International solidarity with Palestine: personal observations

After a recent discovery of a solidarity page on Facebook with the title of “International Community to save Palestine” which at this moment in time has over 8,000 likes, the problems with international solidarity with the Palestinian struggle must once again be addressed. Although those that liked this page may well have good intentions, the term “save” carries many dangerous connotations and should not be accepted whatsoever. Since the very beginning of international activism, there has always been a fine line between solidarity and victimisation, especially when it comes to the Palestinian cause. When internationals begin to learn and understand more about the horrendous acts of colonial Israel, it may motivate several to mobilise in order to shine more light on these crimes against humanity; however that does not make any international a spokesperson for the Palestinians, nor does it mean they should continue to treat Palestinians as inferiors .As a Palestinian, it must be made clear: we have a voice of our own and we do not need people to speak on our behalf, we are not mute and we refuse to be silenced.  Therefore, it’s crucial to understand that by taking a position to speak on behalf of the Palestinians one is also committing the act of silencing Palestinians. If you want to show solidarity, then act as an echo rather than a voice for the call of liberation and justice.

As a Palestinian comrade once stated before, Palestine is not a charity case. The continuous act of the international community of behaving as spokespersons for the Palestinians is very similar to the colonial tactics to further inferiorize the Palestinians. Similar to Israel’s attempts to show the world that it knows what’s best for the Palestinians, it’s crucial for the international community to not follow in such colonial footsteps.

Holding the microphone

If you become one of the many internationals in solidarity with Palestine, it is vital to grasp an understanding of the various attempts made to speak for the Palestinians and what should be done in its place, to show appropriate camaraderie. If as an individual you do want to hold the microphone, then do so in your home country against the normalisation your governments partakes in with the apartheid state, or against the blind funding for Israel, be it by your government or companies that bare your nationality. If you want to hold the microphone, do so as an individual speaking out against colonialism, speaking out against apartheid and speaking out against the complicity of all those who remain silent. Conversely, do not do so through making the Palestinians seem like helpless victims in desperate need for international mobilization, as if the only way to liberate Palestine is when the international community does it. Hold the microphone because you’re against injustice, not as a representative of the Palestinians. By having a paternalistic outlook on an entire population and by disregarding its resistance movements by believing the road to liberation lie elsewhere, you are not expressing solidarity; you are expressing a white saviour mentality.

Proof of humanity

Furthermore, as an international in solidarity with Palestine, it is not your duty to prove the humanity of Palestinians. The urge to attest to the humanity of Palestinians is playing right into the hands of white-supremacist world view, as well as conforming to western ideals that demonise Palestinians on a daily basis. If you are in solidarity then do so by not viewing us as inferiors, moreover, even the various attempts made with good intentions to prove that Palestinians are not “the terrorists media makes them be, they actually bleed like everyone else” are making Palestinians seem like inferiors, our humanity doesn’t need validation . Instead of this being productive, it actually further dehumanizes the Palestinians. There should be no need to prove our humanity to anyone. We are Palestinian, not animals.

Selective support of resistance

The Palestinian people have had a long history of resisting colonialism that extends much further than Israel’s colonial aspirations of 1948. We have utilised all anti-colonial methods in our extensive struggle, including armed as well as unarmed resistance. If you are in solidarity with the Palestinian people and our right towards self-determination, then you are in solidarity with our rights to fight colonialism by all means, including armed resistance, there is no compromise. Not that an occupied people needs a law to take back its dignity, however, UN resolution 3070 by the general assembly even states that a colonized population has the right to liberate itself using armed resistance. The selective support for a single form of resistance (usually unarmed) is not genuine solidarity.

Nabi Saleh (2011)
Nabi Saleh January 2012(AFP Abbas Momani)

Criticism and dictation

As an international in solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinian cause, another issue that is vital to comprehend is the limits of your input towards the psychological and emotional expressions of the colonised. It is not the position of any solidarity activist to judge and or dictate how Palestinians should react when confronted with Israeli colonialism and apartheid. Additionally, having lived through numerous colonial regimes, it is the right of the Palestinian people to feel a plethora of emotions and if this includes anger, it should not be downplayed or belittled. Therefore, internationals should not attempt to tell Palestinians that being irate is not productive or any emotions they’re feeling are inappropriate to the struggle or they’re somehow relating a wrong message for the cause. The Palestinian people are indeed capable of deciding how to feel on their own. Lastly, candid solidarity indicates the support for the Palestinians methods of ending the Israeli colonialism rather than telling them how to end it. Not all, but many internationals come from a place of privilege and must not fall into the trap of becoming the supposed voice of the struggle; once again, it is crucial to understand that your position is to observe, and to be Palestinian-led rather than attempting to lead the Palestinians.

Cultural appropriation

Another misunderstanding that can take outside of history is culture. This confusion may be without malicious intent; however the various acts of cultural appropriation by the international community can be rectified when they themselves extensively become equipped with knowledge and respect of and for Palestinian culture. For instance, the kuffiyeh (checkered scarf) has been recently adopted by the west in the form of a fashion statement. The kuffieyeh in Palestine resembles a long history of resistance and existence. Therefore, disregarding its history and its cultural significance is not only a misrepresentation but an insult to Palestine’s cultural identity. An additional important aspect to be taken on board too, is to not view Palestinians as exotic people with an exotic culture. Such orientalist reactions are just reaffirming white-supremacy. Moreover, we are not objects to be admired.

Objectifying and romanticizing resistance

With the rapid increase of photojournalism and the constant personal documentation of Palestinian actions and resistance against colonialism, it is very easy to deviate into the path of objectifying and romanticizing resistance. Palestinian resistance is not happening so that people can undertake art projects, and the Palestinian resistors, are not models for the next art gallery. If you are in a non-compromising solidarity, your view of Palestinians should not be akin to a romantic, revolutionary novel. Romanticizing the resistance is a form of objectifying Palestinians. A grave example of this, is photographic close ups of women’s eyes, which has nothing to do with the action in which they are participating in, not only does this demean the resistance but the women of Palestine too. Idealisation takes away from the technical strategies and the actual, hard struggle towards liberation. It belittles the cause and devalues the significance of resistance against colonization. The Palestinian struggle towards liberation is not a poem; it’s an unforgiving reality of demanding justice and human rights.

