Movements take years to build… to Freedom Summer

Like everyone else, I’ve been closely following the events regarding the flotilla massacre; as well as the upcoming boats. It’s been a very exciting time to be a Palestine solidarity activist.

I literally got the chills when I read about two boats of German Jews coming to break the siege.

I was also deeply inspired upon reading about the ship full of Lebanese women coming to break the siege. Being that I’m in Beirut, Lebanon right now, it makes me particularly proud.

To boot: the ship is named Mariam, after the Virgin Mary. In a country with a recent history of sometimes tense relations between Christians and Muslims; it touches my heart to see what I presume to be a mixed group of women naming their boat after the Virgin Mary. The predominant Christian sect in Lebanon is of course the Maronite Catholics.

Now with all the news about more flotillas and Israel trying to undermine the efforts with token gestures like soda or cinnamon; I can see the movement is having tangible success. Why?

Because of Viva Palestina, Gaza Freedom March (with which I went to Gaza last December), the Free Gaza Movement, and all the other convoys which came before the IHH Turkish Flotilla.

IHH wouldn’t have happened on such a grand scale with the Turkish flag on it, without the precedents set by the previous convoys: both land and sea.

Movements take time and effort, and change happens little by little; not overnight and not in one fell swoop. Anyone who has studied the history of social movements in any way, or who at least has read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States; knows this. Momentum is built with each successful (albeit temporary and incomplete) weakening of the siege of Gaza.

In America, we learn history from the top-down instead of how it really happens, the bottom up. We like to believe that Martin Luther King came along one day, organized a few marches and POOF black people got rights! But that’s not the way it went.

Thousands if not millions of today unknown people took part in marches, strikes, civil disobedience, and yes: armed struggle.

This is the reality of the Civil Rights Movement.
Without Stokely Carmichael and SNCC (which coincidentally supported Palestinians unequivocally after the 1967 war and occupation) doing sit ins at Historically Black Colleges and Universities throughout the American South and the rest of the country as well; there would never have been a March on Washington or a Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Without W.E.B. DuBois helping to form the Niagara Movement, there would be no NAACP and no de-segregation success in the Brown vs. Board of Education case.
Between slavery and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it took HUNDREDS OF YEARS for success, and we‘re clearly not all the way there yet. But, there were many small and large victories along the way.

I believe in our movement. We must count and appreciate the victories, large and small, and acknowledge that Palestine will not be freed before the next season of Lost starts.

But, think about it…We (the Palestinians in 1948, occupied territories, diaspora, refugees and Israeli & international activists) have achieved so much so quickly.
It took 18 years from the time of the South African BDS call for the first college to successfully divest. In contrast: in the Palestinian case, from the initial Palestinian BDS call until the first successful university divestment, it took only 7 years.

What I’m getting at here is that even though huge movements typically take many decades if not centuries (women’s right to vote, Civil Rights Movement, Abolitionist movement, anti-Vietnam War movement, Algerian Liberation Movement, etc.) change is happening incredibly rapidly in the Palestinian case.

So, don’t be upset when things don’t go perfectly and foreign ministers make comments that hurt our feelings. Progress is what matters, if we keep chipping away at Israeli Apartheid, the goal will eventually be achieved (probably sooner rather than later).

This is an inclusive movement, because this is the issue of our time. Palestine is Selma and Soweto. The Palestinians are SNCC, those of us from every Gaza convoy (both those who entered Gaza and those who didn’t) are the freedom riders, and 2010 is the Freedom Summer for Palestine.

And yes, the Palestinians will show the internationals and Israelis the way; as countless whites of conscience followed the lead of Malcolm X.

A fellow cabinet member of Students for Justice for Palestine at Cal State Northridge, Alex Shahin, a Palestinian, would often wear a shirt which said “We Are All Palestinians”.

Much credit must be given to him, and the countless other Palestinians I’ve met who were never judgmental or suspicious of an outsider with a Jewish last name joining their movement.  To all the popular committees in the West Bank who welcomed in internationals and treated us like family, I thank you.

