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.