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Vigil for Palestine: We Mourn and Consider What Solidarity Demands of Us

“Our goal is to stop a genocide,” says Palestinian organizer Rasha Abdulhadi.

Part of the Series

“Ruin someone powerful’s afternoon. Our goal is to stop a genocide. We do not have to argue with murderers or appeal to a compassion they do not have. We must make it impossible for them to carry out,” says Palestinian poet and organizer Rasha Abdulhadi. In this episode of “Movement Memos,” Abdulhadi, Nadine Naber, Iman Abid, Mike Merryman-Lotze, Leanne Simpson, Shane Burley, Brant Rosen, and others join host Kelly Hayes to hold vigil for Palestine, and to talk about what solidarity demands of us in this moment.

Music by Son Monarcas and David Celeste

TRANSCRIPT

Note: This a rush transcript and has been lightly edited for clarity. Copy may not be in its final form.

Kelly Hayes: Welcome to “Movement Memos,” a Truthout podcast about organizing, solidarity and the work of making change. I’m your host, writer and organizer Kelly Hayes. This week’s episode is a vigil for Palestine. As of this recording, over 10,000 people have been killed during Israel’s genocidal attacks on Gaza, and at least 4,100 of those killed have been children. Over 70 percent of Palestinians living in Gaza have been displaced. More than 175 medical personnel have been killed and 34 ambulances have been destroyed by Israeli bombs. Raz Segal, an associate professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University, has called Israel’s ongoing assault on Palestinians “a textbook case of genocide.”

Israeli settler violence in the West Bank worsens with each passing day, with entire Palestinian communities fleeing as a result of mob violence and aggression from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

On Saturday, 300,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., demanding an immediate ceasefire and an end to U.S. funding for Israeli apartheid. Speakers and organizers on the ground also emphasized the need for continued momentum. In this moment, we must live in resistance to genocide. There is more to this work than protest, but right now, marches and disruptive direct actions are crucial, as we not only demand that the United States government stop funding Israel’s genocidal actions, but also challenge one another to participate in sustained organizing. The U.S. government is hoping that we will tire and stop paying attention — or that we will be satisfied with the so-called humanitarian pause in genocidal violence that some U.S. officials have called for. They are hoping our solidarity will waver, and that Israel’s violence will be normalized, just as Israeli apartheid has been normalized in the mainstream imagination here in the U.S. As the U.S. pins its hopes on a failure of popular solidarity with Palestine, it has never been more important for us to remain focused on Gaza and the West Bank, and to uplift the demand for an immediate ceasefire, an end to Israeli apartheid, and Palestinians’ right of return.

While U.S. officials have insisted that Israel has a “right to defend itself,” Israeli officials have been more explicit about their intentions. A reservist major general in the IDF, Giora Eiland, recently wrote in an Israeli newspaper, “The State of Israel has no choice but to turn Gaza into a place that is temporarily or permanently impossible to live in … Creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a necessary means to achieve the goal.” He added, “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.”

As Israel goes about the work of making Gaza a place where “no human being can exist,” our government continues to claim that Israel is doing its best to avoid civilian casualties — a lie that should be unthinkable under the circumstances.

In the face of such lies, such atrocities, and so much repression targeting Palestinians who have dared to challenge the annihilation of their communities, we must continue to act in solidarity. Sometimes that means attending a protest or a vigil. If you have been unable to attend a protest, or if there isn’t one happening right now wherever you are, I hope that you will experience this episode as a remote rally or vigil. It is a call to action and an opportunity to hear from Palestinians organizers, Jewish activists, and others who are deeply connected to this struggle about why we must be steadfast in our solidarity. Whether you are listening or reading during your commute, at work, while you do housework, or make protest art, I encourage you to absorb these words with intention. From Arab organizer Nadine Naber to Rabbi Brant Rosen and Palestinian poet and organizer Rasha Abdulhadi, hear these voices, contemplate their words, and consider what this moment demands of us all.

Iman Abid: My name is Iman Abid and I am the director of advocacy and organizing at the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. I am a daughter of Palestine. In the last few weeks, I have had to swallow my grief. Witnessing genocide with my own eyes, haunted by the cries of mothers screaming for their children. Bombardment after bombardment, strike after strike, on a population of Palestinians across Gaza already displaced and deprived.

There is nowhere safe. As the people of Gaza have been ordered by the Israeli government to flee south to safety, the bombs follow. Nowhere is safe. We know there is no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel — but we can’t comprehend the magnitude of cruelty. So, let me help you visualize it: Those who survive the airstrikes are beginning to die of hunger, dehydration and infection. The sick and newborns are dying in hospitals because there is no fuel to keep them breathing. The wounded are suffering through surgeries without anesthesia. We warned the world of this genocide and you refused to listen. When we told you Israel was an apartheid state, you called us liars.

To be Palestinian means by identity alone, we are controversial. Our grief is political, so therefore it must be silenced. Speaking our truth is a threat to the Zionist project, so it must be criminalized. Our identity is an obstacle to an imperialist agenda, so we must be vilified. Every expression of Palestinian life is criticized and torn down.

We have been asked to perfect our anger, as if rage and grief can be calculated and simplified. We carry generations of grief in our bones and in these last few weeks alone, we are witnessing the final stages of genocide. Israel is systematically slaughtering our people as the United States and Western powers provide unwavering political support and billions of dollars of unconditional military aid.

