Freedom and dignity are non-negotiable

The recently concluded hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners underscored one vital aspect about the ongoing Palestinian struggle for freedom from the 50-year old illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. Israel has resorted to every known ploy to get Palestinians to retreat. It has yet to find a method to silence the Palestinian aspiration. Surrender by the Palestinians is not on the cards. This stubborn unwillingness to fold up and capitulate annoys Israel to an extent which prompts it to persistently invent underhand methods to weaken the resistance. In the case of the hunger strike by prisoners, the world saw Israeli political and military leaders use despicable threats and conditions to end the strike. One Minister was contemptuous to the point where he called for allowing for prisoners to face their own deaths or withdraw. In the end, the prisoners won more than Israel had thought they would give in. It reminds one of what Gandhi once said: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

 History is replete with narratives of the oppressed overcoming their predicament through stubborn struggle. It has always come at a cost though. Tens of thousands have been martyred in the cause they have sacrificed themselves for. But freedom and justice from subjugation have come.

There is encouragement in the broadening of a wide coalition of activists who have transcended boundaries to defy Israel’s absurd rules about confining people to defined and limited territories. Solidarity cannot be confined within boundaries. And this finds its logic in the fact humankind is one. Dreamers are not limited by geography. ‘Imagine no country’ sang the great poet-revolutionary-singer, John Lennon. Art can also make its impact. An artist in Gaza is rebellious when he chooses the beach to carve out sculptures in the sand of the Palestinian cause and political developments that have taken place in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israel’s desperate response is to expand settlements on illegal/stolen land as their way of expanding the settler-colonialist project. They mock the will of the international community in doing so, violate international law, disregard UN resolutions, and, in effect, degrade their own standing in the eyes of the world, especially those who see justice as a precondition for peace. Israeli desperation is seen in acts of vandalizing Palestinian properties as their way of humiliating the Palestinian psyche. They send prisoners back to jail for no valid rhyme or reason under the obnoxious practice of administrative law as a way of preempting others who may be tempted to challenge the occupation from serious protests. They spoil natural resources making normal life nonstandard and unfit even for recreation – for example the way in which they allow sewage into the seas where people swim for pleasure is now polluted severely in the seas around Gaza.

It is astonishing that Israel has not learned anything at all from 50 years of resistance to the occupation. The more severe the measures adopted, the more inventive becomes the response. Not that the innovations are moments of pleasure and successes to count. Each death, house demolition, imprisonment, destruction of agricultural lands, separation by barriers and check points, refusal to allow the return of refugees, and more settlements that are grabbed are moments of acute distress to the Palestinian. They are a blot on Israeli life because they criminalize their nation.

At the end of the day, the Israeli lives the lesser life. They are dehumanized by their own insolence even if they live in denial of this fact for now. The occupation will devour its moral fiber and when that reaches the confines of intolerance, Israel will collapse as a society.

Israel’s occupation is, therefore, a suicidal venture waiting to cave in and disintegrate. The better option is a dialogue-based solution which allows both sides to unite in justice pursued by reconciliation and peace. For this, the onus is on Israel.

Ranjan Solomon