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Palestine

Contain us if you dare: Palestine solidarity in a time of fierce anti-racism

Vice: How do you prepare for these interviews with major broadcasters? And why do you think they’re going viral?

Mohammed el-Kurd, resident of Sheikh Jarrah: I don’t prepare for them. I get up, rub my eyes, and then I go on screen. There’s not much scripting to any of these interviews that I do. Most of the time, like, three bullet points, and I’ll say whatever I want to say. … I wanted to make the joke that it’s because I’m good TV, but it’s not! More often than not, it’s the fact that what I’m saying sounds unprecedented … a lot of people have been saying that I’m courageous – what I’m saying is a reflection of the Palestinian street. What I’m saying is something we all feel here. … We are making the mainstream not just for violations of our human rights, but because of the vocabulary we are using – settler colonialism. People are finally getting it. People are finally getting to the root of it. And I think once people get to the root of it, they recognise that colonialism is not okay, apartheid is not okay.

 

Dispatches from the frontlines direct into the retweeting fingers of twitter teenagers and Tiktok users. Settler attacks registering as modern lynchings, viscerally condemned and circulated. A Zionist pogrom, a massacre, a ‘Death to Arabs’ chant, a holiest religious site – Al Aqsa –  raided, invaded, desecrated, a building collapsed on its residents as they set the final iftar dinner before Eid. Zionist militias can hardly escape being mistaken for MAGA, for Tarrant who killed 51 Muslims in Aoteroa and had visited Israel, and Serbia, in preparation. 

Are these Israeli forces or the National Guard in this video in my feed? How to tell? How to tell at this time of sustained Black riot, FTP and ‘Antifa’, where such violence is bound to be read through an anti-racist registry? How to smear Palestinian Intifada while Colombia students revolt and the Hunger Games salute becomes a symbol of protest in Myanmar, just two widely-supported revolutions of 2021 in this new decade of radical upheaval? It would be foolish to overlook the world-breaking shift in public comprehension of the Palestinian struggle. 

Within a globalised landscape where protest poetics and aesthetics are vital tools in the fight against white supremacy, Palestine solidarity has found shelter in new places within which to breathe and exhale. Yes, we are witnessing some of the most terrifying developments in Israeli settler violence, aimed at enhancing the judiasation of Jerusalem. But in the very same breath, it is not an overstatement to say that there is a resurgence of pro-Palestinian global support that we have not seen since probably the First Intifada of 1987. That is, when the question of whether Palestinians are ‘freedom fighters or terrorists’ was still contestable through the liberal cliche and Cold War doctrine of ‘One man’s terrorist’. 

There existed a fraught space for an oppositional Palestinian discourse that has been violently diminished in the last two decades of ultra-patriotism, where no one is a freedom fighter, and every freedom fighter is a terrorist. The Second Intifada of 2000 became overshadowed by 9/11 and the launch of the War on Terror by western governments who sanctioned, officialised and dedicated sophisticated counter-terror state infrustructures to racist constructions of Arabs and Muslims.

The West’s terrorist as new public enemy drew upon Israel’s increased manufacture of anti-Palestinian tropes to sabotage revolutionary gains as well as the US’s past crackdown on organisations such as the Black Panther Party. This is a history that many are cognisant with as critical race literacy has pierced into the mainstream – a literacy that seems to have become a cause of moral panic for western government officials because of its transformative, subversive reclaiming of the radical. 

Within the early years of the War on Terror, the Palestinian quickly became engulfed by the menacing figure of the Muslim man – senseless in his violence, driven by a hatred for western freedoms, primitive in his religious animosity. This Islamophobia has left its mark as Israel continues to collectively punish Palestinians in Gaza through a permanent siege and military onslaught with the pretext of fighting depraved jihadists who use children as human shields

That such genocide-justifying discourse has been enabled by mainstream media and bipartisan governments to take hold, speaks to the vulnerability of Palestinian struggle and the effectiveness of settler colonial, anti-terror demonisation in stifling anticolonial refusal. Hegemonic Zionist narratives have left nowhere for Palestinians to turn, conceptually, while Gazans have nowhere to flee under Israeli bombardment and closed borders. Colonising the epistemological and the physical space, incercerating Palestinian bodies and their radical thinking within the confines of an airtight enclave, Israel has sought, with Hasbara tactics, to deny a fair hearing to our liberation. 

For this, Palestinians have continued to embody Sumud, or persistence in navigating a muffling, subalternating terrain. I remember we experienced a time of intimidation where many Palestinians contemplated whether or not to keep cassettes with tracks singing of self-determination, where sharing educational resources on Palestine became a dangerous act that could potentially prompt a surveillance authority to add you to their suspect list. The mainstreaming of Islamophobia threatens the ability of Arabs to daringly and righteously declare their support for the Palestinian anticolonial struggle. 

You don’t want to end up with your home raided under draconian newly introduced counter terror laws after all. Yet times seem to have changed. Muslim youth in digital spaces are collectively, publicly, confidently expressing their identification with Palestinian Muslim references to Salahudin’s liberation of Jerusalem and texts in the Quran elevating those who strive against oppression at Al Aqsa protests. They feel more assured in the epistemic protection offered by a principled anti-racist movement that gets it. 

From my perspective, it was only with the rise of the far-right culminating in the 2016 election of Trump that an opening emerged for a re-affirmation of the moral legitimacy of the Palestinian cause, found in the fight against white supremacy. Trump’s triumphalsing of the illegal US embassy move to Jerusalem, ‘Deal of the Century’ and pursuit of Israeli normalisation (such as the UAE deal), has both inflicted grave violence upon the Palestinian movement and centred Palestine within the articulation of anti-racist politics. 

