Palestine Blog #1: To Speak Truth with Power

I was living in Washington D.C. in 2002 when the struggle for Palestinian liberation first entered into my political consciousness. I had been working with the Mobilization for Global Justice to help organize a protest at the site of the World Bank against their structural adjustment programs and neoliberal economic policies that were devastating developing countries’ economies. While we were organizing this demonstration I began to take more notice of news describing the second Palestinian “intifada” or uprising. Some of the organizers who knew much more about politics in the Middle East and the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israel decided that our protest against the World Bank should also take up the issues facing Palestinians and their supporters. On the day of the protest I was surprised to see a contingent of some ten thousand Palestinians and their Muslim and Arab supporters marching towards our demonstration of half the size. But it wasn’t only the size of the pro-Palestine contingent that caught me off guard. Their bellowing cry of “Free, Free Palestine/Long Live Palestine/Long Live the Intifada/Intifada, Intifada” infused the rally with an urgency that I had never felt at a protest before. After that demonstration I knew I had to find out what had animated so many thousands of people around Palestinian rights.

Since I began studying the Israeli occupation of Palestine, I have seen Israel devastate the Palestinian population with weapons made in the USA; I have seen Israel launch a war on Lebanon with false pretense; I have seen them build an apartheid wall through the West Bank that has demolished homes and cut off Palestinians from their farm land; I have seen Israel turn the Gaza strip into a giant prison by sealing off the boarders and refusing to allow medical supplies and other basic necessities to enter. I have seen Israel murder aid workers on a flotilla that was sent to break the blockade of Gaza and deliver medical supplies.

I say I have seen all these things, but in reality I have only read about them—so when my dad invited me to join him on an African American delegation to Palestine that he was helping to lead, I knew I had to go.

At the same time I wasn’t sure if I should go.

A year and a half ago my one-year-old son, wife, and I survived the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. My wife was scheduled to lead a training on HIV and we had arrived in Haiti two days before the quake. In the aftermath of the quake we helped set up a make shift clinic in front of the hotel to assist hundreds of badly injured Haitians who were coming for first aid. This experience took a toll on me physiologically and has been difficult to cope with at times. This is why when I told a friend I was thinking of going to Palestine he said, “Can’t you just go to Hawaii this summer?” He had a point, I could use some R&R.

And yet my experience in Haiti also made me want to go to Palestine more than ever. In the aftermath of the quake I saw the way the world’s powerful nations allow aid to pile up on the tarmac of the airport and refuse to deliver desperately needed food and water. I saw the U.S. respond by sending over 20,000 troops to Haiti, a country that needed 20,000 doctors.

And then I also saw the corporate media coverage that trumpeted the amazing relief effort that was carried out under difficult conditions.

The Haitian people are still living under a UN occupation that is being funded and directed by the United States. The impact this occupation may be hard to learn about in the U.S., but for Haitians it is clear: there are still hundreds of thousands of Haitians who are still homeless, the UN has introduced cholera to the island that has already killed more than 5,000 people, and the U.S./UN oversaw a completely fraudulent election that brought to power an ally of the former dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier. While we in the U.S. occasionally hear about the difficult plight of the Haitian people, we are rarely told of the U.S.’s role in maintaining the misery.

I am now committed to going to the country that has been under the longest occupation; to see, unfiltered by fox news, the struggles of the Palestinian people. I hope to come back home and, as one of the Black women who helped organize our delegation put it, “Speak truth with power.”


P.S. Tomorrow night I leave for Washington, D.C. for a one-day orientation with the other delegates and then on Sunday we leave for Palestine. I hope to provide regular updates on my experiences in the West Bank.