Masar Badil’s Liberation Conference in Ottawa calls on activists to normalize Palestinian resistance in all its forms

Charlotte Kates

Caption: Left: Charlotte Kates, the international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network (https://samidoun.net/) | Right: Khaled Barakat, Palestinian writer and researcher and co-founder of Masar Badil-The Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement (masarbadil.org) at the Liberation Conference in Ottawa, April 28, 2023

At Friday’s session of Masar Badil’s Liberation Conference in Ottawa, April 28, 2023 (SAW Gallery, 67 Nicholas St., Ottawa, ON), an anecdote told in consternation by participant Neveen Abu Elula, a young Palestinian woman from Shafa Amr currently studying in St Louis, Missouri, helped me give form to the various strands of the discussion that took place throughout the day after each presentation. Neveen was born and raised in Syria’s largest Palestinian refugee camp (Yarmouk), which her family had to flee because of the war in Syria, becoming refugees for a second time.

The discussion thread was about how to reconcile division and deep disagreement over what constitutes the Palestinian national interest and with whom to form alliances. With anguish mixed with anger, Neveen recounted an experience she and her friends had in St. Louis in 2021.

At the time, Neveen Abu Elula hadn’t yet heard of Masar Badil-The Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement, but her activism meshed with that of the movement — rejecting the “peace process” — ie, the “two-state solution,” and supporting the liberation of Palestine “from the river to the sea” through continued resistance leading to one secular democratic state in Palestine and return of refugees. So, when she and a group of friends were out supporting Sheikh Jarrah and confronting a pro-Israel group on the other side of the street, they chanted “Free, free Palestine from the river to the sea.” At that point, according to Abu Elula, another young Palestinian activist there rushed to the other side of the street and apologized to the pro-Israel group for the “extreme” rhetoric of Abu Elula and her friends.

Neveen

Caption: Neveen Abu Elula

It’s natural for Abu Elula to feel a deep sense of betrayal at this occurence. Upon reflection, however, it is easy to understand what that young activist was attempting to do and why she did it. She was placating the other side to assure them that “from the river to the sea” does not mean throwing Jewish Israelis into the sea, and that she, and the people with whom she organizes, simply want to co-exist with them in peace.

That placating activist, like more than 1000 other activists, including myself, academics and students is likely featured on the Canary Mission blacklist. Labeling people racists, anti-Semites, and supporters of terrorism or terrorists themselves has a chilling effect and is anxiety provoking, especially for the young.

The labels levelled at individuals are no different from those levelled at Samidoun Palestinian Solidarity Network or Masar Badil. Google “Khaled Barakat,” Palestinian writer and researcher and co-founder of Masar Badil, and you will find link after link of Zionist sources calling him a terrorist and pretty much maligning his character with no shred of evidence, until you finally get to my interview of him here. The Jerusalem Post and Zionist organizations in Canada and Germany want to put Samidoun on a terror list. But rather than caving into such Zionist tactics, these two movements are fighting back by directly challenging one of the insidious mis-labels that other pro-Palestine activist groups are still hesitant to challenge — namely, that Palestinian resistance equates with terrorism.

Israel gets away with arresting and detaining Palestinians and performs targeted killings at will, because it has successfully defined Palestinian resistance as terror. Furthermore, Israel is not worried about alienating its allies by flying in the face of international law or common decency, because it does not rely on the cooperation of these governments to arrest Palestinian resistors, and hence it does not fear alienating its allies.

Charlotte Kates, the international coordinator of Samidoun, explained that the current version of US anti-terrorism laws (copied in Canada and Europe), when applied to Palestine and Lebanon, are meant to counter threats to the “peace process,” i.e., to the security of Israel. The effect of counterterrorism measures is to separate Palestinians in the shatat (diaspora) from their own people in Palestine by an act of law. These laws are ever expanding to the point where Palestinian existence, not just resistance, is becoming “terrorism.”

It behooves us then to challenge Zionist terror lists whether issued by Western governments or by Canary Mission. We must do this by claiming the right of Palestinians to claim their right to resist, i.e., by normalizing resistance and not shying away from supporting it openly in all its forms, by organizing to uphold the resistance, by making Israel a burden and not “an aircraft carrier for US imperialism in the region.”

In addition to reducing the number of “skilled terrorists” through arrests and targeted killings, Israel’s counter-resistance measures also include “making it more difficult for the terrorists to communicate with each other.” This is why Masar Badil began the Liberation Conference in Ottawa with a day-long session titled Palestine Liberation Forum. A major theme was communication or “principled struggle” by “asking difficult questions, by poking holes into other organizations, so we could patch them and produce new knowledge.”

Participants at this Conference did ask difficult questions–about China, Iran, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizballah as allies. The presentation by Eyad Kishawi titled The Global Struggle — Rising Poles provoked a lot of discussion. His thesis was that, with the waning of US global power and the rise of China to fill the vacuum, Palestinians must forge alliances with emerging powers that have proven to be or are likely to be effective in eroding Israel’s ability to dictate terms, as it currently does.

Palestinians have a long history of being allied with national liberation groups and against Western imperialism. Questions were raised about the morality of allying with states or organizations whose human rights policies are globally criticized. Some argued that we had to balance competing, and at times conflicting, priorities. One participant (Chadi Marouf) made the comment that when Nelson Mandela was asked who had been most effective in procuring his release from prison, he had said: Castro, Gaddafi and Arafat. Chadi pointed out that none of the three were perfect, yet they were effective. Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hizballah are the only ones being effective in resisting Israel by posing a deterrent to Israel.

The hole in this conversation has still to be patched, so stay tuned. Following are some images from Friday’s session of the Liberation Conference.

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Note: First published in Medium

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Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank

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