To inaugurate our new “Weaving the Streets” blog, I’d like to take a trip down memory lane—back to 2003, to be exact. Shortly after the US war in Iraq began, I traveled to Spain to promote the Spanish-language edition of Collateral Language, a book I co-edited on the rhetoric used to justify the US response to the September 11 attacks. Traveling with my co-editor and another of the book’s contributors, I had the chance to speak with a number of local journalists and activists and also participate in one of the massive anti-war demonstrations in Madrid. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards were in the streets that day to say “No a la guerra! (No to the war!).”
One of the journalists we met, a freelance contributor to the mainstream El Paísnewspaper, was kind enough to take the three of us to visit a remarkable example of how people’s movements can make use of the urban landscape. During this visit we learned that young people in Madrid had taken over an abandoned printing warehouse in the Lavapies neighborhood in 2002, renaming it El Laboratorio 3 and turning it into a vibrant squatter community complete with public art and music space, a communal kitchen, and a fully-functioning media center. It was given the number “3” to indicate its role in a longer history of establishing similar community centers stretching back to 1997.
Eight years ago today, on December 22, 2003, two of my undergraduate students were denied entry into Israel at the southern border with Egypt. The reason, the helpful border guard told them, was that they were "friends with Arabs." He also told them that they would never be welcome again in Israel. The problem, in other words, was not that they wanted to go to Israel; the problem was that they wanted to go to Palestine. In the eight years since then, the experience of these two young Americans has proven, in its own small way, to be quite prophetic.