๐ŸŽ™ Israel-Palestine | The Global Context & Our Role in the U.S.

In conversation with Nadia Rahman, activist, organizer & communicator

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

Hi Yโ€™all! Last week, I had an amazing conversation with communications expert and organizer, Nadia Rahman. We talked about her lived experience of visiting Israel and Gaza in 2022, what has shifted for her as an organizer in this moment, how people in the U.S. can take action, and what this means as organizers going into the 2024 election.

Before we jump into the podcast, I want to acknowledge the emotions and grief surrounding the events in Israel and Gaza. My heart is with everyone who is suffering in this moment. At Roots of Change, we lead with heart and empathy in a path towards liberation for all including Israelis, Palestinians, and anyone who is oppressed world.

My conversation with Nadia primarily centered around her experience as a Pakistani American, an organizer, and her 17 years working in digital marketing. I understand one podcast cannot fully express the deep, painful history in the region, the anti-semitism that has surged since Trumpโ€™s election, and the Islamaphobia that has only become more visible again.

Todayโ€™s conversation is going to center around the conflict in Israel and Palestine and our role in the U.S. Then we will return next week, to finish our conversation about what this means for the 2024 election and what we as activists can do to move towards progressive change.

I hope you enjoy our conversation!

๐Ÿ“– Read Todayโ€™s Interview๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿซ

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Hey y'all, welcome back. This is Sam Chavez with the Roots of Change newsletter and podcast and I am here with Nadia Rahman. She is a skilled communicator activist and organizer. She has 17 years of experience in digital marketing and strategy spanning pretty much anything you could possibly imagine within those two realms. And she's done that across a lot of different organizations. She has worked in advocacy and community relations. She has run her own political campaign, among many other things. So welcome, Nadia. I'm really excited to have you here and talking about this topic today.

Nadia Rahman (she/her) with Rahman Consulting

Yeah, really good to be here, Sam.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Awesome. So I like to start out with a very simple but deep question. How are you finding yourself in this moment we find ourselves in?

Nadia Rahman (she/her) with Rahman Consulting

I would say that every day is kind of its own thing. So it's really been up and down. Today is a good day for me. I found that the days where I'm really taking action towards the issue, the bombardment of Gaza specifically, which the issue of Israel-Palestine and everything related to that is something that I focus on and advocate around. But when I'm actually taking action towards that in some meaningful way, then those are typically like my good days. And today, later, I am doing that.

So yeah, so it's a good day today. It's just a really hard, dark, difficult time. And I'm sure I know that it's impacted you. And I'm sure that a lot of people watching as well.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Thanks for your vulnerability around that. I mean, I try to hold on to hope as an action, as a verb, and I definitely get that energy from being with other people and knowing that there are a lot of people that are taking these same steps.

I know for myself, as I've, these last few days have been especially hard just after the โ€œhumanitarian pauseโ€ and just seeing the increased and escalating violence has been really challenging.

We're recording this on December 5th. So it's been two months of this. And I know since the October terrorist attack, October 7th, you've been really vocal about the atrocities that Israel has perpetrated towards Palestinians. You wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle talking about both Islamophobia as well as anti-Semitism. And you've been very vocal on TikTok and Instagram. And I've been really appreciative of just the educational content that you've shared. I'm just curious if you can give an overview of the conflict and what people in the US might be missing because of our slanted media coverage, knowing that we obviously can't cover everything just in this one podcast.

Nadia Rahman (she/her) with Rahman Consulting

Yeah, no, I appreciate that question totally. So I think if I had to pick one thing for people to take away from what's going on in Israel and Palestine, the history of Israel and Palestine, is to understand that what happened on October 7th wasn't the first thing to set off violence. This has been going on for 75 years, and it is a cycle of violence. And the cycle is the root cause of that cycle of violence is the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. So for the folks watching this, people probably have different levels of being informed. Generally, most Americans are not well informed on Israel and Palestine. And a lot of people again don't understand that it's a cycle of violence caused by the occupation.

In 1948, the Nakba happened. The Nakba was when Zionist militias expelled seven hundred and fifty thousand Palestinians from over, I think, 500 villages in Palestine to create the State of Israel. That is how the State of Israel was born. A lot of that history is not made available to Americans because it is scrubbed from our educational systems. Nobody talks about it within our political systems. Our media systems are really biased on this issue. So it's like the basic facts we don't get. Since that time, there have been like a number of different wars. In the 1967 war, Israel occupied Palestine. So what Palestine constitutes of is the West Bank and then the Gaza Strip, which is currently under bombardment. Those are parts of a Palestinian state. Those are what would officially become a Palestinian state, but they have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967.

So nearly six decades now. So that's the cycle of violence is that when people are under oppression. When they are under occupation and military occupation is inherently violent. It's not like you just go to the store and you're happy in your house and that's it. You're constantly living under oppression. You're constantly living under the threat of violence and you don't have equal rights. You don't have your civil rights and your civil liberties. In a military occupation. You're essentially living under military law, military rule of a foreign occupying force, not under martial law of your own government.

