From the July 2011 Fertile Ground newsletter.

Our newest Board member, Waziyatawin, just returned from a visit to occupied Palestine with a delegation of Indigenous and women of color feminists. In addition to committing to understanding how to be a better solidarity activist, she was particularly interested in understanding the similarities in the experiences under colonial occupation between Palestinian people and Indigenous people in North America. As an anti-colonial scholar and activist committed to the liberation of Indigenous Peoples and homelands, Waziyatawin was also interested in understanding the ways in which Palestinian people survive, challenge, and resist settler-colonialism. Upon their return to the United States, the delegation of women issued this declaration:

Justice for Palestine
A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Color Feminists

Between June 14 and June 23, 2011, a delegation of 11 scholars, activists, and artists visited occupied Palestine. As indigenous and women of color feminists involved in multiple social justice struggles, we sought to affirm our association with the growing international movement for a free Palestine. We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us—including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the U.S.—was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.

During our short stay in Palestine, we met with academics, students, youth, leaders of civic organizations, elected officials, trade unionists, political leaders, artists, and civil society activists, as well as residents of refugee camps and villages that have been recently attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Everyone we encountered—in Nablus, Awarta, Balata, Jerusalem, Hebron, Dheisheh, Bethlehem, Birzeit, Ramallah, Um el-Fahem, and Haifa—asked us to tell the truth about life under occupation and about their unwavering commitment to a free Palestine. We were deeply impressed by people’s insistence on the linkages between the movement for a free Palestine and struggles for justice throughout the world; as Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted throughout his life, “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Traveling by bus throughout the country, we saw vast numbers of Israeli settlements ominously perched in the hills, bearing witness to the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land in flagrant violation of international law and United Nations resolutions. We met with refugees across the country whose families had been evicted from their homes by Zionist forces, their land confiscated, their villages and olive groves razed. As a consequence of this ongoing displacement, Palestinians comprise the largest refugee population in the world (over five million), the majority living within 100 kilometers of their natal homes, villages, and farmlands. In defiance of United Nations Resolution 194, Israel has an active policy of opposing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes and lands on the grounds that they are not entitled to exercise the Israeli Law of Return, which is reserved for Jews.

In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in eastern occupied Jerusalem, we met an 88-year-old woman who was forcibly evicted in the middle of the night; she watched as the Israeli military moved settlers into her house a mere two hours later. Now living in the small back rooms of what was once her large family residence, she defiantly asserted that neither Israel’s courts nor its military could ever force her from her home. In the city of Hebron, we were stunned by the conspicuous presence of Israeli soldiers, who maintain veritable conditions of apartheid for the city’s Palestinian population of almost 200,000, as against its 700 Jewish settlers. We crossed several Israeli checkpoints designed to control Palestinian movement on West Bank roads and along the Green Line. Throughout our stay, we met Palestinians who, because of Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem and plans to remove its native population, have been denied entry to the Holy City. We spoke to a man who lives ten minutes away from Jerusalem but who has not been able to enter the city for twenty-seven years. The Israeli government thus continues to wage a demographic war for Jewish dominance over the Palestinian population.

We were never able to escape the jarring sight of the ubiquitous apartheid wall, which stands in contempt of international law and human rights principles. Constructed of twenty-five-foot-high concrete slabs, electrified cyclone fencing, and winding razor wire, it almost completely encloses the West Bank and extends well east of the Green Line marking Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It snakes its way through ancient olive groves, destroying the beauty of the landscape, dividing communities and families, severing farmers from their fields and depriving them of their livelihood. In Abu Dis, the wall cuts across the campus of Al Quds University through the soccer field. In Qalqiliya, we saw massive gates built to control the entry and access of Palestinians to their lands and homes, including a gated corridor through which Palestinians with increasingly rare Israeli-issued permits are processed as they enter Israel for work, sustaining the very state that has displaced them. Palestinian children are forced through similar corridors, lining-up for hours twice each day to attend school. As one Palestinian colleague put it, “Occupied Palestine is the largest prison in the world.”

An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses resistance. Everywhere we went we met people who had either been imprisoned themselves or had relatives who had been incarcerated. Twenty thousand Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons, at least 8,000 of them are political prisoners and more than 300 are children. In Jerusalem, we met with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who are being protected from arrest by the International Committee of the Red Cross. In Um el-Fahem, we met with an Islamist leader just after his release from prison and heard a riveting account of his experience on the Mavi Marmara and the 2010 Gaza Flotilla. The criminalization of their political activity, and that of the many Palestinians we met, was a constant and harrowing theme.