Knowing the history

As a final point, one must be willing to ground themselves in knowledge by accurately learning about Palestinian history and that learning journey must be undertaken by one and oneself only, if you as internationals are to stand in solidarity with the colonised people of occupied Palestine. This is especially imperative for solidarity activists who wish to visit. Before you are on the ground in Palestine, it is key to not give blind support which is hollow in its meaning and Instead, as aforementioned, as much learning as possible should take place, through reading and use of media, whether that be mainstream or social et al. On top of this it is pivotal to not travel to Palestine with the mentality of visiting less fortunate people because that is when one begins to inferiorize us. And definitely do not visit with the mentality of being our saviour, or a hero, as this mind-set further deepens the white saviour complex. So when you do stay in Palestine, remember; solidarity is a huge undertaking, and history should not be forgotten.

*This post is aimed to present personal observations on the misinterpretations of the true meaning behind solidarity and the Palestinian cause. All internationals providing genuine solidarity know themselves.

*Edit credit to Lan Gley

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65 thoughts on “International solidarity with Palestine: personal observations

  1. Thank you so much for this absolutely essential article. It is so timely it is uncanny as amongst several pro-Palestinian activists we were discussing some of the issues that you raised based on the recent emergence of a certain Harry Fear, as well as other self-indulgent and narcissistic characters. He is violating every single one of the principles you have outlined with a view to arising to quick fame, and, disgracefully suggesting he can give a voice to the people of the OPTs. I am in the process of trying to see if someone can present him your article, and only hope that he reads it and is humbled. Yet again, I am truly grateful for this succinct and deeply honest useful article.

  2. I very stupidly followed Harry Fear as a member of his “cult” until recently when he tweeted a highly inappropriate comment that made it clear that he did not genuinely care about anything other than his career and ego. After reading this, I now understand why so many pro-Palestinian activists have had problems with him. I agree that he has violated every principle listed here, and his insistence on blocking anyone who dares to question him isn’t helping his case. Thank you for sharing, this was truly eye-opening.

    • Why is my comment harsh? Very confused by that. As for the article being harsh, I think it actually extremely useful, so we differ in our views entirely, which is fine. I have seen a lot of people operating in the manners which the article describes, and often to the detriment of the Palestinians. This article is useful for all of us but especially for those that are emulating those that we deplore, by belittling and stripping the Palestinians of their own voices.

  3. Although you raise valid points about the misrepresentation of the Palestinians outside Palestine, you have ignored the reasons why such groups attempt to “become” the voice of the Palestinians. The single most important reason is that the numerous PA representatives all over the world have been impotent in providing an effective voice for the Palestinians. Not only that in the majority of cases don’t speak the language their message is often mute and in-effective.
    As for the Kaffeya, you cannot be more wrong about the impact Westerners wearing of the Kaffeya had to dispel myths propagated by the media.

    • Actually, this article rubbed me the wrong way… and I’m saying this as a Palestinian who was born, raised and currently living in Jerusalem.

      I’m tried of reactionaries, arrogance and hypocrites, it’s what turned me off completely from international solidarity work. Mostly, my annoyance stems from the reactionary Palestinians who live and work outside of Palestine and cannot wait to demonize every little single thing that doesn’t abode well with their ideology. The same Palestinians who speak from a point of luxury. I’m not saying please don’t criticize those who hijack our cause, but I’m getting tired of encouraging fragmentation, disunity, and getting all angry on facebook ebcause you spotted an EU-sponsored billboard for development. And of course start ranting about capitalism, blablabla. Or start ranting about keffiyehs.

      Get off your damn high horse, you are no better than those ‘westerns’. The Majority of these ranters are either living in Europe/US, raised in a ‘Western’ education system, are half European themselves, or can’t speak or read arabic.

      • I know I came off harsh, especially the last sentence (Which is not necessarily directed at the author) but at those solidarity Palestinian activists who are not exactly in touch with the Palestinian society on the ground.

    • Very true, but O’Keefe has already shown himself up and it is Fear that media outlets and some people are paying attention too unfortunately.

      • Obviously, support is not the same thing as taking over, pontificating on what the Palestinians “should” do, or proclaiming oneself as someone who will “save Palestine.” I, too, have backed off on many kinds of things I used to do and I’m seriously sick of the whole “solidarity movement,” which is full of groupies, Jew haters, nutjobs ranting about Illuminati and the Freemasons, and people who sit on Facebook all day posting old photos from Operation Cast Lead. I confine myself now to befriending individual Palestinians and writing the occasional newspaper comment. Political change is what will liberate Palestine, and this will come from the people themselves, not from us westerners wearing keffiyehs and getting teargassed in the West Bank on Friday afternoons.

      • Yes, I have stepped back a little too as I just need some time to think about how I can play an effective role and what that entails and where I should be to do so. I visited the West Bank a while ago, to see if there was anything I could do there, and decided swiftly that there was not. Actually, when I went to a talk by Gideon Levy in London, he said to the audience that if we all cared about Palestine so much we should live in Israel where we would be far more useful. That has jarred in my throat for a long time now, but there is definitely a strong element of truth to what he is saying. When I was in Ramallah, I felt like there were throngs of do-gooders all trying to ‘save’ Palestine and I definitely didn’t want to be part of it. I also spoke to Michel Warschawski from the Alternative Information Centre when I was doing some research for my thesis (a Human Rights Masters) and he seemed to think that human rights NGOs were more a part of the problem of the atomisation of the solidarity movement than part of the solution, which made me re-think entirely one of the approaches I was thinking about in terms of a mode of discussing Palestine. All very humbling. And yes, there are a lot of ranters and fools involved in the pro-Palestine movement in the UK. Some of them have no idea what they are shouting about either! Thankfully, I hardly met anyone that hated Jews. I spent a lot of time working with Jewish activists actually.

