A binational tent, in Jaffa

Israel/Palestine
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If we were to put our finger on the essence of the Palestinian popular struggle and summarize it, we could call it “a struggle for a home.”

No one who has revolutionary blood flooding in her veins can stay oblivious and unmoved by the protest wave of the last past weeks. Not one of us doesn’t hope that the crack opened in the Israeli ideological structure will grow wider and open the hearts of Israelis also to the decades-long oppression of Palestinians, both citizens and those under military occupation.

Yet every time I hear the slogan “We are not political,” or “Here there’s no Left or Right, just the people,” I become anxious, because in Israel, precisely the slogan “We are not political” is the ideological and political code-name meaning: the Palestinian is out of bounds, cast aside, irrespective of citizenship status. So was the case at the Gay community rally after the heinous murder in Tel Aviv (when two gay youth were shot dead by an unknown assassin), where the gay community’s heads shook Bibi’s hand, but wouldn’t let an Arab MK address the crowd, and so is the case now as well….Though now we can do it differetly. 

In his recent article, prof. Nisim Calderon berates the protest and looks back regrettingly on behalf of the Israeli left which, he argues, always spoke of peace but never of justice. But what Calderon forgets, or chooses to ignore, is that he only speaks on behalf of the national(ist) left. The radical left’s slogan has always been “No peace without justice.” So was the case when they marched with the Black Panthers, and so is the case today when they return to Southern Tel Aviv to defend and stand in solidarity with undocumented workers and refugees, after exhausting struggles in Bil’in and Nil’in, where they stand side by side with Palestinian farmers whose land is stolen and expropriated by the Israeli occupation. This true left is the one that has been sitting for nearly a year in protest tents in Ramle and Lydd and Sheikh Jarrah, in solidarity with their brothers and sisters and so, even unnoticingly, has found an egalitarian and equal bi-national community fighting together against home demolitions of underprivileged families whose children are left homeless; a joint struggle for social and political justice for all. 

Today, many young Israelis experience on their own flesh the meaning of being without a home. Perhaps upon looking at the Akirov towers symbolizing the theft and exploitation by the neoliberal elites they will take a minute to look up-to those who have always been oppressed, to those who were arrested and shot during their struggle for a not only a house, but also a home. 

Maybe from Rothschild Avenue they will learn to reach out to the Palestinian and extend him justice before extending their hands for peace. For the time being not only isn’t there an extension of a hand, but there is, instead, a roaring silence. The essence of the Palestinian popular struggle is best captured as a “the struggle for a home.” The struggle in Bil’in is one. So is the one in Sheikh Jarrah. And so is the Lydd tent of families whose evicted houses stand idle for more then a half year, while 60 children are thrown to the streets. Land Day is a struggle for a home, so is the Right of Return.

This past February I called here for Israelis to join the Jasmine Revolution, to help create the possibility of a young and just democratic Middle East. In order to share the spirit of Tahrir, I argued and still do, we must think beyond the national paradigm. Thus, wheh Abed Abu Sahade and his friends established their bi-national tent for Palestinians’ housing rights as a dispossed community, as is the case in Jaffa, I at once found hope in it.

It is not self-explanatory and evident for a Palestinian from Jaffa to establish a bi-national tent, as many Palestinians justly hold that as long as their brothers across the Green Line are under occupation, and Israel’s regulations, bills and ordinances serve the perpetual and systemic theft of Palestinian land on both sides of the Linw, and its transfer to Jewish ownership, there is no justification for a joint struggle.

With all due respect to the Rothschild folks, a fight that ignores the Palestinian problem cannot truly be a fight for justice. And hence many hold that first there needs to be a struggle for the sake of a Palestinian identity, and only then, from a position of strength and equality, they ought join the general struggle, with the hope that this general struggle will join the broader and bigger struggle of the young Arab generation in the Middle East And so I thank the people of Jaffa for the very willingness to found their bi-national tent, which represents a certain leap of faith on their part.

Perhaps if the tent protest organizers added to their demands, the demand to freeze home demolitions and prohibit land theft on a national/ethnic basis, throughout the space between the River and the Sea, more Palestinians would join the struggle the Jaffa folks dared to bet on. > > As the protest heads told the prime minister, “we shall meet on the condition that your team includes women”, we say: we shall meet with you in Rothschild only if, as part of your demands, you include specific demands aimed at correcting the historical and continual injustice toward Palestinians, on both sides of the Apartheid Wall. 

Indeed, in so doing you may lose many segments of Jewish society. But there is no other choice, for if you don’t operate based on a general sense of justice, this protest wave, like others before it, will end duplicating the racist ideological mechanisms in existence today, though perhaps with improved status for the ruling classes. Or worse, the protests and the wide-spread sentiment of dissatisfaction shall fall as ripe fruit into the hands of the extreme right who has now settled Rothschild too, much like rapists who join a demonstration for women’s rights.

During the writing of this article, it was announced in the media that both Kadima and the Labour have proposed a bill in the Knesset, according to which the Arabic language shall no longer be defined an official one, and hold the Jewish nature of the state above its democratic nature. Therefore, on Saturday, Jews who believe in justice and democracy for all shall march, in Arabic, side-by-side with their Palestinian brothers and sisters. Kadima and Labour people can march along Baruch Marzel and his racist brethren, for they have found their match. We, meanwhile, will set the ground in our tents for the next revolution of the Bi-National Front for Political and Social Justice from the River to the Sea!

This piece appeared in Hebrew on Ynet and was translated by Matan Cohen.

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