But even in the midst of such devastation and tragedy, the support for the Palestinian people has grown globally. Millions have marched in cities and towns across the world. Even in the face of brutal repression and criminalization, people continue to show their solidarity for Palestine. Despite censorship, shadowbanning and silencing of social media accounts by tech companies, Palestinians and their allies continue to share their stories and shine a spotlight on Gaza.

Our truth is the greatest weapon we have. In a series of leaked Israeli propaganda guidance, it explicitly says not to mention Israeli policy as a point of persuasion because, “The issue here is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is very difficult to win here.” To bring attention to 75 years of military occupation, and 16+ years of blockade of Gaza undermines the Israeli narrative. So, I say to all of you listening, keep talking about our history, don’t censor yourselves, do not be afraid to speak the truth. Listen to Palestinians’ voices and help amplify our stories.

I ask you to scroll through the hundreds of pages published by the Gaza Ministry of Health and read the names of every person killed. We are witnessing the final stages of a genocide, and we haven’t had a single moment to mourn the dead. Entire families, every generation gone — who is left to mourn them? We must hold their memories in our hearts and their names on our tongues. Every one of their names deserves to be read and shared across the world, a world that abandoned them. But we will never forget.

We are Palestinian, we carry the resilience in our hearts and deep in our bones. We raise our voices high, past the walls of occupation, no matter the aggression. Our identities, our names, our stories, will never be forgotten, and will only strengthen over time. May you hear my words, and the words across all of Palestine, across all of Gaza, Sheik Jarrah, Massafter Yatta, Jenin, Ramallah, and so on — our strength is woven into the tatreez our grandmothers and mothers have sewn, and in the walls that have been built up by our grandfathers and fathers. We will always remain home.

Jonathan: Hi, I’m Jonathan. I’m a Palestinian American activist. And these past few weeks, as the news coming out of Gaza has become more and more dire, and the repression here in the U.S. has become stronger and stronger, it’s easy to slip into hopelessness and despair. There have been days where I feel I am running out of tears to cry over the pain and devastation I’m seeing happen, and the callousness of those around me. Moments like this — where besides organizing, getting in the streets, signing every petition, calling every politician — that I also turn to the poets who find ways of articulating what I’m feeling, that I feel like I cannot, who helped me remember why we do this. I’ve been reflecting recently on the words of Aurora Levins Morales who said, “Thus spoke the prophet Roque Dalton: All together they have more death than we, but all together, we have more life than they. There is more bloody death in their hand than we could ever wield, unless we lay down our souls and become them, and then we will lose everything.”

And for me, I put that in conversation with the poet Rafeef Ziadah, the Palestinian Canadian poet, whose most famous work is called “We Teach Life, Sir,” in which she extols a Western reporter, trying to get the point across of how deeply Palestinians love life and how much we share that with the world every day. She says, “Every morning we wake up to teach the rest of the world life.” And this inspires me because it is so clear to me that Israel has all the advantages when it comes to death-dealing. Yet as we stare into that and see the devastation that they can bring, it’s so important to remember that as Palestinians, we have something different to offer. We have life to offer. There’s an Arabic word called sumud. It’s usually translated as steadfastness, or it can be also translated as existence as resistance. In other words, our very lives are a testament to the freedom that we seek.

So as we are surrounded by so much death, and for those of us with the courage not to look away, let us also remember that we do all of this — all of the work that we do, every protest, every phone call, every march we do in service of life — we do in service of those who have resisted the death-dealing ways through their existence, through their steadfastness and through their sumud.

Eman: My name is Eman. I’m a Palestinian scholar and writer, and I’m a member of the Palestinian Feminist Collective.

One of the biggest griefs and sadnesses that I feel from the United States side of things, its discourse and its erasure and egregious treatment of the ongoing genocide of my people, is how the expression “Free Palestine” is almost unanimously considered by American institutions, like on university campuses, to be an antisemitic statement. Truthfully, it breaks my heart. People don’t understand the history, depth and beauty of Free Palestine. Free Palestine originated from the Arabic “فلسطين حرة” [Falasteen hurra] which translates to Free Palestine, but in fact not in its assumed verbal meaning: i.e., to Free Palestine. Rather, the “free” in Arabic is actually an adjective that originally reads: Palestine is free. The land that we call Palestine is inherently free; the land that our ancestors called Palestine before Europeans made claims on it must be freed.

Separation walls are not meant to be erected on land. Olive trees, hundreds of thousands of them, are not meant to be uprooted as callously as Israeli bulldozers and individual settlers do. Water is not supposed to be drained from its natural pathways. The Jordan River doesn’t have running water. I only realized recently that many people don’t know this fact. The Jordan River, the source of infinite lush that religious texts idolized, is drained. Palestinians don’t have access to 90 percent of the land’s water resources. The siege on Gaza is no exception. The place is uninhabitable — environmentally, economically and medically. Its infrastructure has been chipped into, and at times like now, aggressively bombed, for close to two decades. It’s the world’s largest open-air prison. Gaza — the strip of land that connects Asia to Africa, that witnessed some of the most continuous traffic and migration in human history — is so disrespectfully and unapologetically turned into a wasteland. Land is not supposed to be treated like that.

