The non-violent action of Palestinians and their supporters this past weekend to commemorate The Nakba Day is like a black hole in western media. Where is the news about it? When 72000 people join together for a collective public action is it not newsworthy? And this was just those in Lebanon who went to the Israeli border this past weekend.
72,000 Palestinian refugees and their supporters bused down to the Lebanese border with Israel.
Franklin Lamb, who was one of the supporters who joined the Palestinians, writes:
As we approached Maroun al Ras, some of them were anxious, others silent and reflective, and some, like many teenagers from my generation about to see the Beatles or Elvis were giddy and squealing as the bus rounded a bend in the road south of Aitayoun and we looked to the approaching hills. "Is that my country Palestine over there?," Ahmad, a graduate in Engineering who was born in Shatila camp asked. "Nam Habibi!" ("Yes Dear!") came the reply from the microphone of our "bus mother" gripping her clip board and checking the names to keep track of her flock. This bus seemed to inflate with delirium as we all smiled and shouted. Some of the passengers had prepared signs that read: "People want to return to Palestine," inspired perhaps by the slogan made famous in Egypt and Tunisia, "People want the fall of the regime."
The esprit was reminiscent of a Mississippi freedom ride James Farmer of CORE used to tell us about and I thought of Ben Gurion's boast from 1948 that the old will die and the young will forget Palestine. The Zionist leader could not have been more mistaken. The old, many still vital and those who departed this life, continue to teach and inspire the young from their still remembered stories, guaranteeing that the dream of every Palestinian shall never die.What happened when these people armed with their memories and stories arrived at the border with Israel?
As Rami Zurayk explains:
Last Sunday, on the 15th of May 2011, during the pacific commemoration of the Palestinian and Arab Nakba, Israel publicly executed 11 youth and seriously injured more than 40 others. Israel executed those youth in cold blood, while they were on Lebanese soil. The Zionist executioners chose their victims calmly from among hundreds of unarmed young men and women who were assembled at the Lebanese border with occupied Palestine, behind the fence of Arab shame. [...]
This was their crime: to remember, to belong, to yearn for the land and the sky of Palestine, for the shores of Haifa and the banks of the Jordan River. In today’s world of Arab and Israeli Zionism the sentence for belonging to Palestine is public execution.
Where is the public outcry about these cold-blooded killings in the North American media?
Will Obama talk about them in his speech today about the Middle East?
Will Obama ask Netanyahu when he comes to the US about these killings against unarmed Palestinians taking up non-violent action for their human rights? For their right to return to their homes?
50 years ago, Americans whose only crime was wearing black skin in public suffered similar beatings, killings, violence and public condemnation. Like Palestinians they too were made illegal for wearing their own skins, for having their own histories, for belonging to the land.
Freedom Riders' bus Anniston, Alabama, USA, 1961.
The white mob who pursued the bus, fire bombed it and held the doors shut preventing riders from exiting the burning bus. Finally an undercover policeman drew his gun, and forced the doors to be opened. The mob pulled the Freedom Riders off the bus and beat them with iron pipes.
In May 1961, civil rights activists, both black and white, male and female, boarded buses for destinations in the segregated southern USA, such as Anniston, New Orleans, Mississippi, Montgomery, and Birmingham. Known as Freedom Riders, the activists were taking up collective non-violent action to test US segregation law, to protest institutionalized racism against African Americans, and to demonstrate for the basic civil rights of African Americans. Above you can see what happened to the bus destined for Anniston. Another bus, headed for Birmingham,
These vicious beatings and terror tactics of racist southern white Americans did not stop the people seeking justice.
When the bus arrived in Birmingham, it too was attacked by a mob of Ku Klux Klan members, aided and abetted by the police under the orders of Commissioner Bull Connor. As the riders exited the bus, they were mercilessly beaten by the mob with baseball bats, iron pipes and bicycle chains.
image Civil Rights 1954-1963
In the spring of 1963, the two-month long Birmingham Campaign to end segregation and economic racism was another non-violent action taken up by civil rights activists. This included Project C. "The "C" in the project stood for confrontation, the strategy of nonviolent direct action designed to confront segregation through peaceful demonstrations, rallies, boycotts, and appeals to justice."
To provoke the police into filling the city's jails to overflowing, [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] and black citizens of Birmingham employed nonviolent tactics to flout laws they considered unfair. King summarized the philosophy of the Birmingham campaign when he said, "The purpose of ... direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation".
Protests in Birmingham began with a boycott to pressure businesses to offer sales jobs and other employment to people of all races, as well as to end segregated facilities in the stores. When business leaders resisted the boycott, King and the SCLC began what they termed Project C, a series of sit-ins and marches intended to provoke arrest. After the campaign ran low on adult volunteers, SCLC's strategist, James Bevel, initiated the action and recruited the children for what became known as the "Children's Crusade". During the protests, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene "Bull" Connor, used high-pressure water jets and police dogs to control protesters, including children.