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Palestine in Haitian Imagination

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January 1st 2024 marked the 220th anniversary of Haiti’s independence. Once again, a heroic nation enjoyed a double celebration of being the first independent Black republic in history on the first day of the new year in solar calendar. The same day also marked the 87th day of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza in response to a surprise attack conducted by HAMAS on October 7, 2023, which coincided with Yom Kippur, the first day of the new year in Hebrew calendar. Haiti and other Caribbean states joined many nations around the world condemning HAMAS. While all Caribbean states clearly distanced themselves from Israel soon after by voting in favor of the UN resolution for immediate ceasefire in Gaza proposed by the UN Secretary General António Guterres, Haiti was one of the few nations in absentia.

The absentee vote was a matter of curiosity as well as a trigger to think about these two nations together, once again. Despite the 6,500 mile long distance, both nations share similarities that are discussed within the fields of conflict and security. In a briefing on July 6th 2023, for instance, António Guterres had mentioned Haiti and Palestine together when he raised his concerns about the gang violence in the capital Port-au-Prince and Israel’s air strikes against the Jenin refugee camp in northern West Bank.

Correlating Haitians and Palestinians is not new. According to progressive thinkers, the common denominator is the anti-imperialist national liberation struggle. Although this aspect deserves attention in its own right since the struggle in question is mainly about freedom and self-determination, it falls short to catch the punching line by focusing on the United States as an imperialist third party that the struggle is waged against. The American foreign policy towards the Caribbean and the Middle East should be the subject matter of a separate debate. The focus should be about the interactions between the occupier and the occupied, thereby help to surface a much more accurate comparative analyses and nuanced critiques to take off with this vital question:

What would be the Haitian equivalent of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians?

If the Palestinian suffering is applied into Haitian lives, then the extinct Arawak speaking Taino natives have to come back to life, claim the land as theirs, receive enormous foreign military aid, prevent Haiti’s independence, massacre Haitians, kick them out their houses and settle Taino tribesmen inside those houses, annex much of the country and give it whatever name fits best into the perception of their invented state: Let it be “Tainoland” or “Tainistan” or perhaps “Eretz Arawakia”…

This is exactly what Israel would be.

Moreover, Haitian refugees from all over the country -Black and Mulatto alike- have to flee for their lives to Port-de-Paix in the extreme north and to Jeremie in the extreme south…

This is what West Bank and Gaza would be.

And last but not least, let us imagine the sovereignty of Port-au-Prince is designated under a special status by the United Nations….

This would be Haiti’s Jerusalem.

Would it be too fictitious to imagine the Taino State as the Israeli State?

Thought-provoking similarities can be found between the two. For instance, the ancient Taino spiritual gods are called, the Zemi. The most important symbol of the Zemi religion is the Zemi stone, which is shaped as a triangular star. The top of this triangular star represents a sacred mountain that points to the sky where the Creator-god Yaya resides. Sounds familiar? The symbol on the Israeli flag is the star of Zion, which is shaped as a compound of two equilateral triangles. The star of Zion received its name from a sacred mountain named Mount Zion where the Creator-god Yahweh resides.

If the Taino were forcibly deported to other countries far from the Caribbean -instead of being completely wiped out, it would not be unrealistic to picture centuries-long anti-Taino sentiments to emerge and escalate over time due to fact that the Taino had distinct physical appearances, traditions, languages, and religious beliefs. Under such circumstances, who would not sympathize with an indigenous people’s right to return to their ancestral lands especially if it was promised to them by Yaya? Have they themselves not been the victims of a genocide 500 years ago? Perhaps a political movement fighting simply for the right to return could emanate from centuries of discrimination and appear on the scene with the Zemi stone as its symbol.

This imaginary “Zeminism” would be the Zionism that Haitians would contend against.

The Taino “Zeminists” may allege that the Haitians have nothing do with the island. Zionists themselves falsely claim that Palestine has never existed, but the Palestinians can contravene such fallacy. However, it would be substantially arduous for the Blacks and the Mulattos to construct a historical narrative for Haitian indigenousness in defiance of Taino version of Zionism because there were no traces of Africans nor Europeans in the Caribbean prior to the discovery of the Americas. Therefore, the Taino “Zeminists” could have easily deny the very existence of all Haitians. Even the word “Ayiti” is an Arawak word. The only state they recognize would only be Saint-Domingue, which was a French colony. It was Saint-Domingue that the French brought Africans into and created the Mulatto as an additional race. Even the British Mandate of Palestine has the word “Palestine” in it, but the French Colony of Saint-Domingue neither has the words “Black” nor “Mulatto” in it. Could they have not go to the other islands or return to Africa since both Blacks and Mulattos have African in them? There are 22 Arab states and 48 Muslim majority countries in the world for Palestinians to be expelled. Nevertheless, there are 54 African countries in the world for Haitians to be expelled. “Zeminism”, therefore, would represent an indigenous nationalism of an indigenous group no matter how tribal and archaic it sounds. 

