By Will and jubayr
Last week, we all watched as the Obama administration asked to get “all the facts” before releasing a comprehensive statement about the murder of 9 Palestine solidarity activists by the Israeli Defense Force aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. If he just waits a little longer, he might be able to find a way to use international law to bury both the dead and the living.
Many of us have become depressed and catatonic, staring eyes wide and mouths dry; we’ve lost sleep and shed tears; there is a heavy weight in our chest as we’ve become both saddened and enraged at the continued barbarism of Israeli state violence, and the way the US ruling class justifies spilling the blood of Muslims, Arabs and Palestine solidarity organizers alike.
In response we’ve organized rallies, protests and candlelight vigils around the world. In Turkey, dozens of our sisters and brothers declared an end to sanctuary for Zionism and white supremacy, by storming the Israeli consulate.
In the US, there is this same sense of urgency as many are organizing for Palestine after a year of relative silence. The same debates over strategy and tactics that have plagued the Palestine solidarity movement since its beginnings, however, have also resurfaced, with many looking to the UN, international law, or maybe some ‘progressive’ wing of the US ruling class to address both the massacre and the issues of apartheid and occupation in Palestine as a whole.
In response to these questions, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has put forward its own vision for what is needed today. Instead of making appeals to the Israeli, US and Palestinian ruling classes, the GFF has demonstrated the possibilities of a people-to-people foreign policy. If, not just Gaza, but all of Palestine is going to be free then organizers and everyday people must themselves break the siege and challenge the day-to-day reality of apartheid. In the US this means we must confront the institutions of the ruling class the continue to support to Israeli apartheid and occupation. This demands that we engage in civil disobedience on a mass scale, and take back control over the institutions that give financial and material support to Israel.
Israeli apartheid and occupation will defend itself at all costs. We must do the same for Palestine. On the flotilla, those organizers stopped waiting for an official policy, and attempted to break the siege themselves. And in the middle of the assault by the IDF, they also responded by taking up the task of self-defense. In the middle of this tragedy, these were moments of justice.
For those of us in the US, the question before us is: How long will we stay in the streets? The massive protests at the beginning of 2009 in response to the siege on Gaza quickly died down after only two months. Our movement suffers from a lack of much needed sustained campaigns and organizations. We cannot wait until the next tragedy before we organize the next protest, and it is often the decision to abide by the official channels of protest that spur many organizers to tell the movement to get out of the streets and into lobbying.
We do not want to protest all our lives as that implies continued Apartheid. We must seek a strategic course that has a chance of ending Israeli Apartheid once and for all. This is the crisis which all of us face: entangled with our raw anger, a sense of powerlessness over how to stop this situation, and a hesitancy to commit ourselves to the liberation for Palestine knowing that it requires more then an afternoon of protests. It requires telling our parents the time for fear is over. It requires looking in the mirror with the eyes of the oppressed as fighter, shero, and liberator and not as victim or terrorist. It requires looking at our friends and community and saying enough is enough with the social pressures to conform to an America which requires permanent humiliation of Palestine. It requires no longer accepting the moral angst while at the same time not doing anything about it.Whenever we answer that “nothing can be done about it” or that “this all I can do” is only a sign that our resolve for justice is broken before it met its first Zionist adversery. This causes immense guilt and anger inside, developing into a psychology of hidden shame. There is only one cure to this and it is decisive action.
Twenty years of reactionary peace processes should teach us that petitions and lobbying by organizers in the US will not end the billions of dollars in support the US provides for Israeli apartheid and occupation. The question for Muslim and Arab peoples is posed by Malcolm X as that between the ballot or the bullet. Only democratic power from below that confronts our rulers will break empire, occupation and apartheid.
On campuses students and workers have fought for popular democratic control over university investments, and in South Africa dockworkers have refused to offload ships coming from Israel. Strikes, sit-ins and other on-the-job, campus and community actions are the only things capable of waging a successful struggle for Palestine.
The defeat of divestment at UC Berkeley is an example of why petitions won’t work, and why divestment must be understood, instead, as a means to assert direct democratic control over schools and workplaces against the will of policy officials and bureaucrats. If this confrontation of democratic power from below is not posed, the result will always be defeat.
The following tasks remain for serious organizers interested in ending Israeli Apartheid:
1) development of theory which analyzes the situation of Palestinians in a global context
2) analysis of U.S. Empire
3) analysis of Israeli apartheid
4) analysis of white supremacy, gender and the question of Islam
5) the relationship the Palestine solidarity movement must make with other social struggles in the United States
6) finally, the development of organizations which can develop militants and sustain campaigns against the weakest points of Zionists, white supremacists, and anyone else who seeks to defend the State of Israel
Israel will not be brought down just by angry protests whenever the media reminds us that Palestinians are killed. While such protests play a vital role, we need militant organizations who can strike at the weakest spots of the enemy. Otherwise, no matter how much we protest, we are disingenuous to ourselves and to Palestinians. Apartheid and injustice has only ended when people have organized and fought back.