300 Overwhelmingly Young People discuss and celebrate
Internationalism with the Intifada
By Frank Natter
The series of events commemorating the Second Intifada put on by Sons of Malcolm is groundbreaking. In a political climate where the vast majority are scared to valorise any form of peoples militant resistance, these meetings see the importance of the such struggle, what it has meant and what its repercussions are. Such a traumatic uprising cannot be understood even 10 years after. It is hard to overstate the importance of the Second Intifada in determining the current alignment of power – to address it is to engage in active revolution.
This is why the subtitle of the meeting was “we are not liberating Palestine, Palestine is liberating us”. That the Palestinians have defined the geo-political landscape we traverse in such a definitive manner is barely acknowledged. A meta-narrative of victimhood has long pervaded the West’s discourse on Palestine leading to paternalistic, detached and quite frankly patronising “solidarity”. Depicting the Palestinians as victims completely misses how much of a step forward the Intifada actually was. The fact remains that solidarity as it exists has emerged in a climate where the Palestinians have not been violent – how supportive and understanding our solidarity movement can be when and if armed struggle erupts again needs to be addressed.
Most importantly, however, recognition is sought. Modern empire stands and falls with Palestine now – due to the Palestinians – whether we acknowledge this and can offer sufficient solidarity was the question behind the first meeting that took place on Saturday 02 October.
The night started with an exhibition of the type of resistance that is required for true internationalism. The Raytheon 9 occupation in Derry is brilliantly explained in the “Not in My Name” documentary – directed by Gabrielle Terney – who took questions in an enthusiastic and respectful exchange. There couldn’t have been a more encouraging start.
The documentary was quickly followed by a discussion between representatives of organisations that advocate or support the Palestinian struggle. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign representative Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy started the discussion off. She was a very competent and engaging speaker, yet what she had to say was somewhat misplaced. It is a shame that she did not take the opportunity to convey a more incisive discourse as opposed to offering the generic account of deaths tolls, recent wars and Zionist brutality.
Next was Arzu Merali of the Islamic Human Rights Commission. She gave a wonderfully personalised account of how she developed her understanding of what solidarity with the Palestinians (and South Lebanese) entails. It was truly refreshing to hear discussion about Hezbollah and Hamas without them being criticised for being “too radical” or “religiously extreme”. There was no representation of groups who seek to pacify the Palestinians, making them conform to liberal sensibilities. The panel after Arzu continued with a revolutionary discussion.
Lizzie Cocker of the Gaza Demonstrators Support Campaign gave a brilliant account of how the state racism led to the persecution of young Muslims protestors. Given what was to follow, it was both inspiring and poignant to have a young, white woman talking about white supremacy and racism. In her own words, “our solidarity with Palestine is weakened if we cannot be there in solidarity with our pro-Palestinian brothers and sisters in this country who suffer racist and political oppression by the same enemy.”
Taher Ghulam-Hussein followed suit offering a tangential, humorous account of his extensive engagements in direct action and how to deal with the law, brilliantly prefiguring the next speaker.
Chris Osmond of the Smash EDO direct action group based in Sussex – who, during Gaza ’09, smashed property and occupied EDO an arms manufacturer for supplying the weaponry for the IOF forces. His critical analysis was extremely impressive. An engaging talk that exhibited that it is possible to partake in internationalist action, risking your political freedoms and get away with it – with the caveat that you are non-Muslim. Chris was truly revolutionary; completely dismissing the need to work with or through the state, going so far as to say the only true act of internationalism is to forego the limitations of our government. If you were unable to attend – I recommend in the highest possible terms watching the debate through.
Jody MacIntyre finished off the talks with an intimate account of his experiences in Palestine and what it has led him to conclude. From both Jody and Chris’s talks it was clear that what was being offered by the panel was a discourse that encouraged people to take actions, to traverse the boundaries of law in the name of a greater morality. Such things are never said.
The overriding message that was brought home by the panellists was that it is possible to engage in a true internationalism, which does liberate us by drawing us to confront our own state. What it requires is the will of more white activists – as the state’s racism affords space for actions organised by whites where Muslims are persecuted. When Sukant Chandan took charge of the Q&A session this was point was met with vehemence from some sections of the audience. The audience had obviously taken a grievance to the forthright racial discourse that poured scorn on the notion that we are a post-racial society. The issue was trivialised; the message of the panel debate was whittled down to being a mere chip on the shoulder of the event’s organiser.
Instead of critical self-reflection, the Q&A was defensive, tense and hostile. Arguments of relativity – comparing Britain to Europe and the States were proffered to mitigate the blatant problems that were brought to the forefront. The stark comparison between the Raytheon and EDO occupations and actions on the one hand with the Gaza Demonstrations in 2009 seemed not to penetrate the audience. Juxtapose the same basic actions and it becomes clear, if you are Muslim and engage in direct political activity – you are in your own special category and will have the full weight of the British state on top of you. The state’s distinctions are real and need to be ingratiated and taken into account for all future actions taken for the cause of Palestine – Chris Osmond communicated this brilliantly after a question from an audience member.
Despite hostility from some in the crowd the discussion was chaired very well and respectfully with the maintenance of humour. Having spent the rest of the evening discussing the matter, what one has to applaud the event for was its ability to engage in such controversial issues and not alienate the youth. Large swathes of the audience were young (below 25). The vibrancy of the event with over 300 attendees I have not experienced before. In view of this, it’s a shame that the voices and experiences of the younger members of the audience were drowned out by the more disrespectful contributions of some in the audience.
However, the large attendance of young people, and the structure of the event indicated that a new age of political organisation is emerging. There is an alternative to dogmatic, placatory meetings with no substance – and it is possible to attract the youth. The voice of the oppressed communities is emerging – it does not speak the language of the conventional left – but it doesn’t intend to. True internationalism and solidarity, by necessity, foregoes appealing to the sensibilities of the West. Keep on!
The next event will take place on the at Bolivar Hall (Warren Street), 17.30pm on the 6th November. With the title – “The Outbreak of the Second Intifada: Turning Back the Empire” – you really don’t want to miss this. I’m sure there is going to be fireworks... facebook event page HERE
[full video of the event will be online within two weeks]