Oct 21, 2023
Content Warning: State and colonial violence, genocide
Every single attempt at non-violent resistance has been brutally crushed by the Israeli Army. Twenty years ago, I went to Palestine and helped organize resistance to a military occupation. I participated in scores of direct actions and protests with hundreds of international activists from around the world. All these sincere attempts at protest were met with a military response from the Israeli Army.
The occupation continued.
Injustice festered. It built edifices of hate. It built a prison infrastructure of walls and surveillance around every village. It fortified hilltops with armed reactionary zealots and gave them the full support of a nearly invincible modern army. It cut down olive trees, destroyed wells, demolished houses, terrorized the streets, and imprisoned, tortured, & murdered generations of youth.
I lived with the most hospitable people I had ever known. I was given respect and unquestioning sanctuary from the most educated & intellectual people in the Middle East. I saw most of the energy of the Palestinian people focused on two things, the education of their people, and the cultivation of their land.
Students would brave any oppression they faced, climb over any mountain path to complete an exam, or wait at checkpoints for hours to attend class. No tank could ever stop the school day in Palestine, even if getting to class meant running through machine gun fire, breathing tear gas, or being shot in class itself when an Israeli soldier raked a school with fire.
Farmers harvested olives from trees their families owned for hundreds of years. Every year right wing settlers would descend from the hilltops to brutalize Palestinian farmers, all the while as the Israeli army watched, nay laughed at the injustice and theft occurring. Harvests were stolen, thousand-year-old olive trees were cut down, people were beaten to a pulp, Israeli snipers killed with impunity. Every year the Palestinian farmers stood their ground on their land and came to peacefully harvest olives.
At one time Gaza was the most liberal part of Palestine with mini-skirts and belly dancers a common sight. Intellectuals and leftists organized, wrote radical theory, and built a solid argument against the colonial project that is Israel. Every other nation in the world, other than America, came to condemn the actions of Israel against the Palestinians. The balance had shifted, the argument was turning, the days of plain hijacking and hostage taking were coming to a close. Everyone now knew Palestine existed, everyone agreed that Palestine existed. The Israeli right wing was desperate, the Palestinian right wing was marginal. And so, the Israeli right wing helped the Palestinian right wing, and one justified the other. That’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a historical reality.
And when a militarized right-wing Israel had its way, every Palestinian leftist or moderate that could run a war crimes trial, organize a general strike, accurately report the news, or even launch a guerrilla liberation movement, was imprisoned or assassinated.
Now I’m here twenty years after I discovered that everything I was told as an American about the Palestinian people was a lie. They are beautiful people, but even more, they are the bravest people I have ever known. This is not my opinion alone; this impression comes mostly from the South African international activist I worked with. Many South African activists came to Palestine, with their own country freshly out of Apartheid, they and understood exactly what was going on.
I have many friends from Gaza, and they are poets, doctors, and engineers who know love. But when the walls of the world’s largest open-air prison with the highest population density on earth were breached, horrible rage poured forth.
The occupation has continued, its continuation is the root of all events that have transpired.
If we cannot recognize the tsunami of hypocrisy America stands in, then there is no doubt that everything we have seen will continue to repeat itself. We must join the global consensus in condemning Israel’s actions against the Palestinians over the last 75 years.
When we stopped funding South Africa, negotiations to end Apartheid started in earnest and resolved without widespread bloodshed. It’s up to us as Americans to create similar conditions and force this American client state to make concessions, allow Palestinians to return, and end this conflict. Not only could it begin a lasting peace in the Middle East, but it could be the geo-political beginning of the end of fossil fuel dependence. Palestine is the key to politically unraveling the greatest crisis the world has ever known.
End the occupation of Palestine.
Former President of UO Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER)
At the 10/21 rally where this speech was given, a white supremacist agitator showed up and pulled a weapon. Nobody was shot, but in the chaos a comrade was hurt trying to get away from the dangerous situation.
To support Erica’s recovery, Venmo: @Spencer-McIntyre