  4. As an international and formerly strong supporter of the Palestinians, you will be pleased to know I no longer care. Your attitude and the behaviour of many of your ilk has led me to this decision. From now on you can all stew in your own juice and can liberate yourselves, by yourselves, on your own with no international or regional support as far as I’m concerned.

    Your arrogance is underwhelming. I suggest you alienate everybody you can: those internationals who you despise, those Arabs who don’t follow your dictat, those Palestinians who don’t obey your expectations. That’s right liberate Palestine on your own – just your group: a bunch of spoilt Birzeit University brats with rich mommies and daddies who talk the talk but don’t really walk the walk. You pseudo-activists who hang out at Nabi Saleh wearing kaffiyehs, watching from a safe distance and doing fuck all except flapping your gums.

    Tell the UN, other NGOs, foreign media and Palestinians who disagree with you to piss off too while you’re about it.

    If you really, really believe that you can free Palestine on your own without significant international or regional support on grassroots, regional or political levels you are even more delusional and pathetic that I previously thought.

  5. I totally agree w sam.. This is extremely harsh.. It feels instead of saying thank you u r sayin no thank you.. This isn’t about the palestinian ego..fighting injustice isn’t about one certain race, religion, or sex..maybe we do truly care…
    I also agree w sam abt the reason we do feel the need to help voice the palestinan issue..and abt the kuffeya!
    I now fear that my palestinan friends may have all misunderstood my passion for their country 😦

    • It is crucial to comprehend that me pointing out the differences between solidarity and victimisation is not the same thing as saying “no thank you.” I’m stating if you as an international would like to be in solidarity with Palestine or any cause for that matter it’s important to know what solidarity means. Furthermore, I will not thank anyone for doing the right thing and standing against injustice.
      It may appear harsh, but for anyone that knows they’re in genuine solidarity rather than filling the shoes of white-supremacy then this will not sound harsh to them.
      Kind regards,
      Mariam

  6. First, good for you. Second, you are hell right with every single word u wrote. Third “WE ARE NOT A CHARITY CASE” yes we are not. We can do everything to liberate our selves with our own hands using any method we need. absolutely thanks for everyone is trying to support us, but it should be in an appropriate way that would never ruin what we are trying to build in the history of resistance, and what we have built also !! keep it up Mariam

    • Well, actually, Palestinians ARE a charity case. You receive more international money per capita than any other people in the world.
      May I suggest telling Abbas or whoever is going to be in his place when he dies of old age to sit and discuss peace terms with Israel with an open mind? Palestine doesn’t need NGOs, it needs pragmatic leaders who will work for a two-state solution.

      • Well, yes, of course. But I find your dating a little bit strange. In 1967 Israel had just captured the territory from Jordan. In Kartoom the Arab side formulated the three “No”, one of which was “No to negotiations”. So we should start counting, I think, from 1993, when the Oslo Accords were signed.

        And look, during the period that goes from 1993 to 2001 the Palestinians achieved control over territory on which 98% of their population lived. The Israeli army was not inside Palestinian cities. Palestinians got billions in international aid. The only think lacking was a spirit of pragmatism from the Palestinian side.

        You see, you are not going to destroy Israel. It just not going to happen. Therefore you are not going to “liberate Palestine”. At the most, you will have your own country in the territories that Israel captured from Jordan plus the Gaza strip. You are also not going to force Israel to become demographically Arab. It is also something that is not going to happen. So you should be realist and understand that the Right of Return is a non-starter. Aside from this, you really, really need to understand, that in the best scenario, you will end up being the owners of a third world country. A country that lacks resources (especially water), that is not technologically advanced, that will struggle financially, and this is disappointing, no doubt.
        But better a sovereign country that nothing, don’t you think?
        Best,

      • Every single peace process has been intentionally sabotaged, and the conditions Israel demands are unrealistic and designed to make the Palestinians look like they disagreeable ones, you know nothing Fabitas

      • And another thing, nobody said anything about destroying Israel, Palestinians want their right of return, if Israel would stop murdering people for land and stop the internationally recognized illegal settlements then Jews and Muslims alike can begin to heal and live in peace just like they did for over 1500 years before Zionism was introduced into the region disguised as Judaism, another 3000 units were just reported to be in plans for construction soon by the way.

  7. “If you are in solidarity with the Palestinian people and our right towards self-determination, then you are in solidarity with our rights to fight colonialism by all means, including armed resistance, there is no compromise.”

    I would never make this argument to anyone who was not already an ardent Palestine supporter, and I wouldn’t even then put it in such a black and white kind of way. If you force just anyone who wants to express solidarity with Palestine to support armed resistance, you aren’t going to get a lot of support from the mainstream. There’s nothing wrong with asking people to support specific prescriptions, rather than endorse the “whole thing” or whatever. Also, what is “supporting armed resistance” even going to meet, when this is outlawed in North America? Even counselling people who are involved in armed resistance that they should use non violent means has been ruled terrorism in the US. The best strategy is to allow people to remain neutral on the issue of armed resistance.

    “For instance, the kuffiyeh (checkered scarf) has been recently adopted by the west in the form of a fashion statement.”

    This isn’t really true, it was adopted by the West a long time ago, not recently, as a fashion statement. And it has long fallen out of fashion trends. Those who wear it today not out of solidarity wear it as a regular scarf, and I agree we should critique this, but it is hardly a “fashion statement” for anyone at this point.

    “Romanticizing the resistance is a form of objectifying Palestinians.” Romanticizing the resistance, by Palestinians, for Palestinians, is a big part of the history of the Palestinian resistance, especially between 1965 and the 80s (just look at the posters), but also during the al aqsa intifada, and also generally at other times.I would go as far as to say that romanticizing the resistance is part of resistance. I’ve never been involved in any resistance which people didn’t have the urge to romanticize (i.e. write songs about, make art about, sit around a campfire and talk with irrational positive emotions about past suffering). What’s wrong with this is romanticizing someone else, or rather another people’s resistance. That’s what makes it orientalist, not the romanticization part.

