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The global intifada

16 October 2011 | Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Jamal Juma

Palestine is an international symbol of struggle against occupation, racism, and colonialism. On October 15, 2011 the world gathers in what some have called a global intifada, to stand up against imperialism.

The first time an international activist came up to me and sincerely thanked me for a speech in which I had promised that we as Palestinians would never give up our struggle until we have reached liberation and justice, I was surprised. Now I have learned to understand the importance of our struggle for the rest of the world and the responsibility that necessarily follows. As long as Palestine resists, there is hope for more than our own people.

In 2010, The South African Trade Union Congress wrote, “The (Palestinian) struggle has become a global symbol of resistance against apartheid, occupation and colonialism in our age.”

This statement describes exactly my experience in over a decade of innumerable encounters and collaborations with international activists from all over the globe. The Palestinian struggle not only has a global dimension, it has inspired people globally.

Whether it’s British activists ready to go to prison for their solidarity actions with Palestine, a deeply felt speech by an activist of the farmers’ movement in Mozambique recalling the Palestinian resistance, or the fact that a Palestinian will never go without a standing ovation in front of a Cuban audience, theirs are true expressions of global solidarity with Palestine. Other deep gestures of togetherness and common struggle were the tribal ceremony in which I received from one of the elders of the First Nations in Canada a ring to protect me from my enemies, or the residents in Norway’s most northern city forming two competing solidarity groups, or the signs reading “Occupy Wall Street, Not Palestine” and “Tear Down This Wall Street” appearing on the banners of the protesters in the popular movements of the United States who are standing up right now in their streets, demanding justice.

We have all seen the slogan, “We are all Palestinians.” The Palestinian cause and our resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid are an intrinsic part of the imagination of many people and the global struggle against colonialism, racism, and war. People all over the world stand in solidarity because they know our struggle is also their struggle. This connection is the true global solidarity.

Our symbols of struggle, like the keffiyeh, have become symbols of struggle all across the globe. The word Intifada is understood in almost all languages of the world. The Mexican activists in Oaxaca in 2006 called their uprising an Intifada and many Kashmiris use the term as well.

Our common, borderless struggle is the reason why Stop the Wall calls each year for the International Week against the Apartheid Wall. From 9 to 16 November in Palestine and around the globe–from Australia to Canada, and from Norway to Argentina–people will mobilize for worldwide actions to participate in this global action week. This year, once again, we will be able to feel this spirit of solidarity and joint struggle for our liberation as part of the global struggle for justice, peace and humanity as part of the emerging global Intifada.

There are moral, political, and historical reasons that the Palestinian struggle is an international symbol. Each one of these reasons is in and of itself a victory for the movement to free Palestine and can be credited to Palestinian grassroots activists.

After centuries of suffering caused by colonialism’s system of racial discrimination, slavery, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and slow genocide, the world’s people now feel a moral obligation to protect human rights. The effects and conditions of imperialism have been rejected as the mechanisms of tyranny and destruction of our species. Today, in modern times, those under occupation in Palestine face human rights violations of the kind experienced by colonial subjects, which gives the Palestinian solidarity movement a moral imperative.

The strength of our people and our steadfastness against Israeli occupation is an inspiration. Israel’s unique combination of colonialism, apartheid, occupation, and drive to permanently displace our people creates a multilayered system of mechanisms of repression. Many around the world admire the fact that the Palestinians haven’t surrendered.

Palestinians have a strong identity and a large diaspora. Those that have been deported, relocated, exiled, or who have migrated from Palestine have sought abode in the rest of the world’s countries as refugees or immigrants. The over six million refugees, despite facing pervasive discrimination, have been able to live and identify themselves proudly as Palestinians. They have not only preserved their culture and identity but also challenged conditions of poverty and isolation, so as to keep the Palestinian struggle in the hearts and minds of the world.

Historically, the Palestinian popular resistance against occupation has not isolated itself but become part of international political alliances, especially those existing before the Cold War ended. Palestinian revolutionaries identified themselves with other struggles around the world, such as the struggle against apartheid in South Africa by sending resources and other support to the resistance movement. Good relationships with progressive countries were built intentionally, while the wider network of solidarity was cultivated consciously.

And finally, Palestine in its confrontation with Israel represents the global progressive movement’s confrontation with imperialism and colonialism far beyond the Middle East. As Palestinians stand up to Israeli crimes, peace, freedom, and justice are strengthened for all.

Today, the moral and political support that Palestine has received historically from the international community is reflected back to us in the inspired actions of the alter-globalization movement. It has served as an inspiration for nearby and global spheres, from Tunis to New York City, as masses of citizens recognize the destruction of imperial globalization.

At the beginning of this year, the people in the Arab world rose up, took to the streets and squares, and made crucial steps on the long road towards a just and free Middle East. The Palestinian Intifada has become Arab; the walls of fear from dictatorship have been torn down. People in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, and beyond have inspired the world with their courage. They have shown that people, determined and united, can make a difference. They themselves have been inspired by the Palestinian Intifadas, the actions of popular struggle and endurance of Palestinian resistance, and the dignity displayed by innumerable Palestinian activists in front of repression, arrests, torture and humiliation. Now, uniting in a day of action on 15 October, the mobilization of people all over the world occupying streets and square has been expression of what has recently been coined the first global Intifada.

However, the global impact of the Palestinian struggle is not only an outcome of our struggle, it is the result of the very character of our oppression. The over six million Palestinian refugees who have been expelled by Israel from their homes and lands and who have been scattered all over the world for more than sixty years are now ambassadors for our cause. Furthermore, the Palestinian struggle is a global issue by creation. It was the international community gathered in the United Nations that decided the fate of our lands–completely ignoring our right to self-determination–and which has, over the decades, documented Israeli violations of our human rights and international law, condemning them regularly but never acting to stop them.

Knowing that we are linked not only by the complicity of the governments and corporations that support and profit from Israeli apartheid, but also by a common struggle with people around the world is important. It is necessary we remind ourselves over and over about this.

The October 15, 2011 day of protest has galvanized people around the globe and in Palestine. Together, as a unified front against racism and imperialism, a spirit of solidarity for liberation of all people, Palestine stands against imperialism on October 15 and every day.

Jamal Juma is the coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign.