By Leila Khaled
5TH International Assembly,
International League of Peoples’ Struggle,
November 14, 2015,
I bring you greetings from the Palestinian people, and from my party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Today, in the streets of Palestine, a new uprising – a new intifada – has erupted. Young people are taking to the streets, confronting Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers, fighting and struggling through all forms of resistance, popular and armed. Despite soldiers shooting down Palestinian youth and elders, the imprisonment of over a thousand Palestinians in the last month, the intifada continues to grow, and it includes all areas of occupied Palestine and all sectors of our Palestinian people.
Now, the Palestinian struggle, the intifada, the upsurge and resistance of our people, is nothing new. Palestinians have been fighting colonization and occupation for nearly one hundred years. In 1917, in the infamous Balfour Declaration, the British colonialists occupying Palestine promised the land of Palestine to the Zionist movement, a racist, colonialist movement allying itself with imperialism in Europe. This “promise” of Palestinian land came at the same time that the imperialist powers of the world were dividing up the Arab world for colonial control, plunder and exploitation, and was part of the same process of the division, destruction and colonization of the Arab world.
Faced with this alliance of imperial power and the Zionist movement, Palestinians did as they have always done for nearly 100 years – resisted. Palestinians revolted in 1922, in 1929, in 1936; they fought back in 1948, and so it has continued for years. In 1936, Palestinians organized the longest general strike anywhere in the world, in history at that time, demanding liberation from British and Zionist colonialism.
In fact, many of the laws that Palestinians continue to suffer under today at the hands of the Zionist occupation and its Israeli state were created first by British colonialism – the destruction of homes of Palestinians who resist, for example, or administrative detention – the imprisonment without charge or trial of Palestinians for indefinitely renewable periods. Despite tens of thousands of British soldiers and the arming of the Zionist movement in order to suppress the Palestinian revolutionary upsurge, this movement, led by the masses, grounded in workers and peasants, fighting for their liberation, Palestinian resistance was neither crushed nor suppressed. The 1936-1939 Palestinian revolution — a workers’ revolution, a peasants’ revolution — demanded a Palestine free of imperialism and Zionism – and thus it was crushed with the brutality of imperialism and Zionism and the collusion of their Arab reactionary puppets and tools. The struggle in 1936 -1939 was a struggle for Palestine; it was not separate from the Nakba of 1948, the dispossession and displacement of our Palestinian people by Zionist gangs, heavily armed by British colonialism and their international supporters, who expelled the Palestinian people from our homeland.
I am a Palestinian from Haifa where I was born, in my homeland. Haifa is precious to me; the promise of return to Haifa has helped to motivate my own participation in the Palestinian revolutionary movement for decades. But I can remember little of Haifa from my own experience, as my family was forced to leave when I was a small child, in April of 1948, by the Zionist forces who came to occupy our Palestinian city, drive out our Palestinian life to the seas and to the borders, and claim our city for their colonial, Zionist, racist project.
My story of expulsion, of being made a refugee by Zionist forces with the full blessing and support of imperialism, was the story in 1948 of 750,000 Palestinians. Today, there are over seven million Palestinian refugees outside Palestine. For sixty-seven years, we have been denied our right of return. Our right to return to our stolen homes, our stolen land, has been reaffirmed year after year by the United Nations, by international legitimacy, by the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But because of the imperialist and Zionist control of Palestine, because of the brutally racist state that is occupying our land, we have been denied that basic right to home for sixty-seven years. And that is why, at the heart of the struggle for the liberation of Palestine, is the struggle for the right of return.
Every Palestinian refugee – in the camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, and everywhere around the world in exile and diaspora – has a right to return home. Our ties to our land are enduring and strong; they have not been broken by generations of dispossession, exclusion and denial. Palestine lives in each one of us, in our children, in our grandchildren; from generation to generation, our resistance is fertile and flourishing. Our land, our homes, our people are not forgotten; our revolution is a promise of freedom, of liberation and of return.
In 1948, we saw the occupation of 78% of the land of Palestine by Zionist forces and the expulsion of the vast majority of our Palestinian people who were forced into refugee camps. In 1967, we experienced the occupation of the remaining 22% of our homeland, in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And we also experienced the renaissance of the modern Palestinian revolution. Throughout the intervening decades, Palestinians had been organizing. Palestinians were an integral part of the Arab upsurge, the anti-colonial movements of the 1950s and 1960s. We saw the revolution in Egypt, we saw Nasser’s resistance to imperialism, and more than anything, we saw and were part of the upsurge of the Arab people, the Arab liberation movement. Palestinians in exile, with our Arab brothers and sisters. We created the Arab Nationalist Movement, a pan-Arab movement dedicated to fighting Zionism and imperialism and ridding ourselves of Arab reaction – and struggling for the liberation of Palestine, Arab unity and socialism.
In 1967, in light of the further occupation of Palestine, the ongoing dispossession of our people, and the escalating attacks of imperialism and Zionism, we formed a new organization – the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). With other Palestinian organizations and revolutionaries, we built our armed resistance and our popular organizations, building the unions of women, workers, engineers, doctors, and students that comprised the Palestine Liberation Organizations and undertaking resistance actions by all means that put Palestine at the center of the international map of struggle, with the rising revolutionary movements all over the world.
And after five decades of struggle, we have seen powerful uprisings, intifadas, movements and unions, led by the workers, the peasants, our people in the refugee camps. And we have also witnessed and have been living through a harsh period of the past twenty years – the period of the Oslo agreements, of the domination of imperialism in a unipolar world, of attempts to suppress the Palestinian movement and sideline our people from national liberation into empty and futile negotiations, to dismiss the right of return and the voice of our people in exile.