  8. PALESTINA LIBERA. Tutta la Palestina deve essere libera dall’occupazione ebraica (altro che “israeliana”). Gli ebrei devono andarsene, e prima di andarsene debbono risarcire ed indennizzare tutte le loro vittime e risarcire le famiglie di tutti i palestinesi assassinati dal 1917, le famiglie dei sopravvissuti delle loro molteplici stragi. I Palestinesi hanno tutti i diritti, ed hanno ilo diritto ad avere le migliori armi per proteggersi dalla perenne violenza armata ebraica.
    Vendichiamo i 1417 morti di Gaza (27 dicembre 2008, 17 gennaio 2009): Vendichiamo tutti i morti, nessuna pietà per gli assassini ebrei, loe loro famniglie, ed anche i loro fiancheggiatori nel mondo (giornalisti filoebrei in primis!!!). Pace nel mondo? Certo, ma con la Palestina libera.
    Vendichiamo il presidente Yasser Arafat.
    Vendichiamo lo sceicco Ahmed Yessin.
    Vendichiamo il dottor Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
    Tutti e tre assassinati dagli ebrei nell’anno 2004.
    Vendichiamoli e boicottimnao tutto quello che è ebraico fino a quando gli ebrei se ne andranno dalla terra Palestinese.

  9. I really appreciated this article, Miriam, as I still have plenty to learn and can always use a reminder to keep my privilege in check, etc. Onward!

  10. I’m not Arab or Palestinian, but I do own a keffiyeh (from Palestine) and only wear it to Palestine demonstrations and sometimes in my own community (random white people) to show that the Palestinian voice and cause is everywhere, and isn’t going away. I’m not trying to fetishize or imitate Palestinians, and I certainly don’t consider it a fashion statement. I feel like part of my job as a non-Palestinian is to carry the message (not making up my own message) to my community of middle-class white Americans who are largely clueless. It’s fun to make them uncomfortable :-).

    • I am not attacking anyone, rather than pointing out personal observations towards the difference between genuine solidarity expressed by many many internationals and victimization and white-saviour complex expressed by others.

      Kind regards,
      Mariam

      • Dear Mariam

        your arrogance is only exceeded by your incompetence to communicate or liberate . Your lack of capability to debate calmly , and to accept criticisms, is only exceeded by your refusal to appreciate those who support the Pals cause . I dont believe that the PLO or the PFLP will invest in appointing you a representative with the remit of alienating members of the international community. Are you speaking on behalf of the Palestinian nation?. did you consult with the millions of pals?. In my judgment , you are not doing the Palestinians any justice . I presume . you are a Palestinian , but not every Palestinian does /did serve the interests of the Pals cause . It is a well known fact , that some Pals have colluded with their enemy against their people . Does it follow then , that those collaborators , are entitled , to shout down other members of the international community ?. I never heard the black people of south Africa launching a bitter tirade against their supporters . I am not telling you what to do with your “struggle”. In any case what struggle ?. Where is the struggle ?. I see no struggle ?. Care to highlight this struggle for me ?. You wrote earlier in the thread above , “you want to do it on “our own”” ….it is imperative to be realistic and not emotional . “On your own”!!, not in a million year you will recover a single inch , and that is simply a scientific fact . It is simply impossible . You dont have the resources to take on israel , So what is the point of those hollow declarations , be realistic . I spent over 20 years, defending the Pals cause , my main and only contribution that I could make, is if I could influence the policy of my country towards the Pals cause , and I dont need, and I am not doing it, for the sake of a thank you from you or from anyone else . My position is universal . I have met huge number of Pals, from the extreme right to the extreme left , mostly students and postgraduates, generally speaking , they are very hospitable , and appreciative . The problem , is , Pals and Arabs , spend more time arguing and fighting with each others , than they could ever spend fighting against their enemy . I will repeat what I said before , you will be more useful to Palestine , if you focus all your energy against your enemy , you may also choose to repeat what you said above “do not tell me what I should do with my struggle.”…….I leave you in peace , at the end of the day ,you are not Palestine , and Palestine is not you . I am sure there are Palestinians with a much more sophisticated mindset. I happen to know a few of them . You may choose to tell me to: “go to hell Mr , we dont need your support “…. have a good night

      • Dear Mariam
        Having posted my reply I can see now that your comment has been edited , . The last statement of your comment was this : ” dont tell me what to do with my struggle”. I can see that this statement has been removed . .My ranting about struggle was in response to that statement..
        Thank you

      • Can I be completely frank Mariam, I dislike the demonization of supporters and wanting to do it ‘on our own’ because let us be completely frank.. We’ve tried it on our own since 1917, we’ve tried to be ‘idealistic’, taken the high road, refused to interact with those who we percieved as orientalist, enemies, etc, and so but nothing changed.

        I’m not saying let’s start playing dirty to establish our rights, on the contrary, let’s be realistic and not encourage fragmentation, disunity and further dissolution of a cohesive Palestinian movement. Look at what the Zionists managed to do with a racist ideology… they got their own state, weapons, support of governments, the like and the 11 million Palestinians around the world? Too busy trying to turn off supporters.

        I think the turning point for me when I was shout down by ‘international solidarity activists’ who were not even Palestinians that I ‘was harming’ the Palestinian cause and feeding in the ‘imperialist, capitalist blablbla’. Seriously, the audacity to tell me how I should behave and what I should speak as a Palestinian. Oh and I cannot tell you how many Palestinians students abroad have been completely turned off by solidarity Palestinian activists who have not even been in Palestine for the last 5 years.

      • Also I just wanted to point out because solidairty activists are fond of the South Africa analogy. Oliver Tambo was one of the key people who ended South Africa apartheid… and how? By establishing strong, interpersonal links with European politicians, activists and groups. The Boycott Movement, later Anti-Apartheid movement had overwhelmingly support from European organizations. Oliver Tambo did not attempt to turn off his supporters, and they were influential because once they got elected to government posts, they helped pass sanctions on South Africa.

