- From La Frontera to Gaza: Chicano-Palestinian Connections
This American Quarterly forum on Palestine and the U.S. Southwest grew out of a symposium held at the University of Southern California on March 30, 2009, to mark Cesar Chavez Day. March 31 marks Cesar Chavez Day in eight states in the United States. The holiday was adopted in California in 2000 and is intended not only to commemorate the labor leader, but also to promote community service in his honor. In 2009, in an effort to celebrate Chavez’s legacy and the spirit of his politics, and to make new and contemporary linkages, David Lloyd proposed, as a fitting tribute, a community forum exploring the connections and differences between the struggles of the Chicana/o and Palestinian peoples. The forum was inspired by a question posed in various forms during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Gaza: “What if a terrorist group were lobbing rockets into San Diego out of Tijuana?” However tendentious, and even if it misrepresented both situations and their histories, the analogy prompted us to ask if there are in fact connections between the Chicana/o and the Palestinian situations. Accordingly, we organized an event that brought together Latina/o activists and scholars and those committed to justice for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel. The questions the participants posed took different approaches, most of which are reflected in the essays in this forum:
—What lessons can the current movement to boycott Israel draw from the United Farm Workers’ (UFW) boycott? How does a boycott work, what is its status as an instrument of nonviolent struggle, and when and why should a boycott be pursued? Cesar Chavez and the union he helped to build, the UFW, were the experts of the boycott—having used it effectively to pressure grape growers to come to the bargaining table. In the early 1970s the UFW developed an international boycott because it realized that lack of consumer demand was one of the few ways that a relatively powerless group could get growers to negotiate with the union—and it worked. In the present moment, activists and scholars are also organizing an economic, academic, and cultural boycott to build international pressure on Israel not only to fully recognize the human and civil rights of Palestinians living in Israel, but also to cease expansion into Palestine and end the undeclared war on the Palestinian people. [End Page 791]
—Are there analogies between the wall being constructed along the U.S. border with Mexico and the separation wall that cuts through the occupied West Bank—both with the participation of the same Israeli firm, Elbit Systems?1 As it turns out, and as all the essays stress, it takes some effort not to see the parallels between Israel’s security “fence” and the wall that the United States has been building along its southern border. Both are intended to exclude a population that has a political and/or economic claim to the land in question and that is seen as a threat by the resident populations.
—What is the impact of the security state that has emerged in the United States since 9/11 and in Israel in the wake of the Second Intifada? In particular, how have such changes affected how the movement of people is controlled, whether U.S. Latina/os or Palestinians and Arab Americans? This is perhaps the question with the furthest reaching implications, given that neoliberal models of the free movement of capital and goods and the restriction of the movement of labor have intersected on a global and not merely regional scale with the security concerns of the contemporary state. Israel and the United States offer exemplary instances of these tendencies that promise to be replicated internationally.
—Are there comparative dimensions to educational inequalities affecting both Chicana/os and Arab Israelis, both of whom form substantial minorities that suffer from discrimination against their cultures and languages and significant underrepresentation in the upper levels of education? Both the Chicana/o and Latina/o population and Palestinians not only suffer from limited formal education, but must also contend with systematic educational exclusion...