I am often asked whether one can be optimistic regarding the situation in Palestine. In truth, there seems to be little reason for optimism, especially on a day like today after hearing of the tragic events in Jenin. Palestinians are being killed with impunity at the rate of at least one per day. The new Israeli Government is openly fascist and has made it clear that it is not interested in allowing for a Palestinian state at all but rather in even harsher treatment of Palestinians. Not only does it include extreme racists in positions of influence over the lives of Palestinians, but its “guiding principles” include a forthright statement of belief in exclusive Jewish rights over the land in all of “the land of Israel,” defined as including the Negev (25% Bedouin), the Galilee (majority Arab), the Golan (Syria), and “Judea and Samaria” (i.e. the West Bank) and that it will vigorously pursue settlement activities and exclusive Jewish spaces.
The new government, while it has created much consternation among Liberal Zionists and Israel’s apologists abroad, seems to have had no effect on the US government. The administration has continued to reward Israel with joint military exercises and a promise to push forward with pressuring Arabs regimes to join the cynically named “Abrahamic Accords” of normalization with Israel, without first addressing the Palestinian issue. Meanwhile, Itamar Ben Gvir is openly calling for a new Nakba (the catastrophic ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1848) and almost daily creating provocations on Haram El Sharif, as if hoping to provoke further violence.
The Palestinians seem to be helplessly fragmented and incapable of finding a robust unified leadership to guide their struggle. Regional Arab leaders, for all their verbal support of the Palestinian cause, seem impotent and/or unwilling to act concretely in favor of Palestinians, seemingly busy with their own affairs if not outright willing to sacrifice Palestinians in pursuit of their own objectives. One can hardly be optimistic in such circumstances.
Yet, those who believe in Justice in Palestine cannot give up hope. Hope is a spiritual value based on our understanding of the nature of God and the universe God created. It’s an awareness that the arc of history, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., inevitably bends towards justice. It is the firm faith in the ultimate victory of justice over oppressive systems and regimes. It is the stubborn dedication to principles of equality and human dignity in the face of the overwhelming power of our oppressors or the “balance of power” as it appears on the ground. It is belief in the indomitable human spirit and the resilience of those who persist, against all odds, to hang on to their dignity and identity in the face of attempts at erasure, marginalization, and neglect.
75 years after their Nakba, we Palestinians continue to exist, resist , persist, and insist on our rights!
And for those of us in the United States, the struggle continues despite the hostility of the 1%, the bias of the press, and the power of the Lobby. We continue to fight the battle to inform and educate, challenge, and advocate for Palestinian rights despite a well-funded “Hasbara” (propaganda) campaign that relentlessly promotes the Zionist line and ruthlessly attacks, with false accusations of anti-semitism, anyone who dares challenge its narrative. We continue in the Hope that our efforts are not in vain, and that eventually we will be able to impact public opinion, popular perceptions, and ultimately the destructive policies of our government, which seems committed to support Israel regardless of its actions and public pronouncements.
This hope, however, is not merely a theoretical, other-worldly sentiment with no foundation in earthly realities. Every so often, we see glimpses of real changes taking place, and which will one day accumulate into a torrent of justice rolling down like a mighty flood. Such glimpses are important to note, as they nourish our souls while we work for justice and await its ultimate victory. For example, we note the following:
- The refusal of the US Department of Education to adopt the problematic IHRA definition of antisemitism, which effectively equates anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli political positions with antisemitism. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of Palestine Legal, CAIR, the No-IHRA Coalition, and many others, attempts to silence Palestinian advocacy through adoption of this definition is being challenged, and it is no longer being easily passed. While we continue to see persistent efforts to have this definition adopted, it is increasingly accomplished by means of executive action by states, university heads, and other institutions, under the guise of combating hatred and anti-semitism. But where discussion and voting is allowed, it is usually recognized and rejected as being a tool for silencing Palestinians.
- The reversal by Harvard University after its cancellation of Kenneth Roth’s Fellowship at the Kennedy School of Government. This human rights activist and former long-time head of Human Rights Watch (HRW) was initially denied a fellowship as a result of HRW’s position on Israel being an apartheid state. The influence of unnamed donors, which initially caused Harvard to cancel his appointment, led to such an outcry that Harvard was forced to reverse its position and reinstate its offer to Roth.
- The crisis of conscience being felt by many Jewish individuals, and liberal Zionists who no longer feel comfortable supporting the current Israeli regime or its policies, and who are increasingly finding their voice in challenging its apartheid policies.
- The increasing willingness of churches to use the language of “apartheid” and not to be intimidated by bogus charges of antisemitism.
The struggle, of course, continues, but Palestinian Liberation Theology teaches that even in the darkest hours, we continue to have hope, even certainty, of the inevitable outcome and victory of right over wrong. The apparent defeat of Calvary paves the way to the glorious victory of the Resurrection.
To be clear, this victory is not the victory of one party over another, or the substitution of domination by the erstwhile victims over their oppressors, but it is a victory for justice, equality, and human rights for everyone, which should be good news for both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs alike.