    • With all due respect, Sam, I think that’s a really dangerous position. The SWP in the UK, with its failure to challenge internal sexual assault claims, and the more historic but more famous failures of the 1960s/70s anti-war movement in the US to challenge white male power within it and therefore to tolerate appalling internal behaviour show what the ‘don’t wash dirty linen in public’ argument does to political movements. I don’t necessarily agree with everything Mariam says – especially the idea that if you don’t infringe any of the criteria she lists ‘you’ll know who you are’ – I suspect there are many smug, un-self-critical activists out there who will be patting themselves on the back for being perfect who are actually the kind of patriarchal, dictating types who can be so damaging. But I also know that if movements accept the ‘lowest common denominator’ idea of welcoming any active person just because they’re a supporter of Cause X, they are on a hiding to nowhere. Equally, movements need to be careful of becoming ‘purists’ who exclude and carry out witch-hunts against anyone who doesn’t conform ideologically, but it is perfectly valid – more than valid, essential – that social movements of any kind, not just the Palestine solidarity movement – demand self-education, self-awareness and self-criticism of people. I guess the nature of the Palestine solidarity movement attracts people with certain views – often tied to orientalism, exoticism etc – in the same way that the environmental movement attracts people with ideas about earth spirituality etc which can also end up being just as colonial in certain circumstances. It’s the nature of the issue. And it’s certainly not constructive to immediately terrify people out of a movement – but they do need to have their preconceptions challenged and be given the opportunity to learn from and think about them. People who come into a movement thinking they’re going to ‘save’ the Palestinians – or the West Papuans or the Nicaraguans or the West Saharans or marginalised groups within the UK/USA any other set of people who have been subject to oppression – have to listen to and give those people their own autonomy and leadership, otherwise they’re simply perpetuating the same power structures which caused the problem in the first place. [see also useful critiques of ‘white-knighting’ by men by women – and indeed men – in the feminist movement].

  11. I am pretty much finished with “activism” because of this splintering and also having come to the realization that activism is useless. Only a political solution will work. Unify the Palestinian people, get rid of your political parties who are all self-interested opportunists, and you might get somewhere. Posting videos and articles on “Israhell” on Facebook is an utter waste of everyone’s time.

    • As someone who – after 20 years of various forms of ‘activism’ – is taking a semi-break from it to try and re-evaluate and re-think the most useful ways to be involved in political movements, I can possibly understand where you’re coming from, Meli. I would hope to be able to say that *some* activism is useless – especially when it’s ill-considered and un-thought-through, as much of the ‘e-activism’ you mention is. I’d also argue that the ‘political’ activity you say is the way forward is also necessary – but that it is just another form of activism, and that all of these are simply tactics which need to co-exist alongside, and hopefully complement (compliment? I can never remember) one another.
      But with regard to your reaction to Mariam’s post – which, as I’ve said above, I broadly but not wholly agree with – I would say it’s also important to differentiate between *splintering* and *critiquing*. A movement that doesn’t question and critique itself enough is a cult. A movement that does it too much is a navel-gazing session. But movements, and the people in them, can’t grow and learn if they don’t accept that they’re not perfect and that they need to face up to internal challenges. I’m excruciatingly embarrassed by some of the things I once thought (and probably wrote – fortunately before the internet was there to record them for widespread viewing!). Hopefully I’ve learned from those, but that was a long and painful process that anyone grappling with white privilege needs to go through. Sadly, though, those most in need of doing so are so talented at self-justification that they rarely do.

  12. First, I thank you for such article which I see some very useful points in it.
    However, it’s not fair to judge ICSP in this way, you see, Evey page has a target, And the target of ICSP is to address the people who really can affect our cause (Yes I’m a Palestinian not a pro Palestine)
    One of the main causes we lost our country was letting the world believe that Palestine didn’t congestion Palestinians…
    And when the world found that there are Palestinians, Zionists and pro”Israel” invested millions to show us as terrorists!
    We have a serious problem, always the other half of the story is shown only (even from Arab media)
    Watch news about Palestine in the world and Arab news, it’s like this:
    Words: a Palestinian lost his child.
    PICTURE: A Palestinian holding a flag to burn and threats to say
    = terrorist!
    My page duty has the following points:
    1. To show who really have the power to make change in their countries politics that we are not as per their media, we are humans want to live in peace.
    2. To urge the Western fellows to find other sources for news.
    3. To discuss our cause with them until we end up with an action to be taken.
    4. To show them that we have the right to resist and link our resistance with theirs in some time in their history
    5. To explain our cause.
    6. To fix wrong info about us.
    7. Urging them people to do some action to test them (one of the members climbed the flag bar in his school in USA and put the Palestinian flag!)
    8. To build in them the ideology of injustice and taking an action to force justice.
    9. Show them how we live in Palestine everyday and clear daily lies in media.
    10. Urging them to stand for justice in any debate.
    11. Respect others religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism).
    12. Debating Zionists and part the debate to the members to show them how Zionists act or justify slaughtering us or stealing or lands, water, etc.
    The page does not:
    1. Talk on behalf of Palestinians.
    2. Support any party in Palestine or out of Palestine (actually I’m against Hamas and Fattah)
    3. Target Arabs.
    4. Represent Palestine.
    Yet I really appreciate such article and will use some of its info.
    I hope you join us in ICSP page to inrich it with your ideas
    R.A

    • Thank you for your comment. However, my post is not a attack to your page or any international solidarity, rather than the white-supremacy that sometimes accompanies “solidarity” which includes the term “save” in the name of the page. As a Palestinian I am not a helpless victim, and solidarity is far different than saving. That’s the conclusion.
      Kind regards,
      Mariam

      • Zionists stole/stealing billions of Dollars from Germany by acting like helpless victims who suffered the Holocaust…

        Zionists cry when someone talks about their crimes in Palestine (as a student did when she asked Dr. Frankenstein if he really criticizes Israel)

        helpless victim is a way shall be used also…

        We are in a point that we have to try to convince all different parts of the world community…

        Some of them support our resistance…

        Some of them encourage us to be offensive rather than defensive…

        Some of them didn’t understand our pain until they saw some pictures for a dead children and some aggressive answers from the Zionists….

