UPWARDS OF 400,000 PRO-PALESTINE PROTESTORS TAKE THE STREETS IN A NATIONAL MARCH IN WASHINGTON DC TO SHOW SUPPORT FOR PALESTINIANS AND CALL FOR A CEASEFIRE AND END THE GENOCIDE IN GAZA, JANUARY 13, 2024. (PHOTO: EMAN MOHAMMED)
When Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in 1961, Langston Hughes wrote, “They buried Lumumba/In an unmarked grave/But he needs no marker… My heart’s his grave/and it’s marked there.”
Since Israel began its slaughter in Gaza on October 7, I have felt my own heart become a grave for over 25,000 people in Palestine. I, along with the rest of the world, have borne witness to the world’s most documented genocide in history. I have watched, from my phone, the attempted annihilation of an entire nation.
These 100 days of genocide have replaced every cell in my body and made me into a different person. I am not the same as I was before witnessing these atrocities; my soul has shifted to revolve around this revolution. I’m not alone. The world has changed right along with me.
For many, this change has been driven by the work of Palestinian journalists who face death for exposing the truth.
“The heroic reporting, often captured and published by courageous Palestinian youth across Palestine, is offering us a clear lens through which to view the gruesome violence and racism inherent in the colonial settler project of Israel,” says Manal Farhan, a Chicago resident whose family was expelled from their home of Al-Malha in Palestine in 1948, during the First Nakba.
But this growing awareness and rage is not only being directed toward Israeli settler colonialism but the entire Western project as a whole.
Rawan Masri, a translator in Ramallah and co-founder of Decolonize Palestine, says she’s noticed this monumental global shift. “I think these 100 days have exposed Israel’s genocidal brutality to scores of people for the very first time and to those already in solidarity with us more than ever before. I think this is the beginning of the end not only for Israel but for Western colonial hegemony that so many of us accepted as a fact of life but are now seeing in a tangible way that it doesn’t have to be,” she says.
Palestinian freedom is my freedom
Iman Sultan, a Pakistani-American writer and journalist who has been involved in pro-Palestine activism, says that over 100 days of watching a genocide has “led to an awakening where we are more aware of our humanity by recognizing that of Palestinians,” something we’ve seen as people become more spiritual and reflective.
“I also think the regular cycles and spectacles of capitalist life — whether it’s the election, the cult around politicians, or celebrity — has effectively been rendered obsolete when the reality is that more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7,” Sultan continues. “And those in power have not just enacted, but justified their murders.”
This feeling of widespread rejection has extended into so many areas of our lives. BDS, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that aims to economically and politically pressure Israel to end the occupation, has received support like we’ve never seen before. After Starbucks sued the Starbucks Worker’s Union for supporting Palestine and videos came out of McDonald’s in Israel giving Israeli Occupation Forces soldiers free meals while they continued their campaign of slaughter, most pro-Palestinian Americans have refused to eat at the two fast food chains, indicating that their boycott is permanent and they will not be swayed by even a measly apology — which has not yet come. It may seem a small thing, but to get Americans — whose entire culture is about consumerism — to stop consuming two of the biggest pillars of this culture would have been unfathomable. But people can no longer keep going as they used to.
And BDS is not just limited to the list. People have been researching the companies they buy from, buying local and used, limiting their food waste, and intentionally supporting Palestinian-owned businesses and businesses that have risked their livelihood for Palestine, like HUDA Beauty. Masri says that in Palestine, she has also heard countless people announce they no longer want to watch Western movies or television.
“The common phrase I hear is they can’t stomach the hypocrisy,” Masri explains. “They can’t handle seeing what people think are problems compared to getting bombed and starved and seeing life being lived as normal when we’re denied that.”
As more people stand for Palestine and find themselves losing their jobs, threatened with violence, assaulted, and suspended just for wearing symbols of the resistance like the keffiyeh, let alone imprisoned for their activism, the stakes of this fight are becoming much more immediate for allies. “Many governments have largely ignored the recent outcry of their populace demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza or have criminalized and punished the very act of speaking up in support of Palestinian human rights, [which] communicates clearly that these nations purporting to value and protect human dignity [are] a farce,” Farhan continues, adding that she herself is facing eviction from her landlord M. Fishman simply for flying a Palestinian flag outside her window. “People realize the implication of this; that they are not truly free — free to learn and speak as they wish, consume as they wish, gather as they wish, dress as they wish — until Palestine is free.”
Joining the world vs. the West
South Africa’s suit against Israel in the International Court of Justice, at The Hague, which is considered the highest court in the world, directly challenged this Western colonial hegemony. As Nesrine Malik wrote in the Guardian, the trial was not only condemning Israel for its bloody 75-year occupation and current genocide but challenging the West’s pernicious lie that it is the safeguard of morality, logic, and nuance, when in reality, they are responsible for some of the most barbaric and cruel acts of violence humanity has ever witnessed. “The ICJ case shows how Western logic is wearing thin and its persuasive power waning in a multipolar world,” Malik wrote.
