Saturday, November 19, 2011

Op-Ed in The Tennessean Calls for Solidarity with Palestinian Activists

The story of Palestinian nonviolent resistance is one that is rarely told in mainstream US media. On Tuesday, Nashville's largest daily newspaper, The Tennessean, published an op-ed, "Two roads to justice meet in Palestine," by Nour Joudah. Joudah's op-ed brings attention to the Palestinian Freedom Riders and gives voice to the struggle of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. She highlights the similarities of Palestinian nonviolent resistance to Israeli apartheid with the stories she heard growing up in Tennessee about African-Americans' nonviolent protests throughout the Jim Crow South. For Joudah, the common theme tying these struggles together is the brave men and women who stand in defiance of gross discrimination and injustice. She ends her piece with a call to action, "To those who stood against injustice in the 1960s and who are proud of that moment in history, the time has come to raise your voices again, to demand justice for Palestinians. The ride to freedom is long and ever-evolving. But it is a ride that knows no geographical boundaries — whether in the Jim Crow South or Occupied Palestine."

Two roads to justice meet in Palestine

I grew up with two stories, two histories and, in many ways, twocountries. From the age of 5 until 21, I roamed, lived in and lovedTennessee’s hills. But, in those same formative years, I lived from newspiece to news piece, following with bated breath the events of my homeland,Occupied Palestine.

I was blessed with historians who raised me with stories of justice. Ourneighbor, Mr. Miller, would tell me stories of a South I never saw: the JimCrow South. He told me of African-Americans attacked by mobs, of segregatedschools and towns, of redlining and, most importantly, of the brave men andwomen who stood in defiance of the gross discrimination of Jim Crow.

I would go home and listen to my father’s lessons on the IsraeliOccupation of Palestine. Lessons filled with settler attacks on Palestinianvillagers, with checkpoints forbidding movement, with roads and land forJews only, and again, most importantly, lessons about the brave men andwomen who continue to stand in defiance of the gross injustice of anillegal and unjust system of discrimination.

It wasn’t long before it became difficult to tell the narratives apart.This week, my histories merged in a new way.

Tuesday, Palestinian Freedom Riders re-enacted the U.S. Civil RightsMovement’s Freedom Rides in the American South by boarding segregatedIsraeli public transportation in the West Bank to travel to Occupied EastJerusalem. By nonviolently challenging the system of segregation andapartheid that governs their lives, Palestinians took a page from thehistory of another rights movement that stood for justice and freedom.

Some in the Israeli Peace Camp or in Washington, advocates of theso-called peace process, will say this is not the way. They will echo thosewho stood on the wrong side of history.

President Barack Obama honored and thanked the Freedom Riders this pastweek for their courage and dedication 50 years ago. In a Cairo speech in2009, he appeared to encourage similar initiatives of Palestiniannonviolence. Obama has an opportunity now to send a powerful message to theworld by voicing strong support for the efforts of Palestinian FreedomRiders.