We also came to understand how overt repression is buttressed by deceptive representations of the state of Israel as the most developed social democracy in the region. As feminists, we deplore the Israeli practice of “pink-washing,” the state’s use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to dress-up its occupation. In Palestine, we consistently found evidence and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice. We met the President and the leadership of the Arab Feminist Union and several other women’s groups in Nablus who spoke about the role and struggles of Palestinian women on several fronts. We visited one of the oldest women’s empowerment centers in Palestine, In’ash al-Usra, and learned about various income-generating cultural projects. We also spoke with Palestinian Queers for BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], young organizers who frame the struggle for gender and sexual justice as part and parcel of a comprehensive framework for self-determination and liberation. Feminist colleagues at Birzeit University, An-Najah University, and Mada al-Carmel spoke to us about the organic linkage of anti-colonial resistance with gender and sexual equality, as well as about the transformative role Palestinian institutions of higher education play in these struggles.

We were continually inspired by the deep and abiding spirit of resistance in the stories people told us, in the murals inside buildings such as Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, in slogans painted on the apartheid wall in Qalqiliya, Bethlehem, and Abu Dis, in the education of young children, and in the commitment to emancipatory knowledge production. At our meeting with the Boycott National Committee—an umbrella alliance of over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the General Union of Palestinian Women, the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI], and the Palestinian Network of NGOs—we were humbled by their appeal: “We are not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the Israeli state.”

Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation.

We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the U.S. and elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end U.S. financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation. We call upon all people of conscience to engage in serious dialogue about Palestine and to acknowledge connections between the Palestinian cause and other struggles for justice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University*
Ayoka Chenzira, artist and filmmaker, Atlanta, GA
Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz*
Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz*
G. Melissa Garcia, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University*
Anna Romina Guevarra, author and sociologist, Chicago, IL
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, author, Atlanta, GA
Premilla Nadasen, author, New York, NY
Barbara Ransby, author and historian, Chicago, IL
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University*
Waziyatawin, University of Victoria*

*For identification purposes only

For press inquiries, please contact feministdelegation@gmail.com.
 

Solidarity

08/14/2011

 
From the June 2011 Fertile Ground newsletter.

Solidarity.’  That’s what you said to me as we stared into the blinding headlights of imperialism.  Except your ‘r’s’ sound like ‘w’s’ so what I heard was, ‘solidawity.’
 
I can’t tell you how much it helped me to hear that single word as we stood there having a stare down with the state, our hands locked tightly to each other’s.  The cops hadn’t arrived yet, and all we could do was stand our ground and hold our breath so that we didn’t drown in our own anticipation.  The driver had stopped the truck just a few feet from us, and our bones were shaking from the rumbling engine—or was it the chill of the night?
 
We had done it, I thought.  For the next fifteen minutes we would be a wrench in the gears of the U.S. war machine.  This truck that was carrying military equipment slated for deployment in Iraq, this beast of domination, would NOT arrive at its destination on time.  You and I made sure of that.
 
Of course I knew, as you did, that this single act of rebellion wouldn’t really do shit towards making any real meaningful change.  It was a statement.  I’d spent the last year with increasingly boiling blood as I learned more and more about the military industrial complex—not just about how it was operating in Iraq, but how it had already conquered much of the world.  People everywhere were suffering because a few people with power perceived that they owned resources that just happened to find their way onto someone else’s land, and they had the military muscle to take them.  And it was that word you said—‘solidarity’—that made me remember those suffering people.  That’s why we were standing there in the middle of an overpass at 2 o’clock in the morning blocking a truck that belonged to the United States military.  We were saying ‘fuck you’ to imperialism, ‘fuck you’ to the police, ‘from all the people that you’re screwing over, fuck you.’
 
And then your grip tightened suddenly and that sense of solidarity I was feeling quickly returned to the cold of the night.  It returned to you and me.  Those fifteen minutes had seemed like hours, and now we noticed in the reflection of the truck’s cab windows the red and blue lights of police cruisers.
 
