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22 May, 2012

The “Nakba” Continues – So Does The “White Intifada”

Ranjan Solomon

Indeed, the Nakba continues – So does the resistance!

Palestinians and their supporters peacefully demonstrated in the Palestinian territories, and around the world on May 15 to mark the anniversary of the Nakba. (Nakba is the Arabic word which means ‘disaster’).

To the Palestinians, the founding of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948 marked the beginning of their displacement as a people from historic lands where they have lived for generations upon generations. Today, the Nakba represents their continued dispossession and torturous existence as a people.

An encouraging dimension of the protests this year was the somewhat demonstration of several hundred Israeli Arab students and their Jewish sympathizers in Tel Aviv University. There were also demonstrations in the refugee camps in the countries surrounding Israel and in Israeli Arab towns.

The few hundred Israelis participation in the protests can not be seen as a sign that the occupation is folding up. The tragedy is that it that a belligerent and intransigent Israel does not seem to have any such goals in mind. No peace. No justice. Instead, Israel looks to fortify the occupation with vigorous policies of grabbing more land, imprisoning more peoples, extending the wall, demolishing more homes, denying even more rights, violating and ignoring human rights and humanitarian laws, and generally adopting harsh and humiliating measures calculated to suppress the Palestinians to the point where they might simply capitulate.

Not for the Palestinians. They have made up their minds they are not going away and will stay and refuse to surrender even a single right that belongs to them even if they may seem to be on the losing side for now. Palestinians are convinced that the occupation stands on slippery grounds with no moral foundations to legitimize their occupation. It will, therefore, fall – if not in the instant future, sooner than later.

That justice will prevail is a conviction that Palestinians hold to the last person. Writing in ‘The Guardian’, David Hearst says: “There is an Arabic word you come across a lot when Palestinians talk about their future. Sumud means steadfastness, and it has turned into a strategy: when the imbalance of power is so pronounced, the most important thing to do is to stay put”.

It is this notion of ‘Sumud’ that Palestinians have espoused in their resistance to occupation rooted in a culture of non-violence and determination to be “steadfast” and to “persevere”. ‘Sumud’ has been the rock on which Palestinians have defended even in the face of the false Zionist claim their identity must be obliterated because they (Palestinians) are “a land without a people”.

‘Sumud’ is an everyday practice regardless of who you are and what you do in Palestine. Palestinian children practice it when they wear down the occupier’s intent to keep them off schools. They defiantly go to schools even when it endless waits at the checkpoints and the harassment by Israeli illegal settlers. Or, when Palestinian men and women non-violently go to work riding a donkey because the occupation has blocked off roads and denied access to what have become ‘Jews only’ roads. (Apartheid for all to see!). Or, to visit their families even when it implies an entire afternoon of waiting for permits, submitting to body searches, showing IDs and undergoing humiliation at every stretch. Their message is clear: You cannot tie us down to your illegitimate will. When Palestinians get married and have babies under occupation they are challenging their oppressors in a place where birth registration, family reunification, marriage certificates and building permits are controlled by a state that has one thing in mind – reducing the number of Arabs and paving the way for Jews to colonize their land.

Palestinian NGOs today play a big role in helping the people deal with these issues. Palestinian civil society has created alternatives for the people to help lessen their dependency on their oppressors. Palestinian civil society has also successfully built an infrastructure of resistance. Inside the Occupied Territories, non-violent resistance shines through as villages and various Communities take on direct action to protests Israel’s continued assault on their rights, their freedom and their dignity. The protests of the communities of Jayyous, Budrus, Bil’in, Ni’lin and Umm Salamonah have now become known as the white intifada. The organization of these protests reflects a healthy and determined Palestinian Civil Society.

The BDS campaign, the Free Gaza campaign are both initiatives that leave the ‘enemy’ (Israel) confused especially because these have mobilized massive amounts of global solidarity.  There is a resistance movement that refuses to be subdued despite threats, risks to lives, prospects of being categorized as ‘dangerous’ and this stubborn resistance and refusal to succumb is the basis for a new faith for a better future.

Samah Sabawi is a writer and a human rights activist from Gaza describes two major challenges to Palestinian non-violence. She points out how Israel’s reaction to peaceful protest. Israel is a country that views itself as being above international universal laws rights and jurisdictions. It often reacts violently to non-violent protests, spraying protesters with chemicals, rubber bullets and tear gas at times claiming their lives. Israel crushes political dissent by arresting political activists even those who hold Israeli citizenship. All Palestinians are seen as demographic bombs; they are enemies of the state and therefore no matter what methods Palestinians use – violent or non-violent, and Israel will not change its course. It will still view them as enemies that must be fought, crushed and ethnically cleansed.

Perhaps, two important initiatives from Palestinian civil society – one of them involving Christians in Palestine — need to be pursued in the ‘sumud strategy’. One of them is the call on people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel. BDS has been endorsed by over 170 Palestinian parties, organizations, trade unions representing the Palestinian people in the 1967 and 1948 territories and in the Diaspora. (See www.bdsmovement.com). Similarly, the ‘Kairos document has served as a clarion call from the hearts of Palestinian suffering to Christians and people of other living faiths which challenges the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades. (http://www.kairospalestine.ps/)

64 years later, ‘Sumud’ is clearly the best bet for an ongoing strategy. It has strengthened and deepened even as the occupation has sought to toughen and intensify. The difference between the resistance based on ‘sumud’ and the occupation is that while ‘Sumud’ stands on solid rock, anchored to the principles of justice, the occupation, by contrast, stands on flimsy grounds, and loose sand with no moral standing. It is bound to crumble under its own weight. This does not imply that the Palestinians must wait for the inevitable to happen. The occupation has to be dismantled by persistent resistance and this is not the lone liability of the Palestinians. The streets of the cities around the world must rise up in solidarity and indignation over Israel’s brutalities and obstinate rigidity. The resistance within Palestine will also surely grow into forms of civil disobedience that ultimately make the occupied Palestinian territories ungovernable and precipitate the end of the occupation by the Zionist State. 

Ranjan Solomon edits the newsletter Palestine Update. He is based in Goa, India.