By Natalie Abou Shakra – Gaza
The concept of civil resistance is not new at all. This non-violent, unarmed, citizen oriented strategy of resistance in modern history played a role in the struggles against colonialism, and neo-colonialism especially in British colonies of Africa, in Apartheid South Africa, India, and the Middle East, particularly Palestine.
We live in a very imbalanced world, where language, dress, technology, education, food, media, and other aspects in post-modern life are dictated by a few and are imposed on the many, the rest of the world. This few decides the flow of politics, and dictates how the world will rotate around. This few, also, will accept no resistance, at any cost.
I come from a country that has, since 1982, the last Israeli occupation, officially founded a paramilitary resistance. Despite being an armed resistance, the Lebanese muqawama (resistance) is a resistance in many forms. It is a culture of resistance, against any form of colonialism, occupation and, most importantly, the evil of all evils, imperialism. During the war on Lebanon, another form of resistance coming from ordinary citizens managed to form. This occurred between July-August 2006, a group of activists local and international, decided to “resist” the Israeli shelling, defying it by driving a series of vehicles to the South of Lebanon to help the internally displaced. This movement was called the Civil Resistance campaign and its aim was to defy Israeli siege on Lebanon during the strikes in any way the citizens in it found possible.
During 2006, another siege was also being imposed on a population, this time more savage, and extending till this moment on. The siege on Palestinian citizens in the Gaza Strip came as a collective punishment imposed on almost one and a half million souls who, due to a democratically elected government that they chose. The only fault this government committed to the few dominating our world is that it was and is a resistance- it resisted those few, with their decisions, their indirect and direct forms of neo-colonialism, occupation and imperialism.
Again, on the 8th of August, 2008, the world witnessed a historical event of a group of activists from all over the world, resisting, non-violently. They resisted the Israeli Apartheid state’s collective punishment and illegal siege. The mighty illusion of power that Apartheid Israel conveyed to the world, again, as in 2006 with the war on Lebanon, was broken. On Dec. 20th, 2008, seven days prior to the Israeli genocidal attacks and ethnic cleansing strategy in the Gaza Strip, a group of activists and journalists, arrived in Gaza’s port. It also included the first Arab delegation consisting of Lebanese and Qataris on board.
For seven days prior to the attacks, since my arrival on an occupied land, a besieged people, collectively punished, I listened to and saw what the blockade of the Strip has created. It created a Bantustan of the worst kind: a concentration camp with a coming wave of slaughtering. A Bantustan with underground tunnels extending to Egypt which were one of the reasons people survived and are still surviving, and one with a slow, genocide, unnoticed by the world; there were weekly if not daily Israeli attacks on civilians such as farmers and fishermen, and, if you track down those figures noted by human rights observers in the Strip, you would also read through the perpetual killing of children.
I remained with a Palestinian family during the attacks. Together, we shared one room under the bombings. On the floor we slept, in the only room far away from the front of the building so as to minimize the devastation of strikes. We were four individuals, the parents and their child, and I. At night, when no sleep was possible, we heard the surveillance plane with its frightening buzzing sound linger above us, then, we heard the F16s and F35s bomb the place near by… this would happen every night for 21 nights…
During the attacks, I accompanied the Red Crescent ambulances that were not free of attacks by the Israeli Occupation Forces. 16 paramedics were killed during the IOF attacks of ambulances. There was no safe place to be in, in this largest concentration camp that modern history has noted similar. Can Auschwitz and Warsaw be repeated again? They were. No one around me was capable of understanding the extent of savagery. It was random slaughtering, with a racially discriminative tone, and a blinded, ignorant hatred. What was worse, was that the world had become so familiar with the death of Arabs, from Iraqis to Palestinians, that the increasing numbers add on to the immunity of response.
In Gaza, watching the international media report the events, many around the world thought there was an army in Gaza. “Where is the Palestinian army?” one commentator had asked. There is no Palestinian army. There are no nuclear weapons in the Strip. There are resistance fighters, with guns in their hands, and a minimal number of Grad rockets developed similar to those produced in the 1960s in the USSR, that sometimes fall back on their launchers. Does that make an army against the largest nuclear power in the region…? Apartheid Israel is not only the largest, but the most destructive nuclear power in the region.
