As threats against BDS grow, it is time for ‘sumoud’ in activist communities

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The attacks on BDS, and BDS organizers, are intensifying globally.  “The BDS organizations will have no rest,” warned Gilad Erdan at the recent “Stop BDS” conference in Occupied Jerusalem.

One of the better-known BDS organizers, Omar Barghouti, has been directly named as a target of “civil assassination.”

At best, this “civil assassination” would be a smear campaign.  But of course we know better than to believe Israel will do little more than character assassination.  Israel has historically assassinated politically-active civilians such as Ghassan Kanafani, who would have turned 80 this month (April 8) had he not been killed in a booby-trapped car at the age of 36.  Kanafani was killed as he entered his car in Beirut in 1972.  This month is also the anniversary of the assassination of Kamal Nasser, a poet and advocate of non-violence, who was killed on April 9, 1973.  Other civilians include translators, lawyers, and scientists. The list is long, as Eyal Weizman observes that “targeted assassinations have become the most significant and frequent form of Israeli military attack” in areas it does not control directly.

These are not “character assassinations,” the targeted individuals were murdered, sometimes with friends and family. Of course, character assassinations, or at least the attempt at such, also abound.  Israel has taken a very broad brush and colored everyone critical of its official policies as anti-Semitic.  In light of Israel’s blood-soaked record, the recent threats directed at Barghouti, and other unnamed BDS organizers and activists, should not be taken lightly.  We are already maligned, attempts at silencing us have failed, and Israel is getting desperate.

Nevertheless, despite the threats, we must continue the struggle.  As Steven Salaita pointed out, organizers for justice in Palestine have always received harsh punishment for their integrity. “Criminalization of Palestine solidarity work doesn’t drastically change its conditions. We’ve been punished for doing this sort of work for decades,” Salaita reminded us in a March 26, 2016 Facebook post. Historically speaking, the gloves come off, the attacks get fiercer, as the oppressed get closer to victory.

And historically, Palestinians have given the world many terms.  “Nakba,” our catastrophe, which started before the day of its commemoration, May 15, 1948, and is ongoing today, in ways no different than the initial ethnic cleansing that made it possible for a Jewish state to be established in a historically diverse land.  “Intifada,” the “shaking off” of an oppressive system intent on our total annihilation.  A system that tells us that physically, psychologically, culturally, we are not meant to be.  And “Sumoud.”  Sumoud is the persistence of the Palestinian people, despite close to a century of a European and North American denial of our right to exist, and thrive.  Close to a century ago, in November 1917, British Lord Rothschild promised Palestine as a “national homeland” for (Europe’s unwanted) Jewish communities.  The rest is a history of US and European-sponsored settler-colonialism, genocide, and apartheid, and, on the part of the Palestinian people, resolve.  Sumoud.  A spirit that does not accept defeat.  The insistence that injustice will not be tolerated. It is our “sumoud” that allows Palestinians today to go on with daily life, with education, with soccer games, with music, with literature, with love, with birth, and death, and mourning so many loved ones.  Our calendars are riddled with commemorations and anniversaries, of massacres, displacement, home demolitions, massacres, village demolitions, assassinations, massacres, and still we persist.  Our existence is resistance, our persistence sumoud.

And with the renewed threats against BDS organizers, now is the time for sumoud not just in the homeland, but in activist communities worldwide.  We are securing victories big and small on a regular basis, from one more church divesting, to cities going “Occupation Free.”  Just as Palestinians refuse to surrender their rights to freedom, dignity, self-determination, activists  will not give up our right to organize for justice.

But now is also the time for seriously engaging with long-term vision, beyond BDS.  This is because BDS has always presented itself as a strategy towards a goal, that goal being the end of the occupation, equality for all citizens of Israel, the removal of the wall, and the Right of Return.  And BDS organizers have maintained that it does not matter what Israel/Palestine will look like, once these goals are achieved.

But the reality is, it matters.  It matters a lot, and we cannot afford not to be planning for “post-BDS.”  Many Palestinians are already planning for the new independent society, and indeed, there are many initiatives on the ground that will hopefully fill the gap once the occupier and its sub-contractor, the Palestinian Authority, are gone. As a very “globalized” community, the Palestinians are well aware of the ills of neoliberalism, staunch nationalism, and partial liberations, and we will hopefully not fall into any of these traps.  If anything, “post-BDS” will present the bigger challenge to the homeland, and we must be cautious now.   Groups such as Al-Qaws, with their radical social change vision that rises above nationalism while remaining politically critical, will hopefully prove to be role models.

Anti-Zionist Jews, especially Israelis, who understood the need to engage in co-resistance before “co-existence” will need to continue to support self-determination for the indigenous people.  Palestinians will need to come to terms with the reality that “post Zionism” does not mean a return to 1947, before Israel came into being, or even 1916, before the Balfour Declaration.  Because, just as there is no return to a “pre-colonial past” for any country that has been colonized, there can be no return to a “pre-Zionist” past for Palestine.  This is the reality of the world today.

Globally, the connections we have made as BDS organizers are important, and must not be abandoned once (not if) we achieve our goals.  This, too, is the reality of the world today.  Martin Luther King Jr. was thinking globally when he was in a US jail, as he asserted that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  “From Gaza to Ferguson” is more than a moment, it’s an understanding of long-term interconnectedness.   And just as veterans of the South African anti-apartheid struggle are joining forces with us today, one day, Palestinians will say “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete until all criminalized communities are free.”

Until then, let us continue our sumoud, even as we insist on our right to resist, our right to BDS.

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so what happens when palestinian “sumoud” comes up against israeli tenacity (i would say sumoud but israel is constantly being attacked for the supposed ‘appropriation’ of words that ‘don’t belong to them’ ) two equally ‘sumoudy’ people-whats the plan for that? to just say that ‘victory will be ours’ [eventually]… Read more »

Nada Elia; “Because, just as there is no return to a “pre-colonial past” for any country that has been colonized, there can be no return to a “pre-Zionist” past for Palestine.”

The reality today is that there is a return to a “pre-Arab” past for Palestine going on.

In light of Israel’s blood-soaked record, the recent threats directed at Barghouti, and other unnamed BDS organizers and activists, should not be taken lightly. Amnesty condemns Israel’s threats against BDS activists (which includes a list of some of the courageous activists threatened by the IDF and the barbarous settlers.)