Stop for a second. Take a minute to close your eyes and rid your mind of every ounce of doubt and hesitation. Breathe in, breath out. Now, with your heart and every fiber of your being, carve this into your mind: Palestine will be free.
If that does not stick, I am not sure you are breathing.
Often times in the Palestinian community we are overwhelmed by the enormity of the occupation, siege of Gaza and the entrenched structures of power surrounding us that are so deeply wrong and oppressive. It becomes very easy to think we are too small to have any impact.
We tend to think that dramatic changes come about by dramatic actions in a dramatic moment. We love this myth so much.
Before us lay two roads: the road of despair and the road of hope. If you take the road of despair, as some have and continue to do, it leads to one thing: inaction. We know with unquestionable certainty what awaits us down this path. On the other hand, traveling down the road of hope, as history has shown us, always leads to action. The outcome of this action is rather unpredictable. We don’t know what will happen, but we know what will happen if we yield to despair.
There is a very famous quote by Vaclav Havel: “Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit.” In other words, hope is not what we think is going to happen but rather a choice that we make. Hope is an indispensable ingredient for change, but hope alone will not bring about the change we all wish to see.
So then the question before us is, how do things change on a large scale? Superheroes? Magic? Being in the right place at the right time?
Change comes from movements.
In elementary school we were taught the story of Rosa Parks, the courageous African American lady who supposedly, with one spontaneous move, ignited the civil rights movement in the United States. At least, that’s what they taught us.
Rosa Parks was not an old lady who made a spur-of-the-moment decision. She was 42 years old and had been the secretary for the NAACP for 12 years before she was arrested on December 1st, 1955. She was trained in nonviolent resistance in Tennessee the summer before she was arrested. Parks’s background drastically changes the lessons we infer from her story.
If we ignore Rosa Parks’s background, we learn that step one in civil disobedience and resistance is to wait. Wait for the right time, wait until the masses approve of your actions, wait for a more pragmatic time and wait until change and progress come knocking on your door. After waiting, do something dramatic, and everything will change in the blink of the eye.
Upon becoming aware of her background the lesson is entirely different. From Rosa Parks’s history we learn that step one of civil disobedience and resistance is to get to work.
There is no alternative. Unless we join together and push forward towards justice and equality we can’t expect to ever see a free Palestine. That is what a movement is, a bunch of people making a small shift. Not every small change we make will lead to a big one, but every big change is made up of a bunch of small ones. The small changes are integral to the big changes.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. The only way to approach it is through millions of small changes. Don’t be immobilized. Don’t be mesmerized.
Many in our community might believe that this work is naïve, that we are unrealistic and that we don’t understand the real world. The truth is the Palestinian cause was born the moment the first refugee was forced from her home, but that is no excuse to give up hope. Many before us have dedicated their lives to the Palestinian cause. Many of their efforts have been successful, others not as much. Many yield to this frustration and begin to question the cause and lose hope. This is a detrimental mistake we cannot afford to make.
We are on the verge of a free Palestine and we have to believe that. Belief is the difference between oppression and justice. Belief is the difference between devastation and freedom. Belief is the difference between apartheid and liberation. Belief is the difference between quiet desperation and victory. Our beliefs will govern our actions allowing us to mold the future.
It seemingly follows that the next question to ask is what we can we do. This is a mistake all too common in our activism circles. Before we start thinking about what we can do, let us first ask what works.
Currently in Palestine we find a system of oppression that is, among many things, very profitable for the oppressor. And in this case, the term oppressor is not limited to Israel but also to the collaborationist Palestinian Authority (PA). The Palestinian Authority is nothing but an extension of the oppressive Zionist regime and has become the biggest contractor and preserver of the occupation and apartheid policy. The PA and Israel benefit tremendously from the suffering of our people. The only way forward is to turn this beneficial and profitable system into a detrimental and negative one. How can we do this? The answer three words long.
Boycott. Divest. Sanction.
The BDS campaign was launched by a call from Palestinian civil society. The goal is to put economic pressure on Israel, shift the power dynamic and compel it to respect Palestinian rights. BDS is a tool of resistance that we all can use.
BDS works. It worked in South Africa, and it will work in Palestine. It does not require large drastic actions. In fact, the most effective activism is that which takes place at the local level. If your school cafeteria sells products made on stolen Palestinian land, speak up! If the retirement options for your university professors include investments in companies that profit off of our suffering, speak up! When your university invites Israeli war criminals to your campus, speak up!
If Palestine could be freed on empathy alone, it would have been liberated long ago. Reality is that without effective action taken collectively, we doom ourselves to an endless cycle of oppression. We know the truth and we have the tools. The rest is up to us.
(beyondcompromise.com / Adam Akkad / 30.06.2012)