It has been pointed out that most of the countries standing with Palestine are not part of the Western world. Namibia, where Germany committed the first genocide of the 20th century in 1904-1908, condemned Germany for its support of Israel. Ansar Allah in Yemen, commonly referred to as “the Houthis,” have been brave enough to disrupt shipping to Israel, and when their capital was bombed by the U.S. and U.K., in retaliation, they did not back down but extended the blockage to their attackers as well. Instead of despairing at the lack of powerful Western countries to join this call, I and my comrades see it as the revolution of the Global South. They cannot defeat us. Especially because we are not just geographically in the Global South, but we are in the West as well — the children of the enslaved and the displaced, the Indigenous and the refugee, and our refusal is so loud the world has heard us. We must make our screams unbearable.
A PROTEST SIGN READING “FROM PALESTINE TO SUDAN TO THE CONGO TO HAITI TO TIGRAY, NONE OF US ARE FREE UNTIL ALL OF US ARE FREE !!!” SHARED ON TWITTER/X BY THE ACCOUNT @AXMEDAMIINMAX
The genocide in Palestine has also led to increased awareness about other ongoing genocides. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, six million people have been killed due to Western interference and the cobalt mining industry — cobalt being the resource that powers our technology, including smartphones. And that genocide has been funded mainly by the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. In Sudan, a genocide funded by the United Arab Emirates has killed 9,000 people in six months, including the genocide of the Masalit in Darfur by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)/Janjaweed and extrajudicial killings of non-Arabs throughout Sudan by Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF.)
“The positioning of the Palestinian cause called for global liberation. Naturally, people asked, ‘who else?’” says A., a non-Arab Sudanese woman and activist who wishes to remain anonymous for her safety and the safety of her family.
With so many people having fresh awareness of these other atrocities, it would be easy to paint a romantic narrative of global solidarity. But we’re not quite there yet, and dishonesty gets us no closer.
“People are interrogating their ideas of liberation and if it withstands the test of true allyship being extended,” A. says. ” In the case of Sudan, many found local activists who had already been creating content to educate, advocate, and support long before October 7th. In other causes like Tigray where there’s very few in the diaspora to share stories, we saw the disconnect between genuine allyship and just another slogan attached to another movement.”
Sultan agrees that while we are living in unprecedented times, there’s still a long way to go. “I don’t think the cataclysm between the first and third world has quite been bridged. That still has yet to happen. But we can call this the beginning,” she says.
As African countries, the DRC and Sudan have struggled to gain the level of recognition and global solidarity that other nations have received in our movement. “Free Congo” or “Free Sudan” are tacked on during our protests, but turnout for protests focused on those countries is low. While Palestine remains the litmus test for morality, some seem unwilling to hold the testimony and truth of non-Arab Africans who are also being oppressed. This kind of willful ignorance is something we can no longer afford. For how many years was it acceptable to turn away from Palestine, to brush it off with “it’s complicated”? The era of complacency is over, and we must hold all our brothers and sisters in our hearts and keep them at the center of our fight. Perhaps it is easier said than done in a world where the oppression of Africans has always struggled to gain global recognition and solidarity, but it must be done. And we must go further. There are those who have called for riots, for uprisings like we’ve never seen before, for acts of civil disobedience that make it impossible for our economies to function. Without this, we will have failed Palestinians, and we will have failed ourselves.
The grief is deep, but freedom is attainable
This is our great test as humans, and if we fail it, we will cease to exist. This is not hyperbole or spiritual metaphor. It is a scientific fact that colonialism and capitalism are twin evils that are destroying humans’ ability to live on this Earth. During the genocide in Gaza alone, Israel’s military expelled the same amount of emissions as two of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations in three months. The stripping of resources from the Congo and the same corporations and nations (like the U.S. and the U.K.) that fund Israel and wage war on Yemen are the world’s biggest polluters, killing our chance of human life on this Earth just for money. We must throw off the chains that have entrapped not only Palestine but the whole world.
We have a timer, and it is reaching its end, and so many of us feel this holy urgency. If we allow the most documented genocide in history to happen without consequence, without ending this occupation and freeing our brothers and sisters globally, then we will have lost everything. Masri says the outpouring of solidarity has made her feel that freedom is attainable, but she knows it will be hard-won and that Israel and other Western countries will commit horrific acts of violence we will never heal from in response to the death of empire.
“Yemen, Namibia, South Africa, and other countries give me hope, but there is still a long and bloody road ahead of us,” she says.
But I feel peace amidst my indescribable pain. Because somehow, I know that liberation is imminent. I know we will avenge the blood of everyone lost by bringing lasting peace. For the first time in my life, I can see it. Not on the horizon or in some distant future but here, now. I wish it not just for my children but for me. Freedom is here and we need only reach for it. It has never been so close.
My heart will never stop being a grave. I will never heal from what I have seen. I will cry forever. Still, I have never been so full of despair, and I have also never been so full of hope. For the first time, I have faith.