        Many of them supported us for being logical and providing references…

        I mean: let’s not close any door may help us… And I mean in convincing the world, and not by opening our arms to global terrorist groups…

        You know something?
        If we really have a Plan, we would do allot….

        If we are united, we would do something… no, everything!

        We are over 12 million Palestinians in the world, if we can communicate through a leadership which is elected directly by us, that would be great (Away from Hamas or Fattah or any existing Palestinian Party even if they swear that they will become prophets pureness!)

        For who uses our name for their goals…

        Any person/group uses our name for their own benefit, we can simply do two steps:

        1. To request them (in a very polite way) to post some articles criticize directly “Israel” in a harsh yet logical way.

        2. If they don’t, our obligation to expose such people/group.

        I know that we are not weak….
        We have powerful people all over the world, but they will do nothing by themselves (either to stay having a low profile, or they don’t know how to support their country)

        We have to have an international community to urge our people to interact with our case…

        And we have to reach the world by all means…

        Best regards,,

        R.A

  13. One more thing.
    Palestine is lost because of the Zionist media and massive lies on the world
    Palestine cause is not only a Palestinian matter (we have no weapons to fight, Arab are against us)
    So let’s put our ego aside for a minute and Let’s think in a logical way.
    Zionists took our country because they succeeded to convince the world that Palestine had no people and that they have a right in it
    They convinced the world that we are terrorists, we are the bad guys
    They convinced the world that we are everything evil in this world
    To SAVE our Palestine (because I believe that it exists under the Zionist demography but it needs saving) we need to understand that we can’t do that alone.
    Let’s put our ego aside
    Let’s thank everybody do their best to help our cause, Let’s direct (in a very gentle appreciable way) who goes to a wrong turn in supporting us and get them back to the right way/track
    Let’s have a PLAN!
    Otherwise, you will just encourage us as Palestinians to fight by articles and empty words
    We have been doing that for over 65 years where did this get us to?
    R.A

  14. Italian translation

    Solidarietà internazionale con la Palestina: osservazioni personali

    Dopo aver recentemente scoperto una pagina di solidarietà su Facebook dal titolo “Internationl Community to save Palestine” che in questo momento ha più di 8000 like, il problema della solidarietà con la lotta palestinese, deve essere ancora una volta chiarito. Anche se tutti quelli a cui piace questa pagina hanno le migliori intenzioni, il termine “salvare” porta con sé molte connotazioni pericolose e non dovrebbe in alcun caso essere accettato. Sin dall’inizio dell’attivismo internazionale, c’è sempre stata una linea sottile tra la solidarietà e la vittimizzazione, specialmente riguardo la causa palestinese. Quando gli internazionali iniziano ad apprendere e comprendere meglio gli orrendi atti coloniali di Israele, ciò motiva molti di loro a mobilitarsi per porre in luce questi crimini contro l’umanità; ma questo non li rende dei portavoce per i palestinesi, né questo vuol dire che possono continuare a trattare i palestinesi come inferiori. Come palestinese, ciò deve essere chiaro: abbiamo una voce nostra e non abbiamo bisogno di persone che parlino al posto nostro, non siamo muti e rifiutiamo di essere silenziati. Quindi, è cruciale comprendere che prendere la posizione di parlare al posto dei palestinesi equivale a commettere l’atto di silenziare i palestinesi. Se vuoi mostrare solidarietà, agisci come un’eco anziché una voce dell’appello per la liberazione e la giustizia.
    Come diceva un compagno palestinese, la Palestina non è una questione di beneficenza. I continui atti della comunità internazionale di comportarsi da portavoce dei palestinesi sono molto simili alle tattiche coloniali di trattare i palestinesi da inferiori. Simili ai tentativi di Israele di mostrare al mondo che loro sanno ciò che è meglio per i palestinesi, è perciò cruciale per la comunità internazionale di non seguirli su questi passi.

    Reggere il microfono

    Se diventi uno dei tanti internazionali solidali con la Palestina, è vitale comprendere i vari tentativi fatti di parlare per i palestinesi e che cosa va invece fatto, per mostrare solidarietà. Se come individuo vuoi reggere il microfono, fallo nel tuo paese contro la normalizzazione dello stato dell’apartheid a cui il tuo governo prende parte, o contro i ciechi finanziamenti a Israele, siano fatti dal tuo governo o dalle compagnie della tua nazione. Se vuoi reggere il microfono, fallo come individuo che parla contro il colonialismo, parlando contro l’apartheid e contro la complicità di chi rimane in silenzio. Ma non farlo facendo sembrare i palestinesi vittime indifese che hanno disperato bisogno della mobilitazione internazionale, come se l’unico modo per liberare la Palestina sia quello della comunità internazionale. Prendi voce perché sei contro l’ingiustizia, non come rappresentante dei palestinesi. Avendo un atteggiamento paternalistico su un’intera popolazione e ignorando i suoi movimenti di resistenza credendo che la via per la liberazione sia altrove, non stai esprimendo solidarietà; stai esprimendo una mentalità da salvatore bianco.

    Prova di umanità

    Inoltre, come internazionale in solidarietà con la Palestina, non è tuo dovere provare l’umanità dei palestinesi. L’urgenza di attestare l’umanità dei palestinesi fa il gioco della visione del mondo dei suprematisti bianchi, esattamente come conformarsi agli ideali occidentali che quotidianamente demonizzano i palestinesi. Se sei solidale fallo non guardandoci come inferiori, inoltre anche i vari tentativi fatti con le migliori intenzioni di provare che i palestinese “non sono i terroristi che i media vorrebbero, anche loro sanguinano come ogni altro”, fanno sembrare i palestinesi come inferiori, la nostra umanità non ha bisogno di essere convalidata. Invece di essere utile, ciò disumanizza i palestinesi. Non ci dovrebbe essere alcun bisogno di provare la nostra umanità ad alcuno. Siamo palestinesi, non animali.

