What does it mean to stand in solidarity?

I read this very thoughtful blog post today written by a Palestinian (I think) about the do’s and don’ts for international activists who want to stand in solidarity with Palestine.  It’s long but worth the time to read and digest it, available here.   Based on the author’s concept of solidarity, I have decided that I do not qualify as a solidarity activist.  Here’s why:

I agree with many of the points raised.

  • don’t be patronizing and don’t treat Palestine or Palestinians as a charity case.
  • don’t speak for the Palestinians; they have their own voice.
  • don’t view Palestinians as exotic creatures or objects to be admired.
  • do know the history; do your homework before you come to Palestine.

But I vehemently disagree with the notion that I must give up my ideas of right and wrong, my beliefs and values, and adopt whatever means or strategies the Palestinians have adopted to end the occupation.  Therefore, I can’t stand in “solidarity” with them.  What label should I give to my actions?

The Palestinian blogger says: If you are in solidarity with the Palestinian people and our right towards self-determination, then you are in solidarity with our rights to fight colonialism by all means, including armed resistance, there is no compromise.

I do not condone violence or armed resistance —- never have, never will.  I may certainly understand it, but I do not support it.

Sitting in Gaza in November 2012 and listening to Israeli bombs exploding all around, gave me a new appreciation for the need to protect oneself from this aggression.   But “armed resistance” is very broad and may encompass many different types of violence — from suicide bombers to rockets landing in the middle of civilians.   I don’t support either.

I try to live my life by the Golden Rule.   It’s not easy sometimes, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.   And if I argue that Israel must put down its weapons and end this occupation, I can’t, in good conscience, argue that others should be allowed to raise their weapons.

I believe the occupation must end …… for the sake of both Israel and Palestine.  I stand in solidarity with all peace-loving people on both sides of the “green line” ….. and with all of the children who deserve a future of peace and security in this region.

I came to Gaza to teach about climate change.  I am leaving as a student who learned alot.  It is not accurate to label me pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli, but maybe pro-humanitarian fits me the best.

Lora at Lake Baikal 2009

Lora at Lake Baikal 2009

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5 Comments

Filed under Gaza, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful

5 responses to “What does it mean to stand in solidarity?

  1. Ryan Speakman

    Hi, Lora… I’ve wondered for some time (likely not because you haven’t made it clear, but more likely just that I missed it) whether by “ending the Occupation” you mean the complete elimination of the State of Israel (that is, a “one-state solution”: one State of Palestine) or you mean Israel withdrawing back to the 1967 borders and the West Bank and Gaza becoming a new Palestinian state. From this latest post, I’m gathering that you mean the latter: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace… Am I understanding this correctly? 🙂

    • Ryan: My opinion about the “solution” has changed over the years. I believe a two state solution as you described would have been the best and it would have been feasible once upon a time. But I also believe that the Israeli government (Netanyahu) has deliberately sabotaged a two state solution to the point that it’s no longer a viable option.

      One democratic secular state is probably more realistic, not in the short term, but in the future.

      I believe that Jerusalem should be under international control.

      • Ryan Speakman

        Interesting! I think that you make a good point… However, there’s a reason that the Israelis (Jews, I mean) insist that Israel remain a “democratic Jewish state”, as much as this notion – the idea of a state defined according to a particular race/religion/nationality – offends the world community: The Jews assume that the “one democratic secular state” solution that you mention – which, admittedly, in theory sounds very good and fair and just – will lead in a very short time to an Arab (Muslim) majority; which would, in turn, lead to another Holocaust (mass murder of Jews). In other words, can any Jew safely assume that a critical mass of Palestinians (and their millions of Muslim neighbors) does not, at this stage in the game, want nothing more than a Middle East that is judenrein (Jew-free)? This is even one of the stipulations of the “peace agreement” that our own administration (Obama and Kerry) are pushing for: a new Palestinian state with no Jews allowed. I think that the Jews who fear a truly democratic Israel – one where any nationality can comprise the majority – are not entirely baseless in their concerns… My point is this: Are the Israelis EVER going to agree to a truly democratic one-state solution? Not a chance.

        All of that said, I’m not sure if you remember me, but I wrote to you a year or so ago to inquire about travel in Gaza. Your response that it was safe and that I should pursue this was probably the single deciding factor that inspired me to “go for it”. I just returned from a trip to Israel/Palestine about a month ago, and my trip included three days and two nights in Gaza. LOVED it! The people in Gaza are wonderful, just as you said, and it was an honor and a pleasure to spend even just a few days with them… While there, I questioned many people about the conflict and what they think the solution is. Likewise throughout the rest of my trip: I asked Israeli Jews, Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians; in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, some of the Israeli “settlements”, Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Gaza; I asked taxi drivers and friends and Rabbis and government officials… And I got the same answer from everyone: At this point, only a one-state solution will work. The rub: Every Israeli, of course, meant one state of Israel; and every Palestinian (at least those in the Palestinian Territories) meant one state of Palestine.

        To me, this indicates an arguably insurmountable impasse… Is there a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? And if the answer is no, where do we go from here?

      • Thanks for reminding me about our earlier connection. I’m pleased you traveled to Israel & Palestine, and that you had the opportunity to speak to so many people from different backgrounds.

        How did you travel into Gaza? Through Erez Crossing? Was that difficult?

        I’ve heard many commentators and even some of my friends and family members express concern about the issue of the Arab birth rates. Frankly, the Palestinians I spoke with about that issue saw it as a potent weapon in their arsenal.

        Israeli leaders might be establishing their “facts on the ground” with their settlements, but the Palestinians are establishing their facts on the maternity wards.

        I think your conclusion — Israelis want an Israeli state, and Palestinians want a Palestinian state, is also correct. Palestinians have time and procreation on their side.

        The Israelis cannot maintain this oppressive Occupation under the status quo without destroying themselves, I believe. Something has to give. Not sure where, when or how, but the jailer will end up becoming the prisoner by his own hand. The world Jewry will shun the State of Israel when it becomes so inimical to the wonderful traditions of that religion.

        That’s why I tell family and friends who support Israel, and are baffled by my advocacy for the Palestinians — that I’m Israel’s best friend these days.

        A friend doesn’t let a friend drive drunk or give the friend another beer. My words are the same. I’m taking the car keys and bottles of beer away from Israel, hoping it comes to its senses before it kills itself. Israel is on life support in 2014.

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