Thank you, World Court of Women against Racism, for daring to storm the bastions of power and to give a hearing to the disempowered. Thank you for defying the darkness of racism and hatred to shed light on the “invisible victims.” Thank you for challenging the prevailing “master narrative” and providing a forum for the authentic narratives of the “silenced” to enable them to gain mastery over their lives.
We Thank you, Corinne Kumar for being true to your gender and faithful to your mission despite tremendous odds, and for convening this World Court of Women against Racism as a tribute to the human spirit and a forum in which testimonies can not only be heard but also legitimized. You are giving witnesses and victims, survivors and resistors, the validation not only of their suffering, but also of the hopes and dreams that they have dared to harbor.
Sisters and brothers, The genuine human narrative is the sum total of these individual stories that can break through the barriers of silence, exclusion, subjugation, and negation. It is imperative, therefore, that the first person singular is granted both time and place to claim its own legitimacy, whereby the “I” as the still quiet voice of the “other” can gain resonance and can resound through the consciousness and conscience of those who looked the other way in complacency, or were complicit in the crime.
I stand before you today to declare not only my solidarity but also my belonging.
I am a woman, therefore at the heart of the conflict where gender is the convenient excuse for marginalization, discrimination, and subjugation. And I am proud to be a woman in defiance of brutality and domination.
I am a Palestinian, therefore the historical target of military occupation, oppression, denial, and national obliteration. And I am proud of my Palestinian identity, history, and struggle, as an embodiment of the human will to resist and to endure.
I am an Arab, therefore maligned in the essence of my heritage by xenophobia, Islamophobia, and stereotypical distortions. And I am proud of my Arab belonging to an ancient and rich culture that had harbored the birth of civilization as the first human legacy and generated forces of enlightenment throughout the world.
I come from the third world/the “south,” therefore I cast my lot with the exploited and the excluded who daily undergo a willful devaluation of rights, liberties, lands, and resources. And I am proud of the promise inherent in our refusal to succumb to the power of destruction.
I come from the “East” [the Middle East as framed by the West]; therefore I am the “alien,” the “other,” the incomprehensible human component that would not shed its identity and humanity. And I am proud that despite all attempts at cultural negation, ignorance, and racism, we have maintained our integrity, and authenticity.
No human being can be reduced to a series of labels, or compartmentalized into isolated and prepackaged units, or reduced to simplistic categories for the convenience of others. There are no easy external handles to encompass the full reality of a human being. For each and every one of us is an integrated whole, not subject to fragmentation, isolation, or stereotypical reduction. The nature of total colonization imposes such an unfair and artificial disintegration of the self. Ours is a challenge to heal and make whole both the individual and the collective.
The people of Palestine continue to languish in captivity and exile under the most pervasive form of multiple victimization. The past has handed us a painful legacy of expulsion, dispossession, and dispersion along with the injustice of occupation, apartheid, and national eradication. Our present is tainted with the continued manifestations of this most repressive and intrusive injustice in the form of captivity and military coercion. Under siege, the Palestinian people are being shelled, bombed, and assassinated, their homes demolished, their crops razed, and their rights suppressed. In exile, the Palestinian refugees remain vulnerable hostages, denied their right to return to their homes and lands and bereft of all human consideration. In Israel, the indigenous Palestinians are forced to endure the most horrific form of apartheid and exclusion.
The sum total of the Palestinian experience remains a horrendous tale in which crimes against humanity and repeated acts of violence and violation perpetrated by Israeli occupation in its regression into fundamentalist Zionism have become the prevailing narrative. Blaming the victim as part of the willful policy of dehumanization and demonization, has become the “acceptable discourse,” propagated by the oppressor for the justification of the evil of oppression.
A process of desensitization has cast a shadow over the pain of a nation overwhelmed by injustice, but deprived of the protection of international law and moral imperatives. While Israel persists in its policies of state terrorism as a means for the enslavement of a whole nation, the Palestinians are denied any means of protection or succor. Having used the full force of the military in an attempt to pound the Palestinians into submission, Israel is intent on repeating the mistakes of history.
No amount of brutality, no degree of cruelty, and no measure of violence can break the will of a people bent on attaining their freedom, dignity, and independence on their own land.
Our worst enemy is the forced anonymity of the victim, the relegation of individual identities to the realm of abstractions and numbers designed to immunize the world against the horror and to exonerate the perpetrator; thus the requisite recognition of culpability and admission of guilt as a first step towards rectification and redemption are blurred and even denied. Anonymity negates the enormity of the crime and blunts its edge.
