Palestine Across the Globe: Transnational Mobilization for Gaza and BDS
Palestinians teach life. Indeed, we do. The Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadeh famously wrote the poem “We Teach Life, Sir” to demonstrate what it means for an occupied peoples to live under a system which superiorizes one human population over another. The same poetic language cannot be used to describe Apartheid Israel.
The political ideology of Zionism, which fuels Apartheid Israel, is a historical force that superiorizes the life of the Jew over the non-Jew. More precisely, it puts the life of the White European Jew at the top of its racist death hierarchy, while the personhood of the indigenous Palestinian idles at the bottom. And recently the livelihood of the African migrant/refugee population in Israel has joined the bottom ranks, with Israel increasingly becoming an anti-Palestinian and anti-Black society.
This Zionist supremacist hierarchy enjoys portraying itself as a beacon of “democracy and human rights,” when in praxis, it continues to display the exact opposite. Yes, that does in fact mean that Israel is the American Dream on steroids, and sleeps on the ugly side of the pillow; Israel teaches death. This is why the question of Israel/Palestine has never largely been about religion or nationality. There are Muslim Zionists. Christian Zionists. Arab Zionists. Palestinian Zionists. Latin@ and African-American Zionists.
Although some people happen to worship it as if it were God, Zionism is clearly a political outlook. This is why we must analyze the question of Israel/Palestine through the lens of political positioning. This issue is about power. The power to affirm life, or the power to affirm death.
War on Gaza (Again)
Starting on July 8th, the past several weeks has seen Apartheid Israel commence its most recent escalation of genocidal violence against the Palestinian people of Gaza. Gaza is the most densely populated piece of land on this earth. The likes of Noam Chomsky to Archbishop Desmond Tutu have called it the “largest open-air prison in the world.” Gaza has been under military siege since 2006, when Israel and Egypt mandated a land, air, and sea blockade on all sides of its borders (over 1.6 million Palestinians live in an area the size of Detroit). While mainstream media has largely failed to portray the situation as one of power vs. powerlessness, the case in much of occupied Palestine, and especially the Gaza strip, is just that.
Since Israel initiated this war on Gaza, entitled “Operation Protective Edge,” over 1000 Palestinians have been killed; the number of children killed reaches over 200; over 6000 Palestinians in Gaza have been injured; and thousands of homes, businesses, and urban infrastructure (water, electricity, gas, roads, medical facilities, etc.) have been destroyed. All of these numbers will surely rise by the time this article is published.
And these Palestinians – children, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers – these humans have names. From three-month-old baby named Fares Al-Tarabeen who barely got to witness the light of day, to 80-year-old Naifeh Farjallah who probably wanted nothing but to return to his village of birth and play backgammon until meeting his Creator.
On July 16th, four Palestinian boys aged 9-12 from the Bakr family, were playing soccer on a Gazan beach. In one moment they were escaping the horrific reality of experiencing the fourth, fifth, or sixth war in their lives by kicking around a soccer ball. The next moment an Israeli missile bombed them and robbed them of their breath and bodies. Israel claimed they “mistook” them for terrorists. Nevertheless, Israel has illegally reintroduced chemical weapons and lethal flechett shell darts into its arsenal, and has committed a Sabra/Shatila-esque massacre in the town of Shujaiya with almost 100 Palestinian lives stolen from one sunrise to the next. Once again, Israel is proving to show no mercy for innocent and precious Palestinian human life.
In situations of occupier vs. occupied we must firstly affirm the right of the occupied to resist. The question of violence vs. non-violence is not an absolute binary, but a choice of strategy. Even if we look through the (colonial) lens of international law, as an occupying power, Israel still does not legally have the right to self-defense. The democratically elected Hamas-centric government along with other resistance organizations have responded to Israel’s attempted annihilation of the Palestinian people of Gaza by firing hundreds of rockets into Israel, and combating the ground invasion. Armed struggled is not only justified by UN Resolution 3070, but must work to disrupt and shock the moral conscience of its Zionist colonial occupier. Palestinians in Gaza have fought fearlessly against Israel’s superior military; which includes armored tanks bulldozers, Apache helicopters, F16s, naval warships, and don’t forget, nuclear weapons- all of which Gaza lacks. The amount of Israelis who have died in the past two weeks is thirty-five, consisting mainly of occupying forces in combat, compared to a majority-civilian death toll for Palestinians.