We are the white and black students who sat together at the Woolworth’s lunch counters, demanding to be served, in violation of the Jim Crow laws.

We are the ones who keep knocking on Zionism’s door, opening it crack by crack, until the hinges are completely blown off.

The refugees will return. My friend Wasim Zahir from the Gaza Strip will be able to return to Ashkelon. Ali Abunimah’s mother and Mustafa Barghouti will be able to return to Al Quds.

Palestine will be desegregated and decolonized; and it will be a multi ethnic multi religious democracy with one person one vote, and I will live to see that first free election.
I will live to see the end of Zionism and the rebirth of a place which we can currently only hold sacred as a state of mind in our hearts: Palestine.

Indeed, we are all Palestinians. I won’t be able to truly breathe a free breath until Palestinians are completely free. And the day is quickly approaching when we will all truly be free.

Posted in Gaza, Israel/Palestine, US Politics

{ 27 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Do you think this sort of action would help to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, as well as aiding the refugees from the Gush Katif expulsion?

    • Shingo says:

      “Do you think this sort of action would help to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, as well as aiding the refugees from the Gush Katif expulsion?”

      Israel holds over 1000 Shalit’s in it’s own prisons.  I can Shalit back anytime it wants, it just chooses not to.

      The squatter in the illegal settlement in Gush Katif were legally removed, but illegally re homed in illegal settlements in the West Bank.  They should have been sent to Israel

      • Shingo says:

        Btw. Israel has arrested 480 Palestinians in Hebron this year alone.

      • “Israel holds over 1000 Shalit’s in it’s own prisons.”
        Shingo. A zero is clearly missing. The number is over 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Over 400 are children..

        • Shingo says:

          “Shingo. A zero is clearly missing. The number is over 10,000 Palestinians  in Israeli jails. Over 400 are children..”

          I was referring to those held without being charged, but yes, you’re right.

        • Sumud says:

          The good news, Shingo, is that now there are only 213 Palestinians being held in administrative detention by Israel, though that number soared to over 1000 as you write during the 2nd Intifada, and nearly 1800 during the 1st Intifada.

          link to btselem.org

          The bad news, Shingo, is that there are now 213 Palestinians being held in administrative detention by Israel, which is 213 more than there should be. If they’re criminals and/or terrorists, charge them and send them to trial. If not, set them free.

          I don’t condone the holding of Shalit. I can understand how his captors feel completely justified. Really, since Israel describes itself as “at war” with Hamas isn’t he a POW?

          Shalit has been exploited by successive Israeli governments. He’s still in Gaza because that’s where he’s most useful – what better way to manipulate Israeli public opinion than continually banging on about Shalit [and never mentioning the 100's of Palestinian Shalits]

        • Menachem says:

          Sumud,

          A POW is entitled visits from the Red Cross, yes?

        • Shingo says:

          Would that be the same Red Cross that Israel blocked from entering Gaza during the 2008/2009 massacre Menachem?

        • Sumud says:

          Absolutely.

          I said “I don’t condone the holding of Shalit”.

          Further, I don’t condone the secret Israeli prison(s), such as Camp 1391 – and possibly others we don’t know about. No Red Cross visits there eh?

          link to en.wikipedia.org

          Nor do I condone Israel’s continuing use of torture, which PCATI report Israel continues to use, despite making it “illegal” in 1999. They report 600 cases of torture in the previous deacade, with not even a single investigation of reports of torture.

          link to stoptorture.org.il

          Why is it that whenever Israel complains about something, invariably Israel is a much bigger offender?

  2. potsherd says:

    Alas, Lebanon is forbidding the ship to leave port. Says travel to an Israeli-controlled port is illegal.

    • lysias says:

      The report I read said “Israeli-occupied”, rather than “Israeli-controlled,” and I was very puzzled indeed how anyone would consider the port of Gaza Israeli-occupied. But is it even Israeli-controlled?

      • annie says:

        yes it is most definitely israel controlled. not only the port which is less important to israel than the waters outside the port, vital to palestinian self determination because of the gas deposits israel is determined to control and prevent those profits going to gaza or palestine except thru their control and distribution as they see fit.

