Since 2014, the movement for Palestinian liberation has opened up new fronts for struggle and solidarity, winning growing support in the United States for the Palestinian struggle in a whole host of movements, institutions, and popular opinion at large. This shift has even been evident in the realm of electoral politics, where an unprecedented support for Palestine has been exhibited, most effectively by Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib’s support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Both Tlaib’s support of a one-state solution and Omar’s uncompromising criticism of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) challenge the entrenchment of Zionism in U.S. politics.
While a congressperson openly supporting BDS may have seemed impossible only a few years ago, the shifting political terrain in the United States cannot be simply attributed to the bravery of politicians. This political opening must be attributed to the grassroots organizations and organizers – some of whom are interviewed in this dossier – who continue to fight tirelessly for Palestinian liberation. We have seen increasing successes of BDS – from students getting their universities to divest, artists cancelling their shows in Israel, to Airbnb removing its listings from Israeli settlements. Organizers have ended police exchange programs between the United States and Israel and challenged militarization, as illustrated in the success of the Stop Urban Shield coalition. We’ve also witnessed new articulations of the relationship between Black, Indigenous and Palestinian liberation, with activists working across movements. The equation between Zionism and Judaism has been challenged as Jewish comrades have pushed against this formulation, instead renouncing Zionism as a form of colonial and imperial violence.
Indeed, the horizon of justice that the movement for Palestinian liberation seeks has never been determined by electoral politics. Organizers in the movement know that liberation will never be achieved by pleading with the U.S. political establishment to defend Palestinian life..
It is significant that this dossier is released on March 30, or Land Day. This date commemorates the 1976 general strike called by Palestinians in ‘48 Palestine against the Israeli expropriation of their land. ‘48 Palestine refers to the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948, when over 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their land and made into refugees. For Palestinians, the Nakba is not a one-time event but an ongoing process in which genocide, displacement, and land expropriation are continuous. The Israeli military and police responded to the popular protests of Land Day with repression and violence, injuring hundreds of Palestinians and murdering six – Kheir Mohammad Salim Yasin, Raja Hussein Abu Rayya, Khadija Qasem Shawahneh, Khader Edi Mahmoud Khalayleh, Raafat Ali Al-Zheiri, and Muhsin Hasan Said Taha. In the words of a 1981 Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Bulletin, the events and subsequent events of Land Day “definitively [merged] the struggle of those Palestinians under occupation since 1948 with those under occupation since 1967.” While Land Day represents the centrality of land to the Palestinian struggle, it also illustrates the common struggle shared by all Palestinians – whether in Gaza, the West Bank, historic Palestine or in the diaspora – against settler colonialism.
One year ago, on the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, Palestinians in Gaza began to mobilize around the Great March of Return. Initially, the plan was to protest every Friday from Land Day to May 15 – the 70th anniversary of the Nakba – but the energy of the protests have carried on for a year, with tens of thousands of Palestinians showing up every Friday. They are demanding an end to Israel’s siege and fighting for their right to return to the lands from which they were forcibly displaced. Since the start of the Great March of Return, Israel’s military has injured over 30,000 protesters and killed over 256 Palestinians. Despite the relentless violence of the Israeli state, these ongoing protests have been a testament to the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in challenging settler-colonization and in asserting their determination for a liberated future.
If one understands settler-colonialism as having a past, present, and planned future, the Great March of Return, at its core, cripples the structures of violence that the Israeli state imposes and plans to continue to impose, on Palestinians. The Great March of Return simultaneously disrupts a liberal humanitarian narrative that renders Palestinians as victims, incapable of political agency, and a Zionist mythology that paints them as “imminent threats” who must be dealt with through tear gas, bombs, and bullets. These formulations attempt to isolate Gazans from Palestine, the rest of the world, and from other movements, transforming Gaza into either a humanitarian or security issue. However, the protestors of the Great Return March wage their struggle against the ongoing Nakba as part of an international, anti-imperialist project. Included in this dossier is an interview with Ahmed Abu Artema, one of the March’s organizers, who calls for worldwide mobilizations: “We need people and numbers to disrupt the Occupation, to deliver a strong message that the siege and imprisonment of 1.8 million people is not a natural or acceptable condition. And to support those who are there, living and surviving every day.”
This week Israel has started, yet again, to bomb Gaza, strategically timed right before today’s Land Day protests in which Palestinians have continued to wage their struggle for return. It remains all the more necessary for organizers to reflect upon the movement in the United States and to share resources and strategies with one another.
All of the remaining organizations participating in this dossier are U.S.-based organizations or U.S. chapters of international organizations. While they do not share all of the same strategies, histories, or analyses, they share the commonality of being rooted in a politics of internationalism, joint struggle, and anti-imperialism. As many organizations noted in their responses, they do not see their work as merely “in solidarity.” Rather, they – especially Palestinian organizers in diaspora – articulate their organizing as inextricably linked to the struggle against Zionist colonization and imperialism in occupied Palestine. What unites these organizations is an analysis that the struggle against settler-colonialism, racial capitalism, and imperialism cannot be disarticulated from the struggle for freedom in Palestine.
In this context, this dossier has sought to identify groups whose politics and organizing exceed and challenge the framework of liberal humanitarianism. As noted by various organizations, the erasure of Palestine as an anti-colonial struggle, the fragmentation of organizing in the post-Oslo era, and the NGOization and professionalization of Palestine organizing have been obstacles that U.S.-based movement work has been confronted with. The featured organizations represent a radical pole of Palestine organizing in the United States that, in various ways, have responded to such challenges. They are engaged in broad strategies of organizing: building transnationally with other anti-imperialist movements, documenting and highlighting the ongoing struggles in Palestine, organizing Arab communities in the United States, defending and supporting Palestinian prisoners, initiating cultural programs for Arab youth, building with indigenous communities of Turtle Island in their struggle against settler-colonialism, launching and passing BDS campaigns, organizing against police violence and militarization, fighting repression, and more.
We hope that this roundtable can function as a resource and archive for people committed to the Palestinian struggle for freedom and liberation. More importantly, we hope that this roundtable initiates debates, questions, and conversations, opening the space for the movement to further assess existing barriers, reflect upon the current political moment, develop political analysis, and strategize for a liberated Palestine.
Ahmed Abu Artema reminds us that the struggle of those in Palestine is not elsewhere: “We are in the same struggle, fighting the same fight. The struggle is connected because it is about ending oppression, and ending oppression is a goal that will benefit humanity in its entirety.” The fight for Palestinian liberation, in the United States, Palestine, and throughout the globe, offers a powerful model for the emergence of a popular internationalism, one which takes seriously all struggles for freedom.