The meaning of our solidarity with Palestine

The following presentation was delivered on Saturday, 20 November in Copenhagen, Denmark, by the Collectif Palestine Vaincra, a member organization of the Samidoun Network based in Toulouse, France. The presentation was delivered as part of the 50th anniversary conference and celebration of the Internationalt Forum, a long-time anti-imperialist organization based in Denmark. The Collectif attended the event alongside Samidoun members based in the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium, as well as delegates from the Philippines, the Spanish State, Greenland and England. Below is the full text of the Collectif’s presentation on the occasion in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance and liberation struggle, as translated from the original French

Comrades of Collectif Palestine Vaincra, Samidoun Nederland, Samidoun Gothenburg and more at the Internationalt Forum 50th anniversary event in Copenhagen

Thank you to the Internationalt Forum for the invitation to this meeting. We immediately accepted, as we appreciate your important work in support of Palestine and the boycott of the Zionist occupation for all these many years. Thank you also to the invited speakers, notably Palestine Action, to whom we reiterate our full solidarity in the face of repression.

I speak on behalf of the Collectif Palestine Vaincra (“Palestine Will Win” Collective), a Palestinian resistance support organization based in Toulouse, France that is a member of the international Samidoun Network and a participating organization in the Masar Badil, the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement. Our collective was founded in March 2019 following a decade of work in support of the Palestinian people and their resistance. We have the great pleasure to have as honorary members Georges Abdallah, Arab communist imprisoned in France for over 37 years, and Leila Khaled, icon of the Palestinian resistance.

Supporting Palestine: an anti-imperialist struggle

The founding of the Collectif was motivated by a simple observation. In France, the solidarity movement with the Palestinian people is largely dominated by a humanitarian approach, which in effect recognizes the “legitimacy” of the Zionist state and follows the capitulationist path of the Oslo so-called “peace” process.

Our organization has broken with this majority trend in the solidarity movement by adopting an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist approach to the Palestinian cause. Israel is not a state like any other, it is the outpost of the imperialist powers in this region of the world, built upon on colonial settlement and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Joe Biden, the current President of the United States of America, has stated this with great clarity when he said: “If there were no Israel, the United States would have to invent an Israel to protect its interests in the region.”

This is obviously the case for all the imperialist powers of the world that see in the Zionist state a reliable and faithful ally. In particular, French imperialism has played and continues to play a key role in the colonization of Palestine: from the Sykes-Picot agreements in 1916, which provided for the imperialist division of the region between France and Great Britain, to the vote on the partition plan at the UN in 1947, to the provision of nuclear power to the Israeli occupation in the 1960s, and on to the present day through numerous economic and military agreements.

To understand this is to understand that to support Palestine is not only to support the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle for justice, dignity and liberation, but also to support ourselves and our communities and class in our struggle against our countries’ imperialism. For it is in the name of the defense of imperialist interests in this region, first British interests and then Western interests in general and those of the US in particular, that the Palestinian people have been the target of brutal colonization for 104 years now.

To understand this is also to understand that the Palestinian people are not only confronting the Zionist state but also the imperialist powers, and the reactionary Arab regimes in their employ, such as Egypt and Jordan. The movement for the liberation of Palestine has therefore a Palestinian, Arab and international dimension through which we each have responsibilities, not in humanitarian support, but in helping each other in our common struggle, an anti-imperialist struggle. The liberation of Palestine is an important lever for the Arab revolution and the struggle against the Western imperialist powers. This is why the defense of the Palestinian cause is a central issue.

Asserting a clear line for the liberation of Palestine

Within this framework and with this approach, our Collectif Palestine Vaincra was formed around the affirmation of the principles set out by the Palestinian revolution in the 1960s, in particular the defense of the vision of a free and democratic Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and the inalienable right of return for all Palestinian refugees expelled from their land.