Yet we still have our human icons that have intruded on numbness induced by the seemingly mundane repetition of pain. The child, Muhammad al- Durra, was murdered before the eyes of the world in the arms of his father who remained helpless before the onslaught of death. The infant, Iman Hijjo, was shattered by an obscene shell while seeking shelter in her mother’s lap. Faris Odeh was the young boy who faced an Israeli tank alone, armed with a stone and the innocent courage of childhood. He too was murdered. They bear witness to the cruel murder of the 166 other Palestinian children who were sent to an early grave by the Israeli occupation during the last eleven months.
So does Mu’in Abu Lawyeh who defied the siege and hiked through the rough hillside terrain intent on the subversive task of buying school supplies for his three young children. Mowed down in cold blood, he too bears witness to the 626 other victims, each with his/her own narrative. He also bears witness to the unique racism of “by-pass” roads, built on stolen Palestinian land, for the exclusive use of illegal Jewish settlers intent on terrorizing a whole Palestinian population whose territorial and national patrimony has been usurped.
The assassination of Dr. Thabet Thabet also stands out in a series of “extra judicial killings” as the execution without trial being carried out by Israel as a matter of policy. More than forty activists, political leaders, and innocent bystanders have been blown to bits or burnt to a crisp by missiles and shells fired anonymously from Apache gunships and Merkava tanks at their unsuspecting (and not anonymous) human targets. Dr. Thabet was assassinated for daring to dream of peace, to launch a dialogue of reconciliation and coexistence with Israeli counterparts. With the “extermination” of such leaders, and with the “triumph” of Israel’s death squads and army “hit-men,” Israel is dealing a fatal blow to the chances of (and constituency for) peace. It also unveils the real and gruesome nature of a violent occupation on the rampage.
Nevertheless, the lessons of history persist, however blinded by power and intoxicated by bloodlust the colonizer might be. No colonial power has ever succeeded in maintaining its domination and exploitation of a nation forever. No scheme of ethnic cleansing has ever destroyed the cohesive fabric and endurance of a people committed to life and to the triumph of the human spirit. Ours is a struggle in which the powerful is doomed to be vanquished by the empowerment of the weak.
Israel’s militarization may have conquered Palestine by the force of arms, but is attempting to conquer the world by the sale of arms, creating an unholy fraternity of global “corporate masters” while it simultaneously seeks to maintain its obsolete “colonial mastery.” Its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction remains entirely immune to any form of transparency or accountability, while it continues to behave as a rogue state outside the rule of law. Its version of history remains a fabricated fiction based on erasing the authentic narrative of its victims, hence a historical forgery. We may not be in possession of Israel’s sources of power but we are in possession of our own will and vision of justice, peace, and the vindication of history. Such is the spring and source of human power.
Such is the power generated by our gender, unified despite the multi- tiered and multi-faceted forms of oppression, discrimination, exploitation, exclusion, militarism, and violence exercised against our discourse and our very being. On behalf of the women of Palestine, I reach out to you in solidarity and sisterhood, and I look to you for intervention and redress. Imprisoned in their homes, enduring the daily terror of shelling and bombardment, giving birth (and even dying) at Israeli military checkpoints, tormented by the assassination of their children as well as by their inability to protect and provide comfort against the all-pervasive military assaults and incursions, searching for food and water denied them by the siege and the theft of their land, standing before the bulldozers that demolish their homes, and facing armed Israeli soldiers with unwavering determination and the courage to persist.
No brutality or other means of subjugation is able to match the comprehensive system of colonization manifested by the military occupation as a structure of domination and deprivation. The women of Palestine, struggling for recognition and validation within their own society, are simultaneously victimized by this most intrusive form of settler colonialism and national denial. Collective and individual aggression and violence have invaded the world of every Palestinian woman. Yet we remain, standing firm in our deep-rootedness and belonging to our land and people, our sights cast high above and beyond the confines of our prison, and our courage deeply embedded within our hearts. For we know that we are not alone, and we have not been abandoned. The hand you extend to us, the recognition and affirmation with which you embrace us, and the determination you exhibit in gaining a hearing and an audience for our narrative—all empower us to stay our course.
Sisters and brothers, Not only do we have a memory, both individual and collective, but we also have a vision of a better future and a dream that cannot be dimmed. From all over the world, we come together, joined by our courage to maintain hope and to dare to dream. I am confident that we shall prevail.