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Surround me with songs of deliverance: crossing the borders of solidarity

AUTHOR:  Haitham SABBAH هيثم صباح

FreePalestineActivists for Palestine have to have the same goal as Palestinians – the liberation of Palestine. They have to pay attention to not being diverted from this objective or to interfere with a greater geopolitical situation that may have consequences none of us can predict and which can cancel for a long time our hopes for liberation and return. Our fear is legitimate. We fear the emergence of the Zionist ultimate project, "Greater Israel" in the ashes of the destruction of Arab unity, which is not a lofty ideal, but present in the Arab masses and is a source that must be tapped into, and the Zionist project can be accomplished if we are not vigilant in all we do and if we shift our rage away from Israel and weaken the Arab masses. I shall explain.

Freedom activists march to Gaza

Let's assume that the Egyptian government was replaced with new democratically elected one, what do you think would happen? The answer seems vague, but believe me, it is very simple. Remember what happened in Occupied Palestine four years ago? Hamas was elected and the entire world witnessed real democracy in action. What happened next? The entire world, including most Arab countries, refused to accept Hamas as the new official government and nearly all of them decided to cut relations and aid to the new Palestinian government. The tag was ready for all of them to push off to the ears of the world, "Hamas is a terrorist organization. Full Stop!"

Now, we are not arguing here if Hamas was a good choice or not for and from the Palestinians, but it was their choice in fair elections and it must be respected by anyone who believes in democracy. And, it’s no secret that real democratic elections will always bring surprises. Remember Dubya’s slogans about bringing democracy to the Middle East and new dawn in the Arab world? Well, this was not what they expected. Not what they paid for, and no one ever heard these slogans coming from them ever again in Palestine after Hamas won.

Back to Egypt, who can guarantee that the newly elected government and its president will not be the same as the previous regime? And if we are very optimistic and think that activists and Egyptians succeed in changing the existing regime and a truly elected system comes to their royal palaces, why should anyone believe that it would not face the same ending like the Hamas government did and Egyptians shortly end in a situation similar to that the Palestinians are suffering?

If this comes true, even worse things can happen. It will not only affect Egypt, but the Arab world in general and Palestinians in particular, especially the Palestinians of Gaza, because Israel will not stop to think for a second before they rush to occupy Gazan borders again (let's say they will intensify their occupation and bring back their soldiers to Gaza/Egypt borders). This time without the Palestinian and Egyptian proxies. In fact, I believe that in a situation like this, the Zionists will find it the moment of history when they can establish their dream of Greater Israel. They might not only occupy Sinai, but invade Egypt across the Red Sea until Israel reaches the Nile. What may happen next is another story.

So what we have today is extremely bad, but in a certain viewpoint of realpolitik and understanding exactly how Israel operates, it may be better than what could happen if the existing regime in Egypt or a newly elected one opens the borders with Gaza in the present conditions of Palestine, without any international guarantees that Palestine is going to be autonomous in controlling its own borders for the good of the people in Palestine and not to serve factions whose agendas are not acceptable to any patriot. Even Hamas understands this and they know that what they have for now is more than what they can dream of having in a day or two until Israel reacts. Hamas knows very well that Israel is closing the borders, not Egypt. All they say in press conferences is nothing more than slogans for local consumption to remain patriotic in the eyes of their supporters, but they are aware of the situation they find themselves in, and they too are blocked. Unless we really think that both sides, Egypt and Hamas, are ready to commit suicide by enrolling themselves in a third world war.

Freedom activists march to Palestine

It seems to me that the world has forgotten the word 'Palestine', and how can anyone blame them? These days we only hear the words Gaza and West Bank. In fact, if you watch the mainstream media you will even hardly hear 'West Bank'. Everyone has forgotten that part of Occupied Palestine. Some activists even forgot that the Map of Palestine is from the River to the Sea (Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea). Anyway…

The West Bank is not in better shape than Gaza. Yes, our brothers and sisters in Gaza are suffering from the siege and a high level of poverty due to this siege, but Palestinians in the West Bank are not in much better conditions at all. All the checkpoints (more than 700) are in the West Bank. The Israeli Apartheid Wall is cutting the West Bank into tiny pieces. No one is allowed to enter Jerusalem. Kidnapping and assassinations are around every corner. Add to it the corrupted Palestinian Authority. So the question remains, where are our friends and activists when it comes to the West Bank? Why don't they try to break the Walls and remove the checkpoints and open its borders with the Arab world? If you think a Palestinian or non-Palestinian can travel from Jordan to the West Bank without the Israeli permission and passing through Israeli immigration offices, you are wrong. So, the West Bank is still under Israeli occupation.

We have to keep in mind that big picture. Over sixty years ago we were fighting for all of Palestine. Since Oslo, we started to talk only about the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. Now activism is mostly focusing on food and aid to one part of Palestine, Gaza. In other words, putting a band-aid on a deep wound. In a few years’ time we will be demonstrating just to know or hear if there is anyone still alive on this land!

