2012: Bittersweet…2013: BDS
A friend shared a New Year’s resolution card with me (pictured); it was originally published in 1946 in an Argentinian Jewish newspaper in the Yiddish language. It features a bandaged figure labelled “the world” (die velt), shaking hands with an angel labelled “Peace” (frieden). The card read: A New Year Blessing! It is the will of all that lives forever: This year, you shall make peace with each other! Amen!”
This old card my friend sent tells me only one thing; 66 years later, Palestinian suffering continues, and peace has not yet been realized in the region. The year 2012 has proven to be bittersweet for Palestinians. Minor good stuff happened, while worse stuff did not stop happening. This year has witnessed a renewed Israeli offensive on the Gaza strip, one of the world’s most densely populated areas. In a period of 8 days, Israeli strikes on Gaza killed over 160, around 50 were children. Seventy per cent of those killed were civilians. Hundreds were injured. On the Israeli side, six lives were lost. The suffering and misery of about 1.7 million Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza strip continues.
In the West Bank, the Israeli government continues to illegally appropriate Palestinian land to build settlements and continues to destroy water cisterns and expel the local population. In the Negev desert and Southern parts of the West Bank, ethnic cleansing sponsored by the Israeli government continues in broad daylight as hundreds of families are being evacuated and transferred from their Bedouin villages into small filthy places, not suitable for human living, and located in remote locked up areas of the West Bank. Governments across the world have expressed their anger about the Israeli policies, but no action was done, as always. In November, 138 member states of the United Nations voted in favour of Palestine to become a non-member observer state, but this move was merely symbolic with no actual impact on the situation on the ground.
On the other hand, the year 2012 witnessed a great movement inside the Israeli jails, dubbed by some as The Battle of Empty Stomachs. The movement was led by Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails, who decided to fight for justice and dignity by embarking on lengthy hunger strikes. This wave of hunger strikes started after Khader Adnan, a Palestinian administrative detainee, embarked on a 66 day hunger strike beginning at the start of the year 2012. Fighting for justice, dignity, and freedom, thousands of prisoners joined the hunger strike later in the year to protest Israeli injustices and inhumane treatment in the military prisons. Prominent hunger strike figures are Hana Shalabi, the footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, Thaer Halahleh, Bilal Diab, Akram Rikhawi and many others. A Few of those prisoners achieved their freedom from jail; many others are still in jail facing the Israeli unjust & arbitrary imprisonment system. This fight led by Palestinian prisoners inspired Palestinians and people fighting for justice everywhere, including Arab countries where the people are fighting dictatorial regimes. Imprisoned human rights activists in those countries also resorted to hunger strikes – Palestinian style- to fight for freedom; examples are Bahrain, Tunisia, and Egypt.
The year 2012 also witnessed a growing influence of the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign which aims to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people. In a first of its kind, the ruling party of South Africa, the African National Congress, became the first leading political power in a country to make the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions on Israel its official policy. BDS activists around the world also scored major victories against big companies complicit in maintaining and benefiting from Israel’s illegal occupation; G4S and Veolia are among those companies.
Global support fighting for justice in Palestine keeps us all optimistic that a better future awaits us all. Fighting injustice is the duty of every human being who believes in equality, human rights, and freedom for every individual. Dedicate the year 2013 to increase BDS efforts as this is one of the most powerful means that could pressure the State of Israel into ending its illegal occupation, stand accountable for war crimes, and grant Palestinians their rights acknowledged by international conventions and the United Nations.