Free Palestine is an Indigenous movement, it is a liberation movement, it is an environmental movement, it is a feminist movement, it is a decolonial movement. Free Palestine demands a free land. It goes without saying that this land can be a home for many. It goes without saying that this land does not exclude, it does not discriminate, but it is also meant not to be possessed. Zionism justifies possession in the same manner settlers everywhere justify possession: by claiming a religious decree, a manifest destiny, a promise from God. But somehow, in the mind of settlers, that promise means racism, it means it’s okay to own, and it means that nobody deserves to exist but them. I’m not a proponent of villainizing human beings; calling all settlers “evil” would mean that decolonization will be a harder job, a more violent job, than it needs to be. Decolonization is actually much easier than people let it be. It begins with admitting all across the board that Free Palestine is the right movement, because it is, and saying it over and over again with pride, with love, with hope. When you say it, know that thousands and Palestinian have died and are dying to defend it. Know that Palestinian refugees in the millions are awaiting for it to be true, for them to return, for the healing to begin. And when you say it, know also that it makes you one of us, all of us ultimately knowing, believing with an unwavering conviction, that the freedom of land means freedom for everyone.

And if you say it, and they tell you it’s antisemitic, tell them that Palestinians say that it’s not. Tell them it’s ignorance, prejudice and colonial erasure that makes them say that. Invite them to join in on our call for freedom. It’s quite beautiful, liberating, and more-so-than-ever crowded where we stand.

Mike Merryman-Lotze: I’m Mike Merryman-Lotze. I’m the just peace global program director for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The American Friends Service Committee has an office in Gaza as well Ramallah. At AFSC, we work in Sudan and Ethiopia and Myanmar and conflicts throughout the world, and yet our staff are saying that this is the worst conflict, the worst situation that they’ve seen in years. There’s a need for an immediate ceasefire now and humanitarian access if we’re to avoid a terrible outcome that none of us want to see. I want to speak to some of the reality that our staff and partners are seeing in Gaza by telling some of what one of my colleagues, Farras, has been experiencing since the beginning of the bombing on October 7. During those first days, he was displaced from his home, which has been destroyed. When the order came for everybody to move south, he contacted us to tell us that it was not possible for him to move because of his elderly mother who was unable and unwilling to move at that point.

He sent us his goodbyes saying that he expected to be killed. He sent his family south the next day, and then later was able to convince his mother and have some assistance in moving her to a place in the south where they thought they might be safer, but they found nowhere to shelter, and they spent the night in the streets, and after that, decided to move back to the north. On their way, there was bombing nearby, and his mother was injured. When they returned to a place to stay in the north, bombing nearby killed his cousin and three of her children. His brother was injured the next day and was forced to the hospital. He sent his family, then, to an area just south of Wadi Gaza, the area that the Israelis had said everybody needed to evacuate south of. As they were there, bombing targeted a home where his relatives were staying, and 22 of his extended family were killed. The bombing is still ongoing, and each day we hear from him we’re uncertain what will come.

He’s since then moved back into an area slightly north of Wadi Gaza where they think that it’s safe. But as with everywhere else, whether it’s south or north, bombing is ongoing, killing people. But what he said is that where he wants to be is near his relatives, who, if they’re bombed, can help dig him out from under the rubble. The story of Farras is nothing unique. Every single one of my colleagues in Gaza has suffered enormous loss. Ali, who’s a former colleague, had the house where he was staying bombed and six of his relatives were killed. Thirty of his friends have been killed. Mosab, a poet who contributed to a book that I helped to edit last year, Light in Gaza, which is an anthology, lost 30 of his relatives. Yussef, another friend and contributor to that book, lost nine relatives. Serena, one of my colleagues in Gaza, had the house next door to where she was staying bombed, and six people in that building were killed. I’d like to read the message that I received today about her status. This is from another colleague who’s in the West Bank:

I talked to Serena. They’re still alive. Last night, and the daylight yesterday was very hard. Where Serena and her family are staying, it’s now close to the Salah al-Din Street where the IDF tanks are. Serena is very frustrated, wants this to end soon. Yesterday, they were stuck in the staircase of the house with their hands over their heads sitting because of the bombing. It’s hard for them to breathe from the smoke and the dust that covers their bodies. They’re gray and black because of the bombing. They don’t know if they can leave the house for now, with the tanks so close to where they’re staying. There’s no house for them to go back to. It’s been bombed. She speaks about the disease and sickness spreading down in the shelters, about people in the streets who are angry. All they want is a ceasefire, but they’re shooting at cars that are evacuating to the south. They don’t know what they’ll do.

Each day we get messages like this from our staff in Gaza. It’s a horrific situation, but it’s also important to say that the situation didn’t start on October 7. It’s been going on for decades. I’ve been working in Palestine since 2000, and I’ve been working on programs in Gaza since 2007 when the blockade started. In 2007, I began managing projects for Save the Children. At that time, the blockade was less than a year old. We were already, at that point, speaking to the reality of the blockade as a form of illegal collective punishment. Unemployment was on the rise. Malnutrition was present. We demanded that it end.

In 2009 they responded to the Israeli attacks then. Over 1,300 Palestinians were dead and a hundred thousand left homeless. Infrastructure was damaged, and the blockade made it impossible for people to rebuild for years, yet nothing happened to bring change. In 2012, the UN reported that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020 if there was no change in the situation. Water was brackish, 97 percent of it undrinkable, but there was no change. In 2014, another attack killed over 3,000 Palestinians, damaged infrastructure, left people with limited electricity, and yet no change. The Great March of Return in 2018, was met with brutal violence that killed hundreds and left thousands disabled. There was no change. COVID came and Gaza was placed under an intensified blockade. Medicine was limited. Vaccines were limited, and over the last years, people have suffered immensely. Thousands have died.

