Women in Black
Eman Desouky
June 12, 2001

I am here today, dressed in black and humbly among your ranks, because as a woman, as an arab, and as an activist committed to working towards social and political change, I have everything invested in, along with all of you here today, working to end the occupation.  But I am also here today because although we are united in our desire to see the brutal occupation end, I, on behalf of the Arab community are deeply concerned by the limitations of the vigil demands which focus public attention only on the 1967 territories of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Beginning the historical narrative at 1967 with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem silences and excludes the history and the reality of the violent expulsion of 1948, planned, calculated and executed through massacres, of more than 800,000 indigenous Palestinians from their cities and the destruction of over 400 of their villages and Israel¹s responsibility for this catastrophe.

Fifty-three years later, the tragedy of 1948 continues. Far from being a distant historical memory, the tragedy and brutality of the Israeli state and the reality of military occupation and expropriation of even more of the fragmented Palestinian home land continues to blight Palestinian lives and rain death. The bombings, land confiscations, house demolitions, settlement expansion and closures are all a legacy of the catastrophe of 1948.  To the Palestinian refugees struggling to survive today in refugee camps through out the diaspora, the Palestinians under house arrest in Hebron, the Palestinians here in the US who can only dream of their besieged homeland, their struggle and their suffering, and their resistance have  endured not 34 but 53 long years.

To be a true solidarity movement for the Palestinians is to be in solidarity with not only their desire and demand, but their inalienable RIGHT to go back home, a right upheld by international law.  To not fully and unconditionally support the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their villages, cities, and towns of origin means that we are in fact, placing limits on our solidarity, and sending a message to a powerless besieged population that there are limitations to their liberation.

We, as a solidarity movement, cannot place conditions on a people¹s liberation, and as long as we do so, we are not really  a movement for justice.  The oppressed under the oppressor¹s hand is never obliged to make compromises with the oppressor, and neither should the solidarity movement.  We  here as 1st world activists have the privilege to delineate what constitutes occupation, but the the refugees and the victims of occupation, refugees from Akka, Haifa, Jaffa, Tabaria, Safad, Ein Hod, and Beer es Sabbaa do not have that privilege.

The Palestinian struggle for national liberation and self determination cannot be separated from other struggles of the oppressed such as the struggle of the people of Vieques, Iraq, East Timor, and Colombia. Progressive activists in the US must extend unconditional solidarity to the Palestinian people and to their struggle for self-determination not only as a matter of justice, but to support and fortify the global struggle of oppressed people everywhere to regain control of their societies, their resources and their dignity.

May we strengthen our solidarity movement and fully support Palestinian liberation and self-determination.

Thank you.