Tuesday 20 January 2009

In Memory of Martin Luther King

"...Today, it is the much-sought- after equality, freedom, and morality in policy that are glaringly missing in the US political system, particularly towards the Palestinians. It is a policy driven by the same racism and greed that enslaved Africans and segregated against them, obliterated Native Americans, interned Japanese Americans, nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and conquered so many around the world. For there to be "Hope", and for the incoming president to assume the moral position set forth by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is incumbent upon him to rise to the challenge of those who swept him into office - the millions of shoulders injured by colonial bigotry and hate – who especially today continue to challenge that same hate as it destroys the lives of the Palestinians in the most vicious manner..."

Yousef Abudayyeh

Today, as the Palestinian people continue to search for their dead in the Gaza Strip and bury their scorched children, mothers, and fathers, the United States as whole, the very custodian of Zionist bigotry and colonial malice, is recognizing a champion of civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is a man that the US imprisoned, beat, accused of treason, and ridiculed before it celebrated, and only after he was assassinated. He is a preacher of a people whose churches were firebombed and burned to the ground, just like Palestinian mosques and churches; and against whom the US segregated, on whom it set vicious dogs, beat with batons, rifles and fire hoses. This is a people whose leadership and everyday activists in the struggle for equality were shot at, assassinated, and indeed, lynched by mindless mobs supported by public policy. They are a people whose history is relegated to the margins, whose art and cultural expressions robbed by others, whose youth remain subject to the combined brutalities of poverty, wretch racism, and police powers.

In the context of the amplified suffering of the past 23 days and in recognition of the proud resilience of the Palestinian people, sadly yet proudly, the likeness to the Palestinian struggle is enormous. Be it African American or Palestinian, geography is perhaps the only difference.

Today, on Tuesday, January 20, and as displaced Palestinians continue to return to homes bombed by US Apaches and F-16 fighter jets, these same United States will be inaugurating the first African American president. The US will do so as it hangs a faulty fa├žade to hide away the long and brutal legacy of slavery, butchery, and institutional bigotry – perhaps in an attempt to wish it all away, if only for a day, lest it is remembered by its recipients. But make no mistake about it, this is a president who stands squarely and totally on the immeasurable dignified shoulders of all those who braved the viciousness, cruelty, institutional racism and overt bigotry of Jim Crow, Joseph McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace, and so many more like them, including George W. Bush - just as the Palestinians today brave the cruelty imposed by the institutional racism and system of Apartheid that constitute the very essence of Zionism.

For President Obama to stand on these dignified shoulders, he now has an obligation to do what is right – to take even the smallest steps in that direction, all while he remembers that "yes, he can". This is not a choice in any way. Obama has an obligation to place equality in morality; and to place morality in public policy, both foreign and domestic. And when he finds out that the US system of government and geopolitical interests do not allow him so, he must make the change he championed. To this day, he has been a follower not a leader on these critical issues.

Today, it is the much-sought- after equality, freedom, and morality in policy that are glaringly missing in the US political system, particularly towards the Palestinians. It is a policy driven by the same racism and greed that enslaved Africans and segregated against them, obliterated Native Americans, interned Japanese Americans, nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and conquered so many around the world. For there to be "Hope", and for the incoming president to assume the moral position set forth by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is incumbent upon him to rise to the challenge of those who swept him into office - the millions of shoulders injured by colonial bigotry and hate – who especially today continue to challenge that same hate as it destroys the lives of the Palestinians in the most vicious manner.

Today and tomorrow, the Palestinians will be burying their dead with endless tears and anguish, but they too will also be celebrating their journey - for they will continue to rise from the ashes of a firebomb, hurled by Zionists or the KKK – it is all the same - to continue their march forward to liberation. And the remains of the dead will undoubtedly evolve into a monument of steadfast and a memorial of emancipation for generations to come.

The Destruction:

At the conclusion of 22 days of a murderous campaign in the Gaza Strip by the Zionist army paid for by US tax dollars, the Zionist polity announced a "unilateral cease fire." Utilizing a diplomatic cover by the US, Arab regimes, and Western Europe, the defeated Zionists are setting a trap and are spreading a dangerous lie. Having achieved not even one of its goals, the Israeli leadership is opting for a change in tactic.

As of today, at least 1,300 Palestinians have been murdered and more than 5,500 have been injured, with a minimum of 500 in very critical conditions, including severe phosphorous burns. The number of killed Palestinians is expected to continue to rise as more decomposed and dismembered bodies of family members are uncovered from under the destruction, similar to the 100 bodies already uncovered yesterday. Children comprise at least 420 of the murdered and 2,000 of the injured, many are infants and toddlers. Many families were wiped in their entirety, as they were huddled together to escape the indiscriminate bombings.

More than 20,000 buildings have been damaged with over 4,000 fully destroyed. Mosques, churches, schools, hospitals, UN compounds, most streets, sport clubs and stadiums, ports, and the Gaza beach were shelled with high impact conventional explosives and white phosphorous bombs. At least 50 UN facilities sustained damage. The UN alone is currently operating 50 emergency shelters for more than 50,000 displaced people. The actual number of displaced is unknown as many are with families, or have refused to go to shelters lest they are attacked. Gaza City's wastewater treatment facility was shelled, causing the lagoon that holds 2 million liters of sewage to leak to surrounding agricultural and other sensitive areas.

In 22 days, at least 2,500 air strikes were carried out, not including the continuous sea and land artillery shelling from gunboats and tanks, with no less than 1,000 tons of explosives dropped on a tiny area of land. This estimate is certain to be revised upward once an investigation is completed in the sort of firepower used. It is estimated that no less than $1.6 billion would be needed to bring the Gaza Strip to an operating minimum.

The Cease Fire:

Astonishingly enough, the Israeli Zionist leadership did exactly what was expected: attack a civilian population for 3 solid weeks, pull back when it can't go forward due to a solid resistance, and race to declare victory despite defeat. Never mind that not only none of its goals were met, not one, but also the reversal actually occurred.

Victory of what, we ask? The resistance forces are that much stronger politically, and that much more supported nationally and internationally. The ability of the resistance remains fully intact, albeit affected by the assault. The Palestinian people embraced rather than turn against the resistance, with an unbelievable display of solidarity, dignity and order even in the face of destruction. In fact, while the Israelis and Abbas were hoping for looting, robbery, and chaos following the attacks, the exact opposite took place – mutual solidarity and popular support on a scale not seen before. The Arab regimes are increasingly weak and embarrassed and are no longer able to sustain the mandated obedient functionary role. The US is at odds with its Arab allies, particularly Egypt. Monarchs are racing to pump financial support. Resistance parties occupied center stage at a major emergency Arab Summit while Abbas would not dare to attend. Mahmud Abbas has been made much weaker. His henchmen are nearly disappearing. And his ability to speak of the Oslo package is significantly challenged. Nations have begun to cut relations with the Israeli polity, and war crime charges are about to fill courts on an unprecedented scale.

Consider the Economic Summit held in Kuwait yesterday which was supposed to include those with allegiance to the US. The Israeli polity had expected that the participants of that summit would go to political and economic war against the participants of the Qatar emergency Gaza Summit, which featured the resistance parties, Syria, and Iran. Nothing of the sort took place. The two flanks of the Arab political spectrum announced that they are unified, and the Saudis even started speaking of withdrawing the Arab Initiative. Essentially, Zionist brutality is embarrassing Arab despotic regimes to a point that they could no longer go on with business as usual without some movement to absorb the boiling popular anger. At this point, one of the main areas where the Israeli atrocities precipitated a major loss for the Zionist is the end of the normalization process on a popular level. For many years, Arab regimes, namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority under Abbas, have attempted to implement a long term Zionist normalization process on all levels, including economic, political, cultural, and security. This process is now faced with major challenges making it impossible to implement.

On a military level, the Israeli invading forces could not once display areas and instances where they have captured prisoners, confiscated arms, or imprisoned leadership. There was no surrender by anyone. There were no scenes of defection. There were no scenes of capture of command centers. The only scenes were of massive destruction and murdered children, elderly and families. While the leadership of some of the resistance forces sustained casualties in terms of injury and death, such did not impact the level of resistance to a point that until the day Israel announced its cease fire, the Palestinians were responding at the same level. The resistance movement never accepted any conditions, regardless of who delivered or attempted to market these conditions, be it Egyptian intelligence officers or otherwise. It never accepted to cease responding to the brutality and suffocation of the Israeli Zionist polity.

Even the agreement between the US and Israel on joint control of the Palestinian- Egyptian border was rejected by the Egyptian regime, which found itself fully humiliated and marginalized. This was to a point that the Egyptian regime had to hold its own summit with European powers and the Jordanian monarch to salvage whatever it had left of credibility as the prime obedient functionary of the region. Another sign of the defeated Zionist forces, as these summits and meetings serve to provide Arab regimes and the Israeli political establishment with a means to unilaterally quit the campaign using some forum of political cover, never mind the fact that none of the intended goals were achieved

So we ask: What victory? It is a Zionist defeat if there was ever one, similar to that in Lebanon in 2006. Gone forever are the days when the Israeli army was seen as unbeatable. Gone are the days when those beating the drums of surrender could be heard or even entertained for a moment. Gone are the days when it was thought that savagery of attacks would ever bring the Palestinians and Arabs to their knees. This is a time of dignity and resilience, not of capitulation and surrender. What Zionist victory, we ask? It is a defeat if there was ever one!

