On the wall of the courtyard at “The Citadel” in Beit Sahour is a mural of great Palestinian figures, both women and men. Many of them are dead; those who still live spent time in prison and are prohibited from living in their homeland. And yet Palestinians are constantly demanded to answer the question, “Where is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela?”
“My Nelson Mandela is dead,” my long-time friend Baha Hilo answered, as this question was posed to him by visitors at the “Citadel.” The Palestinian Mandelas are dead and buried, or sometimes buried alive in Israeli prisons with long sentences that in some ways are like a death sentence.
The figures on the mural at the citadel include women who were part of the armed struggle, like Dalal Al-Mughrabi, Laila Khaled, Zakia Shamout. There are cartoonist Naji Al-Ali, who created Handala and was assassinated; the great writer Ghassan Kanafani, brutally murdered by Israel; the poet Ibrahim Touqan; the poet Abdel Raheem Mahmoud, who was also assassinated; Nizar El-Banat, who was murdered by the Palestinian Authority, an arm of the Zionist occupation; and Basel Al-Araj, a writer and fighter who was killed by Israeli forces. All Palestinians who are part of a long story of struggle.
If we insist on bringing up the South African struggle against aparthied, then we would be better to ask Israelis, and perhaps even some Jewish people around the world, “Where is your Ruth First?” Ruth First was a major figure in the fight to bring down the South African apartheid regime and on the 17th of August, 1982 she was killed by a letter bomb. Her assassination is believed to have been the work of the South African security agencies.
One would also ask, “Where is the Israeli Albie Sachs?” His work to free South Africans from apartheid brought the South African security agents to place a bomb in his car on April 7, 1988. The explosion blew up his car and he lost an arm and the sight of one eye. After Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa, he appointed Sachs to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court. As a Constitutional Court judge, Justice Sachs was the chief architect of the post-apartheid constitution of 1996.
We should also ask, “Where is the Israeli Joe Slovo?” Slovo was chief of staff of uMkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC). He served on the revolutionary council of the ANC and was the first white member of the ANC’s national executive. All three were Jewish and white and they paid heavily for their commitment to justice and their fight for a free South Africa.
Still, people never ask this of Israelis and other Jewish Zionists, because it is much easier to demand an explanation from the victims than to hold the perpetrators accountable.
“What is your strategy for liberation?” is another question posed to Palestinians. This is a lot like asking the prisoners in a maximum-security prison what their strategy is for escape. One may assume that prisoners think of little else and strategize on ways to escape or at least get parole, but the question remains ridiculous because the power of the system that holds them is immense and its control over them and their actions is practically absolute. Palestinians live in a sophisticated prison called “Israel” and, like inmates in a prison, they dream of liberation, even as they do their best to live and exist under the brutal regime imposed upon them.
Rarely, if ever, do we hear people ask Israelis, “What is your strategy for peace, equality and justice?” If the question were posed, the answer would be: “There is none.” This is because Israel is interested in neither peace, justice nor equality. Destruction of Palestine was the strategy all along and from the very beginning, the rest of the world was either complicit or just standing by and allowing the destruction to take place.
Keeping the hope
The way to liberate the Palestinians from Israel requires replacing the apartheid regime known as “Israel” with a free, democratic Palestine–and not expecting that Israel itself will allow Palestinians to be free. Israel isn’t just the perpetrator of the crime, it is, in and of itself, the crime. The existence of Apartheid Israel is the crime. So it is up to those of us on the outside, who are not bound by the rules of apartheid, to make every effort to dismantle this system of oppression known as “Israel.” The possibility of this taking place, however, is not something that necessarily inspires hope, because it demands a struggle against forces that seem to be invincible.
People like to “find hope” in the most absurd places. Representations of normalization, the “peace, and dialogue industry,” have been instrumental in creating the ridiculous sense of hope that is based not on a realistic understanding of what must be done, but on a myth of an Israel that will allow the Palestinian people to establish a state one day–a state that will be governed by “good Palestinians” who refrain from violence and “unrealistic demands” like the return of the refugees, full equality, and the dismantling of the Zionist colonialist system.
Israel and its allies know that they have to be vigilant and that even the slightest crack in their wall of lies and misinformation can lead to the collapse of the Zionist regime. This is why in the U.S. they have a presence in every town and city, in school boards and small city councils; they have a presence in the churches and they have a presence on college campuses.
The Zionist campaign is vicious and relentless because the Zionists know that once a crack is made in their line of defense–a line that is made of deception, falsehoods, and fabrication–they will fall, never to rise again. Forcing that wall of deception to fall is the task that must be undertaken by people of conscience working for justice and peace. We must formulate a strategy to dismantle the wall and the system that built it.
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are ”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”