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.”
I 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.