By Benjamin Eli Levine
Jun 2, 2015
Zekarias Kebraeb is a human being who can fly because he has wings in his soul. To us Zekarias Kebraeb is an immigrant. Just an immigrant. One of many illegal migrants fleeing Eritrea’s perpetual war for just the faintest hope of escaping the interminable hopelessness that imprisons so many of his brothers and sisters; so many of our brothers and sisters.
Why do the West demonize migrants when – according to international law – we all possess the human right to self-determinism and the unimpeachable freedom to migrate as the birds do?
Many of us throughout the world remain engulfed in a perpetual cycle of dependency upon the chief purveyors of a vicious colonial legacy for cultural input and humanitarian aid… But is this humanitarian?
Zekarias Kebraeb – the author of Paradise Denied – proclaims that Eritreans cherish their fleeting memories of a rich and diverse cultural heritage, civilized away by leech-like colonialists: imperious settlers driven by unquenchable avarice to unleash predatory state terrorism upon a native people.
Zekarias dreams of freedom… “Just freedom”.
Here in the West, our veiled privilege blinds us to the systemic injustices that sustain a perverted status quo which in-turn generates unnatural levels of migration to Europe and America. In Britain, we have been led to believe that immigration is the source of our divided society. According to this prevailing narrative, our ‘British values’ are under threat from a ‘Sharia Law’ invasion.
But who is really under threat when a long-standing paradigm enacted by our ancestors, advanced by our heads of state, and facilitated with our collective acquiescence, has unequivocally crippled self-determinism? For many dreamers like Zekarias, migration is the only option.
In just the first eight months of 2014, over 100,000 courageous individuals embarked upon the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean. Yet this figure represents just a tiny proportion of the untold millions who cease to ‘exist’ until they reach our Western borders. Until they become mere statistics for pseudo-populist political parties to scrap over amidst apathetic propaganda driving a popularised narrative, whilst millions of refugees reside in squalid conditions, just waiting to be sent back to their war-torn, poverty-stricken homes where the legacy of colonialism is no more apparent than in the minds of the oppressed: where caged, Eurocentric fantasies stagnate.
At a counter-terrorism event in November, Home Secretary Theresa May declared to the British public that “an attack on the United Kingdom is highly likely”. Guided by the judgement of her Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, May concluded her speech by pronouncing that the increase in threat level, raised from “substantial” to “severe” in August, calls for additional powers to defend our country from the menace of radical Islam.
Allegedly, the re-establishment of this immediate threat is triggered by our autonomous freedom to privately conspire in an unregulated cyber sphere. In response to this explosive intangible, new legislation in the shape of a Communications Data Bill will grant intelligence agencies and security forces unprecedented access to the lives of every potential terrorist threat.
Moreover, in a fashion befitting the established hegemony, Theresa May carefully evades the title role of Western intervention in the Near East and surrounding areas. Perpetual episodes of rapacious and hubristic bloodletting accurately contextualized with a vehement denunciation of the West’s ferocious avarice by the political scientist, social activist and war veteran, Andrew J. Bacevich:
[Since 1980] U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed […] Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria.
Yet according to the prevailing narrative, Zuckerberg’s “twisted libertarian ideology” is solely to blame for the current threat posed by Islamic terrorism, not the aggressive foreign policies which continue to ravage, destabilise and tyrannise the perceived enemies of an Israeli state. A geographical area and cluster of people that George W. Bush once infamously labelled “Gog and Magog” in his tangible dream of a prophesised, dualistic holy war, during his desperate plea for the unwavering support of President Jacques Chirac in the prelude to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Evidently, popular social media platforms are being tactlessly scapegoated to distract us from the root cause of this reinvigorated wave of Islamic terrorism.
But if you still remain unconvinced, I will briefly point to the contemporary propaganda of a traditional Western narrative that the radical postcolonial theorist Edward Said accurately defined as a powerful hegemony of Eurocentric representations of the Near East that perpetuate a structured web of rigid stereotypes that dehumanize, demonize and disparage Islam and Muslims.
Though America is undeniably the chief purveyor of orientalism, the UK Press maintains a strongly one-sided commentary of the Islamic world. In fact, a recent study carried out by Professor Paul Baker of Lancaster University reveals that representations of Islam and Muslims between 1998 and 2008 concentrated 21 negative portrayals for every positive representation; and even in these rare instances, the use of the condescending term “moderate Muslim” signifies that orientalism infiltrates even the most ‘liberal’ voice within the realm of a monopolised, corporate media.
Consequently, orientalism prevents us from consciously acknowledging our privilege. In fact, our xenophobic indoctrination breeds the misconception that barbaric acts carried out by Islamic terrorists are rooted in the Quran’s teachings. When really, the deeply-oppressive doctrine that motivates Islamic terrorists is based in archaic interpretations institutionalized by despotic clergymen seeking absolute power and dominion over the public sphere. As former President and Pseudo-prophet George W. Bush once qualified the 2003 invasion of Iraq with a Methodist doctrine deeply fearful of the threat Islam poses to Zionism, acquisitive spearheads of militant terrorist organizations promulgate a warped, pseudo-spiritual doctrine embedded with the systemic corruption of divine theology.
Sumela Monastery – Photography by Kristen Ellen
Yet in the midst of perpetual war between these two opposing and unequal hegemonies, compassionate voices proclaiming ethical parity find a way through this omnipotent blockade of corruption and avarice.
One of the most poignant examples of this fearless altruism is embodied by a transnational community of holocaust survivors, their kin, and the descendants of those lost to genocide. Collectively, these courageous individuals stand united to “unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine, [and] further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation”.
As former refugees and descendants of a persecuted ethno-religious group, one would presume that the gravitas of their sentiments conveyed through an impassioned open letter would weigh heavy on the hearts and minds of the Jewish majority. But in spite of this, a Peace Index poll published last summer indicates that 92 percent of Israeli Jews support a genocidal military offensive on Gaza. Incredulously, it would appear this “one-state apartheid reality” is a tolerable status quo for most Israeli Jews blissfully incognisant of their colonised privilege.
Mural of an olive tree breaking down Israel’s separation barrier – Photography by Megan Kelly
Clearly, the potent and dehumanizing narrative perpetuated by a westernized, Israeli establishment aids the effective implementation of Zionist legislation like the ‘Jewish state’ bill – with basic principles underlining that “national self-determinism […] is unique to the Jewish People”. When in reality, the incessant orientalist propaganda, exemplified by Netanyahu’s disseminated insinuation in July implicating the Palestinian Islamic Organisation Hamas with the use of “human shields” in Gaza, paradoxically implicates Islam and Muslims in war crimes characteristic of American and Israeli tactics.
Genocide begins with the silence of our world. Zekarias Kebraeb does not fall because he dreams.