While the Palestinians in occupied Gaza have mobilized against Israel’s onslaught, we must also recognize that Palestinians and their allies (including Israeli-Jews and internationals) in the occupied territory of the West Bank and Palestine ’48 have also been sweating blood and tears to protest and take action towards justice. There have been thousands in the streets of Haifa; Palestinians cutting off power to settler-colonies in the West Bank; and Israeli-Jews protesting in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem against the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (including a petition by Israeli citizens supporting the BDS movement). The 27th day of Ramadan, known as Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of Power), lived up to its name, with over 10,000 Palestinians marching across the West Bank towards Al-Quds (Jerusalem) in what has been described as the largest protest in decades. It is reported that calls are arising for a Third Intifada, and protests are continuing each day across Israel and the West Bank by Palestinians and pro-peace Israelis.
In an effort to flip our maps upside down, let us start the analysis of transnational solidarity from the global south. The following list gives us an idea, although not an exhaustive one, of where global south solidarity mobilizations have been taking place: Chile, Ecuador, Turkey, Venezuela, Brasil, Iran, Yemen, Morocco, Jordan, Argentina, China, Taiwan, Lebanon, Mauritius, South Africa, India, and South Korea. Highlights include organizations like BDS South Africa working to line the streets of Cape Town with 40,000 people (the biggest street protest since South Africans protested against their own Apartheid), in addition to an extensive campaign to get the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa expelled (which has received support by the ruling ANC party). Chile has suspended its Free Trade Agreement with Israel and is considering recalling its ambassador in Tel-Aviv. Ecuador has recalled its ambassador to Israel. Brasil has recalled its ambassador to Israel. Protestors in Turkey bombarded the Israeli embassy and replaced the Israeli flag with the Palestinian one. From Delhi to Mumbai, activists in India are staging large protests outside of Israeli embassy/consulates, including a protest in Kashmir in which a Palestine solidarity activist was martyred by state security forces.
In the global north massive mobilizations have taken place across Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. In London over 100,000 protestors have flooded the street in the past two weeks, including a unique campaign to force the BBC to recognize its pro-Israel biased media coverage of the war on Gaza. Palestine solidarity activists in Ireland gained a victory when the Dublin city council called for an arms embargo and trade sanctions against Israel. Sweden refused the Israeli president’s plane entry into its airspace. On the flip side, the socialist-led French government regressively responded to 30,000 people in the streets by implementing a ban on pro-Palestine protests. Activists responded with a broad based coalition of mainly Arab, Muslim, and Black French citizens marching 5,000 strong only two days later, provoking a scene reminiscent of the 1960s when our communities latched arms during decolonial struggles.
In the United States, mobilizations have picked up increasing steam across most of the country. In Los Angeles coalitions of students, NGOs, and community organizations have pulled several thousand out for rallies in front of the Israeli consulate and federal government building, even as an officer from the department of Homeland Security shot at pro-Palestine supporters. Protestors in Chicago lined the streets in the tens of thousands in addition to demonstrating outside of Boeing for the company’s complicity in the occupation, with 5 activists being arrested. From Boston to New York City, masses of civil society organizations, student groups, faith-based organizations, and everyday people have been repeatedly beating their chests, praying, waving their flags, and chanting at the American general public to wake the hell up and end its special relationship with Israel. At the heart of the Empire itself, organizers in DC mobilized a die-in in front of the White House to inform Obama that this is not a complicated issue; his administration must work towards scrubbing the blood off its hands by doing something it has never honestly done: recognize that Palestinian life matters.
