conditions on the ground in Gaza before zooming out with Nora Barrows-Friedman to look at Israel’s military industrial complex and how the Unites States is enabling this genocide, both through it’s policymaking and defense industry.
But activists are taking aim and taking action. We hear from Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, about the Palestinian liberation movement from an abolitionist perspective.
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Featuring: Music: Episode Credits: Making Contact Staff:
Making Contact Staff:
Lucy Kang: Okay, I’m walking up, um, into Berth 20 at the Port of Oakland. Just walking up now. Um, I can see a number of police cars on my, as I’m walking up.
It’s the morning of November 3rd. And the military supply ship Cape Orlando is moored here at the Port of Oakland. I’m surrounded by activists waving Palestinian flags and holding signs like “Stop the genocide.”
Okay, so I am here standing in front of the ship Cape Orlando. Um, the gate to the fence has currently been blocked by activists carrying a banner that says ‘no US military aid to Israel.’ There is a drum circle, as you can hear, nearby. I would estimate there to be at least a couple hundred people out here in support.
These activists came here to stop the ship from leaving.
Lara Kiswani: We became aware that a military vessel was leaving the port of Oakland this morning, intended to go to the state of Israel and carry military cargo.
Lucy Kang: That’s Lara Kiswani, the executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.
Lara Kiswani: We called on our allies and community within minutes. And at six in the morning, we had several dozen people here. And within minutes, it became hundreds. The ship tried to leave. And as soon as it tried to leave, people took it upon themselves to make it known that we will stop any attempt to aid in apartheid Israel.
Lucy Kang: A handful of activists actually climbed up onto the ship. I talked to a couple people who saw what happened. They didn’t want to share their names.
Speaker 1: They started lifting the anchors and taking the ropes and individuals jumped on because that was the only way to stop it from going anywhere. So yeah, a few individuals jumped on the ladder.
Speaker 2: So we’re trying every tactic that we can. And at this point, if it needs to be outside of legal means, like we’re putting our bodies on the line to physically stop the ship from going.
Lucy Kang: The ship did eventually leave the port but only after a delay of many hours. And it was met by more activists at its next stop in Tacoma, Washington, en route to Israel.
These activists are part of a global solidarity movement calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire to Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza.
The war started in early October. And since then, there’s been an outpouring of constant protests and demonstrations in the United States calling for a ceasefire and an end to US military funding for Israel. But this is just the most recent wave of actions – because people have been organizing for a free Palestine for a long time.
Palestinians have faced displacement, apartheid and state repression for decades under Israeli occupation. Gaza residents – who are mostly refugees displaced from other parts of Palestine – suffered under a brutal Israeli blockade.
On today’s show we’ll hear from several voices about Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza, the global industry that profits from the war – and how the Palestinian liberation movement is tied to the struggle for abolition.
As we were finalizing this episode, news came out that Israel and Hamas agreed to a humanitarian pause in the fighting and a hostage exchange deal. The Israeli government has stated that it will continue the war after this pause. And activists are still calling for a permanent and lasting ceasefire.
To start us off, we wanted to check in with someone we’ve worked with in the past, Rami Almeghari, to get a sense of what it’s like on the ground in Gaza. Getting in touch with him has been challenging, but he sent Making Contact a short update on November 16th.
Rami Almeghari: Israel has intensified its strikes, air strikes on various parts of the territory, including the southern, the middle, the northern Gaza Strip, as well as Gaza City, which has been under Israeli control.
Lucy Kang: Rami recorded that from a refugee camp near the center of Gaza Strip where the Israeli Defense Forces also carried out an airstrike just weeks ago.
Rami Almeghari: These Israeli strikes continue unabated. There has been a strike on the municipality of Gaza, the premises of the Gaza municipality.
For the third time in the past 40 hours, maybe for third times, the Indonesian hospital in northern Gaza strip, they hit nearby the hospital, around the hospital. People have been reportedly killed and others injured.
Many parts of Gaza City have been under Israeli control, military control over the past week, over the past week, over the past several days, actually, as the Israeli army has stormed already the Al-Shifa Hospital, which is a major hospital in the Gaza Strip.
Lucy Kang: That was Rami Almeghari, reporting from Gaza. The images from the hospital bombings he describes are disturbing. Those attacks left northern Gaza without a working hospital, in a devastating blow to the local healthcare system.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Medical facilities, hospitals have been bombed, have been besieged.
Lucy Kang: This is Nora Barrows-Friedman, associate editor at The Electronic Intifada and longtime reporter on Palestine issues.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: The largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip, Al-Shifa Hospital, was stormed by Israeli soldiers a few days ago, and snipers were shooting at people, doctors and patients and medical staff inside the hospital.