That leads me to ask if Israel is justified right now in its anger over the 1,400 who were killed in Israel. If, after that brutal attack, people are justified in calling for retaliation for bombing, then what do we expect from Palestinians who’ve suffered over the last years with thousands killed? We oppose violence, but we must find a way to end the reality of apartheid that leads to inevitable violence. There’s often calls and people are saying, “Well, what I need is a Palestinian Gandhi or a Palestinian Mandela, and if that’s there, then I can support the push for change.” But what does that mean? What about Ahmed Abu Artema, a friend of mine who I met in 2018, who was the inspiration for the Great March of Return and who’s worked endlessly over the last years to push for nonviolent social change in Gaza? Last week, his home was bombed, and his young son was killed. He’s in the hospital recovering.

So when you ask for a Palestinian Gandhi, perhaps he’s under the rubble. Perhaps he’s in the hospital. Perhaps he’s in exile, having been kicked out of the country for his activism. If you’re asking for a Mandela, maybe he’s in prison, the place where Mandela was for 27 years. But more importantly, if we’re asking for those things, then it’s us who need to manifest the spirit of Gandhi and Mandela, who need to take action to advocate for change, to take to the streets, to call Congress and to make our voices heard demanding a ceasefire now.

Leanne Simpson: [Speaking in Ojibwe] Hello everyone. I am from the Spotted Lynx Clan. I live in Peterborough, Ontario, in Nishnaabe territory. My name is Betasamosake. [Speaking English] My English name is Leanne Simpson.

This past May, I was part of the Palestine Festival of Literature, which is a very special literature festival in which a handful of international writers travel with Palestinian writers through the West Bank and 48, doing evening readings and panel discussions in the Palestinian communities of East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Haifa. During the day, we learned from Palestinian freedom fighters and writers in those communities, as well as in al-Khalil, al-Lydd and Nabi Salih.

I’m not good at cities. I’ve never lived in a big city and to be honest, I struggle with basic city things like public transit, finding food and water, crossing the street and getting lost. It’s always been like this.

I get lost a lot because I travel a lot and because I don’t pay attention. I’m always inside a story in my head. I don’t like Canada so I live in my head and in the stories I make up for myself. When we were in Ramallah, I went for a walk by myself. Being in Palestine, for me, was like witnessing all the stages of colonialism my people experienced, albeit much, much worse because the Israeli death machine is not France and England in the 1800s. I was feeling ashamed that we’d lost so much, that we weren’t able to maintain much. And I was angry that Israeli settler colonialism was easy for some folks to see and U.S./Canadian settler colonialism was not. So I was walking, not paying attention, and I got lost. My phone, which usually rescues me, wasn’t helping. I couldn’t match up the streets on the map to the signs. I tried for quite a while. Our hotel name wasn’t on the map and I couldn’t find the address.

I decided to take a cab. A car stopped and waved for me to get in. There was a woman in the back and an older man driving. They spoke no English. Me, no Arabic. I passed him the hotel key with the name and address on it. He seemed confused and passed it to the woman. They talked. Finally, he said, “Ok.” We drove for what seemed like a long time, to a suburb nowhere near the hotel. The woman got out and the driver helped unload all her groceries from the trunk. Then we drove away. After another 20 minutes, we got to the hotel. We were both so relieved. He asked where I was from. I said “Canada.” He said, “Canada is good.” I said, “No. Palestine is good.” We laughed. I tried to pay him. He refused. I left money on the seat and he smiled and said “Ok.” I don’t even know if that was a cab, but I do know he showed me the world I want to live in.

I see the strength of Palestinian families in the face of the spectacular violence of the Israeli apartheid regime. I support Palestinian liberation and your right to defend yourselves and resist colonial violence.

It is unacceptable and unsurprising to see colonial power line up behind Israel and this genocide.

I look forward to dreaming and building and making Palestinian worlds, Anishinaabe worlds, Black worlds, Queer worlds, Jewish worlds where colonialism is unthinkable, where violence is unthinkable and where we work together to restore the sanctity of the land, the waters and all living things on the planet. Where, as Ruthie Wilson Gilmore says, all life is precious.

Stop the genocide. End the siege. End the occupation. Dismantle apartheid everywhere. Remember Palestine is inherently free.

Shane Burley: My name is Shane Burley, I’m a writer based in Portland, Oregon. I write a lot about Jewish issues and the far right, social movements and also the crisis in Israel-Palestine. I’m also an organizer and I spent time in the Palestine solidarity movement, and currently through my work in the labor movement.

At a time of such immense loss, grief and crisis, when things are changing so rapidly and it is incredibly difficult to tell the future, it feels like finding a unified demand that can unite a coalition is impossible. But the Israeli assault on Gaza, which can fairly be called genocidal, presents one of the most obvious demands imaginable: a ceasefire.

I was recently asked to co-facilitate a meeting of union staff who wanted to be helpful in our current situation. There was uneven consciousness in the room, and so the conversation focused primarily on people talking, first, about their feelings, beginning with reactions to the October 7 attack from Hamas, and then moving into the responses to Israel’s initial bombing campaign on Gaza. There is extensive fear and pain at play here, with many people having only minimal degrees of separation from those affected in Israel-Palestine, and it also connects to many of the generational traumas that folks carry with them.

