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For many individuals, groups, and organisations, the Palestinian struggle has become an opportunity to claim fame, spread ideologies, and fight for one’s own understanding of the Palestinian struggle. When there is an event or a protest, we wear our Kuffiyas, put on our best shirt that reflects our connection with Palestine, and we chant. We gather in public squares and someone delivers a speech, at the end we go home and nothing changes.
It is essential to protest and make sure that a certain message was delivered to a certain government or official, but as activists and human rights advocates, we should ask ourselves, what did we achieve? Was the message delivered? Was it effective? While all of these questions and comments might appear to question the efforts of many activists, it is rather an attempt to shed light on what I have observed as an activist entering my 3rd year of social justice related work in the United States.
In the 1950s and 1960s, before the civil rights movement in the United States started, college students, clergies, professors and lawyers gathered in the basements of churches in the South. Those secret meetings aimed primarily to unify the efforts of these activists and change makers. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to plan and strategise to achieve one goal, and one dream. All the suggestions were welcomed and the planning started. Restaurant sit downs were one of the first nonviolent actions taken to protest segregation. Although the sit downs seemed a useless mechanism to end segregation, soon it became a symbol followed by protesters in other states. A few months later, under a unified and educated leadership, with the educated passion of the protestors, different cities, followed by states, and then the whole country, started desegregating the laws.
1. Be as strategic as Ghandi
In India, Gandhi was able, as a lawyer, to bring people together for one goal, and one dream. The salt march was the establishment of the nonviolent resistance and, most importantly, it established the pathway for an independent India. From Gandhi, leaders like Vaclav Havel, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela used nonviolence as a way for liberation. The shared aspects between all of these examples were strategy, planning, and unity: the main aspects that Palestinian activism lacks.
As a Palestinian activist and a college student in the United States, I was involved with several college groups in more than 15 universities across the United States. These groups were dedicated to the Palestinian cause and have been doing great efforts to spread awareness and educate their fellow students about the Palestinian struggle. However, the lack of planning and a blurry future vision were destructive.
2. Keep focused on liberation objectives
A certain activity would go for a semester, or a campaign would go for a year, but then it ends or it becomes a social event for people to hangout and talk. Those events became a way to maintain a certain club or organisation rather than being focused on the actual concerns of the Palestinian cause. The pattern of following a popular cause on college campuses was evident on many campuses. Moreover, Palestine-related activism proposed a strong opportunity for many students to thrive as leaders and claim fame. As a result, many conflicts of interest have started between students on the same campus or between students of different colleges leading to divisions and the establishment of different Palestine-related organisations with unfocused, diversified objectives.
3. Related, prioritise unity over leadership
The constant failure of acquisitive activism and the lack of a true unity on goals and causes is becoming greater than ever. With the conflicts of the political powers that are increasing daily, whether in the Arab region or around the world, everyone is distracted. Planning and strategy are not unified concerns, but rather obstacles in the way of individual career paths. Our eagerness to quick and easy solutions has driven us away from what we actually should be working on.
The too many organisations and individuals who are competing to show one’s “Palestinianism” is growing, rapidly. Behind the scenes, a bigger gap is growing and nobody is going anywhere. Yet we wonder why no change has been achieved.
As an Arab millennial affected by what is happening in my own country, Palestine, and all the other countries in the Arab region, I urge each and every one of you, whether you are a millennial or not, to be true justice seekers. The cause of Palestine or any other call for justice is bigger than any organisation or an individual. This is about basic human rights. It is our duty to be united against oppression and injustice. It is our duty to work harder and be more organised in facing the occupation of minds and distraction of mentalities.