Here, the FPA is clear that the so-called cease fire is nothing but a charade to allow future assaults to take place under the guise that it is the Palestinians who are violating the terms of the so-called cease fire. Let it be clear to all that the blockade and siege were not lifted. The starvation and suffocation continue. The imprisonment of 1.5 millions has not changed, and the crossings were not opened. Lest some are misguided by the announcements by Israel - no, the occupation was not ended. A political discourse has not been set in place to allow for a realization of liberation, return, and independence. In that regards, the cease fire amounts to an attempt by the Zionists to regroup for a come-back at a later day. We are under no illusion that this will not be the last massacre, so long as Zionist armament remains aimed at the Palestinian people. The tanks pulled to the boundary of the tiny Gaza Strip of 365 square kilometers, ready to return for another failed attempt, just as they have done in the past in South Lebanon.

Once again, we remind all that the same areas that were bombed by the Zionist army were also bombed and destroyed in the early seventies. Yet, the Palestinians remained strong. In fact, the people at the receiving end of this latest assault are the same ones that were expelled first in 1948 from their homes, then again in 1967, and later attacked in the early seventies and into the eighties and beyond.

This latest cease fire exposed the failure of the US-Israeli-Arab regime axis in destroying the Palestinian resistance, just as it failed in 1948, then in 1970 in Jordan, in 1978 and 1982 in Lebanon, during the eighties and early nineties during the 1987 Intifada, and throughout the years of the most recent Intifada into the Janine and Gaza massacres. Hence, while colonial projects kept creeping onto the Palestinians, the conscience of the people and their ability to withstand massive destruction has been monumental. It continues on!

To this day, 60 years into conquest and the Zionist polity is unable to extract the national belonging of the Palestinian Arab people, especially within 1948 borders. This is true to a point that recently the Zionist polity had to ban Arab parties from running in Israeli parliamentary elections, hence once and for all dropping even the feeble fig leaf the Zionists once had. This occurred as a testament to the sharpness of the dichotomy between the Zionist movement and the Palestinian liberation movement – A dichotomy that has reached an apex and is headed to a new beginning.

Of major concern is the price of the financial support the Saudis and other Gulf countries will attempt to extract from the resistance. As has always been the case, despotic Arab regimes never act in favor of freedom and liberation, only in favor of sustaining their ability to rule. It is critical at this stage not to be fooled by promises and side deals with dictators and functionaries. The Palestinian resistance has the upper political hand and must materialize that into real political power. The Palestinian people cannot barter their freedom for political expediency.

For instance, the need for humanitarian relief should be recognized as an obligation on the part of the Arab and international community. It is not a substitute for the political national demands that could dangerously transform the Palestinian national liberation movement into a humanitarian crisis campaign needing pity and aid. This is very dangerous. Many organizations are already falling in that trap, and are being leveraged for the purpose of marginalizing the recently achieved political victory in favor of a campaign of pity and humanitarian aid. This should be rejected by all of us.

The Palestinian movement is not about a group of dispossessed refugees seeking food and shelter. It is about a movement for liberation by a people robbed of their land and who are determined to emerge victorious against their colonists. The Palestinian people do not need handouts. We reject them and return them to the sender. We demand and expect solidarity and reciprocate it in kind.

What Now?

This is the time to translate political victory to organizational gains. The Palestinian and Arab people must seize this opportunity to reorganize and position the movement on its proper track. For one thing, this is not the time to sweep under the rug the "political garbage" that has helped the Zionists over the past several years. They must be exposed and expelled from the Arab collective. All those who have stood in favor of surrender and normalization, those who have not stopped denigrating Arab resistance, and those who have become enablers for the Zionists, must be exposed in every locality and every area. They are the rot that is destroying what our people build. They exist in every realm. They are regimes and they are organizations. They are writers and they are activists. You know them from their slogans, and from their opportunistic behavior and political positions. Their discourse is a danger to our youth and to our future.

This is also the time for the Palestinian left to examine its ranks. It is time to self-clean. Those who have given cover to the PA and who enjoy the political comfort of their relationship with the likes of Abbas and his henchmen should not be setting policy for the left. Clearly, they are a failure like their sponsors. They have damaged the Palestinian left enough. The egalitarian and revolutionary perspective that is rooted in a democratic pan-Arab alternative should remain as the unifying slogan for the Palestinian left.

This is the time to strengthen our movement by giving it a program of solidarity that involves boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. This is the time for war crime tribunals to be enacted everywhere, and for war criminals to be apprehended and brought to justice. This is a time to expose the sadistic nature of the weaponry used by the Zionist, paid for by US taxpayers. This is a time to end all support to Israel, in every way, to properly position it as the Apartheid regime of today, and to isolate it economically, culturally, and diplomatically. This is a time to once and for all recognize that Zionism is nothing but a colonial ideology rooted in racism and hate.

In essence, we can build on this victory and the steadfast of the Palestinian people, by building on our own small victories in our workplace, towns, and universities.

The Free Palestine Alliance
January 19, 2009

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