      • Sumud says:

        Despite “disengagement” in 2005 the UN still considers Gaza Occupied Palestinian Territory. Given the blockade, complete lack of autonomy and regular IDF/IAF/Navy incursions into Gaza it’s a no brainer.

    • Walid says:

      The Lebanese Government told the ship people that they can’t depart from Lebanon towards areas controlled by the bad guys.

      Translation: Ask us for a permit to depart for Limassol or Alexandria and we’ll grant it and once you leave port, you’re on your own to go wherever you want to go as long as you don’t tell us you’re going towards places you’re not supposed to go.

      Israel is going crazy with the Mariam story. There isn’t a day that has gone by in the last 10 when Israel hasn’t issued a fresh threat to Lebanon about preventing that ship from leaving for Gaza. The organizers of the trip are determined to embarrass Israel in the eyes of the world and have sworn that there wouldn’t be any physical confrontation with the Israelis and they want all to see Israeli soldiers dragging women off the ship. The panic in Israel has reached the point this afternoon that Israel is pressuring the Vatican to get the nuns off the ship.

      It’s odd how Israel isn’t saying a word about the second Lebanese ship, the Naji al-Ali with legislators and press aboard. It’s to sail at the same time as the Mariam but it doesn’t seem to be freaking out the Israelis as much.

      • Walid says:

        Lebanese Ministry of Transport has cleared the Mariam to sail for Cyprus and it will be on its own to negotiate with the Cypriots exit permit to leave from there to Gaza.

        • Walid says:

          The Ministry of Transport has given permission to the Julia to dock at Tripoli, Lebanon. Looks like the Julia is about to be re-Christened the Mariam for an interesting trip.

  3. lysias says:

    What look like very important developments on the German front:

    Although it is difficult to see other changes in the political climate concerning the international community’s regard for the Israeli government from the vantage point of reading or watching U.S. media these past three weeks, the climate in Europe has changed markedly. Yesterday, the Israelis refused to grant permission to a German cabinet member to visit Gaza to see what needs to be done to restore sewage treatment facilities to the besieged enclave:

    German Development Aid Minister Dirk Niebel was denied entry into the Gaza Strip during his current visit to Israel, German officials said Saturday evening.

    A ministry spokesman said talks had continued to the last moment with Israeli officials over Niebel’s aim to visit the Palestinian areas.

    Niebel, who arrived in Israel earlier Saturday, had hoped to visit a sewage treatment plant being financed with German development aid.

    Speaking on the second German TV network ZDF program”heute” (today) Saturday evening, Niebel expressed his anger about being denied entry.

    “I would have wished for a clear political signal would be sent for an opening and for transparency,” said Niebel, of Germany’s liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

    “Sometimes the Israeli government does not make it easy for its friends to explain why it behaves the way it does,” he added.

    Niebel said that Israel’s latest announcement on easing the Gaza blockade was “not sufficient” and that Israel must “now deliver” on its pledge.

    Beyond that, the government in Jerusalem should be “clear about how Israel, within an international context, wants to cooperate with
    its friends in the future as well,” the German minister said.

    Earlier Saturday, the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the German parliament is to issue a cross-party demand that Israel allow humanitarian aid to reach the Gaza Strip by sea.

    As if to underline Niebel’s statements about Israeli “transparency,” in another development between the Israeli and German governments, the Germans have refused to acquiesce to an Israeli demand that they not extradite Mossad operative Uri Brodsky from Poland to Germany, for Brodsky’s role in illegally acquiring German passports for use by the Mossad Dubai hit team last January. So much for the Israelis being able to keep their fingerprints off of that keystone cops episode, eh?

    The German government has said it will not intervene to stop an investigation into a suspected Mossad spy linked to the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai, despite pressure from Israel, a German newspaper reported on Saturday.

    A German official told Der Spiegel his ministry was united in the belief that any investigation into Uri Brodsky should be “dealt with according to purely judicial considerations”.