Why BDS Must Strike Back at the Empire
In light of decades of the failed “peace process” (including the complicity of the Palestinian leadership in the occupation), as well as the recent brilliant display of transnational solidarity for Palestine, the dire situation in Gaza exceedingly demonstrates the urgent need to support the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. In a similar manner to the way the international community worked in solidarity with the peoples of South Africa to aid in ending apartheid, BDS is a Palestinian civil society-led initiative which calls on the peoples of the world to aid us in ending the military occupation, system of apartheid, and ensuring the right of return to our homeland.
The United States is a crucial battle zone for BDS. The U.S. government supplying over $3 billion a year to Israel should not only cause a foul taste in our mouths, but must fire us towards action. The absolute chokehold of the anti-Palestinian Zionist lobby on congress, the mainstream media, and other systems of power in the Empire is loosening. While there been have an increasing amount of victories for BDS globally and in the U.S., our analysis of transnational mobilization for Gaza proves that activists in the United States must learn from others, particularly those in the global south, who are making the necessary strides towards answering the calls of BDS. We must demand more from ourselves, and ask the necessary question: how can we do radically better?
For those of us located in the U.S. we must manipulate our privilege towards the radically better. Let us use our people power to continue forming multi-pronged approaches. When will we increase the demand that the Israeli consulate generals and ambassadors be expelled (as a form of diplomatic protest)? How can we increase the pressure to end U.S. economic/military ties with Israel? Or start campaigns calling on the U.S. government/United Nations to prosecute American and European citizens who commit acts of terrorism by fighting jihad for Israel? How can we better support the academic boycott (and its rising amount of victories)? Where does the cultural boycott fit in most strategically? Where do we build stronger movement relations with Palestine solidarity organizations on a transnational scale (borderless solidarity is always dangerous)? Is it actually possible to create a lived community in the U.S. that doesn’t systematically oppress Palestinian life in any way (and better yet, works with others to dismantle all forms of oppression)? The answers to these questions will differ in relation to location and context. But how can we continue to ask smarter questions and offer more strategic answers?
We must up the ante on the grassroots level by furthering divestment campaigns at our universities, places of worship (and not just churches!), and from multinational companies complicit in the loss of Palestinian land and life. We must find new creative ways of showing the world that, as the Palestinian writer-activist Ali Abunimah has said, “The battle for justice in Palestine is not about a one or two-state solution. It is about decolonization.” The former has put power in the hands of corrupt state and corporate interests, while the latter centers justice through the will of the people (even if we must manipulate state/corporate power towards the radically better). How can a decolonial framework help us to re-center liberation, while courageously digging deeper into our self-autonomizing and collectively creative potential?
In realizing the intersectionality of our struggle/s, we must also work diligently with our allies knowing that abolishing the prison-industrial complex in Palestine means dismantling the same systems that imprisons Brown and Black bodies in the U.S. It means that our mobilizations to tear down the 30-meter high apartheid wall in Palestine, also aids in tearing down the increasingly militarized apartheid border between the U.S. and Mexico. And it further demonstrates that de-masculinizing, de-militarizing and decolonizing Palestine/Israel has similar implications for social justice movements in the U.S. and elsewhere. Our peoples must reimagine ourselves not as some type of ragtag “minority” collective (we have never been the minority, we have been minoritized). We must seek to use our majority power for militantly proliferating new worlds of love, justice, knowledge, and community.
Flipping the Question: Where do you stand?
In the case of the current Israel-led war on the Palestinians of the Gaza strip, critically conscious global citizens must ask the urgent question- whose power do you choose to support? The power of more than a century of racist Zionist Israeli colonization and occupation of Palestinian land and life? Or the power of an indigenous Palestinian people to resist an apartheid system of settler-colonialism and military occupation? Does one support the power of settler-only roads on illegally occupied Palestinian homes and farms? Or the power of Palestinians growing thousand-year old olive trees in spite of settlers continuously burning them down? Do we support the power of day-to-day airstrikes and bombings on Gaza? Or the power of Palestinians fighting for our liberation and right of return, who call on the international community to aid us in our struggle?
Palestinians call on the global community to join us in our cause to end Israel’s cycle of death, by promoting a system that recreates life. A system which ultimately seeks to liberate not only the lives of Palestinians, but those of our occupiers as well.