by Sarah Marusek and Amith Gupta
2 February 2012 | International Solidarity Movement
The recent Arab uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa have proven that the Arab people are no longer willing to tolerate oppression and tyranny. They send a strong message to Western hegemonic powers and their oppressive regional allies that a new wave of nonviolent civil resistance will ultimately prevail over injustice and occupation. In addition, the Arab uprisings also send an important message to all people of the world that armed resistance is no longer the only option for pursuing change.
One must acknowledge that the recent successes of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions are a reminder that this inspirational movement for nonviolent civil resistance was actually born in Palestine. As American University of Beirut Professor Rami Zurayk notes, “The Arab uprisings have of course taken their inspiration from the Palestinian Intifada.” But as he further clarifies, the reverse is also true: there is “a constant feeding in from the Arab uprisings to Palestine and from Palestine to the Arab uprisings.”
Professor Zurayk is one of the Lebanese delegates for the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ), a groundbreaking nonviolent civil resistance initiative scheduled for March 30, 2012 in Palestine and the four neighboring countries: Egypt, Lebanon Jordan and Syria. The GMJ is comprised of a diverse coalition of Palestinian, Arab and international activists who are united in the struggle to liberate the holy city of Jerusalem from illegal Zionist occupation. While the GMJ is made up of grassroots movements in each participating country, the march is also internationalized through a central coordinating committee with elected delegates from each region. More than thirty of these delegates met in Amman last December and in Beirut in January to discuss plans for hundreds of thousands of people to peacefully march to the holy city of Jerusalem, or to the nearest point possible according to the circumstances of each neighboring country, for not only Palestinian rights, but the rights of all humans.
In many ways the GMJ has the potential to be a movement of epic proportions, and thus coordinating the march will not be easy. Up until now, most political solidarity movements at both the global and grassroots level have failed to include the majority of Palestinians living in Palestine as well as those countries that border Occupied Palestine. And yet now Palestinians themselves are taking a leading role in the GMJ. Considering the scope of the initiative, internal disagreements are bound to happen. However Ali Ayoub, a Palestinian activist with the Right to Return Committee in Lebanon, stresses that while “there are differences in politics between the many Palestinian parties, what unites them is Jerusalem and Palestine.” Furthermore, he says that the movement also takes strength from the fact that “all the free people of this world are suffering” from what is happening in Jerusalem and in Palestine.
It is very important that a strong contingent of American activists participate in the GMJ. In the United States, American tax dollars are endlessly being funneled into war, military occupation, and dictatorship throughout the Middle East. In addition to financing and arming oppressive regimes that have already been challenged by the Arab uprisings, U.S. tax dollars also continue to finance Israeli settlement expansion in Jerusalem and other such crimes against the Palestinian people. This is why it is essential for Americans to remain active in the push for a free Palestine through non-violent means, and they increasingly are. College campuses across the United States are organizing students to oppose Israeli oppression through non-violent campaigns such as the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement. Hundreds of Palestine solidarity activists from around the U.S. converged last October for a student conference at Columbia University to organize a national campaign. Palestine continues to be a priority for those in the U.S. who seek justice in the Middle East. So while the U.S. government continues to harass American solidarity activists, they must remain steadfast in their support for their Palestinian counterparts through initiatives such as GMJ-NA, the North American division of the Global March to Jerusalem.
The GMJ is focusing on the particular issue of Jerusalem because the holy city has come to embody the violence of an enduring occupation. As Professor Zurayk explains, “What is going on in Jerusalem today symbolizes everything that the Zionist movement has been doing for the past 65 years,” where the state of Israel has “been trying to take the land of Palestine by force as well as through more insidious strategies and tactics.” In this way “Jerusalem symbolizes the struggles of the Palestinian people in opposing the Zionist control and hegemony over their land.”
While the international community has been concentrating on the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood at the United Nations, and solidarity activists have been engaged in the struggle to end the siege of Gaza, the situation for Palestinians living in the holy city of Jerusalem has been deteriorating at an incredible rate. Over the last few years, Zionist efforts to Judaize the city have quickened pace, erasing Jerusalem’s physical, cultural and spiritual characteristics. According to a report released by the Middle East Monitor, this process of Judaization has involved the unrestricted expansion and funding of illegal Israeli settlements, the continued dispossession and demolition of Palestinian property, and the construction of a Separation Wall surrounding the city, all of which have changed the demographics of the holy city from a Palestinian to Jewish majority.
In response, Palestinians have now called upon the international community to join them in this peaceful march on March 30, Palestine Land Day, so that they can preserve the status of Jerusalem as a holy city for all humans. Ayoub says that Jerusalem “means a lot to me as I am Palestinian,” but he also adds that it means something to “all of the humans and free people of this world.”
Indeed the GMJ principles of unity assert the importance of Jerusalem politically, culturally and religiously to the Palestinian people and to humanity as a whole. These principles of unity also require a commitment to nonviolent civil resistance in this struggle to liberate Jerusalem from Zionist occupation.
The international participants of the GMJ represent a diverse coalition of voices from various Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and other religious and non-religious communities. The GMJ now has endorsements from individuals including Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa, Palestinian democracy activist Mustafa Barghouti, who speaks about the GMJ and its urgency:
Also joining these international participants is former US ambassador and counter-terrorism deputy chief Edward Peck, anti-war activist Medea Benjamin, international law professor Richard Falk, and public intellectual Tariq Ali.
As Indian solidarity activist and GMJ architect Feroze Mithiborwala says, “This year in Jerusalem.” We hope to see all of you there in spring.
Marusek and Gupta are both actively involved with GMJ-NA, an independent and autonomous coalition of North American groups planning to join this non-violent march. Details of this effort can be found at: www.gmj-na.org