So, what are we doing and what are the alternatives, you ask?

First and foremost, we need to realign and look at the big picture again. The whole of Palestine is occupied, not Gaza and the West Bank only.

Second, the Right of Return is a divine right for all Palestinians. If the two states solution is not going to guarantee the return of those who want to return (and it will not guarantee it) then to hell with this solution! Jews are welcome like all other religious and non-religious people to live side by side with Christian and Muslim Arabs and Palestinians in One State. No special conditions for Jews.

Third, we are not fighting to break the siege only in one part, but in all of Palestine, once and for good.

Fourth, our enemy is not the messenger, but the real occupier and whoever supports them.

Now, you ask me where to go!

Your Borders and Israeli Borders

One can't really say that there aren't a lot of great, dedicated people around the world, devoted to the cause of Palestine's freedom, and they deserve a lot of credit for putting their time and energy to the cause. We can question their timing, methods and even their overall goals, which might not go as far as many Palestinians would desire, but their good faith seems to be beyond doubt. However, to not lose an important opportunity not only for activists to really do something concrete as well as for them to make tidal wave of support happen, strategy does count, because lives are on the line and Palestinians pay for every day that the occupation drags on. There were several movements that acted in these days, and one day we will be able to draw the sums of their effectiveness.

In spite that fact of the 1,400 activists (a very small number) who went to Cairo for the Gaza Freedom March (GFM), which didn't happen (other than the 100 who were permitted to go to Gaza). In the end, they came up with a document that has many good points which can be brought back to their countries to add to their strategy planning, and this is no bad thing. We can also look at the Viva Palestina (VP) convoy which traveled from one continent to another (and now crossing the sea) driving those useless brand new cars they bought to "aid" Gazans; in the meantime gaining a lot of publicity and that, in itself is not always a bad thing.

But again, the question begs, because it must: how effective were these movements? Personally, I think it was a big failure, and despite all the human and economic resources invested in it, didn't achieve much, however grateful we might be that something was done. But what we ask of them is something much simpler, yet doubtlessly more effective.

In each country around this world, there is a US embassy, UK embassy, etc… Why don't you gather in your own countries in front of these embassies and demonstrate? What's wrong with Washington, the White House and the Congress? What's wrong with Number 10, Downing Street? etc… At least your numbers will be much greater, no harassment from US/Israeli proxy Arabian dictatorship and much more effective. Eventually and slowly, the mainstream media will notice you whether they like it or not, and CHANGE, real change (not what Obama promised in Cairo) for a just resolution of the Palestinian/Arab/Israeli conflict will become reality.

Another way, which is so far hardly used, are the Israeli borders themselves. Why don't the freedom marchers travel to the "democratic Israel" and gather at the occupation internal borders? The ISM is doing an amazing job inside the West Bank and the weekly demonstrations in Nil'in and Bil'in are amazing, but are they enough? NO! What we need are more activists on the other side of the Wall. No, Peace Now is not good enough, however we thank them.

Several activists were killed while they were protecting Palestinians or trying to help them save their properties and lives, and to them go our deepest thanks, love and respect. However, true activism is not only shouting slogans here and there without actions, serious actions, which no one can guarantee anyone’s safety. So, if you are not ready for the risk of being killed by the Israelis, which is a real risk, stay home and do what you can there, not in Cairo or surrounding occupation proxies. I'm not asking you to commit suicide, but your governments and media need to see the real enemy and you need to wake up your nations. We need you to educate your country's citizens and pressure your official for real and lasting peace, not to demonstrate in the streets of Cairo and give a chance for the regime to describe you as hooligans and coup promoters.


Free Gaza

My friends, Free Gaza Movement was a good example of the above. Their plans, actions, risks and effectiveness are beyond all what GFM and VP tried to do in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, the way GFM and VP was run and ended has served no one but to smear Egyptians (as a nation, the regimes will still get their cheque) and let the criminals run away with their crimes on the first anniversary of Israeli War Crimes against Gaza, Palestine. This is a mistake in judgment that we should not have afforded. The opportunity for Palestinians to express their pain and remember their dead was missed. The focus was on Egypt. Free Gaza Movement not only really broke the siege on Gaza time after time, but they risked their lives in the last trip that sailed to Gaza and the Israeli marine ships tried to sink their ship (more on DIGNITY), not to mention the attention of the media on the victims in Gaza, Palestine. I stand to salute all this group of activists who set an example of real activism to free Palestine.

In the future, activists have to take either of two routes. Going in and through Israel itself to break the walls, checkpoints, crossings and borders, or by sea, where you need no one's permission but are entitled to demand their protection. However, please don't ask for protection from Egypt or Arabs, but from your Western greater powers. If you are coming from the US, ask Obama to protect you. If you are coming from the UK, ask Gordon Brown to protect you. If you are coming from France ask Sarkozy to protect you, and so on.

Source: the auhor's site

Original article published on Jan. 3, 2009

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THE LAND OF CANAAN : 04/01/2010