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I want to talk about some of the books I have read in the past couple of months, including Flight From Nevèrÿon by Samuel Delany and Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals (again) by Saidiya Hartman and No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity by Sarah Haley and China Men by Maxine Hong Kingston and The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare.

Along with many pages of journal articles and chapters from other books, Sexual Hegemony: Statecraft, Sodomy, and Capital in the Rise of the World System by Christopher Chitty, Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism by Iyko Day, Halfway Home: Race, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration by Reuben Jonathan Miller and Negras in Brazil: Re-envisioning Black Women, Citizenship, and the Politics of Identity by Kia Caldwell among them.

I don't want only talk about these books. I want to talk about what I am thinking about, which is what many people are thinking about, which is Israel and Palestine. I want to talk about books because I am reading, which is to say, I am learning, and in particular, I am learning about the long histories of race- and state-making in the imperial west, and I am learning about how to think and talk about settler colonizing and the people whose bodies allow for the creation of the state, through removal and confinement and labor.

There are books, and there are bodies. Anything I feel or think about Palestine and Israel begins with my own body. I am a queer black and asian woman living in the United States. I live in and benefit from a state that uses violence in order to protect a bounded life for some of its citizens. I live on stolen land. I am a vulnerable body with a traumatized nervous system and my fear and my vulnerability is living inside of a state that enacts enormous violence on people I do not know, not specifically so that I can feel safe, but the result is that, yes, I feel, more or less, safe. So I think about Jewish people, and I think about the idea of living in a land that feels safe for my vulnerable and traumatized body, and that uses violence to protect its bounds, and I think about the way that my own body and my ancestors' bodies have been vulnerable and I do not have far to imagine the need, the real need, for refuge. I take refuge in the safety that violence affords.

So who am I to criticize Israel as an apartheid state? As a violent state? As a state that my be committing genocide? Who am I, whose ancestors did not experience Holocaust? An interrogation of Israel is an interrogation of myself, of my lived ignorance, and of my own implication in the refuge I have taken, and will continue to take, in violence, for the sake of my own body. It is an interrogation of my comfort, but also in my dignity, as a human body deserving of life.

I ask, only secondarily, who am I not to criticize Israel? Who am I not to criticize a violent apartheid state that has killed and injured thousands of Palestinian people in the name of its own sanctity? This is because as a citizen of the United States, no matter my political views, no matter my intellectual understanding, my body has been conditioned to take refuge in the safety that violence affords. Even as a black woman, even as a queer black woman, even as a queer black and malaysian woman. I am still a citizen-body of a great settler colonial power. I have to read, I have to learn how to ask this question.

To interrogate Israel seems to require an interrogation of my body's right to be safe. It seems to begin with my own body's right to be safe. I do not think this is right. I think this is a false interrogation. An interrogation of Israel that begins with an interrogation of my body's, any body's right to be safe, begins with the presumption that no body has a right to be safe. That Israel, for the sake of its own safety, may create safety for some through the violent exclusion and killing of Palestinian people. To interrogate one's right to safety is to say that the question of safety is up for debate. Instead, the interrogation of Israel must begin with the presumption of bodies, of all human bodies deserving life, and safety, and freedom.

This is the question that settler colonialism forces, and it is a false question, it is the question necessary to preserve the settler colonizing state, and not the question that preserves the life, safety, and freedom of any people. It is a question that the settler colonizing state forces upon its own people—if the state won't protect me, then who? If not my life, then whose? In preserving itself, at the cost of Palestinian life, at the cost of Jewish life, the Israeli state does not ensure the safety of Jewish people, or any people. It ensures the existence of itself, as a state, at the cost of Jewish and Palestinian lives. I must criticize Israel not because I don't have the right to safety, but because I do. Not because Jewish people don't have the right to safety, but because they do. Because the oppressed and dispossessed and displaced have a right to safety that is equal to the right of the oppressor, and will use violence to ensure that right. There is no safety for any without the safety of all.

What I learn daily, within my own body and through study, is that the reality of the United States, if I emerge from the illusion of safety that violence affords, is one of precarity, vulnerability, loss, and death. I am not safe here, and neither are you. The long history of all states ends in their collapse. There is no true safety and there is no true refuge in violence, there is only violence and its consequences.

Until next time,