This essay by Candace Fujikane, an Associate Professor of English at the University of Hawaiʻi, traces the circuits of yellowwashing narratives representing U.S. aid to Israel through the historical figure and substance of Inouye. Through a critical analysis of such yellowwashing, the paper considers the articulations of the US settler state with the Israeli settler state and the ways they are mutually constitutive. The yellowwashing of Israel opens up another dimension to these color washings: as Israel circulated the figure of Inouye, the substance of Inouye’s actions make evident the ways that US settler colonialism is constitutive of Inouye’s positionality as a Japanese American. Fujikane then foregrounds what has been erased in these displacements: Palestinian political agency under deadly Israeli assault. In contrast to the state-sponsored color washings of Israel, the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement has enabled broader alliances in an international movement to end Israeli apartheid.
Candace Fujikane is Associate Professor of English at the University of Hawaiʻi. She co-edited with Jonathan Okamura Asian Settler Colonialism: From Local Governance to the Habits of Everyday Life in Hawaiʻi. Her work has been published in the American Quarterly, Amerasia Journal, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Asian American Studies After Critical Mass and a special issue of Marvels and Tales entitled Rooted in Wonder: Tales of Indigenous Activism and Community Organizing. She is currently working on her book manuscript Mapping Abundance: Indigenous and Critical Settler Cartography in Hawaiʻi.
She presented a version of this essay at the 2016 MLA conference in Austin, Texas on a panel entitled “Displaced Subjects: Asian American Studies and Palestine” with Lisa Lowe, Rajini Srikanth and Cathy Schlund-Vials. An expanded version of the paper is forthcoming in a collection edited by Cathy J. Schlund-Vials entitled Flashpoints for Asian American Studies.
Below are excerpts of the paper. Click this link to download a pdf of the paper: Yellowwashing
We can track the yellowwashing of Israel in the ways that the state of Israel and American Zionist lobbyists have produced and circulated a narrative of Israeli alliances with Asian Americans through the figure of U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye. At the time of Inouye’s death in December 2012, former AIPAC president Robert Asher advised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel should act to honor Inouye’s memory (Solomon). In January of 2014, Israel announced that it would name its missile facility the Daniel K. Inouye Arrow Anti-Missile Defense Facility after the Hawaiʻi-based senator. (3)
In June, 2016 a group of six MLA members traveled together to the West Bank and Israel to find out what it was like for Palestinian academics and students trying to study, teach, and research at universities in the occupied territories and within Israel itself. In addition to learning about academic conditions under occupation, the group also wanted to hear directly from Palestinian scholars and students about their thoughts on the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. They also met with a number of Jewish Israeli leftwing academics and activists to hear about the opportunities for change from within the regime. In the course of their eight day trip the group met with undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and university administrators at six universities in the occupied West Bank — Birzeit University in Ramallah, Bethlehem University, An-Najah University in Nablus, Palestinian Technical University–Kadoorie in Tulkarm, and Hebron University – as well as both Palestinian and Jewish academics and students from a number of Israeli universities. The report includes a detailed account of how Palestinian education has been undermined by Israeli checkpoints, impediments to travel, obstacles to getting materials, raids on campuses, arrests, denial of entry to foreign faculty, and restrictions on research. It also addresses the complicity of Israeli academic institutions in the occupation and the unequal treatment of Palestinian faculty and students in Israel. The report presents the positions of Palestinians and Israelis on the academic movement, making a convincing case for an MLA resolution endorsing the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Included here are selected excerpts from the report. Click the link below to download a pdf of the complete 23 page report.
David Palumbo-Liu, the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University, recently posted the open letter below on the MLA Commons. Palumbo-Liu is currently on the Executive Committee of the MLA. He is the founding editor of the e-journal, Occasion: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities and a Contributing Editor for The Los Angeles Review of Books. He writes for Truthout‘s Public Intellectual Project, and he has published in Salon, The Nation, AlterNet, The Guardian, and other venues. He founded and directs the Teaching Human Rights Collaboratory.
Open Letter to MLA Members
I write not as a member of the Executive Council but as an individual member of the MLA. As you know, at our January meeting the Delegate Assembly will be voting on resolutions regarding Israel-Palestine. We have had some time now to hear the arguments from both sides. I will not rehearse those arguments but rather ask you to look carefully at the statements each group has made and their supporting documents. I wish to use this space to address a related issue—it is the question of whether or not the MLA, at this particularly dangerous moment in our nation’s history (and that of the world), should even address the issue of injustice in Israel-Palestine, especially as it regards academic freedom, the right to education, and larger issues of human rights.