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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.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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9 Responses

  1. DaBakr on April 12, 2016, 12:01 am

    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] may be a pleasant veneer but just because a people assume they will be victorious -or- will never allow anothers ‘victory’ to supersede their position is not much different then saying there is no point in negotiating anything since we know we will win. it may feel good to assume this but it isn’t very practical when looking at the history of the world.

    i would also point out that the people that are often referred to here as ‘zio-nazis’ and fascists don’t have a very different pov then the young woman who wrote this piece. both see no reason to negotiate -for the palestinian-until the zionist entity is destroyed and for the israeli until the palestinians accept that the ‘zionist entity, with jerusalem as its capital’ is not going anywhere , period.

    • eljay on April 12, 2016, 9:34 am

      || DaBakr: so what happens when palestinian “sumoud” comes up against israeli tenacity … ||

      I don’t know what “israeli tenacity” is, but what non-Jews both inside and outside of Israel’s (Partition) borders have “come up against” for decades is Zio-supremacism and all of the injustice, immorality and (war) criminal behaviour it comprises.

      I don’t know what “palestinian ‘soumoud'” is, but if it represents justice, accountability and equality in I-P, it must triumph over Zio-supremacism.

    • Sibiriak on April 12, 2016, 9:39 am

      DaBakr: … two equally ‘sumoudy’ people-whats the plan for that?

      Two states per international law and the international political consensus.

      both see no reason to negotiate -for the palestinian-until the zionist entity is destroyed

      Did you even read what Nada Elia wrote???

      … “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,

      The PLO has recognized Israel’s right to exist within internationally recognized pre-1967 borders. Israel, however, refuses to recognize Palestine and end the occupation.

      There is no Israeli reciprocity. The Palestinians have no “peace partner”.

      Hence BDS.

      The BDS movement calls for Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian territory occupied in 1967 . That would leave Israel with some 78% of the territory, Palestine with 22%.

      But Israel wants it all. Every last inch.

    • Boo on April 12, 2016, 9:51 am

      “the ‘zionist entity, with jerusalem as its capital’ is not going anywhere , period.”

      Yes, back in the dark ages the Earth was the center of the universe and every other celestial body revolved around it. It was “not going anywhere”.

      Eppur si muove!

      Time will tell whether the zionist entity is going somewhere. In circles? Circling the drain?

    • Misterioso on April 12, 2016, 10:43 am

      In 1988, the PLO recognized Israel as a sovereign state within the borders of the 1947 UNGA Partition Plan, Res. 181 (recommendatory only, grossly unjust for the native Palestinian Arabs, never adopted by the UNSC and in violation of the terms of the Class A British Mandate for Palestine as well as the Atlantic Charter.)

      By signing the 1993 Oslo Accords, the PLO accepted UNSC Res. 242 and thereby agreed to recognize a sovereign Israel within the 1949 armistice lines, i.e., as of 4 June 1967.

      The PLO also agreed to the US/EU/UN supported 2002 Arab League Beirut Summit Peace Initiative, which offers Israel full recognition as a sovereign state, exchange of ambassadors, trade, tourism, etc., if Israel complies with international law and its previous commitments. Fully aware of Israel’s demographic concerns, the Beirut initiative does not demand the return of all Palestinian refugees. In accordance with Israel’s pledge given to the UNGA in 1949 and by signing the 1949 Lausanne Peace Conference Protocol to abide by UNGA Res. 194 regarding the then 800,000 Palestinian refugees as a precondition for admittance to the UN (after being rejected twice), the Arab League’s Initiative “calls upon Israel to affirm” that it agrees to help pursue the “achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem…” Along with the Arab states and the PLO, Hezbollah and Iran have also accepted the Arab League’s 2002 Beirut Summit Peace Initiative. Hamas has also indicated its acceptance subject to a Palestinian plebiscite and a corridor connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

      Regrettably, then Israeli PM Ariel Sharon summarily dismissed the Arab League’s peace overture, as did Israel in 2008 and thereafter.

      For the record, other peace initiatives that Israeli governments have rebuffed include: U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers’ The Rogers Plan (1969); The Scranton Mission on behalf of President Nixon (1970); Egyptian President Sadat’s land for peace and mutual recognition proposal (1971); U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s call for a Geneva international conference (1977); Saudi Arabian King Fahd’s peace offer (1981); U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s Reagan Plan (1982); U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz’s Schultz Plan (1988); U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s Baker Plan (1989); and the previously noted 1993 Oslo accords signed by Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that unravelled following the latter’s assassination and subsequent return to power of the Likud party from 1996-1999 under Benjamin Netanyahu; continuation of the Taba II negotiations (2001); the unofficial Geneva Peace Initiative of November/December 2003 and the 2014 Kerry Initiative.

      BTW, As for the much touted 2000 Camp David Summit, working in tandem, Barak and Clinton tried to shove a very bad deal down Arafat’s throat. It could only be rejected. Suffice to quote Shlomo Ben-Ami, then Israel’s foreign minister and lead negotiator at Camp David: “Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.” (National Public Radio, 14 February 2006.)

      Unfortunately, Israel’s response to every peace overture from the Palestinians and Arab states, has been an escalation of illegal settlement construction in belligerently/illegally/brutally occupied Palestinian and other Arab lands.

      Hence, BDS.

    • Mooser on April 12, 2016, 11:31 am

      “so what happens when palestinian “sumoud” comes up against israeli tenacity”

      Yes, “Israeli’s” do have “tenacity”! They cling tenaciously to their US passports (and others) and anchor their children firmly with a passport and citizen ship in a more stable place.
      They are very tenacious about having a quick way out. That’s why there is no “Israeli” nationality to get in the way of a quick exit.

      • gamal on April 12, 2016, 5:27 pm

        “palestinian “sumoud” ”

        well some people make positively make themselves banners of sumud and no one even has to get bruised

  2. Talkback on April 12, 2016, 9:02 am

    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.

  3. lonely rico on April 15, 2016, 8:56 pm

    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.)

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