Lucy Kang: We’re going to zoom out from the situation on the ground in Gaza to looking at the various actors involved in the atrocities. So I sat down with Nora to hear about the weapons that Israel is using in attacks like on Al Shifa hospital – and where they’re coming from.
I kind of want us to take a closer look at, at Israel’s military industry. So Israel is one of the world’s most militarized countries, as well as a major weapons supplier internationally. I’m wondering, could you maybe sketch out for us a broad picture of what Israel’s military industrial complex looks like and how it enables this current genocide and the ongoing occupation?
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Israel is a settler colonial rampart of Western imperial interests in the Middle East. Israel is not only a leading arms manufacturer that sells its so-called battle tested or field tested weaponry to other states around the world. Of course, the research and development wing of these weapons are the people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, specifically Gaza over the last, you know, 20 years. Tons of brand new weaponry are tested on Palestinians and then sold in the world market by Israeli arms companies. But it’s also a leader in surveillance technology and biotech weaponry and technology.
So Israel is also a leading supplier of spyware for governments and bad faith actors around the world. And of course it is all supported and financed by the US. The US has, you know, I mean, it finances the Israeli military, up to, you know, three, sometimes 6 billion a year. A lot of that is also through weapons contracts.
So the US also uses Israel as a weapons storage depot where it can, you know, store weapons for US-led imperial interests in the region. I mean, it is so expansive and it is so insidious. Israel’s weapons industry is its biggest export.
Israel uses drones, surveillance drones on Palestinians right now as we speak. These same surveillance drones are the ones that the US Department of Homeland Security has purchased to patrol the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. There are these weapons, something that’s called the ninja missile. And it is designed to, upon impact, fan out these blades. And they’re designed to rip flesh just into pieces.
I’m just imagining people in business suits, sitting around boardrooms, coming up with designs for these kinds of weaponry. I have a lot of just fear for humanity that this is what our minds can come up with and that these weapons are being used against mostly children in the Gaza Strip is just, I mean, there are no words. I keep, I keep losing words for, for this horror that we’re seeing.
Lucy Kang: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, when you were, you were talking about this vision that you had of people in boardrooms, I was also thinking about just like kind of the role of global defense corporations as well, who are, who are not only like enabling the genocidal war, but also profiting from it. Can you talk about some of the other players who are profiting actively now?
Nora Barrows-Friedman: The big three, you know, in the US, which is Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which design and manufacture not just missiles, but also, you know, the warplanes, the fighter jets, drones. We’re talking about Elbit Systems, which is an Israeli company, but which has headquarters in the UK and facilities in the US, especially on the East Coast.
I mean, it is an enormous industry. And it’s so ingrained with just western capitalism. I mean, they’re just normal factories producing normal products for normal states to be used in normal situations. That’s how it’s marketed. You know, Boeing, oh, they make airplanes as well. You know, we all fly passenger jets. Boeing also makes weapons that kill people. Raytheon is one of the biggest weapons manufacturers on the planet. Lockheed Martin as well.
And it’s just these players are always excited when there’s a global conflict or a war or a genocide happening because their stocks go up because their products become more valuable. And we’re seeing now, we’re seeing these stock prices rise. We’re seeing economic experts talking about how great this war on Gaza is for these weapons manufacturers, how it’s all just kind of normalized and into this sort of like natural, you know, outcome of capitalism and Western interests.
I mean, it’s just, it’s devastating. And it should not be normal. It should be, you know, these weapons manufacturers are complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity. And when we look at what’s happening in Gaza, when children, fathers and mothers and grandparents are being, and doctors and journalists and school teachers are being shredded to bits by Western weapons, we have to figure out ways to stop it.
There are activists all over the country, all over the world. But if we’re focusing in on the US, there are activists who every day since the start of this genocide in Gaza have been engaged in incredible direct actions and protests to stop these weapons manufacturers and these war criminal, you know, conspirators from profiting. And that is incredibly necessary. People are getting arrested, people are locking themselves down at the gates of Boeing and of Elbit facilities. And stopping the weapon shipments on cargo ships, just like at the Port of Oakland a couple weeks ago and then two days later at the Port of Tacoma, Washington.
It’s time for people to not see this as business as usual. The majority of people in this country do not want this genocide to happen. And it is incumbent upon us to do whatever we can to stand in the way of these war crimes.
I mean, we’re seeing these marches nearly every weekend just here in California, and every day around the country where thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are gathering to add their voice to this growing, exponentially growing choir, saying not in our name, stop the bombing, stop this genocide and warning the Biden administration that they’re going to be voted out.
Lucy Kang: So you, you sort of mentioned the widespread shows of support and solidarity for Palestinians that we’ve seen in recent weeks. I’m kind of wondering, like, what do you, what do you make of just these large, large responses that we’ve been seeing?
