Sunday, 3 February 2008

The Power of the Powerless

"Last night I received a text message from my dear friend Fida: "It's coming down -- it's coming down!" she declared ecstatically. "Laila! The Palestinians destroyed the Rafah wall, all of it. All of it not part of it! Your sister, Fida." More texts followed, as I received periodical updates on the situation in Rafah, where it was 3am. "Two hours ago people were praising God everywhere. The metal wall was cut and destroyed. So was the cement one. It is great, Laila, it is great," she declared."
Laila El-Haddad writing from the US on the Electronic Intifada website

Last week saw an extraordinary uprising against injustice from a stateless people. To recap on recent history: In the Gaza Ghetto, under siege, blockaded, electricity shut off, one and a half million people are forced to live like rats in a trap in the biggest open air prison on earth. This is one of the darkest chapters in the 60 years of dispossession that fate has visited on the people of Palestine.

With the siege becoming increasingly brutal and mediaeval a 'danse macabre' of famine, disease and disorder threatens. The Palestinian house is divided with US backed President Abbas acting like the Marshall Petain of the Middle East against democratically elected Hamas. Meanwhile the Israeli government (encouraged by the United States and the EU) reject every offer of a truce from the Palestinian resistance, preferring a scorched earth policy of trying to destabilise one of the few democratically elected administration's in the region.

Then militants blow holes in the prison walls that surround the people and, in biblical scenes, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children pour into Egypt pushing back the police and soldiers of the Mubarak regime to bring back desperately needed food and supplies. This is mass direct action straight out of the movie Gandhi. It's like the fall of the Berlin Wall, for a brief moment, Rafah is the Brandenburg gate. It is a moment of liberation - symbolic and real - that will resonate for a long time. The long freeze that has seen the Palestinian national movement at an impasse has been broken by a mass movement from below. Across the Arab world, the dying regime of Egyptian despot, Mubarak has also been exposed as his soldiers desperately tried to truncheon the prisoners back into their prison. Millions now know the bitter truth: The Arab regimes are not the allies of Palestinian liberation, they are the obstacles to liberation.

What will happen next nobody knows. Palestinians have made it clear that they will never submit to being herded into reservations like cattle, nor will they end their resistance, because for them resistance equals existence. The friends of Palestine are many and growing in numbers, but their enemies are immensely powerful. They form an axis of evil that runs from the White House to occupied Jerusalem, and this axis extends to the capitals and palaces of an Arab continent bound in chains by repressive regimes who do the dirty work of the West. One thing is certain, we in Cardiff RESPECT will do our utmost to build solidarity for all people struggling for justice and peace in the Middle East. A fuse has been lit by this anti-colonial struggle that will burn for a long time, and so many heroic acts have been witnessed in the last week so that children might have bread to eat. Dr Martin Luther King once said, 'an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere': Now is the time to intensify the struggle to end Israeli aparthied.

There is something fitting that George Habash, veteran leftist, lived just long enough to see the birth of a new mass movement. Habash was to die - in exile, a penniless but defiant refugee - just at the moment the torch of liberty was passed to a new generation.

His life spanned the entire epic of Palestinian history: From the Arab Revolt of 1936 that required three-quarters of the British army to put it down, to the catastrophe of 1948 when Palestine disappeared from the map of the world, from the defeat of 1967, to the dark days of Black September and the expulsion of the PLO in ships from Beirut in the 80s. The organisation he was to found was to play a courageous role in the years of fire and ash that marked the first intifada, and he will always be remembered for his far-sighted rejection of the fraudulent Oslo peace process that promised “a kingdom of illusions with the Israelis firmly in charge”.

Adam Johannes, RESPECT member (Roath Branch)

O those who pass between fleeting words
Carry your names, and be gone
Rid our time of your hours, and be gone
Steal what you will from the blueness of the sea
And the sand of memory
Take what pictures you will, so that you understand
That which you never will:
How a stone from our land builds the ceiling of our sky.

O those who pass between fleeting words
From you the sword -- from us the blood
From you steel and fire -- from us our flesh
From you yet another tank -- from us stones
From you teargas -- from us rain
Above us, as above you, are sky and air
So take your share of our blood -- and be gone
Go to a dancing party -- and be gone
As for us, we have to water the martyrs' flowers
As for us, we have to live as we see fit.

O those who pass between fleeting words
As bitter dust, go where you wish, but
Do not pass between us like flying insects
For we have work to do in our land:
We have wheat to grow which we water with our bodies' dew
We have that which does not please you here: Stones or partridges
So take the past, if you wish, to the antiquities market
And return the skeleton to the hoopoe, if you wish,
On a clay platter
We have that which does not please you here: we have the future
And we have things to do in our land.

O those who pass between fleeting words
Pile your illusions in a deserted pit, and be gone
Return the hand of time to the law of the golden calf
Or to the time of the revolvers's music!
For we have that which does not please you here,
So be gone
And we have what you lack:
A bleeding homeland of a bleeding people
A homeland fit for oblivion or memory
O those who pass between fleeting words
It is time for you to be gone
Live wherever you like, but do not live among us
It is time for you to be gone
Die wherever you like, but do not live among us
It is time for you to be gone
Die wherever you like, but do not die among us
For we have work to do in our land
We have the past here
We have the first cry of life
We have the present, the present and the future
We have this world here, and the hereafter
So leave our country
Our land, our sea
Our wheat, our salt, our wounds
Everything, and leave
The memories of memory
O those who pass between fleeting words!

Mahmoud Darwish
translator unknown


EmmaRossculp said...

It's great how connected to the world you are. I find myself seeking oblivion more then anything.

EmmaRossculp said...

I don't mean to say i ignore the happenings of the world. I would have to say i know a bit more than the average american. Most people in my school don't even know about the Khmer Rouge.

Alex said...

What do you think of this ? Shoher is arguably the most right Israeli today, but he argues Israel should talk to Hamas as Egypt will not maintain the blockade of Gaza.

Respectable Citizen said...

Hamas are the democratically elected administration (I don't use the word 'government' because Palestine is not a free, sovereign state - yet!), so to negotiate with them is a good idea!

Of course, a key question, is negotiate over what? The defining feature of all "peace" processes and "peace" accords has been the failure to meet the key minimum requirements: A complete end to the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, dismantling of all settlements and the implementation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees (the majority of Palestinianian live outside of Palestine and form one of the largest and most persistent refugee populations in history).

A peace process which isn't built around these core-demands is a dead end.

Unfortunately, the defining feature of most West-backed peace processes has been the myth that Palestinians are the aggressor rather than an occupied people.

Adam Johannes, Cardiff RESPECT

PS. Interesting blogs you edit, are you Cardiff based?