Gaza and the Zapatistas – Imagine!

By Julie Webb-Pullman – Gaza

Autonomy.  Justice.  Land.  Liberty. Imagine if Gaza said Ya! Basta! And declared itself the first autonomous Palestinian community!

Imagine if the Gaza authorities reviewed and transformed their relationship with members of global civil society, as the Zapatistas did in 2003.

Imagine the impact of this on the terms and organization of international assistance!

Imagine the Zapatista’s 2003 guidelines for outside support applied in Gaza, which demanded all prospective partners to ‘disencumber’ their generosity, and donate in accordance with Zapatista priorities, and to give up control and mesh with the Zapatistas’ own coordinated planning. (1)

Subcommandante Marcos advised in a 2003 communiqué: (2)

Among the Good Government Juntas’ first regulations are the following:

One. – Donations and help from national and international civil society will no longer be allowed to be earmarked to anyone in particular or to a specific community or Autonomous Municipality. The Good Government Junta shall decide, after evaluating the circumstances of the communities, where that help most needs to be directed. The Good Government Junta will impose the “brother tax,” which is 10% of the total cost of the project, on all projects. In other words, if a community, municipality or collective receives economic support for a project, it must give the 10% to the Good Government Junta, so that it can earmark it for another community which is not receiving help. The objective is to balance somewhat the economic development of the communities in resistance. Leftovers, charity and the imposition of projects shall, of course, not be accepted.


Imagine if the Gaza authorities imposed such regulations! Imagine UNRWA, USAID, Save the Children and the rest giving up their control over who eats, works, gets medical care in Gaza. Imagine them paying out 10% of their budgets so the Gaza authorities can ensure that all of those needy Gazans not receiving help (and there are many) receive assistance.

Two. – Only those persons, communities, cooperatives and producers and marketing associations which are registered in a Good Government Junta shall be recognized as zapatistas. In that way, persons shall be prevented from passing as zapatistas who are not only not zapatistas, but are even anti-zapatista (such is the case with some organic coffee producers and marketing cooperatives). Surpluses or bonuses from the marketing of products from zapatista cooperatives and societies shall be given to the Good Government Juntas in order to help those compañeros and compañeras who cannot market their products or who do not receive any kind of aid.


Imagine the outcry from all the local businessmen currently reaping enormous profits from the tunnel trade and deals with Israel, having to hand over their profits to the poor – or even just a reasonable proportion of their profits to them! Imagine – Islam in action!

Three. – It is not unusual for dishonest people to deceive national and international civil society, presenting themselves in cities as “zapatistas,” purportedly sent “on secret or special missions” to ask for money for sick people, projects, trips or things of that nature. Sometimes they even go so far as to offer training in purported, and false, EZLN “safe houses” in Mexico City. In the former case, intellectuals, artists and professional persons, and not a few local government officials, have been deceived. In the latter, it has been young students who have been the victims of the lie. The EZLN is emphasizing that it does not have any “safe house” in Mexico City, and it does not offer any training whatsoever. These bad persons, according to our reports, are involved in banditry, and the money they receive, which they are supposedly requesting for the communities, is used for their own personal benefit. The EZLN has now begun an investigation in order to determine who is responsible for usurping their name and for swindling good and honest people. Since it is difficult to contact the Comandancia General of the EZLN in order to confirm whether such and such a person is part of the EZLN or their support bases, and whether what they are saying is true or not, now they will just have to get in contact with the Good Government Juntas (the one in the region where the “swindler” says he is from), and in a matter of minutes they will be told if it is true or not, and whether or not he is a zapatista. To this end, the Good Government Juntas will be issuing certifications and accreditations which should, however, still be corroborated.


Imagine if all those ‘journalists’ and activists flooding into Gaza since the Rafah Crossing opened, and all those collecting money ‘for Gaza’ in other countries, had to provide their credentials, demonstrate they are who they say they are, and open their accounts to both the people of their own countries who give the money, and to the Gazans who supposedly receive it!

Imagine if the Gazan authorities required such transparency and proof from those entering their territory! Imagine how much richer they might be.

And so, “civil societies” will now know with whom they must reach agreement for projects, peace camps, visits, donations and etcetera.

Imagine! A Gaza free from aid-colonialists and imperialists, well-meaning but misguided and patronizing ‘helpers’, adventure tourists, and the self-promoting – but never card-carrying – ‘journalists’ building careers on the backs of Gazans.

Imagine if Ismail Haniyeh released such a communique! Imagine the outcry…and the end of the exploitation of Gaza for others’ agendas.

Imagine! Gazan autonomy – the first step to Palestinian autonomy!

– Julie Webb-Pullman is a New Zealand activist and writer currently based in Gaza. She has written on social and political justice issues for New Zealand Independent News website SCOOP since 2003, as well as for websites in Australia, Canada, the US, and Latin America, and participated in several human rights observation missions. She contributed this article to


(1) Duncan Earle & Jeanne Simonelli (2004). The Zapatistas and Global Civil Society: Renegotiating the Relationship. Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe 76, abril de 2004 pp 119-25

(2) See Narco News.

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