Solidarity with the Palestinians

By Alex Schmaus and Sam Bernstein

SAN FRANCISCO--More than 1,000 supporters of Palestinian self-determination gathered in front of City Hall May 10 to take part in Nakba-60, a festival commemorating 60 years of Palestinian struggle and resistance on the anniversary of the 1948 expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians from their homes during the forming of state of Israel.

The gathering was multiracial, multi-generational and the largest and most confident display of Palestinian solidarity in San Francisco since the protests against the Israeli war on Lebanon in August 2006.

Building on the success of demonstrations outside the Israeli consulate this past spring in response to the Israeli siege of Gaza, the festival drew together many local organizations, including Al-Awda, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Middle East Children's Alliance, the American Indian Movement and the International Jewish Solidarity Network.

The festival featured hours of Palestinian dance, art and music, including the politically charged hip-hop of DAM (Da Arabian MCs), the biggest hip-hop artists out of Palestine, who were wrapping up their American tour and Oakland-based The Coup.

As DAM member MC Mahmoud Jreri said before performing: "The occupation of Iraq and that of Palestine are related. It is the same governments that are supporting each other. You've got the American government, you've got the Israeli government, and you've got the Arab regimes--it is a triangle, helping each other out.

"Unfortunately, Iraq is down now, Palestine has been down for years, the whole Arab world has been suppressed. At the same time the American people are being suppressed, and all these governments are spending money busting on the people."

-- In Seattle, events are planned all month long, both to celebrate Palestinian resistance to occupation and to protest the events celebrating Israel's "birthday."

This past week, over 50 people gathered outside Benaroya Hall where 1,000 attendees at the "60th Birthday Party for Israel" paid upwards of $100 a plate. Protesters marched to the site with coffins draped in Palestinian flags and surrounded the building with the names of the over 500 villages destroyed during the Nakba written in chalk on the sidewalks.

Meanwhile members of Seattle Jews for a Free Palestine entered the hall and dropped two banners from the balcony, one stating "Shame on Us for Making Refugees" and another reading "Seattle Jews for a Free Palestine." They were promptly kicked out of the event.

A daylong event to celebrate Palestine and 60 years of resistance was held on May 10 at Seattle Central Community College. More than 150 people, including many Palestinian refugees from al-Nakba, attended. Palestinian music filled the air, children danced the Dabka, and refugees told their stories.

Huda Giddens, who was just a young girl in 1948, recalled playing with her friends a block away from a Palestinian government building and witnessing an explosion that tore the building apart. She recounted that this terror was how the state of Israel was founded and how it continues to operate.

Her moving testimony inspired three more refugees from 1948 to get up and each recall their stories of forced expulsion, losing their homes, trying to rebuild and always longing to return to their homes, towns, cities and families.

One woman stood up to tell the story of her mother, a refugee from 1948. Her mother, who now lives in Lebanon, will not leave to come visit her daughter in the U.S. because she still fears never being able to return. "We were told it would only be a few weeks when we left Lebanon to escape the terror, and a few weeks turned into 60 years," she said.

The event was put together by a coalition that included Voices of Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, the International Socialist Organization and many independent activists and groups.