by Alia Taqieddin
(This is one of three essays from local community members that the Emerald will be publishing on this topic.)
Last week, the world watched as 22-year-old Muna El Kurd — in a viral video from her family’s home in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem — confronted Yacoub, a Brooklyn-raised Zionist settler who has forcibly taken residence in the El Kurd family’s garage since 2009.
“If I don’t steal your home, someone else will,” Yacoub said, gesturing matter-of-factly at Muna and her family members.
As disturbing as this justification is, it reflects the reality that, since 1948, Zionist settlers have been stealing Palestinian’s homes and land. Forced expulsions have been commonplace across Occupied Palestine since the expulsion of 750,000 Indigenous Palestinians from our homes during the 1948 Nakba, which established the settler state of Israel. They continue this project of ethnic cleansing today in Sheikh Jarrah, in the neighboring villages of Silwan and the South Hebron Hills, and across Palestine.
In the U.S., we often think of settler colonialism as a foregone, albeit tarnishing, era in the historical quilt of U.S. expansionism. But the violence inherent to settler colonialism, the same violence which established modern-day Seattle, is playing out before our eyes in Sheikh Jarrah and across Occupied Palestine. It begs a reconsideration of our complicity in maintaining settler control of Indigenous land, here and in Palestine.
Many people in America struggle to conceptualize the attacks on Palestinian sovereignty and livelihood as our responsibility. But the deep connections between Israel’s mechanisms of violence and our own communities here in Seattle make it our responsibility.
Right now, the families of Sheikh Jarrah are defending their homes against a settlement organization backed by U.S. billionaire Zionists. The Palestinian residents are restricted from entering or leaving their street, while the Israeli police force collude with armed settlers and politicians who openly espouse genocidal rhetoric. On Monday, settlers and police colluded to attack Palestinians at the Al Aqsa mosque with tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, and stun grenades during a highly-attended Ramadan prayer.
As I write this, the Israeli military is bombing families in Gaza and attacking people defending their homes across 1948-occupied Palestine using the $3.8 billion of annual aid that the U.S. government sends them from our taxpayer money. And, most notably for our local community, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is policing our city using tactics they learned while training with the brutal Israeli police. Many scenes coming to us from the phones of street journalists in Palestine evoke powerful memories of the 2020 uprisings because Palestine has long been the testing ground for modern-day policing.
The violence we’ve witnessed this week on our phones and TV screens is not just something “over there.” It is local and personal. It is a reflection of the history of the land on which we reside and the Coast Salish Suquamish and Duwamish families who were dispossessed from this land. It is a shared project of violence with last Saturday’s sweep of the nearly year-long resistance occupation by Baba Omari Tahir at the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center carried out by SPD. It is sponsored by our government, on our dime, instead of investing that money into building our own communities. How far could $3.8 billion invested in a universal basic income, housing for all, and universal healthcare take us?
Our connection to this violence means that it impacts each of us. It means that we have a responsibility to uphold and amplify the demands for international protection from the residents of Sheikh Jarrah. We have the power to pressure our Congress members to cease all funding to Israel until it is held to account by international law. We can amplify the voices of Palestinian land defenders through organizing public demonstrations like Sunday’s upcoming rally and march in Westlake.
All week I’ve been thinking of Muna El Kurd and imagining myself in her shoes. Imagine that you came home one day to find a man you don’t know claiming ownership of your home and bringing a brutal army to back him up. Imagine being attacked, arrested, even killed for defending your home. Now ask yourself: What would you want the world to do?
Alia Taqieddin is a longtime Seattle resident, and second-generation Syrian and Palestinian community educator and DJ. Her work and writing are driven by her family’s memories of home and exile in the village of Sabastiya, Palestine, in Damascus, Syria, and in their current home of Zarqa, Jordan. Currently, Alia organizes with Falastiniyat, a feminist Palestinian collective that lives at the intersection of gender justice and anti-colonialism. Her recent writing can be found in Dardishi Magazine and Jaffat El Aqlam, and her music can be found on Soundcloud as DJ Mansaf Mama.
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