Alongside attacks on the legality of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement across European states and in the US, the Palestinian cause found itself reframed through anti-fascism in a way that subverts the War on Terror’s criminalisation of its activism. From Bernie Sanders’ movement, to Corbyn’s Labour experiment, to the election of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, we have seen Palestine become enmeshed within the fight for refugee rights, climate action and prevention of white supremacist terror. This has certainly contributed to the reactions to today’s collective uprising by anti-racists, abolitionists, anti-capitalists and anti-fascists. 

Zionism is a supremacist settler colonial ideology that finds its natural ally in white supremacy. On that we have never been clearer, as Palestinians learning from critical race, decolonial thought, and as a generation finding political consciousness in a time of staunch anti-reformist politics. The lexicon that enables us to name the strategies used to derail Indigenous struggle for sovereignty and the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement is easily reproducible in countering Israeli ‘self-defence’, ‘bothsideism’ and ‘whataboutery’

Palestinian oppression is translatable, not through humanising, respectable, good-bad Muslim dichotomies that fail at defying racist logics, but via the incredible ability of the popular uprising following the murder of George Floyd to impact the radical political imagination with the demand for decolonial abolition.

It is no coincidence that Mohammed el-Kurd, a twenty-three-year-old Palestinian resident who is also a poet, writer and US university graduate who was involved in campus movement organising, is the new popular voice of Sheikh Jarrah. As his neighbourhood faces an ethnic cleansing campaign, where almost one thousand Palestinians are threatened with expulsion, forced to cede their homes to Israeli settlers already conquering their rooftops, he speaks truth to power and finds power in the fiercely guarded truth of riot speak.  

As a Muslim, I believe in the Quranic verse that re-energises us by reminding the subjugated that they plan and Allah is the best of Planners. I feel this in my bones as my people are being killed, lynched, and Israel rejects our ceasefire efforts. They, colonial powers and emboldened settler organisations, plan to muffle our cries for freedom. They plan to expel us from Sheikh Jarrah. They plan to turn our fellow Arab nations into their accomplices. They plan to rally nations behind their fight against ‘the terrorists’, us, but they are not the best planners.

Colonisers are scrambling to find support for their blood-drenched national project even after the failures of the Arab Spring to birth self-governance that represents the pro-Palestinian will of the people. They are also finding it difficult to sustain Israel’s revisionist narration of history as we quite meaningfully contextualise settler claims to Sheikh Jarrah within Nakba, which marks today seventy-three years of genocide and dispossession this 15th of May, 2021.  

On this Scott Morrison has responded to a young woman’s burning of the Israeli flag at a Sydney protest that ‘we do not want to import the troubles of other parts of the world into this country’. Already well-recognised as an architect of Australia’s cruel immigration border regime, Morrison is having a hard time scapegoating the Palestine solidarity movement by resorting to an orientalism that positions us as foreigners, and the violence inflicted upon us as incomprehensible.

As energised protests across so-called Australia demonstrate today, government attempts made to remove Australia from its complicit role within global systems of oppression will not hold legitimacy in an anti-oppressive, anti-racist climate defended by the invigorated Bla(c)k Lives Matter movement here and in other settler colonial contexts. With a renewed spirit of Bundung, Palestinians are frankly, delightfully, harder to ignore, harder to squash, harder to contain. Our chants declaring we are prepared to give our lives for the goal of Palestinian liberation frighten every colonial power, across continents. 

Controlled by one of the most powerful armies in the world, receiving billions in military aid, Jerusalem remains ours, and hundreds of nations – not governments –  recognise it as ours in spite of Israel’s totalising discourse.

Witnessing my people confront bullets and war planes with their bodies aches me. Then I read, and find that Israel has nothing left but brute force and its time, like apartheid South Africa, is running out.

On the US House floor, democratic representative Ayanna Pressley has used her platform to rally Americans to defend Palestinians from being denied our right to struggle, likening Israeli violence to police brutality in the United States. ‘Palestinians are being told the same thing as Black folks in America: there is no acceptable form of resistance.’

Pressley supports the introduced bill seeking to protect Palestinian human rights by conditioning aid to Israel, stating:

We cannot remain silent when our government sends $3.8 billion of military aid to Israel that is used to demolish Palestinian homes, imprison Palestinian children and displace Palestinian families. A budget is a reflection of our values. 

I do not know if Israel will proceed with its plans to empty Sheikh Jarrah of its Palestinian inhabitants, but it is clear that the tide is turning: we are seeing the seeds of a potentially global Intifada in support of the families facing dispossession. Palestinians have stated that they will not allow for the population transfer of Sheikh Jarrah, by any means necessary. If it means Israel will continue to refuse ceasefire terms, then the fight to change our fate is worthwhile. Our future rests upon it. 

As I write this, people in Jordan and Lebanon have crossed the border into Israel in historic participation in the Palestinian uprising. These developments cannot entirely be explained through our shared realities in white settler colonies but nevertheless do demonstrate that there is something particularly world-altering this time that cannot be compared even to Gaza’s 2018 Great March of Return protests. 

To that, I leave you with an excerpt of Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise. May we rise for each other’s liberation always, long live Palestine and long live Palestinian rootedness: 

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

 

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Tasnim Mahmoud Sammak is a PhD candidate at Monash University, faculty of Education and Palestinian organiser. Her research project explores the emergence of radical political subjectivities and imaginaries. Tasnim’s grandparents were exiled from Yaffa during the Nakba in 1948 to a refugee camp in Gaza, where they, including her father, were again displaced to Al-Hussein refugee camp in Amman after the annexations of 1967, when her mother and her family were also exiled from Ya’bad, Jenin in the West Bank.

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