Please note: corrections and amendments to this post are in italics below. Our apologies for the errors!
By Ibrahim Shikaki
Speech of Ibrahim Shikaki, the last speaker at the hearing on the Berkeley divestment bill on March 28th. Ibrahim is a resident of Ramallah and an visiting scholar at Berkeley.
The speech as it was delivered was previously published by USACBI.
Dear Senators, my name is Ibrahim Shikaki. I’m a visiting student from Palestine. I want to talk to you about an article I wrote to be published in the daily Californian but it was not, it was titled “ts not important WHAT we think about the divestment bill, but HOW we think about it.”
This is the third time I stand in front of you, the first two times I asked you to vote for the divestment bill, on both occasions it was all about you, how you perceive me and my people. Tonight, with your permission, I would like to focus how I perceive you.
If someone asked me about the outcome of this vote 9 months ago when I first came here I would have expected close to 100% support. Today I would be unwilling to make the same prediction. Because today I realize the controlling processes that affect everyone here, such processes glues you in this narrative imposed by mainstream media, powerful lobby groups and others. I attempted to figure out why this is, is it the pressure and intimidation of the pro-Israel lobby? Partially yes, but my argument is that it’s not only that. I argue that you have been captured by this narrative to an extent that it has clouded your judgment
For example, the arguments against the bill where completely proven false within the discussion, starting with the argument of the bill being anti-semitic, “wrongfully” targeting Israel, alienating the Jewish community, and ending with the accusation that it divided the campus. We had Palestinians explain this to you, Israelis, Muslims, Jews and Christians, 40 student organizations and another 60 off-campus ones. There is not one intellectual or moral ground that you stood on to argue against this bill. Now, there were personal emotions, pressure because you don’t want to hurt your friends feelings, but nothing within the bill that you can intellectually argue against.
What hurt the most was the claim of some of being marginalized, well what about the Palestinians on campus? What about them? What about the hundreds of students who showed up today and because they felt marginalized supported this bill? Is it ok for us to feel marginalized and not ok for them?
The only way the ASUC divides this campus is by keeping the status quo, because then it is standing with one side and investing in them, however when you divest from one side (the Israeli army) you will then be neutral if that is what you wish to preach for.
How far has this narrative captured you? To the extent that you can study about colonization for 4 years but you cannot see it in Palestine. I can, because while you study it, I am living it. To what extent are you captured? There can be segregated streets, people stopped from going to religious sites, illegal settlements being built, an apartheid wall cornering human being like animals, and you would call that Israel defending itself.
To what extent are you captured? In my article I mention Zinad Samouni, a 35 year old woman who lost 48 family members in the last war on Gaza (including her 4 year old son, Ahmed). I mention the massacre committed in her house, and that after the Israeli army left they wrote on the walls “Arabs need to die,” “Arabs are pieces of shit,” and “1 down 999,999 to go.” If this was an American woman, if this happened anywhere else in the world where Israel was not involved there would be no discussion, no arguments, and no justification today. Some are saying this army is moral … this is the extent to which you are captured.
You see, a Palestinian has been reduced in your minds to where the best version is a dark skinned person yelling and the worst version is a number in a human rights report. Well, wake up, that is not who the Palestinian people are, wake up because others around you are.
We WON today before the vote, because our battle was against hegemony and double talk, we won because there are 1000 people here who are learning a new thing about the conflict and about the crimes of the Israeli army, we won because our goal was to shed light on the suffering of the Palestinian people under the Israeli industrial complex and that is exactly what we did today, the only ones left to win are you, when you override this veto you will gain the respect of the people of the world, and the respect of history.
We won because 6 universities in the US are proposing divestment bills, because all the Palestinian universities’ student senates have signed a statement following BDS and calling on us to do the same. Tens of thousands of emails were sent to us from around the world,
Dear Intelligent senators, the same narrative capturing you was the narrative that called Mandela and Malcolm X terrorist. If nelson Mandela and Malcolm X are terrorists then listen to me carefully, I am A PROUD INDIGNOUS PALESTINIAN FREEDOM FGHTER, because that’s what we are.
Rethink your terminology, rethink your narrative, rethink injustice and rethink this veto.
Ibrahim’s speech starts at about 6:30, above. Below, his previous speech at the hearing the week before.