As Palestinian community and solidarity organizers launched mobilizations in over 100 cities and towns around the world to confront Israeli annexation plans and resist over 72 years of Zionist colonization in Palestine, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network spoke with Palestinian writer and organizer Khaled Barakat about the political moment and our next steps to build on the 1 July Day of Rage and the thousands of people who took to the streets to defend Palestine, its land and its people, against Zionism, imperialism, settler colonialism and racism.
The following interview addresses some of the key questions of this historically significant moment for the Palestinian liberation struggle.
Samidoun: Today and in the preceding days, we have seen dozens of mobilizations in cities and towns around the world, from the march in Ramallah organized by Samidoun Palestine to thousands on the streets in Paris and New York, to small activities in local towns where people feel compelled to come out to resist this latest injustice. We saw a massive turnout in Gaza, we saw car caravans, people marching and all kinds of actions. What do you think this means?
Khaled Barakat: Palestinians are waking up from the great deception of the so-called “peace process” and the Oslo agreements. This is, in fact, a path of treason led by Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinians have continuously realized since the Oslo agreements, over the past 30 years, that there is no hope for this path to achieve their rights. A new Palestinian generation was born after the signing of the Oslo agreements and the creation of the Palestinian Authority, inside and outside Palestine.
Today, this generation is raising its voice. It has the historic task of taking on its rightful role in leading the Palestinian liberation movement, by force and by mobilization, by providing an alternative vision. All of these mobilizations come not only to say that they are against the colonization and annexation of the Jordan Valley or the theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank.
The major political force that is propelling this resistance is the conviction of the Palestinian people that the entire project of Israel and its existence is the problem. Our actions moving forward must proceed on this basis: confronting the entire system and working to dismantle it completely, for the total liberation of the land and people of Palestine.
Samidoun: What do you think are the next steps for the movement?
Khaled Barakat: Our people have no other alternative but to be united. This unity must be on the path of liberation and return. The real division is not between Hamas and Fateh but between the path of the “self-rule” government that serves only the 1% of Palestinian capitalists – and the path of the Palestinian masses, the popular classes, who want the liberation of Palestine.
The PLO has been confiscated from the popular classes by the 1% of Palestinian capitalists and its tools, and it must be liberated and returned to the people. You are either with the self-rule government or the liberation of Palestine, supporting the 1% of collaborators or the 99% of our people engaged in comprehensive resistance.
Today, our people realize that no one can deceive them with the so-called “two-state solution.” In fact, adopting and promoting the two-state solution is a crime against the Palestinian people.
At this moment, this movement to confront annexation is not only important as a defense of Palestinian land, although this is critical. It is also a movement to defend the workers and the farmers of the Jordan Valley. When we speak about steadfastness, we are talking about fishers, workers and farmers. These are the people who carry our cause on their shoulders. Every time a Palestinian fisher goes into the Gaza sea to feed their family, they are a fedayee – a freedom fighter. Sometimes they do not come back. Israel may kill them, arrest them or destroy their boats. When Palestinian farmers in Gaza today go to plant their land, they may face shelling with Israeli tanks and U.S.-made weapons. Supporting the Palestinian people is supporting the popular classes.
This, of course, also means fighting for the liberation of all Palestinian prisoners. Every day, those who are struggling in any means – by organizing their communities, organizing their campuses and building the resistance – are targeted for Israeli abduction, torture, interrogation and imprisonment. The Palestinian prisoners’ movement reflects the leaders of our struggle. The Palestinian refugees in the camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria and everywhere in exile and diaspora face various circumstances of siege and repression, at their core the denial of their right to return. These are the Palestinian masses, the Palestinian people, for and with whom this global movement struggles.
Samidoun: Now, everyone is saying that they are against annexation, even the Palestinian right-wing forces responsible for signing the Oslo accords. What is your view of the current political scene for Palestinians, and how can the Palestinian liberation movement truly rise to present a popular course of struggle?
Khaled Barakat: Our task today is to form a unified national front based on the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, defined by our people themselves. They are systematically denied and violated by the United States and Israel. The priority of the Palestinian people today is to protect their land, protect their rights and accumulate their strength in a comprehensive way.
At the same time, building for a united front should not hold us back or become a condition that prevents us from pushing the movement forward.
The resistance must become stronger and stronger. The popular movements must become stronger and stronger, including labor, women’s and student movements. Movements like Tal’at represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Movements like the Al-Awda coalitions and committees defending the right of return of Palestinian refugees everywhere. Organizations and networks like Samidoun are mobilizing people around the world to defend Palestinian rights, the Palestinian prisoners and the liberation of Palestine. Palestinian youth are taking the lead. Organizations like Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine, the Hirak Shebabi (Palestinian Youth Mobilization) in Berlin, the Palestinian women’s organization Al- Karama in Spain, Hirak Haifa in occupied Palestine ‘48, the student and youth movement, and many more, are presenting a way forward.
