Sunday, 15 May 2011

The implications of resistance

Today, 15 May 2011, marks another historic milestone in the journey of Palestinian resistance.   

Buoyed by mass marches and support from fellow Arabs, Palestinians will take, once again, to the streets of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and various parts of  Israel to mark the Nakba anniversary and demand an end to their suffering.  Following a mass internet campaign, many have called for this day to be the launch of a new intifada.

But, while we may express our own support for a putative Third Intifada, it’s also imperative to remember the consequences of such actions, the human costs.

Put most simply, people, principally Palestinians, die in intifadas.  People get locked-up and brutalised in intifadas, losing their liberty for years.  Families lose their loved ones in intifadas, fathers and sons murdered and incarcerated, causing lifetimes of human misery.  People, Palestinians, also get spiritually broken, the intended purpose of crushing intifadas, in an effort to deter them from taking-up further intifadas.

And yet, despite all those years of state killing, detention and family sorrow, Palestinians are still out on the street demanding their most basic human rights.

On Friday 13 May 2011, Milad Said Ayyash, 17, was shot in the stomach by Israeli forces during a demonstration in Silwan, East Jerusalem.  He died next day from his injuries.  As the resistance mounts, Milad is unlikely to be the last Palestinian to lose his life.

Which makes it all the more important to appreciate the driving spirit of such uprisings.  It's not a call to violence, it's a cry against violence, the ruthless and prolonged violence of the Israeli state.  It’s a reaction to deep oppression, an outpouring of despair, a plaintive desire for justice.  And it's in the resisting of that violence that we show our solidarity with the victimised. 

While we may declare ourselves “all Palestinians now”, we should also acknowledge the very human sacrifice that actual Palestinians will make, and have made, in pursuit of their human rights.   

Many activists and supporters have joined Palestinians in those endeavours, losing their own lives, feeling the brutality of a bullet, a tear gas canister, a merciless beating and other intimidations.

But for others who support the cause with words and actions from further afield, there’s the added requirement to think-through the human consequences of uprising and resistance.

One can, and should, say that violence, violence in any form, only contributes to the larger mass of human suffering.  We can also say that, longer term, violence, any violence, resolves very little.  But alongside those moral imperatives must sit an understanding of how and why such violence occurs. 

When we’ve measured and contemplated the costs, the misery, the legacy of such resistance, we should still be able to come to the same moral conclusion: that people, Palestinians enduring grotesque daily oppression, are absolutely entitled to be on those streets. 

The current actions are being marked by mass additional Arab support in the region, particularly from Egypt which has shown the way in its heroic efforts to overthrow tyranny and reject Western ‘solutions’ to their social and political imprisonment.

Palestinians have the same right to liberation, to see an end to their persecution and the apartheid system that blights their everyday lives.

We might wish for a supportive response from the ‘international commuity’.  But we know it won’t be forthcoming.  Obama and the West have shown their selective self-interest in choosing which tyrants and regimes in the region to condemn.  There’s no prospect, we can be completely sure, of including Netanyahu and Israel in that field.

Which makes it all the more a people’s resistance supported by conscientious citizens the world over, a globally-endorsed one that doesn’t depend on, or expect, Western-style ‘interventionist responses' – which, as we’ve seen in the tragedy of Libya, only involves Cruise missiles and more death.   

Blair and the West were very able to do their 'deal in the desert' with Gaddafi, yet can't somehow find the impetus to muster a diplomatic peace.  Why?  Because, it simply doesn’t suit their strategic political, economic and military interests to do so.

And so it is with Israel.  Obama, Cameron and their associates offer sanctimonious wishes for peace and a two state solution.  But there’s not the slightest thought of imposing the necessary sanctions and pressures on Israel to see those claims and ‘aims’ realised.

It was ever thus.   As one key whistleblower has just documented, there never was a 'peace process' for Israel and its US backers, only the "deceptive farce" which has kept the Palestinians even further removed from a just realisation of their rights.

And so, failed and abandoned, Palestinians take to the streets in another amazing effort to overcome their catastrophe, their sixty-three year Nakba, a suffering that Israel and its Western sponsors encourage no one to recognise or understand.

If, as seems likely, more Palestinians are killed and wounded in the course of such actions, we should reflect on the complete barbarity of state-directed violence.  We should also recognise the ultimate uselessness of all killing and violence.  But we can still come to the rational conclusion that, when faced with the scale and intensity of Israel's violence, Palestinians, like all other people, have a fundamental right to resist it. 


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