Who can DREAM in America?

Posted in Conference Presentation on June 3rd, 2010 by Steph

You might be surprised to know that participants of the fourth conference on Dialogue under Occupation did not leap, unquestioning, in support of the proposed 2010 Dream Act, soon to be debated in the US Senate.

First, we had to understand it.

Carlos Saavedra, born in Peru, brought to the US with his parents at age twelve, paid $4000 for his US citizenship after graduating from an American high school in East Boston.

Carlos Saavedra listening to questions from DUO4 participants

The Dream Act is not a gift, it is a pathway for undocumented youth to buy citizenship in the country where they live, learn, and work. Just like Carlos had to work and pay the price for the privilege of US citizenship, so too will every young person who wants to legitimize their existence in America.

The alternative is the laissez-faire creation of a new category of criminal. If The Dream Act fails to pass the Senate (and later the House), DUO4 participant Shelley Wong listed implications:

  • children being punished for the decisions of their parents
  • adults being blamed for seeking work
  • a cycle of forcing youth out of the system, inviting worse societal level problems:
    • health care consequences such as the spread of preventable communicable diseases (such as tuburculosis) because “illegals” can’t get immunized for fear of being caught and deported
    • auto insurance increases because “illegal” drivers involved in accidents are more likely to ‘hit-and-run’ for fear of being named “illegal” and deported
    • violent crimes remaining unresolved because witnesses are afraid to talk with the police for fear of being identified as “illegal” and deported

We agreed that fear is a legitimate basis for concern.  Can the US economy continue to accept new immigrants?  Can American citizens take pride in recognizing and choosing to remain the nation of immigrants as we were at the start?  Factual answers to these questions need to be made widely available. What kind of taxes do undocumented workers currently pay? How many dollars come in to the US economy from these workers? How much more production and consumption could be generated by legalizing these human beings rather than keeping them marginalized on the edge of crime?

Meanwhile, can these young people continue to dream?

Some students have walked 1,500 miles from Miami to DC to demonstrate their belief in the America that DUO conference founder Larry Berlin says he grew up in.  “I was raised to believe that America is doing something more.”

Are Americans still capable of that “more” or has fear succeeded in overwhelming us?

13 Recommendation for Authors of History Books

Posted in Conference Presentation on June 2nd, 2010 by yavarian

The following 13 recommendations are excerpted from Razvan Sibii’s paper, “Imagining ‘Romanianness’ in History Textbooks,” which has been presented at DUO IV. In the original text, the recommendations are backed by an extensive discussion of critical pedagogy and by an ethnomethodological analysis of chapters from two Romanian history textbooks.

The 13 recommendations:

1) Use lots of metatext (i.e., talk about talk) to explain your linguistic (and political) choices.

2) Be reflexive – show the reader that this narratives comes from someone and is therefore situated and not God’s honest truth.

3) Surrender your unquestioned authority and all-encompassing knowledge: say when something cannot be ascertained, when there’s insufficient proof to make an argument, and so on.

4) Include information about the nature of your historical sources and the process by which their credibility was established.

5) Recognize the constitutive power of language and therefore be careful when using words that label groups of people, events, periods of time, geographical units, etc. Discuss your choices.

6) Recognize the power of language to produce political subjectivities – be careful how you speak of “us” and “them.” Make deliberate use of ambiguous and contradictory identity categories – just as they are in reality.

7) Recognize the power of declarative, unsourced sentences to pass as the unchallenged Truth.

8 ) Do not use language to smooth over ambiguity and paradox.

9) Offer alternative interpretations for historical events and phenomena.

10) Recognize controversies among different schools of historiography and explain their context and roots.

11) Recognize that ideograms like “unity,” “the people,” “nation,” “homeland,” “country,” etc. are linguistic phenomena with powerful ideological, political and emotional effects. Avoid using them uncritically.

12) Avoid presenting processes and events as “just happening” all by themselves (a technique called “agent ellision” through “nomination”).

13) Recognize the metaphoric nature of language, and the rhetorical effects of your choice of metaphors and metonyms (such as presenting a person as the embodiment of a nation).

Palestine’s Scrambled Eggs

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1st, 2010 by Steph

by Razvan Sibii

Jamal Dajani (DUO I: Chicago and DUO II: Abu Dis) is a Palestinian-American political analyst and an award-winning journalist. He produces documentaries and other programming for Link TV and contributes to numerous other media enterprises, including the Huffington Post and Al Jazeera English.

“I call it the scrambled eggs situation: once you’ve scrambled the eggs, you can’t unscramble them,” says Jamal Dajani. He is talking about Israel’s policy of “creating facts on the ground” in the Palestinian territories by erecting a highly contentious separation barrier and by encouraging the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. As a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem and currently residing in California, Dajani has written and produced hundreds of media programming about the Middle East conflict, and has delivered talks on the subject to many thousands of people all over the world. He has just returned from a trip to Israel/Palestine, where he spent two weeks researching the most recent political developments in the region, including the ongoing expansion of the settlements and the blockade of Gaza. In other words, he went to assess for himself precisely how scrambled those eggs are.

Jamal Dajani, photo from his website

The possessor of an American passport, Dajani has the ability to travel unhindered throughout the West Bank, unlike most of the Palestinians who live in the territory. And he is acutely aware of how much of a privilege that freedom of movement really is. “When I drive on roads that are forbidden to Palestinian cars, I know that I am automatically suspicious,” Dajani says. “But the Israeli soldiers grudgingly give me permission to pass through the checkpoints because of my passport. However, they often do not allow my Palestinian cameraman to pass too, so I end up not going any farther either. I was born in Jerusalem, and I was humiliated like this every day ever since I was 10. Now, I see this kind of thing again every time I go back to the West Bank.”

Dajani covered the beginning of the Israeli military incursion into Gaza last year from the vantage point of the Erez Crossing Point, one of three Israeli gateways into the Strip. Last month, he was back at the same spot, this time covering the efforts of a group of Palestinians, Israelis and international activists to protest the continued shutdown of Gaza’s borders. The article he wrote about that experience for the Huffington Post can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/yc7ts39. From Gaza, he left for East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where he documented the story of Palestinian families evicted out of their houses by Israeli authorities “We talked to these two families who had just been kicked out of their house,” Dajani recounts. “The Jerusalem authorities said that the house had belonged to a Jewish trust so that it was illegal for the families to live there. We can’t verify that, but, even if it’s true, those families had moved into that house decades ago after being driven out of their old West Jerusalem houses. Israel is operating with a double-standard here.”

Mindful of America’s weighty involvement in the political games of the region, Dajani is writing for a predominantly American audience. For the time being, however, he is not particularly optimistic about the Obama administration’s willingness and ability to alleviate the conflicts wreaking the Middle East. “They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk,” he says. “Obama’s Cairo speech [delivered on June 4, 2009] resonated with many people in the Middle East. He said he wanted to bridge the gap between the U.S. and the Muslim world. But then he send more troops in Afghanistan! He is losing popularity in America because of the health care and economy issues, but he’s losing popularity in the Arab world because he isn’t doing anything concrete to solve the conflicts.” To read all of Dajani’s dispatches to the Huffington Post, go here: www.huffingtonpost.com/jamal-dajani.

Email: JD @ JamalDajani.com
Personal Website: www.jamaldajani.com
Twitter: jamaldajani