International Solidarity: The Power to Create Something Better

International solidarity is crucial because the plight of Gaza’s 1.5 million impoverished and isolated inhabitants is not a domestic problem, not a natural disaster, not a mistake. It is the perfectly logical consequence of generations of ugly craftsmanship on the part of foreign diplomats, politicians and businessmen – all profiteering from the brutal colonisation of the Palestinian people. As citizens of corrupt and hypocritical countries or simply as human beings on this earth informed of the basic facts on the ground, we are all obliged to act. And this is just what the crew of the Freedom Flotilla has done.

There is no shortage of knowledge about the situation. If one wishes to know, it is easy to find out that the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on this planet, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, of which over half are children. It is, likewise, easy to learn that Gaza is surrounded by 12-meter high walls and subject to a crippling blockade since June 2007. The economy is virtually non-existent, with sky-high rates of unemployment and 70% of people living under the internationally established poverty line (2009). After Israel’s military onslaught Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, over 1,400 Palestinians were slaughtered. Since then, the blockade has only hardened. Almost a third of homes have no running water, others making do with a few hours per day. Sewage treatment centers are not functioning, crops fail because of under-irrigation, and hospitals struggle to deal with regular and prolonged power cuts.

 

All of this is public knowledge. And yet while the Palestinian people are being forced to make impossible decisions – surrender or die, leave forever or remain incarcerated – most of the elites in the rest of the world are doing their best to support Israel while claiming to be reasonably critical of its momentary exaggerations. As a European, I feel sick at the thought of the free-trade agreement, the continued arms trade, how aid money time after time rebuilds what Israel has destroyed without an incriminating word, how Israel was welcomed into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) just a couple of weeks ago, or the innumerable other investments and exchanges that characterize the EU-Israeli relationship. It is not that the governing powers in Europe or the United States do not know how to engage in practical, useful solidarity. It is just that they picked sides a long time ago and all else is lip-service to public opinion.

 

I was born with blood on my hands but this is not about guilt, it is about the will and the power to create something better. We cannot wait for our governments, or our NGOs, or our celebrities to free Palestine. It is up to us. The people on the ships should rightly be celebrated as heroes and solidarity actions should be undertaken, but we cannot stop there. Their action was devised to do what sweet-talking politicians claiming to represent them would not do: Break it – something simple and good for the people of Gaza, the only thing one can and must do when faced with an unrighteous blockade of all that is life. They did this as an example, not to be put on a pedestal, but so that more people would join them and invent their own ways of dismantling the great but surmountable building-blocks of occupation. Their recipe is working! In the wake of the Israeli brutality, Turks are storming the Israeli embassy, Swedish dockworkers are blocking Israeli ships from leaving or entering the ports, US students are voting for divestment, and people all over the world are on the streets screaming out their fury. Is it sad that this only happens after foreign activists are killed, rather than when thousands of Palestinians are slaughtered? Of course. It’s disgusting. But let’s not waste time analyzing it, let’s use it. And while we’re at it, let’s swivel the focus to what actually is at stake.

The Freedom Flotilla is not and must not become a phenomenon apart from the rest of the struggle, but an extension of it. Much like the daily struggle of the Palestinian people in Palestine, in all its various and inspiring manifestations, must not be something we just admire from afar and write beautiful texts about but something that we actually learn from and let it direct us to similar bravery and steadfastness.

I woke up this morning, not so worried any more, because the so-called little people, of which I am a proud member, take action every single day: When going to their shops and shunning, sabotaging or shoplifting Israeli goods; when tirelessly writing e-mails, phoning, picketing or blocking companies that persist in dealing with Israel; when dismantling weapons and preventing the take-off of planes headed for Israel; when teaching their children the true meanings of words like terror, self-defence and collateral damage, words like justice, solidarity and freedom; when getting up every morning to a new day of navigating checkpoints, invasions, arrests. Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere are already fighting the fight each and every single day. But we must show them that they are not struggling alone and we must at least try to match the immense risks that they take to preserve dignity and life.

The murdered members of the Freedom Flotilla, and above all the thousands of Palestinian martyrs who have been slaughtered both before and after the boarding of the Mavi Marmara, will have died in vain if we simply stand still and gape in awe at their courageous actions. Theirs is a call to up the ante, to take bigger risks and feel the tide turning in favour of justice. Theirs is a vision of the world in which grandmothers are not afraid to go to jail for a while if that’s what it takes, in which workers and students strike, consumers carefully read labels, and toddlers learn how to riot as naturally as they learn how to walk. Theirs is a vision of a world in which the movement grows every time one of us is killed. So, whatever your motivation, use it! Guilt, love, fury, sorrow – I guess they’re all fine as long as they lead you somewhere you want to go.

I want to go to a free Palestine and I want my friends to come too, bloody hands and all!

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