    Supporto selettivo alla resistenza

    Il popolo palestinese ha avuto una lunga storia di resistenza al colonialismo che va ben oltre le aspirazioni coloniali di Israele del 1948. Abbiamo utilizzato tutti i metodi anticoloniali nella nostra lunga battaglia, compresa la resistenza sia armata che non armata. Se sei solidale con il popolo palestinese e il nostro diritto all’autodeterminazione, sei solidale con il nostro diritto a combattere il colonialismo con ogni mezzo, inclusa la resistenza armata, non c’è compromesso. Non che un popolo occupato abbia bisogno di una legge per avere la sua dignità, ma anche la risoluzione 3070 dell’assemblea generale delle Nazioni Unite afferma che un popolo colonizzato ha il diritto di liberarsi attraverso la resistenza armata. Il supporto selettivo per una sola forma di resistenza (solitamente non armata) non è solidarietà genuina.

    Critiche e lezioni

    Come internazionale solidale con la Palestina e la causa palestinese, un’altra questione vitale da comprendere sono i limiti dei tuoi input verso le espressioni psicologiche ed emotive dei colonizzati. Non è compito di alcun attivista solidale giudicare o dettare come i palestinesi dovrebbero reagire di fronte al colonialismo e all’apartheid israeliano. Inoltre, avendo vissuto sotto diversi regimi coloniali, è diritto del popolo palestinese sentire una serie di emozioni tra cui la rabbia, ciò non dovrebbe essere sottovalutato o minimizzato. Inoltre, gli internazionali non dovrebbero provare a dire ai palestinesi che essere arrabbiati non è utile o che qualsiasi emozione essi provino sia inappropriata alla lotta o che porti un messaggio sbagliato per la causa. Il popolo palestinese è capace di decidere da solo come sentirsi. Infine, la solidarietà genuina supporta i metodi dei palestinesi per finirla col colonialismo israeliano anziché dir loro come finirlo. Non tutti, ma molti internazionali vengono da una posizione di privilegio e non devono cadere nella trappola di diventare la presunta voce della lotta; ancora una volta, è cruciale comprendere che la vostra posizione è di osservare, e di essere guidati dai palestinesi anziché guidare i palestinesi.

    Appropriazione culturale

    Un altro equivoco che può nascere riguarda la cultura. Questa confusione può venire fuori senza cattive intenzioni; ma i diversi atti di appropriazione culturale da parte della comunità internazionale possono essere corretti da essi stessi se dotati di conoscenza e rispetto per la cultura palestinese. Ad esempio, la kefiah è diventata recentemente oggetto di moda in occidente. La kefiah in Palestina ricorda una lunga storia di resistenza e di esistenza. Inoltre, mistificare la sua storia e il suo significato culturale non è solo una rappresentazione errata ma un insulto all’identità culturale palestinese. Un altro importante aspetto da prendere in considerazione è di non vedere i palestinesi come un popolo esotico con una cultura esotica. Tali reazioni orientaliste riaffermano la supremazia bianca. Poi, non siamo oggetti da ammirare.

    Oggettificare e romanticizzare la resistenza

    Con la rapida crescita del fotogiornalismo e la costante documentazione personale delle azioni palestinesi e della resistenza al colonialismo, è molto facile percorrere la strada dell’oggettificare e del romanticizzare la resistenza. La resistenza palestinese non sta avvenendo in modo tale che le persone possano intraprendere progetti artistici e i resistenti palestinesi non sono modelli per una galleria d’arte. Se sei realmente solidale, la tua visione dei palestinesi non dovrebbe essere simile a un romanzo rivoluzionario e romantico. Romanzare la resistenza è un modo di oggettificare i palestinesi. Un esempio di questo sono i ritratti fotografici in primo piano degli occhi delle donne, che non hanno nulla a che fare con le azioni a cui stanno partecipando, questo non solo priva di significato la resistenza ma anche le stesse donne della Palestina. L’idealizzazione distoglie dalle strategie e dalle vere, dure lotte di liberazione. La lotta palestinese verso la liberazione non è una poesia; è una lotta implacabile per chiedere giustizia e diritti umani.

    Conoscere la storia

    Infine, dovresti imparare accuratamente la storia palestinese, se come internazionale vuoi schierarti con il popolo colonizzato della Palestina occupata. Questo è imperativo soprattutto per gli attivisti solidali che vogliono visitarla. Prima di essere sulla terra palestinese, è fondamentale non dare un supporto cieco ma vuoto e invece, come detto prima, bisognerebbe imparare quanto più possibile, leggendo, attraverso l’uso dei media, social o mainstream, eccetera. Ma soprattutto è fondamentale non venire in Palestina con l’idea di visitare un popolo meno fortunato perché così si inizia a inferiorizzarci. E infine non venite con l’idea di essere i nostri salvatori, o eroi, perché questo approfondisce ancor più il complesso del salvatore bianco. Perciò mentre siete in Palestina ricordate; la solidarietà è un grande impegno, e non si deve dimenticare la storia.

  15. Westerners have stood up to be counted. They have laid their lives on the line, some have died for Palestine. Without the concurrence of many activists, Palestine would not be where it is today.
    So many people doing nothing more than trying to bring to light the atrocities of israel has been the fulcrum that has lifted the lid on the cesspool the israeli’s have created.

    And you kick them in the face?
    Fuck you.

    • I get it. Unless Palestinians exhibit the proper amount of gratitude, everyone gets offended? It’s not about you, it’s about Palestine. If you expect gratitude, you’re just one of many western narcissists who feel good about themselves when they buy a keffiyeh. How dare the Palestinians burst their bubble? The sad fact is, the western solidarity movement has become a cult. Very little has actually been accomplished other than to create some western icons such as Rachel Corrie. The Palestinians will accomplish their goal without all the western personality cults tagging along. And because so many westerners drag their own agendas with them into this movement, they muddy the waters with anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, political agendas and other crap, as they come from a place of privilege and feel they are entitled to do this. This is the colonialism I think Mariam is talking about, and she is correct to take issue with it.

