Organizing for Palestinian Rights in a time of Trump

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, the world turned upside down as Donald J. Trump won the electoral college to become President-elect of the United States.  In the subsequent days, among grieving, confusion, despondency, resolve, support, and love, many calls have been made to organize.   Thousands have already taken to the streets, and many many more have pledged to fight for a better world.  JVP asked five movement leaders to share some wisdom on organizing in this time:

Omar Barghouti

Let our action for justice trump our fear and despair!

The Make America WASP Again agenda has trumped the Make Wall Street Even Greater agenda. This spells even more trouble to minorities, to people of color, to movements for racial, social, economic, environmental, and gender justice.

As a human, I am alarmed. As a Palestinian, I am profoundly concerned. But panic and paralysis are luxuries we can never afford. The rise of the xenophobic right in the US will undoubtedly boost like-minded far-right parties elsewhere, causing immense suffering to many of us, but let us explore the silver lining that is faintly shining from a distance. Naked racism and unmasked savage capitalism may help to shake every complacent progressive into action and incentivize us to double our efforts in fighting racism, injustice and oppression in all forms.

But this possibility is only likely if our reflection and action for justice and rights outdo their gutter politics of bigotry, despair and further enriching the richest 1%.

The challenge ahead requires all those struggling against oppression to nourish our educated hope, to explore and enhance the intersectionality of our struggles, and to generate an even fresher, more creative, morally-consistent and popular praxis to assert our undeniable, inalienable and irreducible right to freedom, justice and equality.

Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.

Donna Nevel

This moment is a very frightening and sobering one for all of us, but that is especially true for those who are being directly targeted. This reality is one that did not begin on November 19th, but, rather, is one that builds on the injustice and violence upon which this country was founded.

So, too, does powerful organizing against injustice have a long history. Together with movements that have a rich history of organizing within and across communities, we at JVP need to continue to stand firmly – with love and dignity – for justice in Palestine, against Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, in support of the Movement for Black Lives and Standing Rock, and with all movements fighting to dismantle state-sanctioned violence, imperialism, and white supremacy.

No small task, to say the least, but engaging deeply with communities across the US–and, indeed, across the globe–in this work, and envisioning together what justice can look like, will help propel us and sustain us in our fight for justice.

Donna Nevel is co-founder of JVP’s Network Against Islamophobia and coordinating committee member of  Facing the Nakba

Nadia Hijab

From my London base across the Atlantic, buffeted by the winds of Brexit since June, I took solace in the belief that the US constitution protected our US movement’s ability to take action, including boycotts, in a way that was not as assured in the United Kingdom. Now even that is gone.

I believed that Hillary Clinton would have been the lesser evil because we would still have the space in which to organize against her and for our rights. True, we made few inroads during the Obama administration, but that is because we are still building our movement. And it is much stronger today than it was four or eight years ago.

With a Trump Administration, our ability to grow our strength and end US complicity in Israel’s human rights violations will be greatly challenged. This will place Palestinians at Israel’s mercy more than ever before and things that were unthinkable just a few months ago, maybe even another Nakba, may no longer be.

And yet we will not be turned. And we still have strength on which to draw and to build.

First, our goals and messages are in sharper focus. More and more of us are speaking to the three goals of freedom, justice and equality. These are universal messages applicable to other US and global causes, and they are the rallying cry of Palestinian civil society, enshrined in the 2005 Call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

We must not see those goals as erasing the Green Line that demarcates Israel’s pre-1967 border. More than ever before we need to protect and defend that Green Line – whether we believe in one state or two – because the illegality of Israel’s actions beyond it is upheld in international law certainly by Europe even if not by a Trump Administration.

The right in the US (as in the UK) is much better than the progressive left at zeroing in on key messages and then repeat, repeat, repeat, until they sink in. We need that discipline.

Second, our movement now has alliances with other movements threatened by a Trump presidency, including Black and Latino people, alliances that need to be broadened and deepened. And within our movement, we have many organizations whose members are threatened by the appeal of Trump: Arab, Muslim, and Jewish. While many of these groups joined to uphold Palestinian rights we are now in a position to actively defend each other, whatever our ethnicity or faith, as we move forward.

And, finally, we will need, and we have, money. We need to build and staff and institutionalize this movement as never before, so that it can do our work. Let’s make the giving season this year the best ever and ensure that the way ahead is built on the bedrock of our principles.

Nadia Hijab is the Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network

Rabbi Linda Holtzman

This week has been surreal. Last week, I joined with 13 other people (including Miriam Grossman and Ariana Katz, rabbinical students and JVP members) at the North Dakota State House in a direct action to protest the oil pipeline that is destroying the water and the sacred ground of the Sioux tribe at Standing Rock.

JVP was extremely supportive the entire time we were there. At Standing Rock, I was struck by similar feelings that I had when I went to Palestine last summer. Here was an indigenous people that loves their land, that treats it with deep caring and total respect, and that is consistently treated as less than fully human while their land is claimed by others to use for their own purposes, damaging it as it suites them. Palestinians and Native Americans, for all their differences, have remarkable similarities.
Arriving home for the election has been painful. The racism, deep fear of anyone different, and violence that has been awakened by Trump has clearly been a part of our country all along. It was so blatant at Standing Rock. But watching it celebrated and highlighted is so disheartening! I am certain that Trump will value neither Native Americans nor Palestinians and that the same fear and hatred that he applies to one will be applied to the other.

Our work for the next four years needs to be intensified so that we can support the indigenous people of America and of Palestine. We need to pull together to help people understand the similarities between both people and to all work for both.

Rabbi Linda Holtzman is a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council

Cecilie Surasky

Trump’s win is a challenge unlike any other I have experienced in my lifetime. If ever there was a time to step outside of our issue silos, our liberatory but also constricting models of identity politics, and to create an intersectional multi-issue resistance, that time is now.

Because you know how to organize, because so many of you come to this work from other struggles, because Israel-Palestine sits at the nexus of so many issues we must confront right now, JVP members have a critical leadership role to play.
It would be a mistake to reduce Trump’s election simply to racism–he won, after all, by turning rust belt states that had gone for Obama. And it would be a mistake to similarly narrow our vision of Israel/Palestine politics.

I believe that US unconditional support for Israel’s military, while it may have Christian religious undertones, fueled by Islamophobia and racism, is at its core still about maintaining US financial/military interests in an oil-rich region. And billions in US military aid benefits no one more than US weapons manufacturers.

If we don’t address neoliberal capitalism’s rapacious economic exploitation—the growth in global inequality and privatization that impacts virtually every aspect of our world, including Israeli-Palestine—we will be back here again and again like a nightmarish groundhog day.

We will have more Standing Rocks, more militarized police killing black men and women, more publicly funded weaponry being used on Palestinians. And the inevitable result of inequality unchecked is more scapegoating of the other: of Muslims, of immigrants, of Jews.

I would love to see JVP political education continue to explore this analysis; JVP open up virtual organizing school to anyone who wants to attend; JVP members officially represent JVP in local and national multi-issue efforts. In a way, it would be going back to our political roots, but with a much deeper, lived connection to other struggles.

Cecilie Surasky is the former Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace


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