The little boy in my house sang during the war… he sang to sleep, he sang to fight the shaking of our building and the breaking of our windows… the cold air at night and the sounds of gunboats, war planes, tanks and snipers around us… so close, death is so close.
I had no courage if it weren’t for that little boy. I had no courage in facing all this weaponry, this tragedy.
We laughed during the shelling. Yes, there was laughter. We made fun of the Israelis. When they struck, we argued what type of weapon was used. Now, we are war experts from the Palestinian Academy of 61 years of slow genocide and planned ethnic cleansing. People joked with me, and teased me, saying I, the Lebanese, brought the war from Lebanon here.
Along with other areas, Tal el Hawa, my street, was invaded by the occupation forces. They came in with their tanks into our street. Our building was bombed, on the seventh, sixth, and fifth floor. We didn’t know it was us until the next day that we were capable of stepping out. We found a street of rubble, dust and ruins. The Red Crescent building in front of ours burnt entirely, with the one-story storage adjacent compound containing medicine and tents for shelter, devastated with its contents.
I walked during the nights, under bombs. My comrades from the International Solidarity Movement and I had to constantly write. So, there was a need to visit the media agencies offices. They had electricity and internet. Walking around rubble, ruins, was like living one of the classical horror movies. A ghost town… I hid under the balcony shodows as I ran from one building to another hoping the soldier with the sniper in the surveillance plane would not see me… every noticeable walking shadow was a target. They targeted sheep, donkeys… and even pigeons.
We strived with activists in Gaza to begin a global boycott movement baring the South African experience in mind. We believed that Apartheid Israel had shot the two-state solution into pieces. What was the alternative? A one democratic state for all its citizens disregarding race, ethnicity, colour, religion and gender… this was the call to action. Zionism is a racist ideology, having a one state for Jews with discrimination against minorities is not the choice of people who support civil democracy, one person, one vote. The punishment of generals and commanders in the IOF as war criminals, and the state of Israel as an apartheid state responsible for war crimes and acts of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians is to be sought, and the creation of a one state on all of historic Palestine is the only solution after Gaza 2009. Palestinians can coexist with Jews, but not Zionism. A democratic, secular society could be established after transitional justice is sought. Nothing else can accomplish the return of the 6 million refugees scattered worldwide, some living in miserable conditions, particularly in Lebanon and other Arab countries, not to mention the drastic sense of alienation that is felt amongst all the Palestinians whether in the Diaspora, in what is now called Israel or the occupied 1967 Palestinian land.
I am in the struggle, I am living within it. But, I refuse to be subject, I am individual, I keep reminding myself. This reality creates an affect on a person making him or her feel less valuable than they really are… as humans, as citizens. The feeling that the world has abandoned you, renounced you, after all the loss, all the pain, is unbearable, is another death by itself. When one has lost a child, or a mother, or beloved one, to a sniper’s shots, to an Apaches’ impact, how could that be justified? Then, in watching the news broadcasts all over the world, we see the victims portrayed as aggressors… it doubles the pain.
After the attacks stopped, I visited a few orchards in Jabalya, 15 minutes away from where I live in Gaza city. I saw the trees plucked from their roots. What does that mean? When the aggressor plucks your trees from their roots… the aggressor wants you to know that you, and your identity, and your existence will be plucked similarly. The hate in the acts, in leveling the buildings down to sand in which they were made from, was heart wrenching. But, what was inspiring, were those families that drank tea above what used to be a home, a house. Tents were built near the rubble, and children played with what they could find of objects broken.
How can I affect what is happening and how can the world respond? The truth is that we can defy oppression and the illusion of power that the oppressor creates in our minds. I was asked once, “are you not afraid to die?” I am only afraid of what I consider the evil of all evils, repression, oppression, colonialism, and occupation, anything that can wipe my existence off, just erasing identities off the map, and this is what has been happening to the Palestinians for 61 years and on going now. What do you choose to do about it?
Boycott Apartheid Israel.
– Natalie Abu Shakra is from Lebanon and is affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement. She defied Israeli orders for Lebanese citizens not to go to Gaza and was able to get in with the Free Gaza movement. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.