  16. Folks, Miriam is more than entitled to let others know how she feels on this issue and others, she doesn’t need anyone’s permission. There are a lot of confusing dynamics in the Palestine solidarity movement, and she’s clarified a great deal. As always, non-Palestinians should defer to what Palestinians are asking of us. I participate in the Palestinian movement according to what Palestinians are asking and what meets my moral code (ie nonviolence on my end, but I recognize and support the Palestinian right to resist however they see fit).

    I just don’t appreciate some of the abusive language here, especially from non-Palestinians.

    I support Miriam and all Palestinians in their formidable struggle. I have the “privilege” of not needing to struggle (though as a member of a different marginalized group I don’t have that choice), but I choose to because it’s the right thing to do.

    Also, as an admirer and support of Judaism, I believe Zionism is a tragic chapter that ultimately detracts from the Jewish legacy of healing from trauma, so I oppose Zionism from both sides.

  17. i don’t know why we should silence the western activists ? they are more trusted by the western than us , so therefore they are good for us and our issue

    • Mohammad,
      In no part am I stating that internationals in solidarity with Palestine should be silenced, what I said was that they should use their voice to echo ours and not to speak on our behalf. Since by speaking on our behalf they, like any other colonial power are executing the act of silencing us. Secondly, my post is aimed to highlight the difference between genuine international solidarity which is more than welcome (since I am not saying international solidarity is not wanted; contrary to what some people thought I was saying). However the pseudo-solidarity activists that allegedly want to help Palestine yet are in fact hiding behind the facade of solidarity and instead are encouraging white-supremacy and the saviour complex; it is those internationals that are not in true solidarity with Palestinians.
      Kind regards,
      Mariam

  18. I can understand the frustrations of the author although I can also see how some have interpreted her comments and taken offence from them.

    I don’t see the point of internationals just hanging around in Palestine, attending demonstrations, pretending to be journalists but actually being activists who just write for those already of the same opinion. Many will argue that they are trying to make the world aware of the situation ‘on the ground’ and bring about change.

    The fact is they are looking towards entirely the wrong audience. I am convinced that the key to a breakthrough is not Washington or Brussels or Amman or Cairo, but domestic Israeli opinion. It is those in Tel Aviv, Haifa, West Jerusalem and elsewhere that need to be convinced not those in the ‘West’. Focus your efforts on figuring out why the Israeli left has basically vanished, figure out why the grassroots domestic movements such as J14 campaign on unemployment and national debt but don’t use anti-occupation and reduction in defence expenditure messages for the most part.

    The tipping point will come from within Israel, there is a long way to go, but I for one know that strutting about with the ‘evil Israel’ badge on will not get us anywhere. There is a fine line between solidarity and victimisation sure, but there is also a not so fine line between the role of the permanent victim and that of the person who looks outside the box and challenges the tired old messages. Unfortunately I fear too many people, internationals AND Palestinians, are standing on the wrong side of that line.

  19. So I read through all of this and I understand all the points made but I would like to ask what you believe would be appropriate for a non-Palestinian to do with regard to the Palestinian cause? I am an American of European decent and have no direct connection to Palestinians other than my tax dollars that are going into Israel. At 21 years old, I understand I may be an idealist, believing that I can make some form of difference. I have tried raising awareness and standing in “solidarity” with the Palestinians. I work in refugee resettlement and have worked with many Palestinian refugees. I have taken the time to learn Arabic from a Palestinian and spent time teaching English to Palestinian Arabs in Beit Sahour, in the West Bank. Everyone I have encountered thus far has not felt victimized by my involvement, but has rather taken the time to tell me their opinions and their stories so I can further understand the issue. In your opinion, where should my involvement stop? Because I am not Palestinian, should I not involve myself in the call for Palestinian rights and freedoms? Where is my place in all of this?

    • As I see it, genuine solidarity is when one realises that their own freedom is interlocked in everyone elses. Working in your own community as to not be complicit in any colonisation (not just Palestine) is I feel, where the duty lies.

  20. Thank you, Mariam, for this wonderful article. You raise extremely important issues, that every international activist should consider. Some of the comments here prove your point. Too many internationals, especially westerners, will get irritated and drop the cause if for one moment they are asked to stop trying to lead and to sit down and listen, instead. “Activism” like this isn’t helpful, and only taints the original cause.
    I do have one question for you. You talk about the use of the kuffiyeh as a fashion statement. Would it still be called cultural appropriation to use it in certain environments, as a way to show support for the Palestinians? I’ve been using it sometimes, and the last thing I want is to offend other people.

  21. This is the first time I have come across a cause, where people are ungrateful and selective over being supported. Why don’t you also mention, Mariam, the activists (white ones) who go to Nabi Saleh and Bil’in ever Friday to protest against Israel’s incursion, while “liberal” and usually Western educated, rich Palestinians relax in Ramallah’s pretentious bars discussing the situation over a glass of Israeli wine?

    I didn’t know that we, as international activists must meet a certain criteria before we can be deemed good enough to support Palestine. This article does make you sound as if you are superior to everyone else by the way. Please do get off your high horse. Seriously never came across such stupidity. Also, regarding “romanticising” occupation, what about Palestinian photographers who capture women’s eyes for art projects/exhibitions? They’re allowed to do it because they’re Palestinian but someone white can’t?

    Ps, I also support Kashmir’s struggle against occupiers. Need to double check what I can say/do with them before they get offended.

  22. […] There are groups such as the Palestinian Anarchists and Anarchists Against the Wall operating in Israel and Palestine who are overt in their political aims and objectives, but I didn’t have a chance to meet them. There have also been some very interesting criticisms of international activism in Palestine, of which this is an interesting example.  […]

  23. This article is actually very insightful. However, I feel that it attacks people who try and post all the atrocities on social media in hopes of spreading the word. Can someone shed some light on this? Is there something wrong with posting continuously on social media about the brutalization of historic Palestine?

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