One of our principles is therefore to affirm forcefully and unambiguously the illegitimacy of the Zionist state and the need for its dismantling. As the Palestinian revolutionary George Habash pointed out in 1974: “One day the truth will be clear to all, that there is no peace in the region with the existence of a fascist and racist state based on a reactionary doctrine and with the aim of serving imperialist interests. The slogan of a democratic society in Palestine, launched by the Palestinian revolution, is the only path to freedom and progress for all the peoples of the region, including the Jews, and it is the path to a permanent and lasting peace.” This demand requires the explanation of the real nature of the Zionist movement as a colonial and racist movement, and the real nature of this state, which is none other than one of the last colonial settlements on the planet. The whole of our practice and our political line is thus directed towards this objective.

Making this demand affirms the legitimacy of the Palestinian resistance in all its forms in order to confront Zionist colonialism. This principle is upheld in international law, in particular the UN resolution 37/43 adopted in 1982, but it is above all an anti-colonialist political principle. Yes, the Palestinian people have the right to resist colonization, occupation and apartheid! There is a vast international operation to delegitimize the Palestinian resistance and its organizations by labeling them as “terrorists”. In this perspective and in the face of the repression of the Palestinian people, we believe that support for Palestinian prisoners and their immediate release is a central issue. The Palestinian prisoners represent the front line of resistance against the Zionist occupation and they are subjected to a vast campaign of criminalization in order to isolate them from their people and from international support. Supporting Palestinian prisoners is therefore not simply supporting a demand for justice, although that is part of it, but it is first and foremost support for freedom fighters and the legitimacy of their struggle. Georges Abdallah, Ahmad Sa’adat, Khitam Saafin, Naël Barghouthi, Walid Daqqa and all the 4650 Palestinian prisoners are not “terrorists”, they are resistance fighters!

As we aim for the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea, we defend the inalienable right of return of Palestinian refugees to their land. Today, defending the right of return for the refugees in the camp of Ein el Helweh in Lebanon, and for the Palestinian communities in exile in Europe, is to fight the founding crime, the creation of the Zionist state. It is to resist the Nakba that continues to this day, from the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians from their land in 1948 to the ethnic cleansing in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Al Quds today.

And this is also why we promote a total boycott of the Zionist state, its institutions and its supporters. This boycott campaign does not intend to substitute itself for Palestinian resistance or to lock itself into the framework of so-called “international law” that recognizes the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of the majority of Palestinian land, but to utilize boycott as a tool to isolate and delegitimize Israeli apartheid. This is, therefore, a boycott in the service of Palestinian resistance, in the tradition of the Palestinian, Arab and international boycott that has existed for nearly a century: from the boycott of the products of the first Zionist settlers in the 1920s to the boycott of the occupation economy during the Great Intifada of 1987.

A practice geared towards these goals

As we said at the beginning, the Collectif Palestine Vaincra is the result of 10 years of work in support of Palestine. The elaboration of this political line is therefore first and foremost the result of many meetings, first and foremost with Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. A Lebanese Communist and resistance fighter, he has been imprisoned for 37 years in a prison not far from Toulouse. It has been first of all through our commitment to his liberation that we have developed a new approach to support for Palestine, in a profound break with the currents that dominate the French activist scene. During our monthly meetings for many years, we have been attending his political and militant school. It is first of all at his side that we discovered and learned about the lengthy history and the immense heritage of the Palestinian resistance in general and of the Palestinian left in particular.

But the elaboration of this line was also done through a militant practice in contact with today’s reality. Indeed, to carry these slogans would have no meaning if they were not embodied in a coherent and consistent practice. This is the practice we are attempting to implement with the Collectif Palestine Vaincra. Our objective is to normalize these demands in the political space, in particular in the left-wing movements, and to bring them to the daily life of the inhabitants of Toulouse. The situation is difficult but we have developed our influence in a significant way and organized new people little by little, in particular young people.

Every month, we hold at least one information and mobilization stand in the heart of the city center and in a popular neighborhood. These spaces become meeting points, training sessions and discussions with hundreds of people. It is an opportunity to raise the flag of Palestine and to reaffirm the legitimacy and relevance of the Palestinian cause in public space. But it is also a space of confrontation as our mere presence arouses strong hostilities from the various organizations supporting the Zionist extreme right.