But in doing so, one thing became clear: there is no constituency, other than war profiteers and Israel’s far right ruling coalition, who benefits from a continued assault on Gaza. The violence committed by Hamas, the over 8,000 dead civilians from Israel’s indiscriminate violence, all emerges from a hostile, authoritarian, colonial situation that guarantees that violence and oppression will continue unabated. When considering the lives at stake here, both Israeli and Palestinian, the only thing that could possibly protect everyone is a ceasefire. A ceasefire is a universal declaration, it applies to everyone involved, which means life is preserved in every community touched by the violence. This is a unifying demand that can speak to people from a variety of communities and is what is necessary to stop any further loss of life, to see the hostages released (including Palestinians currently held Israeli prisons without charge), and to make the first steps toward a just and lasting peace process.

A ceasefire is an end in itself. As I am speaking, Israel is commencing with a ground invasion of Gaza with the support of the U.S. and Western imperial powers, which will only more thoroughly throttle the Palestinian citizens of Gaza, completing the unconscionable war crimes that took place during their bombing campaign. This invasion does little to free the hostages that Hamas has taken, or to stop counter-attacks, but instead establishes a state of perpetual warfare that does nothing to keep the average Israeli safe.

More than this, an openly fascist movement of settlers in the West Bank, with the support of Israeli politicians and the IDF, are trying to ethnically cleanse Indigenous Palestinians all across the land. In reports coming from around the Occupied Territories, settlers are kidnapping and torturing Palestinians, threatening them with orders to leave within 24 hours, promising to burn their villages to the ground and deport them to Jordan. This violence is unconscionable, and is aided by Israel’s war machine which seems to want to use these movements to help liquidate the ghettos they created.

The ceasefire is a demand to freeze, one that considers literally every affected party. But it is also a window to a different kind of conversation, the possibility of a new future for Israel-Palestine. When I look at the average Israeli Jew, I don’t see a tremendously safe person. I see a culture built on the fear of the colonizer, a crisis that only further radicalizes them toward violence. An ethno-theocratic authoritarian settler colony that denies the rights of Indigenous people is not a sufficient answer to the historical violence and dispossession of antisemitism: it doesn’t keep Jews safe, since what has kept us safe is solidarity with other people affected by systems of oppression. There are other options, and a commitment, however tenuous, to end the violence is the only the first step. But those that follow come in the same vein: what does it take to build a meaningful life?

There is a single step that starts this, and then it can become a revolutionary avalanche that brings more and more residents of historic Palestine into the question of what kind of future could be built if equality and justice become the operative concept. This will require a few things: the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendents, the dismantling of the military state whose purpose is the permanent subjugation of the Palestinian people, the addition of Palestinians to the Law of Return, and the abdication of Jewish supremacy in the legal code of the country. When rebuilding that society, we inculcate a system of solidarity instead, where those marginalized by our global systems of capitalism and statecraft, both Jewish and Palestinian, can collaborate to fight for continued gains into the future. Together, building a society that reflects both of them and honors both of their traditions, histories and cultures. By rejecting the false binaries of nationalism, empires and states, we are able to finally gain the real power that comes when those fighting for liberation can do so together. We cannot do that while one people is living in a state of ferocious occupation, so when we give up the tenuous promises of ethnic statehood, we get something infinitely more powerful in return: we get each other.

Brant Rosen: This is Brant Rosen. I’m the rabbi of Tzedek Chicago and the co-chair of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council. As I contemplate the terrifying events of these past few weeks in Palestine/Israel, I find myself overwhelmed by the brokenness, the shattered reality in which we now find ourselves. This is not to say that the world has always been a whole and pristine place — far from it. Perhaps it’s fairer to say that the fissures and cracks we’ve long taken for granted have now widened, painfully, and in many ways unbearably.

First and foremost, I’m thinking of the brokenness that is being so cruelly inflicted on the people of Gaza, the Palestinian people who have endured unspeakable violence at the hands of the Israeli military for over 75 years. This is not the first time that Israel has assaulted Gaza, of course, but the sheer unabashedly genocidal nature of their onslaught staggers comprehension. The images and stories of broken bodies, broken buildings, broken lives, thousands of them, calling out to us even as I speak. And the trauma of this brokenness is magnified by the sheer impunity of it all: occurring with the assent and support of the U.S. government and the international community.

Brokenness also pervades the lives of Israelis in the wake of Hamas’s attack on October 7. In addition to the deep grief that grips Israelis at this moment, Israel is also mourning the loss of its sense of invulnerability, its assumption that they could somehow live normal lives even as they subject Palestinians to a crushing occupation and a crushing blockade in Gaza. And now they are metabolizing and weaponizing their brokenness in ways that are truly terrifying to behold.

From my vantage point as a Jewish American, I can attest that our community has now been deeply, profoundly broken, perhaps irrevocably. I am so heartened and proud by the growing movement of Jews who are standing up in unprecedented ways to protest Israel’s genocidal onslaught, through massive protests and acts of civil disobedience, as Jews, together with our Palestinian comrades. At the same time, I am staggered by the voices in the Jewish community that support Israel’s atrocities without reservation. Otherwise so-called progressive leaders who cannot get themselves to endorse a simple ceasefire. When the dust settles — and please may it settle soon — I don’t know if the brokenness of my community will ever, ever truly heal from this.

