Before I left the open-air prison that is Gaza for the first time eight years ago on my first speaking tour in Europe, I was naïve to think people around the world would protest for our freedom. I thought every day or at least every week there were demonstrations supporting our rights, but sadly I was wrong. The world has failed to learn anything from major wars, failed to see Palestinians as people with legitimate rights, and instead, I was shocked to see us presented time and again as uncivilized at best, and terrorists at worst.
This is why in 2017 I, along with two Israeli activists, protested a speech in Berlin by Knesset member Aliza Lavie of the Yesh Atid party. Lavie was in the government defense committee that was directly responsible for targeting Palestinian civilians and confining all of Gaza under siege during the 2014 war on Gaza, which I call massacre and universal shame. In that fifty-one day attack, my hometown of Jabalia refugee camp was devastated by airstrikes, bombardments and structural destruction of our infrastructure and homes every minute, including a UN shelter that was targeted near my family home, killing 19 Palestinians who had sought safe refuge. For our protest, a peaceful interruption of Lavie’s speech, we were charged with assault and trespassing. We are now in an ongoing trial famously known as the Humbolt 3.
If I lived in a more sane and moral space, what I should have done was a citizen arrest.
I live in Germany now, it feels as though I have had only a few moments to breathe since embarking on the impossible mission of departing the Gaza ghetto, only a few moments to digest the world order and where Gaza stands. Individualism and imperialism have left us alone with our courage to speak up for equality while under siege.
We must have the courage to now recognize crimes against humanity, and the complicity of the U.S. and EU before it is too late. Standing with the Palestinians is a rooted anti-colonial anti-imperial movements, and is a moral stand.
In a certain sense, I think it is simple to understand what is happening to Palestinians. We were expelled from our lands and have a right to return to those lands, we have a right to exist just as any indigenous people have the same right. Our right to resist and struggle for freedom should and must be at the center of an international anti-colonial, and moral struggle.
Yet many are trying to silence, censor, criminalize and terrorize us. They want us to accept surrender, they want us to be defeated. Seventy-two years of Palestinian steadfastness–the number of years since Israel’s founding and the creation of what today constitutes more than seventy percent of Gaza residents are Palestinian refugees–should reveal Palestinians are not going anywhere. We continue to resist and struggle for freedom. Palestinians remember their right to return more than their birthdays. The Great March of Return, weekly Friday demonstrations that have continued for over a year in Gaza, displays just that. In the context of demonstrations in Gaza at least 326 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces since March 2018. In the same period 7 Israelis were killed by Palestinians.
Palestinians are born to be free. But also, Palestinians are tired of demanding obvious human rights that are demanded by international law. And, Palestinians are tired of being dehumanized in our call for justice.
There is now an opportunity to compel the international community to humanize Palestine and to treat Palestinians with full rights. In 2005 civil society organizations came together and penned a call for a non-violent movement that allows people to resist their occupier, the BDS movement.
At its heart, BDS is a non-violence Palestinian-led movement, targeting complicity, not identity; targeting institutions, not individuals; and targeting all forms of discrimination including antisemitism and Islamophobia. The BDS Movement is a global movement that engages with the grassroots to pressure governments, companies and religious institutions to comply with international law through practical, well-researched campaigns.
The BDS movement is an intersectional struggle that reclaims the power of the people and wants a real change on the ground. When far-right and authoritarian movements and politicians are gaining popularity across the world, this is one means where individuals can act. Last but not least, the BDS movement gives us Palestinians hope through common resistance with other struggles and revolutions around the world such as the movement for Black lives Matters, immigrant rights groups, indigenous groups, movements in Latin America, the feminist movement, and Queer, climate and environmental activists.
Desmond Tutu once wrote:
“The sustainability of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people has always been dependent on its ability to deliver justice to the Palestinians. I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed. Realistic Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Israel will either end its occupation through a one or two state solution, or live in an apartheid state in perpetuity.”
Thus, we are demanding the end to the apartheid reality Tutu described and we are demanding life. Our BDS movement adopted the South African tactics to fight apartheid as outlined by the UN definition.
Some months ago, Germany, France, and 27 U.S. states passed different anti-BDS laws, and now Trump, Britain, Austria, Czech Republic are putting forth such discriminatory resolutions that go against Freedom of expression and civil rights, and only aims to stop our movement and censor our voices as if it is too much to demand justice, freedom and equality. It is us the oppressed, occupied, and ethnic cleansed Palestinians who must be heard now. Nevertheless, those laws energize many–unions, artists, institutes, universities, and students–to endorse the BDS call for justice, dignity, freedom and equality. I trust that we, the people in the streets of Algeria, Kashmir, Chile, Sudan, Colombia, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Egypt, Libya, Bolivia and Palestine, are united under one struggle, the fight against oppression, dictatorship, occupation and apartheid.