2b. Palestine: Solidarity and Resistance

Chair: John Chalcraft, LSE

US Labor and Palestine: Historical Challenges, Future Possibilities
Jaime Veve,
political activist

The recent vote by UAW, Local 2865 (graduate students at University of California) in favor of BDS is a significant development for an issue long neglected. The immediate and predictable Zionist calls for condemnation and censorship speak volumes to the challenges encountered in advocating justice for Palestine. While recognizing the importance of recent milestones in solidarity with Palestine, this paper addresses another critical faultline that the movement has been unable to overcome, namely the critical absence of US labor regarding Palestinian labor rights. Historically, US labor has lagged behind other movements in expressing progressive international solidarity short of endorsing the US State Department that continues to be bedrock of direct and indirect support of Israel. This paper will connect the role of the official body of US labor, the AFL-CIO, in support of Israel through the lens of the cold-war and post WWII anti-communist thrust era including the 1948 establishment of Israel. This historical juncture witnessed a purge of the radical left in US labor and the subsequent emergence of the role of official US labor as a junior partner in support of the US Cold war foreign policy objectives of the US Empire. The relationship with the Israeli labor federation, the Histadrut, lent itself to furthering the uncritical support for the establishment of Israel and its oppressive policies against the Palestinian people. Critical to this effort was the investment of millions of union dues and pension funds of US workers in Israeli bonds in close collaboration with the US State Department. Despite the qualitative changes in US labor and its transformation from the die-hard-cold-war-warriors to becoming more responsive to the demands of today’s US workers the political and material bonds in support of US policies on Israel continue unabated within the official corridors of AFL-CIO. This paper will examine the difficulties, challenges and (limited) successes in addressing the question of Israel and struggle for justice for Palestine within the US labor arena, including the role of the Jewish Labor Committee, an official and integral structural component of the AFL-CIO that monitors and seeks to suppress any and all discussions on Palestine and its connection with various struggles for social justice within US labor, that has, despite its twist and turns, been historically anchored in the Black civil rights movement, opposition to the Vietnam war and the anti-apartheid struggle and today’s fight against neo-liberal globalization and the monopoly of the 1%.

Greek Nationalism and the Palestinian Quest for Religious Liberation: the Institutional Aspect of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem Controversy
Konstantinos Papastathis, University of Luxembourg

The topic of the paper is to elaborate contextually on the institutional aspect of the controversy within the Jerusalem Orthodox Church between its Greek establishment and the Palestinian community. The paper gives a historical account of the question, focusing on the diplomatic stakes and the variant ends of the political actors involved. This dispute dates back to the nineteenth century. For the Palestinians, the claim to liberate the Church from the ‘foreign usurpers’ reflects the collective response to orientalist stereotypes. For the Greek hierarchy, in contrast, the communal struggle forms a threat to its ‘institutionalized’ national rule. It is also linked to: a) the Status Quo question; and b) the Church’s vast real estate property, the arbitrary management of which might create facts on the ground against the Palestinian national cause. The paper suggests that the prospect for a fair compromise is limited. From a legal perspective, the Patriarchate’s Regulations do not provide to the Palestinian laity sufficient ground to improve its position vis à vis the Greek apparatus. From a political perspective, certain diplomatic considerations of Jordan and the Palestinian Authorities, as well as their vulnerability in relation to Israel, do not allow room for supporting a structural change in Church administration. From a religious perspective, the Status Quo framework narrows further the margin for a paradigmatic shift, which might open ‘Pandora’s box’ for the intervention of foreign state-powers. The paper concludes that the end of Greek ‘religious imperialism’ depends actually on the solution of the Palestine Question.

Violence, War and Accountability: Gendered and Sexualized Dynamics of the 2014 Israeli Assault on Gaza
Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University

The 51 day Israeli assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014 resulted in the killing of over 2200 a majority of whom were women, children and elderly; the injuries of thousands; the displacement of hundreds of thousands; and the destruction of the infrastructure and livelihood of an already impoverished and vulnerable Palestinian. As the Israeli military intensified its aerial and artillery bombardment, Israeli civil society produced a public discourse at the center of which was hate and dehumanization of Palestinians. In a public rally in Jerusalem, Israelis celebrated that there were “no schools in Gaza today… because there were no children left”. On the hilltop of Cederot, Israelis sat on a coach eating watermelon seeds as if they were popcorn and cheered every time fighter planes bombed a Palestinian neighborhood as if they were watching fireworks. More horrifying than these examples (and many more that the paper will discuss) is the emergence of an Israeli sexualized and gendered violent discourse that is both overt and unapologetic. This phenomenon contradicts the master Zionist narrative that constructed Israeli as a pro-feminist and queer-friendly state unlike any other and one that has been more empowering to Palestinian women than their own society or the anti-colonial liberation movement of their people. Drawing on primary data from field research in Palestine as well as secondary data from social media and other sources, this paper will examine the gendered and sexualized dynamics of the Israeli assault on Gaza as well as the preceding wave of terror Israeli military and political leadership unleashed against the Palestinian population in the West Bank following the kidnapping and the latter discover of the bodies of 3 Israeli settlers who had disappeared while hiking in the (occupied) hills of Hebron in the areas of the Palestinian Authority. The paper will also offer a theoretical framework for analyzing and understanding the relationship between gender/sexuality and war focusing on the (epistemic and physical) racialized violence in colonial “civil society.”

The Trope of the Hunger Strike: How Bobby Sands is/of the Palestinian Narrative
Rebecca Granato, al Quds Bard College

The Palestinian hunger striker is an ever-present media sensation, one which garners special attention in the press when the days turn into weeks and even months. Images of the strikers often adorn billboards, grace the cover of local newspapers, and appear at university rallies. In the Palestinian national consciousness, the hunger striker has long been both a shaper and vessel of national identity. With a particular consideration for the messages these actions carry, this paper will examine the emergence of a Palestinian national narrative amongst these men carrying out their hunger strikes within Israeli prisons. Building on my recent work, which traces the emergence of democratic structures and a kind of civil society within the jails between 1967 and 1985, I will specifically focus on the ways in which the hunger strikers from the 1981 Northern Irish Hunger Strike have unintentionally helped shape the narrative of the Palestinians. In doing so, I will look at how the martyring and death of Bobby Sands became a trope in the Palestinian prisoner story and thus within the national narrative. Beginning with the letters smuggled out of Israeli jails and sent to Ireland, and paying careful attention to media coverage and political posters featuring Bobby Sands, I will ask how the Palestinians appropriated the Irish narrative and used it to augment their existing tradition of hunger striking. I will also ask how and to what end later Palestinian strikers, such as Khadar Adnan, mimicked this early ‘80s event and reinterpreted it to accomplish contemporary goals. My research draws on the written archives of the Abu Jihad Library on the al Quds University campus, newspapers from the past thirty years, and on extensive oral sources gathered from the West Bank.

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