Then there is the brokenness that pervades the Palestine solidarity movement itself, fissuring between those who regard Hamas’s violent attack on Israelis as legitimate armed resistance and those who are condemning that brutal violence against civilians on moral and strategic grounds. Our inability to find common ground on this question is widening internal divisions that have long been simmering. At the current moment, so many of us are doing our best to maneuver through these divides. We are marching in the streets, occupying the offices of our political representatives, and together we are voicing a remarkable collective voice of conscience and rage. And well we should. But I would be dishonest if I didn’t say that we in this movement have a great deal of reckoning to do with one another as we go forward.

In moments of brokenness such as this, it is difficult to imagine a world beyond. We know from experience that brokenness, by definition, involves loss. We know that what is broken can never be put back exactly the same way it was. But beyond the loss, we also know that no matter what, we never forfeit the chance to rebuild and heal. We know that while breaking is undeniably painful, it can open up new visions, new opportunities, new worlds that we never may have dreamed possible.

In this moment, when so much around us seems to be shattering into so many painful shards, I am holding tightly to this truth.

Nadine Naber: Since October 7, Israel has murdered 10,000 Palestinians. Know their names: Rayan Abdullah Zakaria Al-Astal, Mian Yahya Youssef Al-Astal, Salam Wael Ahmed Al-Astal, Yasmine Ramez Abdul Razzaq El Masry, Maria Yasser Kamal Al-Masry, Aisha Jihad Jalal Shaheen, Rahima Saadi Mohammed Shaheen.

It would take me four hours to read all of their names.

We deserve to pause — to grieve — to read all of their names.

To exhale and allow our bodies to feel the pain — to move through the sorrow so that we can inhale new energy again.

But grieving is a privilege during a genocide in real time when the bombs are still dropping, the water has run dry, and the body count continue to mount. Today, I don’t have the capacity to ground myself in the present moment or my body when I’ve been shaking for three weeks before images of children screaming for their dead mother under the rubble… Mama! Mama!

Or of Israeli air raids flattening an entire refugee camp — Jabalia — over three days … as I fear how much more brutality there is to come, there are no quiet spaces in our hearts for candlelight vigils.

Even though Palestinians and Arabs in the diaspora might not be directly exposed to Israel’s extraordinary violence, our scars are catastrophic.

I strive to live by the idea that to feel is to heal. But for Palestinians and Arabs living in the belly of the beast, the U.S. and Israel disenfranchise and gaslight our emotions — painting our grief as an emblem of support for terrorism and antisemitism.

Our entire world has been altered in three short weeks forever, watching our elected officials help slaughter our people before our eyes, like all the Gazan men who look and talk like my father, or the girls who resemble our nieces and sisters and share their names and their hazel eyes and dark brown lashes … while all around us — at work, at school, on the bus, on the streets — it’s “business as usual.”

So, how am I supposed to feel? And if an important part of a grieving journey is to find meaning in the loss — like when people say, “well, he’s not suffering anymore,” or “At least they didn’t have to live through the pandemic,” what happens when no sense can be made of death? We must then make meaning out of this colonial slaughter — like “We will never forget,” or “never again” means never again for anyone, anywhere, without exception — and we turn to those we trust, bearing witness with us — to validate our anguish and help us find a way through. Personally, I kept turning to the words I read etched in chalk on the asphalt at George Floyd’s memorial: “from tragedy, love must prevail.”

During a genocide, there is no silent vigil. There are no pauses without action. In between saying their names — Ahmed Mohammed Amin Nofal, Son of Nabeela Nasr Mohammed Nofel, Moaz Hani Mohammed Al-Aidi — we relentlessly and unapologetically organize for and scream “Ceasefire now!”

We interrupt everything, and we leave not one space in our lives devoid of our call to action.

Because when you grieve at the hands of the colonizers’ 100-year long slow bloodbath bent on dispossession and erasure, honoring and affirming life is revolutionary. In the time of airstrikes, stun grenades, tear gas, and skunk water — which the Israeli military invented to use against Palestinian protesters, and that U.S. cops use at borders, in prisons and at demonstrations and sit-ins — our radical grief is neither singular nor quiet. It is a collective practice that wails: You have blood on your hands. We are more than death. We are life and love itself and we will never be eliminated!

I can’t keep up with who I’m grieving for. While I say their names — Qais Ali Nabil Al-Aidi, Nabil Bilal Nabil Al-Aidi, Alma Moamen Mohammed Hamdan, Misk Mohammed Khalil Gouda – my moment of silence bursts with the sounds of Israeli weapons and the smell of fire and death on TV. I can almost smell the fire and the death. And I watch images of Gazan doctors searching for more bodies under the rubble. What will the names be of those I will grieve tomorrow, I wonder?

It’s all happening at once. While I’m grieving, the brutality escalates and expands and we brace ourselves for a future violated by the loss of the kids who are stuck under the rubble.

There is no moment of silence when we have to fight for those who remain alive.

But just as our ancestors taught us, when the figs and the olives are ripe and ready to harvest, and how to eat only after others have been fed, they also taught us not to give our power away — and to turn towards each other and to persevere.

