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What does solidarity mean in the new era in Palestine?

July 19, 2023 at 1:15 pm

Palestinians hold a demonstration as they demand financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in front of the UNRWA building in Gaza Strip, Gaza on June 20, 2023 [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency]

It is a new era in Palestine. It is taking shape before our very eyes, through the blood, tears and sacrifices of a brave generation that is fighting on two fronts: against the Israeli military occupation on the one hand, and collaborating Palestinians masquerading as a “leadership” on the other.

But how do we, in Palestine solidarity communities around the world, respond to the changes underway; to the new language and unity — wihdat al-Sahat – which are reanimating the Palestinian body politic?

For a start, I believe that we must insist on the centrality of the Palestinian voice to any solidarity action pertaining to Palestinian freedom anywhere. Not any “Palestinian voice” suffices, though; only those voices that truly epitomise and capture the aspirations of the Palestinian people; voices that do not speak factional language or represent powerful classes with financial and other interests.

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Moreover, solidarity groups, especially in the West, must know how and when, if at all, to engage with smear campaigns and fraudulent “dialogues” on multi-faith relations, racism and anti-Semitism. This cannot be the focus of conversations about Palestine or the solidarity movement. Numerous experiences in the past have taught us that using most of our energy to fight smear campaigns is to fight a losing battle, which will ultimately have little impact on raising awareness of the struggle for justice in Palestine itself, or the championing of the Palestinian cause.

Indeed, the main task of solidarity is just that: solidarity, as in adopting and advocating moral positions with the hope of achieving future political shifts in support of oppressed and/or freedom-seeking peoples in Palestine and anywhere else that injustices are found.

We must remember that solidarity is not speaking on behalf of anyone; rather, it is the creation of spaces and platforms, and the navigation of margins that would allow others to represent their own struggles, while rendering and advocating these positions in one’s own local and national settings.

In other words, solidarity activism is the localisation of international struggles. It is doing our part to ensure that our local representatives, regional and state parliaments and, ultimately, national governments shift their position from supporting Israel’s apartheid regime in occupied Palestine to adopting positions that are consistent, partly or wholly, with the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

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How this is achieved will differ from one political and social context to another. Local activists must assess their own surroundings and opportunities and make that decision for themselves.

I believe that the foundation of any successful advocacy campaign must always be the enlargement of solidarity circles to include workers’ unions, student and religious groups and people from all walks of life and backgrounds ready to serve collectively as a strong base for effective political advocacy.

Furthermore, for organic and effective solidarity to flourish, activists must avoid being judgemental, and confine their stance on the type of collective struggle or resistance chosen by the Palestinian people to that of a mere personal position. In other words, solidarity cannot be pre-conditioned. Frankly, this is more relevant in the West than in the Global South, because the latter has much in common with Palestinians in terms of shared anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles; they can guide Palestinians in terms of what works and what does not.

However, those in the West, many of whom are direct beneficiaries of colonialism, imperialism and apartheid, must simply take responsibility for that sordid past, by holding their governments accountable for the present. Past crimes cannot be undone, but their harmful impact can be challenged and, indeed, through concerted efforts, even reversed.

We must be wary of self-seeking activism. There are those, even within the Palestine community, who try to use international solidarity for political gains, factional rivalry and the like. To prevent this, solidarity groups must adhere to a certain degree of democratic processes, to liberate our communities from the influence of individuals with personal agendas and to accentuate the role of the collective. All solidarity compasses must point constantly and directly to the collective struggle of the Palestinian people in Palestine, and Palestinian refugee communities anywhere else in the world.

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Intersectionality is key. It can be a winning strategy if utilised correctly. Of course, morality lies at the heart of intersectional solidarity, but we must be careful not to insist on imposing our unique moral values, which are driven by distinctive cultural, political, social, historical and even religious priorities and experiences, on everyone else if we truly want to create a global movement for Palestine.

For example, since identity politics was not as predominant in the past as it is today, past intersectional struggles for the liberation of many countries in the Global South – mostly among nations in the Global South – did not set pre-conditions that all these nations had to adhere, for example, to a social code that is acceptable to all. Palestine must not be subjected to any kind of insistence on global conformity to a single set of ideas, ideologies or self-definitions.

The recent success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement can be, in part, attributed to its appeal as a global movement advocating basic, universal human rights such as equality, freedom, justice for all Palestinians. It has done so while tailoring its messages and language to fit historical, political and even social frames of reference to many social and political settings.

Finally, we are at the cusp of a major transition in Palestine; a new generation is trying to take the helm of the Palestinian cause. They have earned this right through their sacrifices, courage and unified action. We must make the right choice by joining them, and abandon old, tired and cliched references to a bygone era of Oslo, the “peace process” and all the rest.

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It is time to listen to Palestinian voices and to voices that genuinely represent them. It is time to support them through strategic mobilisation, the establishment of alternative media, holding corporate media accountable and direct political pressure.

This is how solidarity can translate well-intentioned, morally driven ideas into tangible difference on the ground. All the streams of this success will eventually flow into a single, raging torrent, creating the paradigm shift that we have long fought for and covet so desperately.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.