Power to the (Palestinian) People!

The people of Palestine have done it again, taking their own fate in their hands after being let down by their own “moderate” political leadership and, indeed, the entire international community in their struggle for freedom. Early this morning they simply blew up the wall separating Gaza from Egypt, breaking a siege imposed on them by an Arab government in collaboration with Israel.

We, the peoples of the world, should take great pride and encouragement in this quintessentially civil society refusal to accept subjugation, to abandon their fate to governments, including their own, for whom the lives of ordinary people are simply grist for their political charades — Annapolis and its subsequent “peace process” being but the last cynical expression. For the Palestinians represent far more than just themselves. Their refusal to submit to the dictates of governments, or to governments’ lack of interest in the well-being of people in general, reflects the desire of billions of oppressed people for identity, freedom, a decent life and actualization of their collective and individual rights and potentials. Most of the oppressed, the “wretched of the earth” as Franz Fanon called them a half-century ago, are too preoccupied with the daunting daily struggle for survival to organize and resist. Others do resist in a myriad of ways, but are most often repressed by their own political and economic “leaders,” disappearing anonymously from view. In a few cases they have managed to mount effective resistance to oppression, even to prevail — though the billions spent on “counterinsurgency” warfare by the US, Europe, Russia, Israel and many “developing” nations augur ill for peoples attempting to overthrow oppressive regimes.

In this the Palestinians stand at the forefront, in the front lines of peoples’ insistence everywhere that their rights, well-being and fundamental values as human beings be respected by governments. And they do so (and I write this as an Israeli with great sorrow and shame) against one of the world’s strongest and most ruthless military powers — a power that has dispossessed them from 85% of their land, which is trying to transform its occupation into a permanent regime of apartheid, which has spent decades impoverishing and disenfranchising them; the fourth largest nuclear power which nevertheless casts itself as the victim. Not only have the Palestinians experienced the dehumanization all oppressed and colonized peoples experience, not only have they been made into the embodiment of the rich and powerful’s greatest fear, evil “terrorists” who may tear down their privileged “civilization,” but they have been turned into guinea pigs. Israel is able to gain an edge in the counterinsurgency industry and win entree into the heart of the American military/hi tech complex by turning the Occupied Territories into a laboratory for the development of fiendish weaponry and tactics intended for use against people.

And yet the Palestinian people — and in particular those who remain sumud, steadfast, in Palestine — continue not only to resist but to surprise and confound its would-be Israeli master at every turn. Despite unlimited control, a complete monopoly over the use of force, utter callousness and a vaunted Shin Beit, Israel’s military intelligence, Palestinians vote as they want, resist, carry on their daily lives with dignity — and blow huge holes in the walls and policies constructed in order to imprison and defeat them.

All this is not on the minds of those desperate people who surged into Egypt today. They may not have the “Big Picture.” Yet they deserve the respect and gratefulness of every person who cherishes a better world based on human rights and dignity, a world that is inclusive. As an Israeli Jew, I have been saddened and mortified that my own people, after all they have experienced, cannot see what they are doing to others. But on a larger scale, not as an Israeli Jew but as a human being, I take heart in the Palestinians’ active refusal to be ground under a global system that is producing unimaginable wealth and power for a few at the expense of the growing ranks of the wretched.

I am not a Palestinian; I am not one of the oppressed. I only hope I can use my privilege in an effective way in order to redeem the gift the people of Gaza have given all of us: the realization that the people do have power and can prevail even in the face of overwhelming power. We may each express our responsibility towards the people of Gaza in whatever way most suits us, but as the privileged we must do something. We owe the Palestinians and the Palestinians writ large at least that.

Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). In 2006, he was a candidate, along with the Palestinian peace activist Ghassan Andoni, for the Nobel Peace Prize for his decades of work promoting peace in Israel and Palestine through an equitable solution to the conflict. Read other articles by Jeff, or visit Jeff's website.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ekosmo said on January 24th, 2008 at 6:35pm #

    imagine…

    Warsaw 1944: — The walled-in, entrapped, encircled Jewish ghetto.

    Jewish partisan fighters smuggle in explosives — and, in the middle of the night, substantial areas of the ghetto wall is blown up

    BOOOOM… !

    Everyone who can walk rushes into the Polish sector
    – to escape the torture and torment of slow death starvation,
    – to embark on last-minute shopping sprees for life’s basic essentials,
    – or to buy more guns to defend themselves against “the Coming Storm” as apoplectic German Pastor’s call for their “eradication”

    The Nazis go ape-shit…

    They contact the BOSS in Washington… [sorry]… in Berlin [natch]

    The BOSS “Mmmms” at them — they “Mmmm” at the BOSS

    A whole lotta “Mmmmm-in” goes on as the High Command considers the options…

    In the end, they decide to defer all immediate action till a later time and date of their own choosing…
    when the World’s attention is elsewhere perhaps…?