In the U.S. — on Turtle Island — our Palestinian and Arab moments of silence must be made public. They must interrupt the racist idea that Palestinians deserve to die — that their lives have no value — or that they are nothing more than savage fanatics or fodders of war far away. And they must shriek: Ceasefire Now! Free Free Gaza! Free Free Palestine!

This Palestinian and Arab moment of silence is a public disruption. It says no to “business as usual.” Genocide is not normal. It’s monstrous.

Mohammed Mamdouh Mohammed Abu Jazar, TBahaa Mustafa Jamal Musa, Rakan Hossam Hussein Musa: Our hearts are fused with yours forever.

Rasha Abdulhadi: [Editor’s note: Rasha Abdulhadi is a poet and the following section includes line breaks that they devised for this piece.]

This is Rasha Abdulhadi.

I am a writer, editor, and cultural organizer and

a queer Palestinian Southerner disabled by Long COVID, and

I come to you today not to call for donations or solidarity statements, which cannot stop bombs, but to unmake settler colonial worlds.

I come here not to perform or plead, but to join Palestinians around the world and through time who continue to Teach Life.

I call on our shared commitments to liberation, which, if we take them seriously, demand we take every action to stop the spectacular annihilation of the Palestinian people.

The dead are with me today.

From Chicago to Nablus to Khan Younis, more than 75 years of Palestinian dead, more than a century, are at my back today,

and living Palestinians everywhere are fighting relentlessly against global resignation to the end of our people. Stay with us now, and stay close.

I celebrate everyone who is refusing complicity and an absurd expectation that we continue something called “normal life” as our governments bankroll catastrophic death-making.

This is my invocation and prayer for everyone who gets in the way, as we reach for everything we can to keep our hearts alive here and Palestinians alive in Palestine and the world over,

to focus our grief and anger so we stay engaged and ready to act —

So:

May your unabashed love for Palestinians liberate you from respectability politics. Finally and forever, may you taste the sweetness of this clarity and freedom.

May you be refreshed every time you speak openly for Palestinian liberation. May all hearts be refreshed in a stubborn refusal and brave resistance to totalizing violence.

May your commitment to Palestinian freedom deepen your commitment to your own.

May we all be liberated from complicity and unleashed into history — both written and unwritten, and the not-yet-even imagined.

May your heart be renewed with every action you take to end the brutality of settler-colonial apartheid, here and in Palestine.

Genocides begun do not have to be completed.

The long genocide of the Palestinian people is both ongoing and *not* inevitable.

We can refuse it. We must.

Join me in refusing to aid or abet genocide.

This is what time it is on the clock of the world.

If you are afraid that rising fascism and supremacist violence could annihilate your community, now is the time to join your cause with Palestinian liberation.

Put yourself in the way.

We must refuse and resist in every way we can, with our every breath.

We must invent new ways.

Wherever you are, whatever sand you can throw on the gears of genocide, do it now. If it’s a handful, throw it. If it’s a fingernail full, scrape it out and throw.

Now is the time to turn toward rather than away from the friction in our lives, and to use that stubborn friction.

Conversations; protests of any size; boycott divestment and sanctions at work, school or places of worship; refusal of labor and strikes; blocking ports and weapons factories; conscientious objection; disobeying orders and deserting your post — anything you can reach. Ruin someone powerful’s afternoon.

Our goal is to stop a genocide. We do not have to argue with murderers or appeal to a compassion they do not have. We must make it impossible for them to carry out.

We can choose each other over the false “peace” and “safety” of the mass graves offered to us by politicians, governments, newspapers, TV, universities and bosses.

So:

What are we willing to do to make a livable world?

What are you willing to do today?

What can you plan for tomorrow?

Who can you talk with?

Where can you push?

How can we connect whatever we do today to Palestinian liberation?

Palestine is everywhere, touching all our lives, from prison to publishing, from podcasting to the brutal violence at the Rio Grande Valley border.

We must refuse to criminalize Palestinian liberation. The fear of our liberation is the fear of your own.

Any action we take today in our lives, with people we know, matters.

These are clarifying times, if we are willing to pay attention.

If our hearts break, let them break outward into action.

May everyone listening or reading today — and all the writers, organizers and artists — strengthen people’s hearts in this time, and lead them away from despair and confusion.

May your heart fill to its brim with a love that is the source of our grief, with a love that would break walls.

I leave you with words from my dear friend Fargo Tbakhi, who reminds us:

intifada, in Arabic, is a shaking off and a reaching towards life. Wherever you are in this monstrous world, you can find it. you might feel it in your heart someday soon. Intifada is waiting for you and it will show you that a world is possible you never knew was possible. Find a place to stand and stand there for the rest of your life.

KH: I am so grateful to Rasha, Nadine, Jonathan, Iman, Brant, Shane and everyone else who contributed to this episode. As an activist whose work has long centered direct action, my impulse in a moment like this one is to organize a protest. In that spirit, this episode is a humble offering, and it is my hope that it might strengthen your resolve to do whatever is in your power to halt the atrocities Israel is presently committing — atrocities that are being funded with our tax dollars, by way of the U.S. government. We have a special responsibility, as people of conscience living within the imperial core, to rage against the violence our government facilitates. We must not be placated by talk of “humanitarian” pauses, or by a few dozen aid trucks being allowed into Gaza, where such gestures are an insult to the 2.2 million people currently living in unthinkable conditions.

