Palestine Lights the Way Forward

Photograph Source: Marcin Monko – CC BY 2.0

When the first World Social Forum was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001, it was meant as a counterpoint to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Davos was the world of the One Percent. Porto Alegre was the world of the rest of us. Today Kathmandu, the site of the Sixteenth World Social Forum, is the world of the rest of us.

The World Social Forum was meant to convey our resistance to global capitalism and its depredations. It was also meant to be an affirmation of solidarity of all people and networks struggling for social justice and peace. It was also an opportunity to get together to plan for the future, a future where, as the WSF slogan put it, another world is possible.

In his novel about lives entwined with the French Revolution, the novelist Charles Dickens said it was the best of times and the worst of times.

These days are certainly the worst of times. Climate catastrophe threatens the planet. Neoliberalism has failed resoundingly, but it remains even more entrenched as ideology and policy. We are witnessing the rise of fascism globally—indeed, just south of Nepal, we have seen fascism raise its ugly head in India. We are witnessing two genocides. One is taking place in Myanmar, where the military elite is desperately hanging on to power by indiscriminately killing all opposition, a task that is impossible since the resistance now controls 60 percent of the country. The greater genocide is taking place in Gaza, where already the Israelis have killed some 29,000 Palestinians, 70 percent of whom are women and children.  Now they are poised to enter the city of Rafah, promising more slaughter, more sorrow.

I have not had a good night’s sleep since the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Indeed, one cannot enjoy one moment of personal happiness while massive carnage is taking place somewhere in the world. This ability to empathize with others’ sufferings is the basis of human solidarity. It stems from our common humanity.

We ask ourselves, why is Israel so committed to totally destroying the Palestinians as a people? We ask, why is the United States so committed to providing the weapons and ammunition to enable genocide? We ask, why is Europe, which once told us in the global South that it was the pinnacle of civilization, supporting barbarism?

Yes, this is the worst of times. But is it the best of times? That depends on each and every one of us. Are we willing to take on the great challenges of the times?

Are we willing to exert all efforts to save the planet from the climate catastrophe that global capitalism has created?

Will we continue to wage the political and ideological struggle to uproot and dismantle neoliberalism?

Are we willing to put our bodies on the line against the advance of fascism?

Are we going to give everything to the struggle to stop genocide in Gaza and elsewhere?

Let me end by quoting from an interview I made with Usamah Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, that I did in Beirut in 2004. I asked him if he did not fear for his life given his being a high-profile leader of the organization. Here was his answer:

I am on two [assassination] lists, one with six names and another with 12 names. But I am living my own life normally. I eat breakfast with my children, I always try to do this because this is when I can talk to them and ask them about their day and their plans. I visit my friends and my friends visit me. I just recently went out with my children to swim in the sea. You just die once, and it can be from cancer, in a car accident, or by assassination. Given these choices, I prefer assassination.

The spirit reflected in Hamdan’s answer is, in my view, the reason why Palestinians, even in the face of genocide, will triumph in the end. Let us gather strength from that spirit. Palestine needs us. But we also need Palestine. And let us thank Palestine for leading the way, for lighting the way for the rest of the world.

Walden Bello, a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus,  is the author or co-author of 19 books, the latest of which are Capitalism’s Last Stand? (London: Zed, 2013) and State of Fragmentation: the Philippines in Transition (Quezon City: Focus on the Global South and FES, 2014).