These are the forces that led the mobilizations today, not only outside Palestine, but also inside Palestine, along with the Palestinian resistance in Gaza. These are the forces that do not rely on NGO funding from the European Union. Therefore, they dare to confront the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the United States, and adopt a necessary yet revolutionary vision for Palestinian liberation that focuses on the struggles of the popular classes, women’s struggles, national and social liberation.
Samidoun: In terms of this question of unity, there has been a lot of publicity in Palestinian media about this joint press conference of Jibril Rajoub from Fateh and Saleh al-Arouri of Hamas. Do you think this presents a real opportunity for Palestinian unity in struggle, or is this something else?
Khaled Barakat: It is not possible to unite two opposing paths – one of a program of resistance, and one of a program of concessions, negotiations and the devastation of Oslo – under the guise of “national reconciliation,” even amid the annexation project. The promotion of such meetings and conferences as a hope for unity for Palestinians promotes only illusion, especially when there remains no meaningful sign that the Palestinian Authority has truly diverged in any way from its failed path of surrender to the U.S. and Israel while repressing the Palestinian resistance through security coordination.
It is also an attempt to clean the image of Jibril Rajoub, previously the head of the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service in the West Bank. In that capacity, he practiced all kinds of repression, surveillance and detention of resistance fighters and organizations. We cannot wash away that history and present with the mere appearance of a joint online press conference. Such a media display also seeks to limit the terms of Palestinian unity to that of the Palestinian Authority: namely, the “two-state solution.” The Palestinian people have confidence only in the unity of resistance in struggle. Anything else must be met with a high level of skepticism.
National unity must be based on the principles of the Palestinian people and a program of struggle that cuts all ties with the devastating path and program of Oslo. It must not be used to burnish the appearance of the same “self-rule” Authority in the West Bank that continues, in practice, security coordination with Israel and the political repression of Palestinian resistance.
Samidoun: Many people around the world are mobilizing for Palestine by organizing campaigns for boycott, divestment and sanctions, for the boycott of Israel and of complicit corporations that are profiting from the oppression of the Palestinian people. Many of these same forces are responsible for crimes against oppressed communities around the world, the private prisons and security companies and official alliances that also attack Black communities in the U.S. and Indigenous peoples in Canada. How do you view the tasks of the boycott movement today?
Khaled Barakat: The tactic of boycott has a long history in the Palestinian movement. We boycotted British products in the 1930s. One of the first Palestinian and Arab organizations that was mobilizing in 1951 after the Nakba was the Assembly to Reject Reconciliation with Israel. This organization was founded by George Habash [the Palestinian leftist leader who later co-founded and led the Arab Nationalist Movement and then the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.] Of course, we also have the rich lessons of Palestinian boycott from the first Intifada. Boycott is an ongoing tool of Palestinian resistance, inside and outside Palestine.
The BDS campaign and boycott initiatives are an important part of the Palestine solidarity movement. When we look at BDS, we see it from a national liberation perspective. This is an important internationalist tool that can mobilize direct participation in the struggle to support the Palestinian people.
The BDS campaign includes many international organizations and initiatives that have responded to a Palestinian call to the world. It is an important part of the Palestinian solidarity movement. It is a key tool and tactic. At the same time, it is not an alternative to the Palestinian liberation movement.
We also cannot say that key political questions may be put off for the future. In reality, as I mentioned earlier, the two-state solution is a crime against the Palestinian people. It is time to be clear about the nature of the Zionist project and the necessity of total liberation, including the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to resist occupation.
Samidoun: How do you think the anger and commitment reflected in this Day of Rage can continue to build and move forward and fight back?
Khaled Barakat: The Palestinian national liberation movement is an anti-imperialist movement in its nature. The Palestinian struggle is part of the global struggle, those that confront U.S. imperialism, the capitalist system. The system that is plundering the resources of the people of the world, the system that has enslaved, exploited and continues to brutally oppress Black communities and people, the system that stole the land and commits genocide against Indigenous people. The system that sucks up the resources of the people of the world, that destroys lives and nations for profit.
Palestine is part of the camp of the world revolution. It will never change its position as an anti-imperialist, anti-racist movement. When we are building our movement, we are building that movement. When this global movement is victorious anywhere in the world, we feel it immediately in Palestine. When there are setbacks or attacks on that movement anywhere in the world, from a coup in Bolivia to U.S. economic war on Cuba, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Iran, we also feel it immediately.
We are also part of an Arab progressive and revolutionary struggle. Palestinians have the task today to rebuild the Arab revolutionary, national liberation vision. We must be up to the task with the Arab people and the people of the region – and the people of the world – to stand as Palestinians on the front lines, confronting Zionism, imperialism and the Arab reactionary regimes that collaborate with them.