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Gaza, Arizona, and the Company Store


What does a student protest in downtown Santa Barbara have to do with a humanitarian convoy shipping aid to Gaza Strip residents? Both actions respond to an unjust system of exclusion and a set of draconian laws advocating de jure discrimination.

The Gaza strip has been under an Israeli embargo, but the twist is, Palestinians have to purchase Israeli products sold in the occupied territories. In other words, Palestinians face discrimination, experience high levels of unemployment; share in unequal amounts of social death; Palestinians have to pay for their own exploitation and social exclusion by purchasing Israeli products.

Is this really any different from Mexicans purchasing products from company stores and paying for their own exploitation and social exclusion during the 20th century? Palestinians experience a similar fate to Mexicans a century ago.

People going to Gaza denounce de jure discrimination. They are drawing attention to a subtle aspect of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, low-intensity warfare, which slowly squeezes residents of the Gaza Strip. Must we revisit when Gaza residents cut through the walls to enter Egypt to buy needed products? And how Israeli government pressured the Egyptian government to close down the “illegal” trade?

Santa Barbara students organized a protest on May 27, 2010 denouncing Arizona’s SB 1070. Like the people going to the Gaza Strip, students are drawing attention to de jure discrimination that Arizona’s SB 1070 is fomenting. Since this bill’s passage, Arizona is suffering from a shortfall of cheap manual-labor; now, in a state of panic, Arizona officials have extended a workers program.

Is this a result of draconian laws? Of course it is. Narrowly focusing on SB 1070 is naïve if we are to consider other Arizona legislation that has passed: dismissing teachers from teaching ESL classes if they demonstrate a heavy accent, for example. But the question is, whose accent is criminalized? Bostonian? New Jersey? Of course not, the criminalized accent is Latino. Or, for instance, criminalizing ethnic studies courses.

The Arizona laws do not promote peace and security but promote a culture of insecurity and social unrest for people of color in Arizona. In name of peace and security, the ones paying a social cost live insecure and tumultuous lives.

People going to the Gaza Strip and students protesting SB 1070 are responding to what? Both instances respond to a system that penalizes a population that has very little or no representative power. Both instances clearly demonstrate that a group of people have organized, discussed, and acted upon a set of principles that they found significant, standing in solidarity to challenge a series of unjust forms of de jure social non-existence.

In other words, practices which place people outside what I call a social existence set the conditions for social erasure, social amnesia. This is what is being challenged.

Not to forget, but to remember! Life is hard enough, but it is nearly impossible when you have the weight of the state deliberately applying pressure, and having a passive population look on.—Angel Valdivia (Graduate student, UCSB Sociology Dept.)



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