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After the Demonstrations Are Over

The massive, worldwide protests against the Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza are unlike any other we have ever witnessed with regard to Israel-Palestine.

The massive, worldwide protests against the Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza are unlike any other we have ever witnessed with regard to Israel-Palestine. One can fairly say that at this moment more people are learning about this topic than ever before – we are witnessing an historic elevation of global consciousness with regard to Israel-Palestine. If the Holocaust shaped the awareness of Israel for those born after the Second World War, for this generation, Israel will be known by Gaza 2014.

While the mainstream media has covered the largest ones that have occurred in well-known metropolitan cities, the site TheWorldStandsWithPalestine documents as well much smaller but still impressive demonstrations in tiny hamlets, suburbs, and towns around the world.

Not only have people around the world taken to the streets, even in imperiled places in the occupied territories and in Israel there are protests. Three protesters were shot to death in a street demonstration in the West Bank recently, which saw the largest demonstrations in decades; I met with a young Palestinian student who told me of protest demonstrations going on at Birzeit University. In Israel, one news agency reports that “protests against the War on Gaza have flooded the streets of Jerusalem with thousands of protesters. Jews and Muslims marched side-by-side in support of civilians in Gaza,” yet “the vast majority of the corporate, mainstream media completely ignore this story.” Along with these public protests in Israel we are beginning to see Israelis refusing military service, with petitions being circulated and their stories being covered internationally. Finally, a global social media campaign has grown exponentially, bringing photos, videos, reports, and opinions into circulation well beyond the dominant media, the most popular hashtag being #GazaUnderAttack, with some four million tweets and counting, as well as #HumanizePalestine.

One concern that should be addressed here in the United States is what to do after the high-energy, massive protests eventually die down? How can we build on this momentum, which has led to the creation of large data-bases derived from petitions and statements that have issued forth from international instances of solidarity? This can form the backbone of collective progressive work in the future. I have written elsewhere of these promising developments amongst the international intellectual and activist communities.

The first thing we might do is to become better educated on this issue. Truthout’s interview with noted Israeli historian Ilan Pappe is an excellent start. One can also view fine documentaries, such as “Occupation 101: Voices from the Silenced Majority.” The website allows one to stream a preview of the film; if you wish to see more, ask your local or university library to order it if it does not have it already.

Another way to keep the momentum going is to sign any one of several international petitions aimed at specific actions, such as the AVAAZ petition urging divestment from companies complicit with the Israel state. Their statement reads in part:

Our governments have failed — while they have talked peace and passed UN resolutions, they and our companies have continued to aid, trade and invest in the violence. The only way to stop this hellish cycle of Israel confiscating Palestinian lands, daily collective punishment of innocent Palestinian families, Hamas firing rockets, and Israel bombing Gaza is to make the economic cost of this conflict too high to bear.

This petition, which aims for 1.5 million signatures, is now less than 100,000 away from its goal.

Finally, one can lend support to the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Endorsers include Rabab Abdulhadi, Judith Butler, Angela Davis, Nada Elia, Robin D.G. Kelley, Imani Perry, Vijay Prashad, Adolph Reed, Desmond Tutu and hundreds others.

In each of these actions, and many others, we empower ourselves to be both teachers and activists. In our own ways we counter the distortions and erasures carried out by the mainstream media, and the immense power of the pro-Israel lobby to do things like coerce the US Senate to unanimously endorse the now infamous Senate Resolution 498, which gives full support to the Israeli attacks on Palestinians in direct violation of international laws against collective punishment. If progressive politicians in the Senate chose to remain silent—not a single one voicing concern for the Palestinian civilians (mostly women and children) being slaughtered there—it is up to us.

After the smoke clears in Gaza, let there be no mistake—what remains will be a gutted, decimated infrastructure, a huge humanitarian crisis, and a political wreckage. The mass demonstrations may ebb, but our solidarity with the Palestinian people must continue in a firm, evolving way, for that is the one and only way restorative justice will ever take place.