Majd Kayyal on Gaza flotilla: I’m sailing to Gaza because the Palestinian cause is part of the global struggle against racism

In a surprise announcement yesterday, activists announced that two boats were en route from Turkey to break the blockade of Gaza. This latest initiative, dubbed the ‘Freedom Waves to Gaza’, is the 11th mission to sail across the Mediterranean in a campaign to highlight the inhumane and illegal imprisonment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.  

majdkayyal
majd kayyal (Photo: Arabs48.com )

I remember helping with media work from the ISM office for the first boat mission, with ships named the SS Liberty and the SS Free Gaza. The joy we felt upon hearing the boats had arrived in the port of Gaza was overwhelming. For the first time in years the blockade was broken, even if only symbolically. Only three years later and the boats to Gaza have developed an entirely different meaning. No one remembers the five boats that had initially entered Gazan territorial waters with no Israeli interference. Instead, millions of people know about the excessive violence that Israel used to stop the Mavi Marmara and the tactics that Israel used during the Freedom Flotilla II to discredit the activists and damage their boats. The international effort to end the siege on Gaza has taken a small civilian initiative and turned it into a powerful force of action, pushing the international community to reconsider and condemn conditions in Gaza, and altering the course of the Palestinian liberation movement. 

One determined youth aboard the Tahrir is Majd Kayyal, a Palestinian activist whose family originates from the demolished village of Al-Berweh. Majd is currently studying philosophy and political science in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and resides in Haifa. He is the co-editor of the political and cultural website Qadita and maintains the blog “Message To The Tricontinental”. I interviewed him by email before he left Turkey on the Tahrir:

Why did you choose to be part of this? What inspired you?

The blockade is still choking the Palestinian people and separating us from our sisters and brothers in Gaza, more and more every day. I want to take part in order to show the support of the Palestinian youth and the student movement to the people of Gaza and all of those resisting against the occupation.

It’s important for us, also, to cooperate with people around the world because we believe that the Palestinian cause is not only a nationalist struggle, but part of a global condemnation of racism and colonialism.

Are you concerned you will be treated worse because you are Palestinian?

I hope not, but usually Palestinian activists face more problems from Israeli armed forces. However, as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, it’s extremely important to show the unity of the Palestinian people to the international community and remind the political leadership that they cannot abandon our rights and must include the status of ’48 Palestinians in any just solution.

How do you see the Palestinian struggle right now?

I think that the Arab spring is the most inspiring and is providing us with a renewed motivation. I see that we need to rebuild the popular struggle on the ground. We need to revitalize the participation of the youth and the students in forging a more powerful movement, as we can see their importance in the uprisings of Egypt, Tunisia and others. Now is the time to move beyond partisan problems and focus on the main target, which is the colonial and racist regime Israel has imposed on the Palestinian people.

About Sasha Gelzin

Sasha Gelzin is a student organiser and member of the Students for Justice in Palestine - National steering committee.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

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

  1. jayn0t says:

    “The Palestinian cause is not only a nationalist struggle, but part of a global condemnation of racism and colonialism” says Kayyal. Surely these tired old left-wing clichés are part of the reason for the Palestinian cause’s dismal failure. A Palestinian nation is an impossibility. A two-state solution is apartheid. A one-state solution which rejects ethnic nationalism is the only solution. Opposition to Zionism is not necessarily part of ‘the global condemnation of racism’. It only requires condemning Jewish racism. And how is Israel ‘colonialism’? Of which country is it a colony? The USA? No, it’s the other way round!

    • Sasha Gelzin says:

      The colonialism Majd is referring to is the Israeli colonization of historically Palestinian lands.

      You are correct in separating the condemnation of colonialism and racism globally (which implies that the movement doesn’t have a specific target but rather condemns the principles and general practice) and the way he phrased this thought — as a global condemnation of colonialism/racism in the context of Palestine.

      Naturally the people who partake in actions to show solidarity with Palestinians or challenge Israeli policies are focusing on condemning Jewish racism, otherwise they would be fairly ineffective in terms of the Palestinian movement for justice.

      However, many are committed to other groups in the social justice movement and do condemn other forms of colonialism/racism.

      • jayn0t says:

        ‘The Israeli colonization of historically Palestinian lands’? No, colonialism is one country colonizing another. Israel isn’t occupying Palestine, Israel IS the occupation of Palestine. Anti-colonialists in India didn’t claim that British people shouldn’t live in Britain. Talk of colonialism makes it sound as if Tel Aviv is legitimately occupied, but Ramallah is not.

        ‘Focusing on condemning Jewish racism’? Unfortunately, it’s not true. The left throughout the Western world fall over themselves to avoid doing this.

      • Avi_G. says:

        You are correct in separating the condemnation of colonialism and racism globally (which implies that the movement doesn’t have a specific target but rather condemns the principles and general practice) and the way he phrased this thought — as a global condemnation of colonialism/racism in the context of Palestine.

        That’s a valid point. But, if we are honest with ourselves, is there really a difference? I can think of no colonial endeavor that did not, at its core, view the colonized as subhuman, whether it was American colonialism, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Italian, or British colonialism. One might even say that colonialism is a formula, like a mathematical formula, with universal application.

        ———————————————————————————
        Apropo colonialism, I sometimes hear Westerners complaining about immigration, about immigrants from, “Third world countries coming to our country. How would they feel if we went to their country and told them how to do things?”

        Then I smile at the irony and the ignorance and think to myself, “If you only knew”.

  2. Les says:

    The US media says it opposes any boycotts against Israel for its continuing occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, because it claims to be against boycotts. Will that same media boycott coverage of this flotilla?

  3. DavidHeap says:

    “Surely these tired old left-wing clichés are part of the reason for the Palestinian cause’s dismal failure.” You mean, like the “cliché” that links the Palestinian cause to the other great international anti-racist cause of our time, the anti-apartheid struggle? Hardly a cause for failure… more like a cause for hope.
    Having Majd on board was one of the best decisions we made on the Canadian Boat to Gaza steering committee. I hope to meet him (and others like him) again.