So understanding that, understanding the occupation leads to violence, and when people live under oppression, there is violence within that.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

I was going to add, like, there's physical violence and then there's the emotional and just everyday toll violence of being under that occupation. Knowing that there is a subset of people that believe you to be less human almost.

Nadia Rahman (she/her) with Rahman Consulting

Totally, totally. And there is the issue of terrorism, like we have to acknowledge that, but what is the cause of that terrorism? The root cause of that terrorism is people living under oppression for decades. And that's, again, is the cycle of violence. It's like people are oppressed, they're disenfranchised, Acts of violence happen. And then there's like a disproportionate response against them to suppress them and then the cycle go and then the rights are never given to them and the cycle goes on and on.

And that is what that that's what is currently going on and then there's a lot of other systems like within this it's. You know, it's not just the military occupation. There's also an apartheid system that Palestinians live under in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Their movement is really restricted. Their water supply is really restricted. They drive on different highways than the Israelis.

There's a settlement program which is building out within the West Bank and essentially has cut it up into like little enclaves. So that Palestinians can't even access their land, it reduces the likelihood, I mean that that program is killing any likelihood of like a Palestinian state. And so it's a cycle of violence and then the settlement program perpetuates the military occupation because if the Israeli settlers are on the land in the West Bank, then it's an excuse for the military to be there like the military occupation is not going to end until that settlement program is disbanded and it ends. So there's actually a lot of components to it.

I will say it's not complicated and it's not complex. There are different components to it and phrases and frameworks to understand of this systemic oppression and violence. But just as we've just talked about it in the last few minutes, it's not impossible for people to learn these terms, to learn these frameworks, to learn how it's applied in Israel and Palestine to the Palestinians. And to get informed on this. And that's actually what I'd ask everyone here today is like really, you know, please listen to this and learn from it and then go off and inform yourself because like what is happening there is oppression and it's really wrong.

And right now, you know, we're witnessing a lot of our politicians, our elected officials won't call what is happening in Gaza right now a genocide. The other day, I saw that within 24 hours, a thousand people had been killed there. I think the official death toll is north of 15,000 now. And there are thousands of people that are still buried under rubble in Gaza. What we are witnessing is a genocide, whether our elected officials, whether our media call it that or not. This is how history will remember it.

We know what we're seeing on social media. And don't let anybody fool you into thinking that this is not part of a cycle of violence, that this is not genocide, that this is not about ethnic cleansing, to push the Palestinians out and to take that land.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Appreciate that. It's a really complex discussion and topic. And I thought you did that really well of understanding the layers. And I wanted to bring it to a little bit of a human level too. I know I'm watching this and as a, what I call a heart-first human, my heart is aching and just in so much pain watching this. And I know witnessing is really important and taking action is really important. But those are human lives on the other side that we often lose sight of.

Last year you visited the West Bank and you've shared that experience on TikTok and Medium. I'd love for you to share a little bit about that experience and what people listening could learn from that.

Nadia Rahman (she/her) with Rahman Consulting

So in July 2022, I visited both Israel and Palestine. In Israel, I visited Tel Aviv and Haifa. And then in Palestine, I visited East Jerusalem, Hebron, and Bethlehem. And Hebron and Bethlehem are in the West Bank.

I guess at a high level that I took away from that trip is I had informed myself about the occupation, about what was going on there, read news articles about it. And I think until you see something in real life, you kind of imagine what it could be like in your head, maybe based on what you've seen on the news or maybe what you've seen in entertainment and movies. So like I knew that it was bad by just everything described, but actually going there, it was much worse than anything that I had imagined and that's what I would like people to take away is going there and seeing it for yourself o n the ground, being confronted with it.

My background is Pakistani American, I have kind of like a generic face. So a lot of people think that I'm Arab, I could be, you know, easily classified as like looking Palestinian, like I felt the profiling and the oppression and, you know, was asked A lot of like word questions by like officers and military officers and like the militarized police as well and that that was my experience just moving about like daily life, but then you know going to the West Bank.

And seeing the separation wall and seeing the different highways and going to a refugee camp where the water infrastructure is not great. And there's so much disinvestment and Palestinians can't access their farmland because there's a huge wall built there. It just really hits you very hard. And then seeing officers everywhere with these huge guns and militarized police. Like it's very much like, is this some, maybe not apocalyptic, but like, I can't think of the word but it just it almost feels like am I am I in a different reality. Because that's not how it's supposed to be that's not how a free society is supposed to be that's not how human beings who have all their rights and liberties are supposed to be. That's not how a democracy is supposed to be.

I think I didn't caveat this, but normally I always caveat it with that my trip was self-financed and self-planned, so I had the privilege of doing that. That is a privilege. There's a lot of free trips to Israel that provide one narrative, that are subsidized, that use tokenized people to talk about their experience as Palestinians and Arabs. And it doesn't show the full reality of what's going on there so if anybody also has the privilege of going I would say please don't take a free propaganda trip.

Please plan your trip for yourself, pay for it yourself. Everyone who can should go there and see what's going on. And the reason why, and the reason why I did this is because I operate within like political systems and political circles is I did it to inform my advocacy. There isn't like a Palestinian lobby. There's not, there's no money in the Palestinian cause. Like it's really just people grassroots advocating for it. Whereas, Whereas the forces that are looking to entrench the military occupation and expand the settlement program, you know, that's like a $70 million lobby.

