Friday, October 8, 2010

"I'm still in New Orleans. It's so much like Palestine it's eerie."

Below are snippets from a 2007 Electronic Intifada article written by Lora Gordon, a Jewish-American woman who worked with the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza.

The geography of dissent: New Orleans and Palestine

The other day I went with about a hundred returning New Orleans residents and about 500 visiting volunteers on a "reoccupation action" at the St. Bernard Projects, one of the places surrounded by brand new barbed wire. There is actually nothing wrong with the buildings in the projects except dampness and some mold that can be cleaned off, and the people who lived in them still have their leases. It's today's American version of the British deeds many Palestinians still have -- I keep expecting people to show me the keys to their houses, like so many Palestinian refugees did when I met them during trips to the Middle East.

The residents got the keys to open the gates -- they still have the legal right to do so as long as they have their lease -- and went in, some for the first time, to begin the process of gutting their homes and moving back in, to prevent them from being demolished. It was heartbreaking to watch people go through the contents of their lives and decide what to keep and what to throw away. Anything porous had to go, couches, stuffed animals, clothes, food, wall hangings. An entire life.

At the end of the day, at the foot of every person's home, was an enormous pile of possessions. On the face of every returning person seemed to be the competing emotions of exhaustion and hope. The devastation of returning to your home after it had been nearly destroyed -- reminding me of Palestinians who return to their villages in the '48 territories -- combined with a determination to rebuild.
A poster on the door of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund shows an image of a woman holding the city in her arms. The poster, created in the first months after the storm, is now weathered. Its edges are curling; its bright colors are fading. But it is still the first thing you see when you walk in, and it still has the power to stop you in your tracks. "Nothing about us without us is for us," it declares through the glass double doors, behind which people are busy transcribing thousands of signatures for a petition against illegal price gouging of rent and utilities for returning residents.

And in smaller font but with the same bold lettering, the poster continues, "The people of New Orleans will not go quietly in the night, becoming the homeless of countless other cities while our own homes are razed to make way for your mansions, condos, and casinos. We will join together to defend our claim, and we will rebuild our home in the image of our own dreams." And the people of Palestine will do the same.

Lora Gordon's website-photos and excerpts of her memoirs from Gaza