‘Solidawity.’  You said it again.  It strengthened my resolve.  I began to take deep breaths because I was finding it more and more difficult to take in air.  But suddenly breathing didn’t matter anymore.  Six cops surprised us from behind.  A hand grabbed a huge chunk of my hair and was pulling my head back.  Our hands were ripped apart.  My feet were suddenly knocked from beneath me.  I went down hard.  My breath was gone.  When I opened my eyes I watched your jaw hit the pavement as the cops threw you down.  Our arms were twisted behind us and used to keep us immobile.  Solidarity.  I kept saying it to myself to hold back the waves of fear.  We were hoisted up and made to stand against the guardrail of the overpass.  The people in cars passing under us on the freeway were watching.
 
Solidarity.  I looked over and saw that your chin was gushing blood.  A tear was running down your cheek.  Solidarity.  And then that asshole cop strolled over to us and said that he didn’t like your tone.  You weren’t saying anything.  His face was inches from yours, and you just kept staring straight ahead.  ‘Why are you talking like that to me, boy?’ the cop asked you.  ‘Why don’t you just keep talking and see what happens?’  That fucker.  He could have picked either of us to harass, and he chose the one of us who had brown skin.  I wanted to throw him over the guardrail, but I couldn’t imagine what you were feeling.
 
We were thrown in the back of a police car.  You leaned your head against the plastic divider in front of us and closed your eyes.  And just as I was thinking it, you said it.  ‘Solidawity.’

Dillon Thomson is the lead lecturer and archivist for Fertile Ground.  He has been an active member of the board since its founding in 2009.  Dillon's love for wildness and the diversity of life fuels his passion for resistance.  He has honed his public speaking talents by lecturing for various classes at Western Washington University and along the west coast in preparation for a national tour in the fall of 2011.
 
 
From the February 2011 Fertile Ground newsletter.

Within the field of activism, one is discouraged from claiming certain
truths. It is now only to be expected that if you appeal to others that “The
world is being murdered!” you face the usual reproach—“We can’t truly
murder the world; there will always be bacteria of some sort; life will prevail;
etc.” Never mind that this logic is false: climate scientists claim that runaway
climate change could produce a lifeless Earth similar to Venus, with a carbon
saturated atmosphere incapable of supporting life.. More crucial though is to
recognize the emotional-political disarming in these reactions. It is as if the
underlying message reads “Things aren’t as bad as you say they are, since if
they were, everything I’m doing now becomes meaningless; I would have to
call everything I know into question and consider serious political
confrontation!”We see this habit elsewhere with certain progressives.
It seems so typical that most of us know the situation by heart. As we discuss the kind of world we’d like to inhabit, the ways cultures prior (and present) resemble our desires, someone inevitably steps in, regarding themselves highly as having seen through this deception. “I think we have to be careful”--
it usually starts this way—“not to romanticize other ways of life.” We should again focus not on what they directly say—of course there’s no utopian society conceived in the traditional manner—but instead on the message riding beneath: “Things couldn’t be that much better than they are now, since if they could, I’d have to then acknowledge that our civilized lives have been stunted, that we’re immersed in a global tragedy, etc.”

Statements of this sort attempt to ground themselves in the guise of rationality, which is a common characteristic of a Left still unable to abandon certain Enlightenment ideals (see Dream review). As if afraid to
dream again, a considerable number of leftists settle for the current social-political-economic framework, attempting only to work within that structure. The job of any activist today—and this is possibly the simplest distinction between radical and liberal theory—is not to operate within the given coordinates of social reality but to change the very coordinates themselves. One doesn’t struggle against capitalism by first accepting the premises of individual property rights, infinite growth, or free trade; and so on. We will not stop until the land is safe, until life can flourish; whatever stands in our way—capitalism, industrialization—is secondary. We’re told that our beliefs are naïve, unrealistic, failing to conform to the conditions of reality. It is at this point that one knows they’ve hit a chord, since if our strategy assumed only that which is declared possible by the dominant worldview, we wouldn’t get anywhere. Or—to say it differently—the dominant ideology refers only to itself; it never points to the way out.


Forget what you know. (It seems today that we know too much.) Why not risk a little—try thinking again. There’s a much deeper reading of the worn-out phrase ‘question authority’; it’s not asking you to ignore those silly puppets (some call them politicians), but to question those very systems of knowledge and belief we’veinternalized ourselves, the very water in which we swim.
 

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08/12/2011

 
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