I was supposed to visit Palestine a couple of years ago. I was part of a delegation of journalists who were invited by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate — the trade union of Palestinian journalists in the West Bank. The Israeli government refused to approve the delegation’s paperwork, and the trip was derailed. But I always imagined that, eventually, I would make the trip, and meet those journalists in person, hear their stories, and watch a dance performance with them, as we had planned. Now, I fear that some of those friends I haven’t met yet may be gone, or that their families may have been killed by Israeli bombs in Gaza, or their communities destroyed by Israeli vigilantes in the West Bank. As of this recording, at least 31 Palestinian journalists have been killed in Gaza, and many others have lost their homes and families to Israel’s violence. May all journalists everywhere find the courage to condemn these murders. There are many layers of atrocity in Israel’s violence, and the killing of journalists is one that should not be brushed aside.

As an organizer, as a journalist, and as an Indigenous person, I will continue to act in solidarity, however I can, for Palestine, for Gaza, for everyone our solidarity could not save, and for every Palestinian who continues to defy the violence of empire, simply by staying alive.

Poetry has been a recurring theme in this episode, so I want to close out today’s episode by revisiting a speech that Ahmad Abuznaid gave at Saturday’s mass convergence for Palestine in Washington, D.C. Ahmad, who joined us in a previous episode of “Movement Memos,” made a moving statement on Saturday in which he shared an excerpt from the poem “Enemy of The Sun” by Samih al-Qasim. Ahmad noted that, for decades, many people believed that the poem was written by George Jackson, after the poem was found in Jackson’s prison cell, following his death. Ahmad told the crowd, “The assumption that this was written by a Black Panther Party member like George Jackson tells us that the parallels that we see with the injustice in this country [are] directly connected to what we see in Palestine.”

Ahmad shared the following excerpt from “Enemy of the Sun”:

You may put out the light in my eyes.
You may deprive me of my mother’s kisses.

You may curse my father, my people.

You may distort my history,
You may deprive my children of a smile
And of life’s necessities.

You may fool my friends with a borrowed face.

You may build walls of hatred around me.

You may glue my eyes to humiliations,
O enemy of the sun,
But
I shall not compromise
And to the last pulse in my veins
I shall resist.

I hope we all move in the spirit of those words in the coming days. To say that our liberation is bound up in the liberation of the Palestinian people is not some lofty, metaphorical statement. While Palestinian lives are worth defending in their own right, without question, we also know that Israel is positioning itself as a model for authoritarian, ethno-nationalist rule, carcerality, the militarization of technology, and the violence of borders. Israel is exporting its tools of occupation, apartheid, surveillance, borders and exclusion on a global scale. This is a vision of the future that is poised to envelop the world, unless we fight. To defend Palestine is to defend the world itself, against the slaughter of human beings, against the contamination of bombs and munitions, against ethno-nationalist, supremacist ideologies, and against the wicked idea that some lives are worth more than others. Our defense of Palestine is a defense of all freedom and a defense of all life, because, as Ahmad reminded us, there is a continuity in our oppression, and a continuity to our fates.

As Leanne reminded us, U.S. and Canadian colonialism may be less recognizable in their violence, because we exist in a different stage of colonial struggle, but what fosters genocide fosters genocide, and what kills the Earth kills the Earth. We must make these connections, we must reject the normalization of annihilation, and we must defend life. Those of us who live in the heart of the imperial core must embrace the responsibility that our position entails. While so many around us embrace the violence of “normalcy,” we must recognize the atrocities that “normalcy” would erase. Today, that work begins with doing all we can, with our voices, with our bodies, and with our resources, to halt the genocide that Israel is waging.

Grace Paley told us that, “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.” So I am inviting you, in this moment, to hope with me. To hope for peace, to hope for freedom, and to hope for a livable world for all peoples. As Paley teaches us, the only way that we can make that hope recognizable to the world is to act. So let us act together. Let us find a lever and a fulcrum and shift the course of human history. Let us defend Palestine, and the Palestinian people, and in so doing, defend ourselves and the world we love. We have that power and I believe in us.

I want to thank our listeners for joining us today, and remember, our best defense against cynicism is to do good, and to remember that the good we do matters. Until next time, I’ll see you in the streets.

Show Notes

  • If you want to hear more from Rasha Abdulhadi, you can check out this episode of Death Panel.
  • If you are interested in supporting the movement against Israel’s genocidal violence and apartheid rule, the Palestinian Feminist Collective has assembled this resource, which includes actions you can take and a wealth of educational material that you can explore individually or with others.
  • If you want to learn more from Nadine Naber, check out this webinar from Critical Resistance about Palestine and abolition featuring Nadine, Mohamed Shehk, Stefanie Fox, Lara Kiswani, and Angela Davis.
  • For a limited time, you can download the ebook Light in Gaza free of charge, courtesy of Haymarket Books.
  • You can also get the ebook The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World by Antony Loewenstein free of charge, for a limited time, courtesy of Verso Books.
  • You can learn more about the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights here.
  • You can learn more about the work of the Palestinian Feminist Collective here.
  • If you want to hear more from Brant Rosen, you can check out this piece in Truthout.
  • If you want to hear more from Shane Burley, you can check out this conversation between Kelly and Shane about antisemitism.
  • If you want to get movement updates from Kelly between episodes of “Movement Memos,” you can sign up for her newsletter here.

More Organizing Resources

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