Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tikkun Daily Blog-The Right of Return for New Orleanians and Palestinians: An Interview With Jordan Flaherty

Jordan Flaherty is the author of Floodlines: Community Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six.

How did you get involved in the struggle for justice in Palestine and what connections do you see to the struggle for justice in New Orleans?

In the late 90’s, I started following news of what was happening in Palestine, and I felt like I couldn’t understand what was happening without going there. I first went in 2001. Even for someone who is as cynical about our media as I am about the US government, I was still really shocked by the difference between what was reported in the US and the reality on the ground that Palestinians face. I was also really inspired by the struggle that has been going on there for decades and the many ways in which people have shown resistance. I found the courage and friendliness that people show while under this brutal occupation really incredible.

Since living in New Orleans, I have also been really inspired by the history of struggle here. There’s this Arabic word, Somoud, or steadfastness, that really applies to the struggle of Palestinians and New Orleanians, particularly post-Katrina. It conveys the idea that the very heart of the struggle is the struggle to exist in the face of displacement against incredible odds. As Mazin Qumsiyeh has said, simple acts like getting married, going to school, or reading a book become acts of resistance under occupation.

Similarly, in New Orleans, after Katrina, various obstacles were put in place to stop working class African Americans from returning to New Orleans. Exclusionary systems like the criminal justice system and the housing system discouraged folks from returning. Yet when I talked to people, over and over again, they would express that they returned to New Orleans as an act of resistance. One New Orleanian, referring to their desire to return and rebuild, said “they’ve underestimated the determination of people like me to resist to our last breath.”