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BDS as a way of resistance

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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.

Majed Abusalama

Majed Abusalama was born and raised as a proud refugee from the Jabalia Refugee Camp in Gaza. He has been human rights defender since his birth as a refugee, and has been an independent journalist for several years and was a finalist at the International Mediterranean Journalist Award in 2010. He also received the Freedom of Expression Award in 2011 for his writing on different critical topics on human rights and social justice in Palestine.

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5 Responses

  1. Blaine Coleman on December 19, 2019, 4:01 pm

    Majed, we can do a lot in our city councils. For example, there are people demanding action against Israel for its crimes directly in Ann Arbor City Council meetings. See today’s newspaper:

    “Anti-Israel activist and environmentalist running for Ann Arbor council”, at:

    • Misterioso on December 20, 2019, 11:44 am

      Breaking News:

      Palestine Liberation Organization news release: December 20/19

      Dr. Ashrawi: ‘The hour of criminal accountability for Israeli crimes is fast approaching.’

      (December 20, 2019): “We welcome the announcement by the ICC Prosecutor that she has concluded the preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine and her conclusion that all requirements for opening an investigation have been met. We consider her request to the Pre-trial Chamber to rule on the jurisdiction of theICC in the State of Palestine is a positive step forward. We view this as an announcement on the impending and long overdue opening of an investigation into the situation in Palestine by the Office of the Prosecutor.

      “Since Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute, the Palestinian people have invested their faith in the International Criminal Court as an independent venue that can guarantee them some justice and redress for the multitudes of war crimes committed against them by their occupier, Israel.

      “In our view, there is no doubt that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction in Palestine, by virtue of Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute and our communication with the Court five years ago granting it such jurisdiction. We expect this process to conclude positively and expeditiously and for the Prosecutor to proceed to the investigation without any further delay. Israel’s panicked attempts to twist facts and its feverish efforts to perpetuate impunity and remain unaccountable will fail.

      “Today is an important reminder that Palestine’s determined and principled steps within the international system are significant means of protection for the Palestinian people and the standing of international law as universally applicable. Five years ago, Palestine put the world on notice that the era of Israeli exceptionalism and impunity is over. Israel must pay for its crimes and the Palestinian people will not accept exclusion from the universality of human rights. We are empowered and determined to achieve justice, redress, and accountability through international mechanisms, including the ICC.”

  2. Misterioso on December 20, 2019, 8:37 am

    Some good news:

    “CA Rep. Maxine Waters is Palestine’s newest hero!” If Americans Knew Blog, Dec. 18/19

    “Israel, the playground bully, incarcerates hundreds of Palestinian children every year, and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA-43) is saying, ‘not with American tax dollars you don’t!’”

    By Kathryn Shihadah

    “Maybe Rep. Maxine Waters thinks it’s no big deal, or maybe she hoped to stay somewhat anonymous, but If Americans Knew can’t hold back. We’re thrilled to hear that Ms. Waters is the latest cosponsor of H.R.2407, No Way To Treat A Child! This important bill has one simple objective: to stop Israel from spending American aid money to incarcerate and torture children.

    “This is a big deal. Rep. Waters is only the 23rd legislator to cosponsor this bill. Just 23 out of 435 have the courage to stand up for children who have lived their entire lives under brutal occupation in an apartheid regime.

    “Why 95% of our representatives will not support this bill is a mystery. Children are children, regardless of party lines. And Palestinians are people with hopes and aspirations just like everyone else. For many years, our media has been less than truthful about the Israel/Palestine issue – and children are now paying the price for the American public’s misperceptions on this topic, and the deadly policies our politicians have created.

    “Rep. Waters knows a bully when she sees one: she recently scolded President Trump for slashing food stamp funding and for his tirade against the young climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

    “…and she is willing to go out on a limb to help the marginalized:

    “…so it makes perfect sense that Ms. Waters would get on board with H.R.2407. We’re so glad she did.

    “Take a moment to call (202)-225-2201 or (323) 757-8900, or email, or tweet @RepMaxineWaters your appreciation for her courageous action!

    “And check out resources from If Americans Knew to help you advocate for Palestinian children – you can turn your Congress member around too.

    Kathryn Shihadah is staff writer for If Americans Knew. She blogs at Palestine Home.

  3. Vera Gottlieb on December 21, 2019, 11:25 am

    It is quite obvious that today’s israeli population – generally speaking, have little knowledge (if at all) of what Nazis inflicted upon Jews. Pictures, movies, narratives are only part of the horrible story. I will continue boycotting ALL israeli products for as long as it takes.

  4. John O on December 23, 2019, 5:08 pm

    I’m shoehorning this into the discussion, I know. But here is the textbook example of how a boycott can work: hit them in the gut.

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