    Ahhhh….
    just another episode in the life of the “Light Unto the Nations…”

    and “the whole world’s watching…”

  2. sk said on January 24th, 2008 at 10:18pm #

    “the whole world’s watching…”

    Unfortunately for the camp commandant, he cannot give the go-ahead for Nacht und Nebel (German for “Night and Fog”) measures because of the bright glare of network cameras:

    The war of Jewish independence unleashed a massive operation of ethnic cleansing, on which Israel as a state has rested ever since. The expulsions were carried out in the typical conditions of Nacht und Nebel–under cover of military darkness–in which nearly all such crimes were committed in the twentieth century. A distinctive series of euphemisms, deconstructed below by Gabriel Piterberg, was devised by the victors to mask the fate of Palestinians. The clearance was not just of a people. Land and property were seized with a speed and on a scale that no settlers had ever before achieved in colonial history. In early 1947, Jews owned 7 per cent of the land of Palestine. By the end of 1950, they had appropriated 92 per cent of land within the new state-booty including homes and buildings of every kind. A rump of 160,000 Arabs were left, as internal refugees within Israel.

  3. louisa said on January 25th, 2008 at 8:07am #

    Re Halper’s last paragraph: True he is not a Palestinian but an American who exercised his “right of return” and became an Israeli citizen and by doing so has contributed in some part to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians. He doesn’t identify this although it is the source of his admitted privilege.

    Halper continues to undermine his “power to the people” enthusiasm by saying that folks “may” express their responsibility towards the Gazans ” in whatever way most suits us”. Dear Mr. Halper, it is not what suits “us” (or in this case you), but what suits the Palestinians.
    Halper has made clear on a number of occasions that what “suits” him is the two state solution that retains Israel’s pre-1947 land grab and racist “democracy” (and ergo his privilege) intact.

  4. Espresso said on January 25th, 2008 at 10:48am #

    This is great for the Palestinians. Israel couldn’t fathom a worse PR nightmare than unarmed men, women, and children busting out of their walled bantustans and fleeing to get food, water, fuel, and medical supplies from their ethnic prison.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 25th, 2008 at 7:15pm #

    Just when the Palestinians, led by their legitimate Government, that of Hamas, win a smashing victory against the racist murderers who have been tormenting them, with escalating viciousness, for decades, that evil bastard and dictator Mubarrak steps in. It’s only a question really whether the orders came direct from the real rulers of the world in Tel Aviv, or through their puppet hyperpower in Washington, but, to the eternal shame of Egypt and its people, they have joined the Judeofascists in their ongoing imprisonment and terrorising of the Palestinians. It must be unbearable ignominy for every half decent Egyptian to be ruled by such a despicable Quisling, following his Masters’ orders, no matter how vicious, how debasing, like a pariah dog. When will they finally throw off the yoke of this vile collaborator, and hang him, upside down, like Mussolini, in some public square?

  6. jaime said on January 25th, 2008 at 9:06pm #

    Boy, am I glad I’m not Egyptian!

  7. Tim Harvey said on January 25th, 2008 at 10:28pm #

    Wonderful!

    It is so heartening to see Israel thwarted in it’s utterly vile and immoral intentions. It has NO moral credibility, any longer.

    Now, if we can shake off it’s control of our (American) political dialog, perhaps we can see that it’s NOT in this our interests to continue to have foreign policy dictated by Tel Aviv.

    I use to support Israel, but I become so disgusted!

  8. Ekosmo said on January 25th, 2008 at 10:49pm #

    Mulga M — 2 above — final sentence:

    A:
    – when ‘Murikans hang their President for knowingly supplying gangsters — Mubarek, Olmert, Saud, Musharref, et al, et al — with unlimited guns ‘n ammo

    and B:
    – when the entire post-WW2 casino-whorehouse superstructure he, his predecessors, and their associated regional kaporegimes have so painstakingly erected, goes into melt-down beneath the whole damn lotta them…

    as its about to…

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 26th, 2008 at 3:30am #

    Ekosmo-couldn’t agree more, old thing. By the way Ekosmo means what? It looks a bit like it might be evolving into Eukosmos, that mythical Universe where all the bastards are gibbeted and the children don’t die from diarrhoea any more.

  10. dan e said on January 27th, 2008 at 3:21pm #

    Louisa,

    Couldn’t agree more. Here’s a cpl telltale passages from Halper’s piece:
    “…transform its occupation into a permanent regime of apartheid…”

    What? what? Hasn’t a permanent Zionist-Apartheid regime been in place since 1948? & right now the only question remaining is whether they’ll succeed in completely annexing/pacifying the areas not conquered until 1967?

    “…win entree into the heart of the American military/hi tech complex…”: what? what? The World Zionist Movement has had “entree” into said holy of holies at the very least since Ed Teller took over the US nuke establishment. “Entree”, hell: they’ve had free run of the whole operation ever since.

    Halper & his fellow “humanitarian relievers” play a very interesting role in diverting criticism of the entire racist/colonialist Zionist Enterprise and its US component spearheaded by AIPAC & the Thought Police*, to the much narrower & less controversial “Occupation”. Which allows various “progressives” to pose as On the Side of the Angels while basking in the approval of The Jewish Community (sic) and the Democratic Party.

    I mean, it’s hard to come down hard on somebody who is issuing a plea for the world to respect the Palestinian Right Of Return… Oh, you say Halper didn’t say that? He didn’t?

    Then what was he talking about?

    Thanks again,
    dan

    *(If you like that, I’ll send you a jpg of the album cover;)