Beyond Symbolic Victories: The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

An old Palestinian woman and a Nakba survivor sitting in front of her humble dwelling in the Shati Refugee Camp in the besieged Gaza Strip. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Ramzy Baroud  

Although November 29 has galvanized pro-Palestinian communities around the world for decades, a few facts and problems about this day must be acknowledged and redressed. 

To start with, the history behind that specific date is quite an ominous one. Palestine was partitioned, unjustly, on November 29, 1947. There was no moral or legal basis for that partition, as communicated in UN resolution 181 (II), into a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”.

Jewish immigrants were granted 55 percent of the total size of historic Palestine and the “Arab State”, which never actualized, was accorded the rest.

Jerusalem was to be given a special legal and political status, known in Latin as corpus separatum, and was to be governed through an international regime. 

A few months after that unwarranted partition, well-trained Zionist militias moved from several fronts to “secure” the borders of their promised state, only to take over half of what was designated for the future of the Palestinian state, leaving the indigenous Palestinian Arab population of that land with 22 percent of historic Palestine.

In June 1967, the Israeli army conquered whatever remained of Palestine. As a direct result of both military campaigns, millions of Palestinians became refugees.

The “Arab State” granted by UN Resolution 181 was a mere pretext to create a “Jewish State”, and there were no earnest attempts to bring about an independent Palestine. A Jewish one was established upon the ruins of historic Palestine.

That date can only be remembered in infamy, not as a fond memory worthy of commemoration.

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was designated to be a day of solidarity almost exactly 30 years after the partition plan took place. It was announced in successive resolutions, firstly in December 1977 (Res. 32/40 B) and, secondly, more substance to that resolution was added in December 1979 (Res. 34/65 D).

These resolutions crowned 30 years of unmitigated failure on the part of the international community to aid in the establishment of a Palestinian state, which was even unsuccessful in imposing any form of punishment on the 30-year-old “Jewish State” for repeatedly violating international law and every legal principle upon which it was established.

Since the original partition resolution passed in 1947, and to this day, the Palestinian cause has been feeding on symbolism – symbolic solidarity, symbolic victories and so on.

One cannot deny the role of the numerous friendly nations, mostly from the South, that stood by Palestine’s side at every turn and, at times, faced the wrath of the US and Western governments for their unfaltering solidarity.

However, the nature and the timing of these resolutions were seen as mere tokens, symbolic gestures at best, to show solidarity in words only and not action. 

According to a UN document relevant to the day of solidarity, the purpose of November 29 is to provide the “opportunity for the international community to focus its attention on the fact that the question of Palestine remained unresolved and that the Palestinian people are yet to attain their inalienable rights as defined by the General Assembly, namely, the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced”.

While the rights of the Palestinians highlighted above are poignant and unmistakable, little has been done in the past 43 years to implement any one of them, either partially or wholly.

No practical mechanism has been set forth. No legal apparatus has been introduced to aid Palestinians in their efforts to achieve meaningful independence, or to reprimand those who deny the Palestinian people their legal rights and political aspirations.

Any such recommendations for meaningful interference on behalf of occupied, oppressed Palestinians were thwarted, repeatedly: obstructed by the United States’ vetoes at the UN, hindered in myriad ways by Israel and its Western allies.

Such valiant efforts as those by UN human rights envoys, the likes of  Richard Falk and John Dugard, or recommendations to investigate suspected Israeli war criminals put forth by Richard Goldstone were brazenly defeated. 

Since the original partition resolution passed in 1947, and to this day, the Palestinian cause has been feeding on symbolism – symbolic solidarity, symbolic victories and so on. 

For example, the additional resolution of December 1979 regarding the International Day of Solidarity agreed to the issuance of commemorative postage stamps. As appreciated as the stamps might have been, it made no decipherable difference in the life of a single Palestinian refugee.

Countless resolutions followed the same logic. Indeed, since Palestine was first partitioned, then conquered, ethnically cleansed and militarily occupied, international solidarity has remained largely symbolic.

Little has changed in over 70 years of this horrific and recurring tragedy, which remains in need of urgent and decisive action, not symbolic motions and resolutions.

While the day is meant as a day of solidarity with the “Palestinian people”, it has served, at an official UN level, as a day of validating the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, which has neither a popular nor legal democratic mandate to represent the Palestinian people.

There are nearly 12 million Palestinians worldwide, divided as such: 4.5 million in occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza; 1.5 living as second-class citizens in Israel; and the rest are scattered around the world.

Nearly half of all Palestinians are refugees, and a large number of them still live in refugee camps.

The current Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has been ruling with an expired mandate since 2009. Duly, his government was neither elected through proper elections nor a referendum.

However, every November 29 of every year, PA officials and diplomats fan out around the globe to speak about Palestinian victimization, imploring international solidarity, while the PA is practically taking part in denying Palestinians their aspirations. It behooves these officials to spend the time, energy and resources to unify the political rank of their own people and to formulate a working strategy to attain their people’s freedom.

This is not meant to undermine the significance of that day. However, to live up to the meaning of its designated title, the day must be repossessed, taken away from guarded diplomats with carefully worded language, and given back to the people.

In fact, Palestinian solidarity is now a global phenomenon: This is the perfect opportunity to make November 29 a day of strategy and global action, led by civil societies across the world.

So, what can be done?

  1. a) Civil society around the world can lead the mobilization to use the day of solidarity as an opportunity to place pressure on their governments to move beyond symbolic gestures into meaningful action. This effort is most important in Western societies, especially in the United States, which has served as a shield and benefactor for Israel for too many years.

In the South, civil society organizations can further reach out and educate people on the rights of the Palestinian people and ensure that their governments do not succumb to Western and corporate pressure. 

  1. b) The United Nations, and all relevant platforms within the world’s largest international institution, must be persuaded to produce a workable mechanism – no more cultural events and postal stamps – to bring an end to Israeli occupation and offer Palestinians a true political horizon.

  2. c) It is utterly unreasonable, if not altogether impractical, that the day of solidarity with Palestinians is predicated on the premise of a two-state solution, which has already become obsolete. Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews are now living in the same space, sharing the same land and water, except that they are governed by two different sets of rules.

A day of solidarity that is based upon the political reality of nearly four decades ago and shaped by an understanding of the conflict from nearly seven decades ago, while admirable in principle, would have to be revised.

A new narrative must take hold, in which the “question of Palestine” is not framed as if a “refugee problem” or a “humanitarian crisis” to be remedied with verbal solidarity and food aid, but as a pressing political crisis in which the injured party must be unconditionally supported.

By adopting a popular Palestinian narrative (not an official one), in which all Palestinians – Muslims or Christians, in occupied Palestine or in “shattat” (diaspora) – are the center of the story, a better understanding of Palestine and its people can be established, and true solidarity can be offered.

Palestinians come from various political, ideological and religious backgrounds but are united by two main factors: their perpetuated suffering and their continuing resolve and resistance. 

One major platform for their resistance, which strongly bonds Palestinians at home with those in “shattat”, is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which pushes for accountability from those who make the Israeli domination over Palestine possible, advocates the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, end of occupation and equal rights for Palestinians who live in Israel.

Any solidarity that deviates from the current aspirations of Palestinians – as articulated by their fighting women and men, by their prisoners on hunger strikes, by their students fighting for the right to education, by these resilient, but often neglected voices – is not true solidarity.

For the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People to be truly meaningful, it must be reclaimed by Palestinians and their friends all across the globe.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is

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Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out