So it is really important for us to know what's going on and to understand our responsibility as Americans, since our government is really what's empowering and enabling and funding what's going on there.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Absolutely. I'm so glad you said that. And part of my series this month is going to be about that funding, specifically in Democratic circles, because it impacts progressive candidates. And it's a lot of the reason why we're not seeing larger change in the United States. But not to dovetail too much into the US yet, I just am really struck by the humanity of it all and I want to bring people back to the conversations I had with my partner, Emily Mitnick, last week around somatic healing.

It's so hard for us in the US because of the privileges that we have to even imagine what it's like to live in Gaza or the West Bank. And so I think that's really important for us to do that healing as well so that we can feel and recognize like our fellow humans, even if they are on the other side of the world, because we are all a part of that liberation.

And that brings me to my next question. October 7th was a terrible terrorist attack. What has happened since has been atrocious to say the least, but it is also a moment for awakening, for the movement, for a movement of liberation.

Collectively for us all to bring more people into this movement globally and then in the United States. So, you know, I know that for you, this was a big moment, like a ground shaking moment for you and your political perspective. And I'm just curious, like, how has this moment changed the way you view your activism?

Nadia Rahman (she/her) with Rahman Consulting

Yeah, that's a great question. This moment, so the period after October 7th onwards, the last couple of months, I feel like this has been a real, like you said, a moment of awakening and a moment of transformative change for a lot of people. It's almost as if like, you know, in the Wizard of Oz, like Dorothy sees the man behind the machine and it's not this like godlike Oz figure, it's this actual human being who's kind of controlling and manipulating everything and acting omnipotent. I think that that's what this moment is for the world and the global South. Was, they knew about all of this before. It's more people in the West who are waking up to it now. So that's going to impact the activism of a lot of people. And we've already seen that, like with the protests in the street, and the people that are mobilizing across the nation.

I think when it comes back to me, personally, I, I think that when certain issues confront people, then it's like you actually really have to make a choice about how much am I willing to overlook this because I'm aligned with somebody on, you know, whatever percentage of other things.

And I think for me I've just realized that you know, the issue of Israel and Palestine, like what's happening to the Palestinians, like that affects me and my community and my identity a lot because what's happening in Israel and Palestine fuels Islamophobia and anti-Semitism here in the United States. And we've seen that, right? Like, we've seen that with the six-year-old who was killed in Chicago for being Palestinian-American and Muslim. We've seen that with the three young men who were shot in Vermont. One of them is now paralyzed from the chest down for wearing kafiyas and for being Palestinian. And then there's been a number of anti-Semitic incidents, too. Synagogues have been targeted.

So for me when it comes from like an identity perspective is like I see this siege continuing on. I see people like me from my community being killed. I see my community being impacted here and I see our elected officials like not even issuing statements about it, not even wanting to acknowledge it. They want to acknowledge like one side of the loss but they don't want to acknowledge the full reality of what's going on. They don't want to call what's going on in Gaza a genocide. They'll talk at a high level as like it's an intangible thing about Islamophobia being wrong, but then they continue on the behaviors that enable it and empower it.

And that's a long way of explaining to you that like I've been witnessing all of these things happening in parallel to witnessing what's unfolding in Gaza and in Palestine and It's just like it's my moment of like nope not gonna support you anymore, because you're, you're staying silent right now, you are not. You are not advocating for a ceasefire, you are choosing to toe the line and not do the right thing and curry favor with forces that are pro-war, and I'm just not down for that so it's actually been, I'm very much like a spectrum person.

And again, I'm an organizer, so I'm like, where can we agree? Where can we move in the same direction? But this has really become something transformative and life-changing for me in terms of I am only going to give my support publicly or privately, my money, my time, my energy. To causes and elected officials that actually for real support social justice, racial justice, justice for everybody, it's not conditional and there are a lot of Democrats out there, there are a lot of progressives out there that are progressive on everything except Palestine.

I am not supporting anybody like that anymore. I'm just not. And you can say the right word, you can try to say the right words, but if your actions and your follow through and like what you do doesn't match that, then I'm not supporting them anymore.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

I appreciate that. I think a lot of people need to hear that. It's a really complex time and I also recognize tech and the media and disinformation, all of that is swirling. And so for a lot of people, they don't have the tools or capacity to really understand what's going on. Having said that, elected officials are not that group.

About Nadia Rahman

Nadia is a skilled communicator, activist, and organizer. She has 17 years of experience in digital marketing and strategy spanning diverse specialty areas, including content strategy & messaging development, search, social media, email, measurement & analytics, and digital research. An organizer at heart, Nadia is skilled in advocacy, community relations, and bringing people together to work successfully toward shared goals. She has worked in agencies, on in-house marketing teams, and on political campaigns, and has led and managed teams of people, projects, and programs.

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๐Ÿ—ผ๐ŸŽ™ Type: Podcast๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for activists & heart-first humans ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ—ณ Democracy๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿคนโ€โ™€๏ธ Social & Cultural

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


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