The only problem with this narrative no matter how one could genuinely be sympathetic to it is that it only makes sense for the occupying party. It is doomed to be one-sided forever because it is a narrative that denies the existence of the other party. The vital question here is not “what is Zionism?”; rather it is “what does Zionism do?”, and what it exactly does is the denial of the existence of Palestine in its entirety. Zionism promotes permanent occupation, which is also called annexation. Before occupying West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem during The 6 Day War in 1967, Zionists had annexed the remaining Palestinian lands in 1948. West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem are officially recognized by the United Nations as OPT or the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. What is not mentioned is Israel itself as the “Annexed Palestinian Territory.” Occupation is foreign domination over a sovereign territory carried out by military invasion. Annexation, on the other hand, is a complete take over of land, an expansion by ingestion of territory perpetrated through encroachment of civilian settlements. The U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, for instance, led to the American occupation of these counties. Zionist annexation of Palestine, on the other hand, led to the swallow of Palestinian territories to be incorporated into the State of Israel. If the imaginary State of Tainoland had to be established in Haiti, then Haitians had to end up being stateless and homeless in their own country. This is what the Taino version of Zionism would do in Haiti, coercing Black and Mulatto Haitians to vacate their residences the same way Israel coerces Muslim and Christian Palestinians.

How would the occupied party react? What would Haitians do to become more Palestinian-like? Would they not hope for Caribbean unity at first and put faith in “Pan-Caribbeanism”? Who in Haiti would not cheer for a Caribbean version of Egyptian President Gamal Abdulnasser and his success on establishing “United Caribbean Republic”? Who in Haiti would not lament the defeat of Caribbean armies to liberate their land from Taino occupation and annexation? Surely, Haitians would also take the matters into their own hands and change course from Caribbean nationalism to the more suitable Haitian nationalism.

Imagine an umbrella organization was formed by the name “Organizasyon pou Liberation Ayisyen” (OLA). This is what the Haitian PLO would be.

OLA would conduct guerrilla attacks from Port-de-Paix, Jeremie, and the neighboring Caribbean islands they took refuge in against the Taino State they refuse to officially recognize. There would be many factions with the OLA, such as Konkèt and Fwon Popilè pou Liberasyon Ayiti (FPLA).

Konkèt would be the Haitian version of Fatah.

And FPLA would the Haitian version of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

As a nation of several Black and Mulatto revolutionary heroes, Haiti would easily produce their own version of legendary leaders such as Yasser Arafat and the Marxist Christian Doctor George Habbash.

Perhaps Konkèt and the FPLA would highjack passenger ships in the Atlantic and the Pacific to increase global attention to their cause similar to Fatah and PFLP’s highjacking of passenger planes. They would easily be demonized by the Western media as vicious pirates or simply as terrorists while Port-au-Paix and Jeremie Haitians were continued to be molested, arrested, massacred, and bombed.

This is the world the Haitians would have to live with in the 1970s.

Because the Taino State would deny the existence Haitians, it would call its own non-Zemi citizens as “Taino Africans”. This is what the Haitian version of the term “Israeli Arab” would be.

Haitian nationalists would definitely raise their objection against it as another invention of the “Zeminist Entity”. Although the Taino State would claim that all of its citizens have equal rights under a democratic constitution, any Haitian patriot would vehemently reject that because the so-called democratic constitution disregards the organic Haitian identity and replaces it with an artificial modification. Despite Zionist revisionism, Palestinian identity has always been present in Palestine while “Israeli Arabs” have never existed in history. Thus, it would be the duty of every Haitian to resist  especially when the Taino State would relentlessly practice an apartheid regime and respond only by shooting bullets to Haitian kids throwing stones at Taino bulldozers constantly demolishing their homes, and when the Western world would shamelessly call it “the only democracy in the Caribbean”. For the people of Port-au-Paix and Jeremy, the Taino State would be nothing but the only “annexocracy” in the region.

Generation of stateless Haitian civilians would start an uprising in the 1980s and call it “soulèvman” in Kreyol. This would be the Haitian version of intifada.

 

Adding the fact that South Africa filed a case Israel for committing a genocide in Gaza, it becomes more interesting to perceive the destruction in Gaza with a Haitian imagination.

The critique here is not and should not be about the Jews as a distinct religious and ethnic group. As a matter affect, the very first existence of Jews in the island of Hispaniola goes back to Christopher Columbus’s interpreter Luis de Torres, whose name before his forceful conversion to Christianity in Spain was Yosep ben HaLevi. After the French occupation and settlement of the western part of the island as the French Saint Domingue, crypto-Jewish immigrants from Brazil had arrived and mixed with the whites until they were wiped out during the Haitian revolution. Haiti has welcomed European Jews who fled from the Nazis in 1937, and officially recognized the State of Israel in 1949.

Canada had issued sanctions against the Bigio Group, one of the largest conglomerates in Haiti for laundering money to armed gangs, it becomes more interesting to monitor the destruction of Gaza with a Haitian lens.

 

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