Resistance and Re-sisters

Last January I linked arms across the Golden Gate Bridge with friends, church members, and a community of thousands to let our new president know that the people surrounding the western entrance to our country demand inclusion for all who enter into and live within our land. Last weekend, I joined with millions locally, nationally and internationally to say that we resist any and all attempts to diminish, disenfranchise or displace people in our communities. While these events were both inspiring and grounding, they point to a much greater need for regular and repeated forms of resistance to ensure that all people – especially women who often bear the brunt of injustices’ many forms – are treated humanely, fairly, and justly.

As I consider what it means to engage in ongoing, meaningful resistance, I want to lift up lessons learned from female activists in Palestine, whose courage and strength in the face of multiple intersections of injustice are inspirational and insightful. My delegation met with women who served in government, women who have been imprisoned because of their activism, and women in all stages of life who are creatively finding ways to engage in resistance as well as support their families.


Do What You Can With What You Have. When the women we met shared their stories, I was struck by their refusal to dwell on hardship or play the victim. Living under Occupation creates incredible economic barriers and educational obstacles, yet, despite these, women are finding ways to creatively utilize the resources available to them to take care of their families and educate themselves. Take education – what is taught is controlled, access to movement is blocked, and education is costly. But this didn’t stop one young woman from staying at home, educating herself, and finding a way to travel for her exams. Not only is her story inspiring, but the way it was told revealed a determination that many, myself included, could learn from. In the words of one woman, “[Occupation creates severe] economic obstacles, but you can find a way. [Occupation creates severe] educational obstacles, but you can educate yourself.”

Know Your Identity. Our Palestinian translator is a lively, feisty, joyful, wise woman who spent the week sharing her spirit, her culture and her courage. At one point, I asked her about the great hope she exudes, curious to know it’s source. She explained, “It’s not hope, it’s internal truth. You feel inside it’s your right to exist. To be here. If someone steals something from you, you know inside what really belongs to you.” She gave the illustration of someone stealing a bike. You can spend the rest of your life watching that person ride the bike, but deep inside you, you will know it still belongs to you. This deep knowledge of who she is and what has happened to her people provides a confidence that grounds her fight for freedom, self-determination, and the right to exist, which was mirrored by so many Palestinians we learned from.

Intersectionality. My witness trip to Palestine was built around the idea of intersectionality. We were not just sent to witness the injustices endured by the Palestinian people, but, more importantly, to make connections between the global injustices that affect so many. We were invited to learn more about the ways in which tools of oppression are already deeply interconnected – on a global level – in hopes of building stronger – global – connections among communities of resistance. This theme was repeated throughout Women’s Marches last weekend with the slogan, “If it’s not intersectional, it’s not feminism.” To be a people of resistance is to recognize the truth that Dr. King proclaimed so eloquently, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

IMG_1469I was glad to encounter the face of Ahed Tamimi on Saturday as I marched for equality in Oakland. Ahed is a 16-year-old Palestinian who has been in prison for over a month for slapping an Israeli solider. Her action came during an overnight raid of her home, shortly after soldiers shot her cousin in the head. Video of the incident can be found all over the internet. Her photographic presence throughout women’s marches internationally affirms that our struggles are indeed linked, and the struggle for freedom, justice and equality is one we must stand together in, for the sake of all women, all men, and indeed, for all humanity.

Below is a brief interview with another woman from the Tamimi clan, Manal Tamimi. This video, subtitled How to be a Palestinian Supermom, illustrates the courage, strength and conviction it takes to engage in resistance as a mother raising children under Occupation.

I am grateful for Palestinian women – activists, freedom fighters, politicians, workers and mothers – who have much to teach us all about the power of resistance, and what it means to be re-sisters.

Hope and Resistance

Resistance entails being a strong presence in the face of those who would seek to silence or eliminate you.

It was during our orientation tele-conference that I first heard the theme. Our Palestinian host and guide invited us to come and witness their over 100-year struggle against oppression and occupation, a struggle for human dignity and freedom. “Come,” he said, “find out why we are still standing, why we are hopeful, in spite of the catastrophe. As we live with apartheid, racism, discrimination and walls, discover why we are still smiling. This is our strength.”

resistanceIt didn’t take long for me to encounter the hope he bragged about. On the very first day, I was awed by the power of resistance I encountered at every turn – individual and communal resistance, structural resistance, physical, mental and emotional resistance – and an overall refusal to accept injustice or inhumanity of any kind. Grass roots networks of resistance abounded, and in journaling my experiences that day, I reflected upon what it means for resistance to be a way of life.

Here again, I encountered a theme that wasn’t new to me – in fact, I’ve spent countless hours reading, researching, writing, teaching, and even preaching about resistance. And yet, the power of resistance took on a whole new dimension as I witnessed a palpable spirit of communal resistance among so many who shared their stories. When I encountered the popular slogan to exist is to resist, I began to understand the depth of meaning of resistance for a people who have endured the attempts of both physical and cultural genocide. I knew I had much to learn about what it means to not just engage in resistance, but to embody resistance at the core of your identity.


As I attempted to articulate the spirit of resistance I was encountering, I journaled,

Resistance is enacting what limited freedom you have available to you. Claiming what dignity you can salvage. Living as fully as you can despite living under the thumb of the oppressor – and refusing to let the current powers that be fully control your behavior, your thoughts, your identity, your life….

Resistance is not without consequences. Many we met have served years in prison. Many have been further denied access to precious resources. Whole towns and communities have been punished for the resistance of one of their own. And yet, people resist. Individuals resist, communities resist, and networks of resistance appear and enact what they can for the sake of themselves, their people, those who they’ve lost in the struggle, those they love who are kept from them, and the young people who know only the lies they’ve been told.

In every town, village and city we visited we encountered memorial walls honoring those martyred in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

The resistance we encountered was a resistance to inhumanity – a refusal to allow anyone, or anything, to lessen your identity as a human being. Our translator articulated this well when I asked her who/what she understood to be her enemy. She explained, “my enemy is anyone who doesn’t see me as equal. Anything that is unjust to me – not just people, walls. All that represents inequality. I demand a simple life with dignity.” She went on to clarify that she didn’t ask for much in the world. She didn’t need cars, or lots of material wealth. But she did demand dignity. She deserved to be treated with the basic respect any human being is entitled to. Resistance isn’t merely an act of survival, it is an act of proclaiming one’s humanity, despite anyone, or anything, that would seek to deny this.

In addition to the resistance we encountered among the Palestinians, there was great hope, and deep connection, in participating in an international delegation of people committed to the work of resistance in our own communities. Sharing stories and songs, laughter and learnings, we celebrated the power of resistance across our lands, and were deeply encouraged to know that our struggles are not isolated, and we are not alone in our efforts of resistance.

As I enter into a new year, I carry with me the lessons of hope and resistance I learned in Palestine. I resolve to do what I can to participate in resistance in the year ahead – in my community, in my country, and in the world. Even more, I resolve to be a part of an ever-expanding community of resistance. It is this larger community that I will continue to learn from and draw strength from as the need for resistance grows ever greater.

Join me in the way of resistance!