A secondary but nevertheless important aspect of our work is the development of media campaigns, agitation and propaganda through communication tools such as video, graphics or social media. The aim here is to combine fieldwork with online information and propaganda and to create a broad spectrum of visibility for the Collectif and its campaigns.

One of the central activities of our collective is, of course, the campaign for the release of Georges Abdallah. We support his release not only as an individual, but first of all because Georges Abdallah embodies a resolutely anti-imperialist alternative for the Palestinian and Lebanese people. Every October, we carry out a large-scale awareness-raising campaign by distributing tens of thousands of flyers and organizing a large delegation to the annual demonstration in front of the Lannemezan prison where he is jailed. This year, this campaign has reached an important qualitative and quantitative threshold, notably by gathering more than 1000 people during this dynamic and militant march.

We also carry out campaigns focusing on immediate demands, in particular the various campaigns to boycott Israel. For example, we led a major campaign for the end of the twinning between Toulouse and Tel Aviv during the previous municipal elections. While this subject had been ignored for many years, we succeeded in making it a theme of the political debate of this term with the signing of a petition by more than 5000 inhabitants of the city, regular actions and activities, and the systematic questioning of the different candidates. Newly elected municipal opposition officials have publicly supported our campaign while the mayor of the city has multiplied the insults and allegations against us.

We also actively participate in the campaigns of the international Samidoun network, in particular in support of Ahmad Sa’adat and the imprisoned Palestinian students. Like our solidarity with Georges Abdallah, these solidarity campaigns are tools to build solidarity with Palestinians in occupied Palestine and to embody the path of resistance in the here and now. This Palestinian, Arab and international network includes multiple chapters and affiliated organizations, like our collective, in many countries, notably in Palestine, in several European countries, in North America, in Brazil and in Iran. It plays a significant role in supporting Palestinian prisoners and we invite you to join it.

Facing repression

However, such a line and such a practice obviously provoke strong reactions from the French authorities, and especially from Zionist organizations and supporters of Israel. Since its creation, our collective has faced a vast campaign of intimidation and pressure from the authorities and the Zionist lobby. This is obviously not an isolated case.

We have seen in recent years various charges, allegations and trials against activists who support the boycott of Israel in France, most recently with the legal case between the president of EuroPalestine, Olivia Zémor, and the Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva. The pro-Palestinian activist won the case at the trial level. These legal cases are taking place despite the condemnation of the French government by the European Court of Human Rights for hindering freedom of expression. Nevertheless, the French government persists in its attempts to criminalize the boycott of Israel, notably through a recent circular from the Minister of Justice.

Another tool of the policy of repression of the supporters of Palestine is the shameful political maneuver of falsely equating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. This takes place in particular through the adoption of the new IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which includes in its examples of expressions of anti-Semitism the questioning of the Zionist project and the recognition of Israel as a racist endeavor. Resolutions supporting this definition have been adopted in France by the National Assembly, the Senate and the city of Paris.

With the classification of Samidoun and the Collectif Palestine Vaincra as a “terrorist organization” by the Israeli occupation last February, we have reached a new stage. Obviously the main objective is to try to intimidate and isolate the organizations that are affected by this type of designation. This is even more obvious today when we see that 6 Palestinian NGOs have just suffered the same type of attack. In France, the consequences following this designation were quick, with the launch of a campaign by NGO Monitor for our dissolution, a campaign that was relayed by a member of the majority party of President Emmanuel Macron, who sent an official request for our dissolution to the Ministry of the Interior. Obviously, this is still minor, compared to the attacks on Palestine Action. Nevertheless, it is worrying to see how the criminalization of support for Palestine is intensifying in France, including against simple actions like anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist discourse and awareness campaigns.

In the face of this, we believe it is necessary to build a broad united front to confront repression. This is what we have managed to do in France following these threats, when all the main left-wing organizations and the trade union movement at the national level issued a statement of support for our collective. This shows that their strategy to isolate us is not only failing but is having the opposite effect.

But one thing is certain, we are more determined than ever to continue to support the Palestinian resistance, until return and the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea. And these meetings are of paramount importance in building and strengthening the anti-imperialist movement throughout the world.

Down with imperialism and Zionism!

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!