May 8, 2011

May 15, 2011: the beginning of the end

I teased a friend the other day: Do you feel safer in the new world order? We discussed the fact that there is a “new world order” whereby two states (regimes) in the world feel immune from International law, disregard existing mechanisms including the UN and Interpol, and send agents or machines regularly to other sovereign countries to engage in extrajudicial assassination of those they deem enemies. On most occasions, nearby civilians are killed or the victim turns out to be someone else.  There is the argument that these people assassinated are bad guys and should be killed.  My friend and I certainly do not have sympathy for Bin Laden and people like him.  But violating laws is not the way to go (two wrongs do not make a right). 

My friend points out that some two million Iraqis, half of them children, perished by the unjust US/UK led blockade, sanctions, and war. Millions suffered and over 60,000 were murdered by the Israeli policies of land theft, ethnic cleansing, regular massacres of civilians, and other war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are all acts of state terrorism in whole sale as opposed to the retail terror acts of Al-Qaeda.  Yet imagine if Afghani commandoes (or Chinese or Irish for that matter) landed in a clandestine way in the US, Britain, or Israel and “took-out” one of the masterminds of such mass terrorism.   Come to think of it, the stage is set now for this to happen since the message sent around the world is that “might makes right”.  As humans, we have clear choices to make: we either support the notion of “dog-eat-dog world” and put our faith in military might OR we insist that another world is coming and that we can shape it with our hands using popular and nonviolent resistance.

My friend laments a history of our species of oppression, exploitation, destruction, and even mass murder (e.g. the genocide during slavery, during colonization in the Americas, the use of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).  She asks half jokingly why should we expect a dramatic change in our life-span?  History does show that, slowly but surely, democracy and peace are spreading around the world.  In Latin America an amazing progress transpired from the era of colonialism (including genocide and slavery) to the era of “banana republics” (ruled by ruthless, western-supported dictators) to the hard won democratic revolutions.  A similar transformation is occurring in the Arab world.  This Arab spring came later and is more painful because such a transformation threatens the implanted Western wedge that is the racist apartheid state of Israel. My friend and I debate whether acting is contingent on being 100% sure of winning!  While a more rational reading of history would lead one to be more optimistic, acting on our beliefs and our ideals is not contingent on existing power structures or short-term outcomes but only on how we believe we should live and act. Self-transformation itself is a win!

I ask my friend to imagine activists 10 years before each of these events and what motivated them to act (even as they did not foresee the end): the collapse of the Berlin wall, the freedoms in the countries of Eastern Europe, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the end of segregation in the South of the US, the woman suffrage, and the end of the US supported Pinochet, Suharto, and Mubarak regimes.   In each of those instances and hundreds more, many activists died even before seeing the end of the struggle.  In each of these cases, some thought it was a hopeless struggle against incredible odds.  But even some activists did not understand how close they were to winning. Some even gave up the struggle a year or two before it triumphed. 

Even when it seems most entrenched the status quo will not stay the same.  The mighty Persian and Roman empires ended.  Who now remembers that in the 19th century, Portugal, Spain, and England had armies and colonies around the world and seemed invincible.  Even Hitler’s relatively short-lived third Reich seemed invincible. Human constructs are invariably changeable by new human constructs ESPECIALLY if they are repressive and antagonize too many people.  The Israeli and US regimes are thus more susceptible on this front than any other in existence today.  Martin Luther King Jr once said of the US: “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government..”   Israeli historian Benny Morris stated “The Jewish generations of 1948, however, knew the truth and deliberately misrepresented it. They knew there were plenty of mass deportations, massacres and rapes . . . . The soldiers and the officials knew, but they suppressed what they knew and were deliberately disseminating lies." Ilan Pappe summarized years of his historical research thus: “Jews came and took, by means of uprooting and expulsion, a land that was Arab. We wanted to be a colonialist occupier, and yet to come across as moral at the same time..” These ‘original sins’ (as another Israeli historian titled his book) will catch up with this generation.

I tell my friend that the sins of the past come to haunt people whether at the individual level or the national level.  Similarly, the good deeds do get repaid sooner or later.  I remind her that her good deeds were already rewarded many times over as she herself acknowledged to me.  I am sure the many Israelis and US citizens who worked very hard for peace with justice will be vindicated.  She states that our biggest troubles are not sustained by those who work against us but the masses who are apathetic.  Apathy indeed is the scourge of humanity.  Each of us should look themselves in the mirror everyday and honestly think if they have done enough!  Here in Palestine, like in other parts of the world there are also those who act and those who are apathetic.  The latter may watch TV, may feel pangs of frustration or anger but are not willing to sum up the inner courage (present in all of us) to finally act on their convictions.  On our deathbed, will we lament a life wasted or smile at a life of achievement for fellow human beings. 

My friend and I are pleased to be alive in this day and age and continue to be very optimistic. We are grateful for the tentative initial steps of reconciliation of the Palestinian house (but must keep pushing) and we are grateful for the failure of Netanyahu to get Europeans to pressure the Palestinian people to keep their divisions.  We know Netanyahu will next go to the US but there he will have to pass through demonstrators to get to the Israeli occupied halls of Congress.  And the US is already 14 trillion in debt, one third of it caused directly by the Israel-first lobby. But AIPAC is being challenged.(1)

Meanwhile, the struggle here in the last land of apartheid continues.  Saturday, our friends Yusuf and Musa AbuMaria were attacked and injured by Israeli forces in a peaceful demonstration in Beit Ummar near Hebron (Yusuf had two breaks in one arm) and we attended two conferences in Hebron the same day.  One was the Palestinian Forum for Medical Research first biomedical research symposium (2) where one of my master’s students presented her research results.  The second was attended by 300 activists nearly half Israeli and was titled “Joint Struggle for an End to the Occupation and Racism”.  The final declaration from this conference is meaningful in showing the change happening on the ground in joint struggle (as opposed to normalization)(3).

Join us 15 May 2011 on the streets as we launch a global intifada (uprising) using popular resistance methods. It will not be the end but the beginning of the end as hundreds of demonstrations and marches are held around the world (including marches to checkpoints) and from nearby countries to the borders of occupied Palestine. 
We will say that 63 years of destructions and war is enough and our Nakba must end. Some are calling this the third intifada (4) but it is actually the 14th or 15th and it is likely going to be the last (5). In follow-up you can join us in Palestine this July (see PalestineJN.org) to take a bigger step forward.

In the meantime, as our friend and martyr Vittorio reminded us to always “STAY HUMAN”.

Notes
1)      From May 21 to 24, 2011, come to Washington DC and join CODEPINK with a coalition of over 100 organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Palestinian Community Network, at the historic gathering Move Over AIPAC: Time for a New Middle East Policy! http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/424/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=5832
5)      See the book Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment"

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