The Hidden Violence in “Business as Usual”

By Amira Sakalla

During the past year of Black Lives Matter rallies in my town, we have chanted, “No! More! Business as usual!” We have shut down intersections, occupied public spaces, confronted the police, disrupted family dinners, and rattled holiday parades. We stopped the capitalist clock. We backed up the supply chain. We forced “business as usual” to take a seat and listen.

Last summer, as Israel imposed yet another chapter of its Dahiya doctrine on the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinian lives, limbs, homes, and stories were crushed in silence. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of tourists toured through occupied Palestinian cities, sunbathed on occupied Palestinian beaches in Tel Aviv and Akka.

The resistance rockets fired over Gaza’s barbed-wire walls carried the same message: “No more business as usual.” You will not dance on the graves of our ancestors and the rubble of our villages, inviting your friends along to the party, as you kill us in our sleep. Several flights rerouted from Ben Gurion Airport and Israel’s tourist season was shocked. The clock stopped. The supply chain halted. No more business as usual.

What does business as usual mean for people of color? What does it mean for Palestinians? What does it mean for me?

It gives a name to the tears I have been forced to keep inside. Business as usual means having to sit in Biology class, switching tabs between class notes and the rising death toll. Business as usual means preparing for a conference, studying for an exam, writing emails to your professor. With every letter, the fire inside you grows. With every task of daily life thrown in your path, the fire rises. It consumes your stomach that you might lose the will to eat. It scorches your throat that you can no longer speak. It sets your ears ablaze that you can only hear the cries of your people. But you cannot let it reach your eyes. “Not here, not now,” you say. “I can’t let it roll out of my eyes.”

I have people to see.

Things to read.

Meetings to attend.

I cannot afford it.

If my eyes are consumed, I can no longer continue the façade of business as usual.

Business as usual forces us to relinquish our time to grieve. Our time to scream. Our time to breathe.

When I first screamed alongside my brothers and sisters in a public space, I felt free. We screamed at the police, and I screamed, too, at the Israeli forces that had trained them. We screamed at white supremacy, and I screamed at its Zionist cousin. We screamed for our prisoners. For once in my life, the fire was released, and when we release this fire, business as usual has to take a seat and listen.

They are talking about a Third Intifada now, but all I see is business as usual.

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2 Responses to The Hidden Violence in “Business as Usual”

  1. Thank you for writing the words of my feelings. I am neither black nor Palestinian, but I feel the moral outrage of “business as usual” – the systemic injustice; the deafening silence of those who refuse to understand; the pull of daily life. My release is writing letters to my local paper. Bless you for your fire. Solidarity.


  2. Lea Fung says:

    I pass around all your stories, your feelings, your frustrations. Meanwhile my heart aches for all you Palestinians, victims of our Congress! In anger and frustration,


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