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[16days_discussion] A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Color Feminists

Center for Women's Global Leadership cwgl at
Fri Jul 15 14:49:36 EDT 2011

*Justice for Palestine

A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Color Feminists*

Between June 14 and June 23, 2011, a delegation of 11 scholars, 
activists, and artists visited occupied Palestine. As indigenous and 
women of color feminists involved in multiple social justice struggles, 
we sought to affirm our association with the growing international 
movement for a free Palestine. We wanted to see for ourselves the 
conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what 
we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and 
ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us---including those members of 
our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South 
Africa, and on Indian reservations in the U.S.---was shocked by what we 
saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an 
urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, 
equality, and freedom.

During our short stay in Palestine, we met with academics, students, 
youth, leaders of civic organizations, elected officials, trade 
unionists, political leaders, artists, and civil society activists, as 
well as residents of refugee camps and villages that have been recently 
attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Everyone we encountered---in 
Nablus, Awarta, Balata, Jerusalem, Hebron, Dheisheh, Bethlehem, Birzeit, 
Ramallah, Um el-Fahem, and Haifa---asked us to tell the truth about life 
under occupation and about their unwavering commitment to a free 
Palestine. We were deeply impressed by people's insistence on the 
linkages between the movement for a free Palestine and struggles for 
justice throughout the world; as Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted 
throughout his life, "Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a 
threat to justice everywhere."

Traveling by bus throughout the country, we saw vast numbers of Israeli 
settlements ominously perched in the hills, bearing witness to the 
systematic confiscation of
Palestinian land in flagrant violation of international law and United 
Nations resolutions. We met with refugees across the country whose 
families had been evicted from their homes by Zionist forces, their land 
confiscated, their villages and olive groves razed. As a consequence of 
this ongoing displacement, Palestinians comprise the largest refugee 
population in the world (over five million), the majority living within 
100 kilometers of their natal homes, villages, and farmlands. In 
defiance of United Nations Resolution 194, Israel has an active policy 
of opposing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their 
ancestral homes and lands on the grounds that they are not entitled to 
exercise the Israeli Law of Return, which is reserved for Jews.

In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in eastern occupied Jerusalem, we met 
an 88-year old woman who was forcibly evicted in the middle of the 
night; she watched as the Israeli military moved settlers into her house 
a mere two hours later. Now living in the small back rooms of what was 
once her large family residence, she defiantly asserted that neither 
Israel's courts nor its military could ever force her from her home. In 
the city of Hebron, we were stunned by the conspicuous presence of 
Israeli soldiers, who maintain veritable conditions of apartheid for the 
city's Palestinian population of almost 200,000, as against its 700 
Jewish settlers. We crossed several Israeli checkpoints designed to 
control Palestinian movement on West Bank roads and along the Green 
Line. Throughout our stay, we met Palestinians who, because of Israel's 
annexation of Jerusalem and plans to remove its native population, have 
been denied entry to the Holy City. We spoke to a man who lives ten 
minutes away from Jerusalem but who has not been able to enter the city 
for twenty-seven years. The Israeli government thus continues to wage a 
demographic war for Jewish dominance over the Palestinian population.

We were never able to escape the jarring sight of the ubiquitous 
apartheid wall, which stands in contempt of international law and human 
rights principles. Constructed of twenty-five-foot-high concrete slabs, 
electrified cyclone fencing, and winding razor wire, it almost 
completely encloses the West Bank and extends well east of the Green 
Line marking Israel's pre-1967 borders. It snakes its way through 
ancient olive groves, destroying the beauty of the landscape, dividing 
communities and families, severing farmers from their fields and 
depriving them of their livelihood. In Abu Dis, the wall cuts across the 
campus of Al Quds University through the soccer field. In Qalqiliya, we 
saw massive gates built to control the entry and access of Palestinians 
to their lands and homes, including a gated corridor through which 
Palestinians with increasingly rare Israeli-issued permits are processed 
as they enter Israel for work, sustaining the very state that has 
displaced them. Palestinian children are forced through similar 
corridors, lining-up for hours twice each day to attend school. As one 
Palestinian colleague put it, "Occupied Palestine is the largest prison 
in the world."

An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses 
resistance. Everywhere we went we met people who had either been 
imprisoned themselves or had relatives who had been incarcerated. Twenty 
thousand Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons, at least 8,000 
of them are political prisoners and more than 300 are children. In 
Jerusalem, we met with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council 
who are being protected from arrest by the International Committee of 
the Red Cross. In Umm al-Fahm, we met with an Islamist leader just after 
his release from prison and heard a riveting account of his experience 
on the Mavi Marmara and the 2010 Gaza Flotilla. The criminalization of 
their political activity, and that of the many Palestinians we met, was 
a constant and harrowing theme.

We also came to understand how overt repression is buttressed by 
deceptive representations of the state of Israel as the most developed 
social democracy in the
region. As feminists, we deplore the Israeli practice of "pink-washing," 
the state's use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to 
dress-up its occupation. In Palestine, we consistently found evidence 
and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice. 
We met the President and the leadership of the Arab Feminist Union and 
several other women's groups in Nablus who spoke about the role and 
struggles of Palestinian women on several fronts. We visited one of the 
oldest women's empowerment centers in Palestine, In'ash al-Usra, and 
learned about various income-generating cultural projects. We also spoke 
with Palestinian Queers for BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], 
young organizers who frame the struggle for gender and sexual justice as 
part and parcel of a comprehensive framework for self-determination and 
liberation. Feminist colleagues at Birzeit University, An-Najah 
University, and Mada al-Carmel spoke to us about the organic linkage of 
anti-colonial resistance with gender and sexual equality, as well as 
about the transformative role Palestinian institutions of
higher education play in these struggles.

We were continually inspired by the deep and abiding spirit of 
resistance in the stories people told us, in the murals inside buildings 
such as Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh
Refugee Camp, in slogans painted on the apartheid wall in Qalqiliya, 
Bethlehem, and Abu Dis, in the education of young children, and in the 
commitment to emancipatory knowledge production. At our meeting with the 
Boycott National Committee---an umbrella alliance of over 200 
Palestinian civil society organizations, including the General Union of 
Palestinian Women, the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the 
Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI], and the 
Palestinian Network of NGOs---we were humbled by their appeal: "We are 
not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are 
simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the 
Israeli state."

Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and 
Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli 
institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and 
democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social 
relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel 
is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of 
Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning 
the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation.

We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the U.S. and 
elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end 
U.S. financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and 
its occupation. We call upon all people of conscience to engage in 
serious dialogue about Palestine and to acknowledge connections between 
the Palestinian cause and other struggles for justice. Injustice 
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University*
Ayoka Chenzira, artist and filmmaker, Atlanta, GA
Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz*
Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz*
G. Melissa Garcia, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University*
Anna Romina Guevarra, author and sociologist, Chicago, IL
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, author, Atlanta, GA
Premilla Nadasen, author, New York, NY
Barbara Ransby, author and historian, Chicago, IL
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University*
Waziyatawin, University of Victoria*

*For identification purposes only

For press inquiries, please contact feministdelegation at
Center for Women's Global Leadership
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
160 Ryders Lane
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8555
Tel: 1-732-932-8782
Fax: 1-732-932-1180
Email: cwgl at <mailto:cwgl at>
Website: _http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu_
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