By Joharah Baker
It is extremely difficult to wade through the endless expressions of violence, disunity and discord and uncover and appreciate those rare acts of sanity, which if nurtured, could ultimately be the answer to many of our woes.
Over four weekends in January and February, the Palestinian Body for Peace Dialogue and Equality (HASM) has organized the “Thirty Days Against Checkpoints” Campaign during which Palestinian, foreign and Israeli activists will hold several activities at the Huwwara Checkpoint in Nablus in protest of Israeli occupation measures there.
On January 14, Palestinian schoolchildren will gather at Huwwara, one of the most infamous Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank. On the other side of the barrier will be foreign and Israeli peace activists to support the children and protest the continued presence of all West Bank checkpoints, which severely hinder the movement of all Palestinians living in the occupied territories and which also constitute major flashpoints between Palestinian citizens and occupying Israeli soldiers.
While such a demonstration will most likely not bring about the demise of the Israeli occupation, it is certainly one of the few positive acts of nationalism we have seen for some time.
Just for good measure, the organizers have added an ingenious twist. The children will all be donned in Native American dress, carrying banners that draw similarities between the plight of the Native Americans and that of the Palestinians today.
This is not to be misunderstood as a showdown between armed struggle and nonviolent resistance. Each has its own valid merits when applied appropriately and each could be equally effective in fighting off occupation, even one as violent and expansionist as the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Rather, this is more of a weighing of pros and cons and pinpointing what methods of action could better serve our national aspirations. Equally as important is how to salvage our public image, which has been so damaged both by the unjust perception of the West towards Arabs and Muslims and by our own missteps vis-à-vis our constant infighting, which has led to the fraying of our entire social and political fabric.
Let us conjure up the image. A group of young schoolchildren gather at a military checkpoint, complete with gun-toting soldiers, iron turnstiles, bars and metal detectors. These children, born to a people under occupation, oppressed their entire lives, stand peacefully in protest of an unrelenting occupying power, concomitantly drawing up images of another people, similarly persecuted and confined to restricted cantons known as reservations.
It is a powerful image – one that the world will contemplate with much more compassion and understanding than images of masked Palestinians taking aim at their fellow countrymen. This is the occupation, unmasked, and this is what we ultimately must fight against.
Resistance has many levels and none should be belittled or denied. It is our duty as a society to support an effort such as the one which will take place on January 14 and bring attention to the world that the Palestinians are more than the few and far between crudely made rockets shot into Israel or the infighting that has driven deep wedges between us. It is our duty to focus on the fact that even though the world condemns us for our “attacks” on Israelis, there is a valid reason for our actions. This is perfectly embodied in the scene of a military checkpoint in the middle of Palestinian territory, with all of its ugly implications, being opposed by unarmed but strong-willed children and supported, not only by foreign peace activists but citizens of the occupying country.
It is high time we see the bigger picture and realize that we must do what is truly in our best interests. Right now, the Palestinians are facing battles on different levels, all of which are equally important. At the top of our priority list must be to put our own house in order because without true national unity, no other goal will ever be realized. Once that is accomplished, we must address the world since, as the weaker party in this conflict, we need international support to further our endeavors.
It has been over 200 years since the Native Americans lost their homes to a colonial power. Since then they have been marginalized, persecuted, crammed into reservations and discriminated against, their rich and ancient culture put on display at roadside stalls and cheap flea markets. However, even from this tragedy, valuable lessens can be learned and perhaps their sad lesson can be the lifeline that pulls us back from the abyss.
It may be too late for the Native Americans, the true citizens of “America.” Let us hope it is not too late for us.
-Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Programme at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at email@example.com
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