    Brodsky, who was wanted by German authorities, was arrested on June 4 at an airport in the Polish capital Warsaw, provoking strong protests from Israeli diplomats. He is suspected of helping to procure a German passport for the killers of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, assassinated in a Dubai hotel room on January 19.

    But despite Israel’s demands, Germany will not invoke a law citing “overwhelming public interest” to halt the investigation into Brodsky’s role in the killing.

    The German government has asked Poland to extradite Brodsky for trial in Germany, something Israel had sought to prevent.

    • That’s from my essay at The Seminal. We’re trying to figure out whether or not boats or ships are actually in movement from Lebanon or other places today. We don’t know, but we’re trying to stay on top of it.

    • Walid says:

      It’s as if Israel is working from a checklist of countries it has to piss-off. It’s not just Development Minister Dirk Niebel that’s up in arms, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle got into the act and is saying that Germany and EU want to see the blockade lifted. Germany must be wondering why Amr Moussa was allowed into Gaza last week and the German Minister refused entry. All these free submarines going to ungrateful people.

      • lysias says:

        Westerwelle is openly gay. He may have a natural sympathy for the underdog, the way Jews used to have (and some of them still do).

  4. Pamela Olson says:

    Actually, the unified BDS call was issued from Palestine in 2005, and if I recall correctly, there was a successful university divestment at Hampshire in 2009. That’s only 4 years, not 7. In historical terms, this sh– is moving like greased lightning.

    • Thanks Pam for pointing this out. The first one was issued in 2002, but it was not the complete huge one, but I decided to use the earlier one just to be on the safe side! But believe me I’m ecstatic too about the 4 years mark

  5. RoHa says:

    This is all very odd. The (admittedly few) Lebanese women I have met seemed to be ordinary, pleasant women, and yet Israel is apparently terrified of them.

    Does Lebanon have a secret force of unstoppable Amazons that is now being unleashed?

    • Sumud says:

      Sure they do.

      The unstoppable amazons exist in all the arab and muslim nations which Israel has worked so hard to demonise over the years as a bunch of jew-hating terrorists.

      So fragile is the zionist house of cards, so dependant on ignorance about ordinary arab/muslim lives, that a shipload of peace-loving Lebanese women are terrifying.. Imagine if they are interviewed and seen to be ordinary people with hopes and dreams, just like Americans.

      Egads!

      Not to worry, Joseph Lieberman to the rescue: he’s proposing a kill switch for the internet [in case too many Americans begin to think of Middle Easterners as real people]. Has this been reported in the US folks?

      link to theage.com.au

  6. SumudSo fragile is the zionist house of cards, so dependant on ignorance about ordinary arab/muslim lives, that a shipload of peace-loving Lebanese women are terrifying.. Imagine if they are interviewed and seen to be ordinary people with hopes and dreams, just like Americans.

    Sorry, Sumud, but Americans with hopes and dreams are not ordinary people. They are an exceptionally lucky 5% of the world’s population, who consume a vastly greater proportion of the world’s wealth than the other 95%.

    However, since they have so much wealth and power, they have become introverts, and think that whatever they think should apply to the other 95%

    My experience in Lebanon and Jordan taught me that, although women in Muslim countries are treated as ‘inferiors’ they certainly don’t behave as if they are. They may be modest, wear a hijab, and stay at home, but they run that home, and their husbands are answerable to them.

  7. Saleema says:

    “To boot: the ship is named Mariam, after the Virgin Mary.”

    There”s an entire chapter named after the Virgin Mary in the Quran –It’s called, “Mariam.” Her people didn’t treat her right in her time and her son Prophet Jesus had to defend his mother’s honor.

    Let’s see what the Israelis do to the ship. Dragging a boat named Mariam and storming her would sit very uneasily on the minds of many Christians and Muslims.

    • That’s what I think is beautiful about naming the ship after Virgin Mary. It shows the Muslim and Christian embrace of Mary, and makes her a worldwide symbol for liberation and justice. As you say, this creates a horrible image to the world for Israel to massacre or manhandle this boat.