Writer, graduate student and organizer Max Ajl was in Cairo earlier this month along with 1,300 other activists who had gathered from all over the world to protest the illegal blockade of Gaza. The following is an article written by Ajl which includes his reflections on the Gaza Freedom March (he was a principal organizer) and the concept of international solidarity and non-violence in the Palestinian context.
I’m going to discuss the utility of non-violent resistance as it applies to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict and, specifically, the occupation and blockade of the Gaza strip. Even more specifically, I’m going to discuss the Gaza Freedom March (GFM), of which I’m one of the organizers. But before discussing Palestinian non-violence, several things must be clarified. One is that no one — least of all me, a Jewish kid from Brooklyn — has the slightest right to dictate to the Palestinians how to end the blockade or resist the occupation. Another is the need to avoid the nearly inevitable antiseptic air to talk by Westerners discussing Palestinian non-violence. Antiseptic, because it is cleansed of the complicating grit of the occupation within which non-violence must take place. There’s also usually a tacit subtext, usually a four-word question: Where Is Their Gandhi? That question could not be more in error. I hope to show why.
During Israel’s assault on Gaza in December 2008, two doctors working from the frontline attempted to bring attention to the imbalance of power that exists at the heart of this conflict — an imbalance which weighs heavily towards the Israeli side. While Israeli media spokespeople used airtime to argue that Israel was only targeting Hamas militants, Dr. Mads Gilbert and Dr. Erik Fosse of the Norwegian Aid Committee attempted to bring attention to just how many women and children were being wheeled in to be treated for shrapnel and bullet wounds, and how many families they were treating all at once. They have since written a book about the event and Gilbert will be touring North America to spread their message.
The following was written by Fatemah Meghji, the national co-ordinator of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and a university student who has been organizing a nation-wide tour for Gilbert. Below her piece you will find a listing of tour dates and locations — be sure to attend an event if you can, I know I will.
by Fatemah Meghji
From Dr. Mads Gilbert & Dr. Erik Fosse’s Eyes in Gaza:
The boy with the destroyed brain did not need anaesthetic; he could no longer feel anything. The other lay in an artificial coma with intravenous anaesthetic agents to soften the pain and allow the ventilator to work without resistance from the boy’s own breathing. A large bandage covered both his eyes. He could not see anyway. He was already blind.
Where could I cry out the despair and rage I felt for all this terrible fate we saw at such close quarters? Would the heavens hear? Will the world hear? They know that this is happening, after all. The numbers tick into the West every single afternoon, to the news agencies, to the intelligence services and to the diplomatic missions of the world’s most powerful nations, who do not even make an attempt to pull in the reins and control the wildness of the Israeli war machine.
Operating since 2006, Social TV was established out of deep concern from the ability of Israeli Media to perform its duty as democracy’s “watch dog”. In the last two decades three major corporations have gained control over most of Israel’s television channels, newspapers, radio channels and popular news sites. As a result Israel’s media has become quite homogenous and pluralism of opinion declined… Today Social TV is the only independent on-line TV channel in Israel.
Asimple google search with the words “Palestinian violence” yields over 86,000 pages, while a search with the words “Palestinian civil disobedience” generates only 47 pages.
Sometime in 1846, Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail because he refused to pay his taxes. This was his way of opposing the Mexican-American War as well as the institution of slavery. A few years later he published the essay Civil Disobedience, which has since been read by millions of people, including many Israelis and Palestinians.
Kobi Snitz read the book. He is an Israeli anarchist who is currently serving a 20 day sentence for refusing to pay a 2,000 shekel fine.
Thirty-eight year-old Snitz was arrested with other activists in the small Palestinian village of Kharbatha back in 2004 while trying to prevent the demolition of the home of a prominent member of the local popular committee. The demolition, so it seems, was carried out both to intimidate and punish the local leader who had, just a couple of weeks earlier, began organizing weekly demonstrations against the annexation wall. Both the demonstrations and the attempt to stop the demolition were acts of civil disobedience.
I’ve probably told this story — orally — hundreds of times in the past nine months. It’s a story I find fascinating, and I ask it of every Israeli I meet: How did you become a dissident?
A Zionist Upbringing
I was born and raised in Israel. A daughter to “Atheist Jews”, secular Zionists, white collar, upper middle class, capitalists, Neo-Liberals, who “built this country”. I’ve had many internal struggles with these values and identity labels. Always self aware, at some point I decided to just accept that I will never be in the mainstream, and to accept the “rebel without a cause” label I’ve been given by my family.
Through the Zionist thicket of my own family’s education, school, and the Israeli media, I found myself rootless, alone, but most of all numb. It seems to me that the biggest achievement of Zionist propaganda is to make the majority of Israelis numb and confused. I would despise school (which I often described as “oppressive”), my army service (“jail with better visiting conditions”), and national ceremony (“disgusting solidarity”).
The boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel continues to gain leverage every day as more people become aware of Israel’s atrocities. Many argue that the BDS movement must penetrate every aspect of society for it to be fully effective at encouraging people to demand that Israel halt its policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid against Palestinians. The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has accordingly agreed to return funds provided by the Israeli Embassy to finance the visit of Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalom-Ezer. While Ginnie Atkinson from the EIFF continues to insist that the decision was not politically motivated, she prefaces her explanation for the move by stating that: