Many people support Palestine on principal, but not in action. The goal of this post is not to criticize those people exactly (though there are many valid critiques out there), but help them transition from passive to active support. Supporting Palestine is not dogma, it is not an identity and it is not something your organization does to recruit members (lots of leftists guilty of that last one). It is direct action.
Before we begin, let’s discuss some basic principals. Here are three calls from Palestinian civil society (BDS Movement) that Israel must meet in recognizing the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination:
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
Unless you are Palestinian, you do not have the right to argue about this. You cannot actively oppose the Right of Return or demand that Israel remain a “Jewish State” and call yourself an ally or supporter of Palestine (looking at liberal Zionists now).
And finally, the issue of Zionism. It is an ideology that developed in trajectory with European colonialism and imperialism abroad. In action, it has proven itself racist, violent and ethnic supremacist for more than a century. You cannot support Palestine without being anti-Zionist.
What You Can Do
- Listen: If you have Palestinian friends listen to them. I am sure they would be more than happy to talk to you about Palestine. Be genuine, and be considerate when asking questions. If they call you out on something you say, do not get angry or hostile. LISTEN. If you do not have Palestinian friends, watch interviews, documentaries and read books on lived experiences.
- Learn: You should learn about the history of Palestine. Here is a collection of articles, essays and books. If that’s too overwhelming, If Americans Knew is a great resource as well.
- Attend: Most cities and college campuses have Palestinian cultural and political events. Cities like Boston, Chicago and New York have annual film festivals. Many colleges have Students for Justice in Palestine. Often, groups like the Muslim Students Associations or local mosques will host events. There are more and more Christian churches and inter-faith organizations holding events. Jewish Voice for Peace is an excellent organization. Keep an eye out and look around. And once you have attended, become active by joining them and help with organizing the next event.
- Host: Host your own event. Whether as a student organization, at your mosque, church or synagogue or even at your home. Occupation 101 is an excellent documentary to show. If you are a member of a book club perhaps recommend reading Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa or Men in the Sun by Ghassan Kanafani. If you have children or work with children you could read A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird and Sonia Nimr.
- Boycott: Boycott has proven a successful tactic. If you are a college student, help work in getting your university to divest from companies that profit off of Israeli occupation and boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions. Do not visit Israel on vacation or go on Birthright. Don’t buy products like Ahava, Sabra or Sodastream. Get creative and make flyers or stickers alerting other customers about these companies’ unethical practices and distribute them (put stickers saying “Don’t Buy Israeli Apartheid” directly on the product, but don’t get caught). Many trade unions and places of worship have also chosen to join the call to boycott.
- Petition: Petitions can be effective, and I am not just talking about collecting signatures. The goal is to show those in power that there is a wide coalition of support for Palestine. Petition your student or local government by having at least one person attend every meeting and voice support for Palestine during community concerns. Petition leaders through mail, phone and sit-ins. Put flyers about Palestine in professors’ mailboxes.
- Educate: If you have an opportunity to teach others about Palestine, do it, and many times there will be an opportunity. If you are a professor or student in environmental science, you can discuss Israel’s environmental racism in withholding water and polluting Palestinian land. If you are involved in theater, consider putting on the play written by Alan Rickman, My Name is Rachel Corrie.
- Protest: Protests come in many forms. You can stand in the streets with signs shouting slogans. You can hold a silent vigil. You can place mock eviction notices under student dorms. You can create signs with a Palestinian village destroyed during Al-Nakba and wear it around your neck. You can make a mock checkpoint. You can hold a Palestine Awareness Week. You can walk out of a speech given by an apologist for the Israeli regime.
- Donate: Find an organization that you feel particularly passionate about and support them.
- Talk: Think about how you realized what was actually going on in Palestine. For me, it was because friends of mine talked to me about it. Because they posted about it on their blogs and Facebooks. At church when we are asked for prayer petitions, I give one for Palestine. Now strangers are coming up to me to talk. This is something you can do every day.
It is important that you try to do all of these as they all depend on each other. Remember, ally is a verb.