5. 17. 2021
Friends in Palestine,
Has the Future Arrived?
As I write this letter, friends in Palestine are seeing their brothers and sisters, children and mothers and fathers torn apart under the intensity of bombs gifted to the Gazans by Israel’s F-16s. Over these last days, they have witnessed the lynching and the spilling of blood in the streets of ‘48 Palestine, the territory that is now called Israel, and which Palestinians refer to also as الداخل, meaning “the interior” or “the inside.” They have heard the terror of those brutalized by the Israeli army inside their own homes, tear-gassed out of the holy spaces of Al-Aqsa Mosque, dispossessed of their houses in Jerusalem, murdered in the checkpoints of the West Bank. Enduring the horrors of the ever-continuous Nakba.
And yet, just days ago on Eid al-Fitr, the fast-breaking that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, loved ones posted messages on Facebook welcoming the new year. One friend wrote: “The memory of the Nakba Day will be the beginning of victory and liberation … Be patient a little bit in order to laugh a lot. Happy New Year.” Another wrote: “Happy New Year…the forearms of resistance, pride, and dignity are strong.” And yet another: “This Eid brought us back to life…long live the resistance.”
During this week of Eid, I want to honour my friends in Palestine for what they taught and continue to teach, to me and to others. In “Letter from Gaza” by the Palestinian revolutionary and novelist Ghassan Kanafani, a young man writes to his friend Mustafa to explain his broken promise that they would start their lives anew in the United States, and his decision instead to stay behind in Gaza. In “this Gaza [that is] like the introverted lining of a rusted snail-shell thrown up by the waves on the sticky, sandy shore by the slaughter-house. This Gaza [that] was more cramped than the mind of a sleeper in the throes of a fearful nightmare…” In the amputation of his 13-year-old niece’s leg – Israel’s sadistic gifts from the skies are indiscriminating – he comes to discover that the “long, long road to Safad,” a city in the occupied upper Galilee, starts from his home in Gaza. He concludes the letter to his friend: “I won’t come to you. But you, return to us! Come back, to learn from Nadia’s leg, amputated from the top of the thigh, what life is and what existence is worth.”
Has that future of return arrived? Are we inhabiting that moment of a dream that seemed impossible? It is difficult to even write these words, given the harrowing images coming from Gaza: of entire families wiped out by Israel’s continuous bombardment over these last days. Yet, as bombs crack open the earth in Gaza, we are feeling the rumble across the world.
In the air, there appears the possibility of an awakening of political consciousness, the moral force of resistance from all corners of the world screaming for an end to this brutality. The echoes of Yawm al-Ard, Land Day 1976, reverberate in our consciousness, as Palestinians unite in struggle across historic Palestine. The “inside has risen up,” (الداخل ينتفض) reads a caption on Facebook, under a picture montage of the current uprisings in al-Lydd, Akka, Haifa, Umm al-Fahm, Kalanswa, and other cities and villages in ‘48 Palestine. Major cities of the West Bank are aflame, from Nablus and Ramallah to Jenin. And so, of course, is Jerusalem, where the evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque crossed the “red line” that instigated widespread resistance.
Protestors from Jordan and Lebanon marched their way to the borders of Palestine, attempting to set foot on its soil. “Unbelievable moment in history today!” read a post in the Facebook group called Palestine Forum. The significance of this week’s solidarity demonstrations in Karameh, Jordan, are not lost on us, as the Battle of Karameh in 1968 was a turning point in the emergence of a Palestinian national movement for self-determination. There is talk about the beginnings of a third intifada in Palestine, and about the possibility of an end to the genocidal settler-colonial project of Zionism in this generation. I’m writing this on May 15, Nakba Day. Despite the wishful fancies of Zionist leaders that the old would die and the young would not remember, the youth did not forget! In her recent essay in the French radical left journal Contretemps, Salwa Ibrahim eloquently reminds us that the youth did not forget because the Zionist project never lets us forget. She writes, “It is no coincidence that it all started with Sheikh Jarrah. Sheikh Jarrah is a shrunken mirror of the long Palestinian Nakba. Sheikh Jarrah is the other Lifta, the other Deir Yassin, the other Haifa, the distant echo of towns and villages colonized and de-arabized since 1948.”
Palestine is a festering wound, a writhing symbol (and not just a symbol) of the abject logic of colonialism and imperialism, Palestinians the racialized “archaic,” “barbaric” other who can be decimated, uprooted from their land, exiled, dehumanized. The Nakba was and is a profound dismemberment of a people, but the Nakba was and is also its own negation: the enduring legacy of the Palestinian struggle is the forging of a collective will to resist, as Edward Said tells us. The historical significance of the moments we are living today is precisely in this negation of the catastrophe that laid their seeds: the unification of a social body brought together in a struggle for national liberation, a social body made up not only of Palestinians, but also of Indigenous peoples and youth and workers everywhere who recognize their own stories in the plight and resistance of the Palestinians. Palestine is not only a particular cause, but also a phenomenal expression of logics of oppression playing out across the world. Understood in this way, solidarity is not an act of charity but an affirmation that our struggles are one. Incarcerated Black radical Mumia Abu-Jamal gives poetic voice to this conception of solidarity:
Palestine is a minor after thought to the U.S. Empire and its imperialist apologists. Her pain, her sufferings, her gross humiliations don’t bother the empire one whit.
Yet, to millions of people, throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, their unjust and cruel treatment at the hands of the Zionist finds purchase in hearts worldwide.
From their epic losses spring the fruits of solidarity that binds us, human to human; oppressed to oppressed.
As the cruelties of imperialism mount, giving rise to anger and distaste, the forces of solidarity grow too…
How else to read the global explosion of protests in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, during this week of the Nakba? How else to interpret the actions of port workers in L’Unione Sindacale di Base in Livorno, Italy, who, in solidarity with Palestine, have refused to load weapons bound for the Israeli state. The Confederacion Intersindical Galega (CIG), a trade union in Galicia (in the Spanish state), writes: “The outrage here over what the Palestinian population is suffering is quite great. […] In the [demonstrations we are organizing] with every hour that passes, more villages and towns are added to the cities…”
Where this will all lead is not yet clear, but this Eid and this Nakba Day, 73 years after 1948, remind us of the worth of our existence.
Eid mubarak, friends, in the hope of better days to come.
G.N. Nithya is currently undertaking a PhD in Politics. She has taught at Palestinian universities and was active in the independent trade union movement in Palestine.