Nora Barrows-Friedman: I think it’s really moving. And it’s really telling that people aren’t buying Israel’s lies anymore, and they’re not buying the lies, the coverup, Also, I mean, it exposes this really necessary rift in the Jewish community, where those of us in the Jewish community who were taught, you know, the lessons of the Holocaust and the pogroms and the generational trauma of antisemitism, European antisemitism, because it is a European syndrome, Palestinians have nothing to do with European antisemitism, and they shouldn’t have to pay the price for that guilt.
But there are Jews like me and like many of my friends and colleagues and family members who believe that never again means never again for anyone. And then there are elements of the Jewish community who took those lessons and have interpreted them to mean never again just for Jews.
And I think that that divide, that rift is expanding. I think especially in the younger generation of Jewish Americans who have nothing to do with Israel who, you know, maybe even grew up, you know, in Zionist communities and Zionist synagogues, but are really questioning, like why does Israel have to exist as a state at the expense of Palestinians? And they’re having these really difficult but necessary conversations with their parents and their grandparents.
And to me, that’s also part of the necessary solidarity movement. That’s part of changing the paradigm in this country where Israel has just been, you know, sort of like, it’s never talked about in any realistic terms. It’s like this very fantastical, mythological even place in Jewish American communities. And people are seeing it for what it really is and what it always has been, which is a political settler-colonial, ideological, racist, apartheid, genocidal state. And so that, again, that to me is, is really moving.
And it’s really moving to see people of all backgrounds coming together, marching in the streets, shutting down the ports of Oakland and Tacoma, joining hands and stopping on the Bay Bridge and throwing their car keys off the bridge into the water, risking arrest, bailing each other out. I mean, the solidarity is magnificent, and it is everywhere.
Lucy Kang: That was Nora Barrows-Friedman, associate editor at The Electronic Intifada.
Amy Gastelum: We’re jumping in to remind you that you are listening to Making Contact. If you like today’s show and you want more information or if you’d like to leave a comment, visit us at radioproject.org. There you can access today’s show and all of our prior episodes. Okay, now back to the show.
Lucy Kang: To end today’s show, we’ll hear again from Lara Kiswani. She’s the executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, which serves poor and working class Arabs and Muslims across the San Francisco Bay Area and organizes to overturn racism, forced migration, and militarism.
Lara spoke about how the Palestinian struggle for freedom is deeply linked to the larger abolitionist struggle against militarization, state repression and imperialism. She spoke as part of a panel called “Abolition Means No More War: Free Palestine Now,” organized by Critical Resistance and Haymarket books.
Lara Kiswani: As Palestinians, we understand our movement as part of the movement against settler colonialism. We understand our movement as the struggle against Israeli apartheid. We understand that struggle as against ethno-supremacy, white supremacy, religious supremacy, fascism, and right wing authoritarianism. And we understand that all these systems of oppression are used to exploit and dominate Indigenous people and land from Manifest Destiny to the Zionist colonization of Palestine to fascist coups across the Global South.
And as such, what we’re witnessing in Palestine as part of a 75 year struggle against colonial violence, 16 years of a brutal and inhumane siege on Gaza. Most importantly, backed by and made possible by the economic, military and political support in the US government.
So from an abolitionist perspective, we need to unpack the violence the system uses to exercise state repression and inhibit people of color and poor people from their own self determination. I won’t get into all the specifics of what Israel has done, but we know that they have oppressed us as Palestinians for 75 years.
My father is older than the state of Israel. And they imagine that the old would die, and the young would forget. And what we’re seeing in the streets today and what we’re seeing around the world is evidence that that is absolutely not true. And today, as antiracists, as feminists, as abolitionists, we must recommit ourselves to the critical work of defunding genocide, defunding war, defunding apartheid and militarism, and funding people’s health, well being, and freedom.
Abolition, abolition, I believe, forces us to ask the critical question, right? Of what are the economic and political priorities of this US government? And what do we need to do to shift those priorities?
Our immediate strategy as a movement is quite clear. It’s plain and simple. We must do everything in our power to stop this war on Palestinians and Gaza and demand an immediate ceasefire. Without that, we cannot build or strengthen our movement, let alone any social justice movement. We, when I say we, it’s the big we, right? It’s all people of conscience. We’re lucky today. To have our anti-Zionist Jewish allies like Jewish Voice for Peace taking bold and necessary steps to engage in mass civil disobedience against this war.
We are fortunate to have other social justice movement partners joining us in that struggle. But right now we need everyone. The call for an end to this war should be echoed by anybody who values human life, by all freedom loving people. And we know that we will not stop until there is a ceasefire. And once there is, we will not stop until there is no more siege on Gaza. And once that happens, we will not stop until we end apartheid, and Palestine is free, and myself and my six month old child have the right to return.
What we have seen in the past and in the current that has had an impact are the mass direct actions, what we witnessed at Grand Central Station with our Jewish allies, shutting down federal buildings, shutting down freeways, disrupting warmongers when they speak, as we saw with Blinken, making it so that nobody can turn a blind eye to this. And let’s continue to do that, to do everything we can to build and shift power.
But while we work to demand an end to this war, we are also drawing on our historical memory of 9/11 and working to defend and protect our communities right here in the United States. Against the growing rise of anti-Palestinian Islamophobic racism and violence facilitated by the systems of policing, imprisonment, and surveillance.
We’re seeing the criminalization of any Palestine solidarity. Prior to this war on Gaza, in 37 states, it was, it’s illegal to engage in boycott, divesting sanctions against Israel. We are seeing the emboldenment of political repression. More laws attempted to be passed right here including in California where I live to make Palestine solidarity on college campuses illegal. We’re seeing surveillance increase with the targeting of Palestinian homes, communities and faith institutions. Superintendents and school districts, democratic club parties, elected statements are fanning the flames of racism, calling for people to quote unquote, stand with Israel, in laymen terms, stand with genocide and war.
And just as the struggle we know for a free Palestine emboldens those repressive systems of the prison industrial complex, Palestine’s solidarity also expands the terrain for social justice movements to unpack and challenge militarism, policing, surveillance in the spirit of solidarity and collective liberation.
So while we’re watching the United States government and so many of its Western allies clamor to beat the drums of war and annihilation of my people, we have a duty for those of us in the belly of this beast to stop this war, to defund this war, to defund apartheid. And we have learned from the movement against apartheid South Africa what has worked.
As such, we call on everybody to boycott Israel. We call on institutions to divest from Israel. We call on the US government to sanction Israel and end its billions in military aid. We call on our communities and allies to stop the annihilation of Palestinians by demanding an end to the siege on Gaza, the end to the occupation, freedom for all of our political prisoners, and an end to US aid to apartheid Israel.
But despite the egregious violence our people are facing today, I also want to remind us of the gains we’ve made, right? Because we have made gains over the last few decades, where the question of Palestine is central to any social justice movement. Today there’s consensus across progressive communities that an attack on Palestine is an attack on all movements for justice.
And fundamentally, we also know it’s never really just been about Palestine. It’s about what the movement for Palestinian liberation represents. The ongoing anticolonial struggle against US imperialism, racial capitalism, global militarism, the decolonial, liberatory potential of all our movements. And the development of an implementation of a people centered, multiracial democracy.
The revolutionary Palestinian and Arab tradition I come out of is indebted to and shaped by international feminists and abolitionists such as Angela Davis. Through that lens, we know what is made possible by understanding our struggles as linked. Understanding the necessity of solidarity and internationalism. Bringing it back to the radical understanding of intersectionality, the Combahee River Collective. We understand solidarity is not just simply a moral imperative. It’s a necessary way of life for all those committed to changing the course of history and transforming society and ourselves in the process
The embodiment of that tradition is why and how I and AROC understand the struggle to abolish apartheid, the struggle to abolish Zionism, the struggle to abolish fascism in our homeland, as one in the same with the international struggle, to free all political prisoners for economic and political democracy, for education and health care, for right relations to the land, for social justice, for gender justice, for climate justice, shaped in the interest of working people, right?
So with the rebellions we’ve seen in the United States in recent years, we’ve also seen the unmasking of violence of the violence of racial capitalism and policing. The whole world is questioning the foundation of the system, the historical exploitation and dispossession of Black and Indigenous people.
And just as the system finds its origins in the exploitation of Black and Indigenous communities, it’s also true that it finds its undoing in the centuries long emancipatory visions of these same people. Freedom for the Indigenous people of Palestine is part and parcel of that emancipatory vision.
When we call for an end to aid to Israel, we are emboldening the calls to defund police, to abolish prisons, to defeat fascism. That is why we struggle to invest and empower our communities, to expand the capacity of working people, to overcome capitalism and racism, to shape and determine our economic and political priorities for this society.
Brown and Indigenous people here in the United States and wherever we see it, we know that we must continue to fight and advance this struggle. Emboldening and embodying this worldview. helps us understand internationalism as part of our daily practice, as part of our own history and the history we are making.
Abolition provides us with a really practical framework and vision and practice towards that end. And I’ll end by just saying that we don’t have it all figured out. We haven’t figured out all our strategies, but we have learned from the past and we know what’s made possible when we know our history.
And we believe today, and I can say this more determined than ever, that a free Palestine is the roadmap to global justice.
Lucy Kang: That was Lara Kiswani from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.
And that does it for today’s show. If you want more information visit us at radioproject.org. Or leave us a comment on Twitter or Instagram. I’m Lucy Kang. Thanks for listening to Making Contact.