Today, as Palestinians, we face the Israeli state, the occupying entity, the creation of the Zionist movement, the entity that occupies our stolen homeland. But this is far from the only enemy that we confront. We also confront US imperialism, who is a strategic partner and full participant in all of the attacks on our people. Without US imperialism, the Zionist state would not continue to exist on our occupied land. And furthermore, we also confront the Arab reactionary regimes who themselves operate at the behest of US imperialism. And because of this, we note that our struggle is not a Palestinian struggle only – it is an Arab struggle, part of the great struggle of our Arab nation for liberation, for unity, for self-determination.
And it is an international struggle, part of every struggle everywhere in the world that fights imperialism and exploitation, that struggles for liberation, for justice, for socialism. We stand with the movement of the people of the Philippines, the national democratic movement that struggles against imperialism, against plunder, against exploitation, for true liberation. We stand with the Black Liberation movement, with the movement of Indigenous peoples of North America against settler colonialism, with the movements of the Latin American people who are confronting imperialism and building their societies on a basis of liberation and participation. We know that every victory for the people of the Philippines, of Colombia, of Venezuela, of India, is also a victory for the Palestinian people. And every victory of the Palestinian people is also a victory for the popular movements and revolutionary struggles of the world.
The flames of a new intifada are rising in the streets of Palestine. Palestinian youth are in the forefront in every area of our occupied land – from Ramallah to Nablus to Gaza to Khalil to Jerusalem to Nasra to my own beloved Haifa – armed with rocks, knives and love for their homeland and their people, with the unquenchable desire for freedom. Our Palestinian youth under siege everywhere, suppressed and excluded in the refugee camps in Lebanon, displaced once more in Syria at the hands of a brutal war created and shaped by imperialism, looking towards homeland in Jordan, and everywhere on the occupied land of Palestine, are struggling to break their chains. Every rock, every knife, every Molotov cocktail in the occupied homeland is a weapon of justice, of liberation and of freedom.
And our Palestinian people everywhere in exile and diaspora, our communities in Europe, in North America, in Latin America, are organizing protests, coming into the streets of the cities of the world, to support and sustain this growing uprising. As the Palestinian movement is indeed an international movement, an international revolution, we need the support of the progressive, popular, revolutionary movements of the world. We will not “change the minds” or “influence” imperialism and its ruling class. Our power and our strength is the power of the people.
In Palestine, today, our people are facing mass imprisonment. The leader of our party, our comrade Ahmad Sa’adat, is imprisoned in Israeli prison alongside 6,000 fellow Palestinians – the leaders of our revolutionary movement. There can be no freedom for Palestine without the liberation of our prisoners, and our leaders. Our people are facing home demolitions, the confiscation of their land, a killer siege on Gaza, brutal racism, denial of rights, siege and the plunder of Palestine. Settlements and their violent, racist inhabitants continue to consume our land and resources. And seven million Palestinian refugees are denied their right to return home. Meanwhile, the occupation enjoys the wholesale support and a deep alliance with US imperialism.
In order to change the situation, the balance of power must change. The occupation must become costly and expensive to imperialism and Zionism; it must no longer be profitable to occupy our people and our land. The Palestinian resistance is fighting every day to change this equation and to strike serious blows against the occupier. And the international movement of the peoples of the world can provide a tremendous support to the Palestinian people in materially changing the balance of power and escalating the cost of occupation – through escalating the boycott of Israel economically, militarily, politically, academically and culturally.
Israeli products are the products of stolen Palestinian land and resources. Israeli banking and finance capital are the financial resources of occupation, racism and oppression. Israeli corporations are the capitalist backbone of the exploitation of Palestinian land and workers. The Israeli military industry is based on exporting the killing machines developed and tested on the Palestinian people. Israeli universities are the research and development arm of the army and occupation forces, and the Israeli Foreign Ministry contracts filmmakers and artists to serve as “cultural ambassadors” and put a beautiful face on the ugly reality of Zionist racism, occupation and apartheid.
We have seen, in the past ten years, a tremendous growth in the international movement to boycott Israel, to internationally isolate this apartheid and racist state, this illegitimate entity based on the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the exploitation of Palestinian land. The International League of Peoples’ Struggle has long stood with the Palestinian people and with boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli state, the international isolation of Israel. This is a boycott that will be implemented by the people and by the popular movements, declaring that Israel is a symbol and a reality of racism, imperialism and colonialism, and is not welcome in our homes, our economies, our communities and our nations.
Every dollar, every Euro, taken away from the Israeli economy is a material cost to occupation and a meaningful support to the Palestinian national liberation movement and the Palestinian resistance. It is a tool in the hands of the international movement to support the revolution of the Palestinian people, to support the liberation of Palestine.
There is an intifada emerging in Palestine today, an intifada that like its predecessors is based among those who are most marginalized, most oppressed and most determined to seek their freedom. It is not a product of the Palestinian Authority or a Palestinian capitalist class that seeks to accommodate its interests through negotiations with the occupier under the auspices of United States imperialism. It is a rejection of the entire process of negotiations and submission forced upon our people by Zionism and imperialism and its reactionary clients; this is the voice of the Palestinian people, who seek not crumbs at the table or economic agreements with our oppressor, but instead, return and liberation of the land of Palestine, from the river to the sea.
Together, we march, together, we struggle – to defeat Israel, to defeat imperialism, for a liberated Palestine and a liberated world.
Long live Palestine! Freedom for Palestine!
Long live international solidarity!