Friday, June 24, 2011


By: Laura Durkay

I'm doing this.It's a week of international solidarity actions in Palestine, which will bring together hundreds of internationals to work with 15 Palestinian civil resistance organizations across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It also includes this--a mass fly-in to Ben Gurion Airport on July 8. Hundreds of internationals will arrive on the same day, and, if all goes according to plan, hundreds of people will refuse to lie to Israeli security about the fact that we are here to visit Palestinians and participate in nonviolent solidarity actions.

"You're crazy," you might say. "They're just going to deport you all, and you will have spent all that time and money for nothing."

(For the record, I don't have $1,500 or more to drop on maybe getting deported. I have an epic number of frequent flyer miles on a certain airline, which allowed me to get a free ticket to London, where I will meet up with the UK delegation that is joining this action. A ticket the rest of the way on a European budget airline was fairly cheap. That's how I can afford to do this.)

It is true that they may deport us. The Israeli authorities will do what they will do and we cannot control their behavior. But if that happens, I don't believe it will be for nothing.

I heard about the fly-in action months ago. Like many people, I thought it was a great idea, but I was afraid of getting deported, and downright terrified of losing my ability to enter Palestine in the future, especially at such a critical time.

But then came Nakba Day, Naksa Day, and the announcement that seven of my friends will be on the US Boat to Gaza, which is due to sail very shortly before the July week of action. The action started to seem more and more like an important challenge to Israeli apartheid, and I began to feel more and more like I was the exact right kind of person to do it.

I've been to Palestine twice on "witnessing" delegations. I've seen what things are like on the ground. I'm done with traveling there simply to witness. On the last trip I was questioned extensively by Israeli security, and I have been writing and speaking openly and publicly about Palestine since then, using my full name and with a very visible online and real-world presence. This leads me to believe that I would probably be questioned no matter what I did and how carefully I tried to hide the next time I tried to enter Palestine, and that trying to pass myself off as a "tourist" in the future might in fact only piss off Israeli security and give them an excuse to deport me anyway, for lying to them.

For what it's worth, I have absolutely no problem with activists going on the DL, not telling the whole truth, or otherwise obfuscating in order to get into Palestine and do work that undermines the rotten apartheid system. That is the standard M.O., and I think people should continue to go for it. But I'm excited by the possibility of trying a different route this time.

Something interesting happened once I signed up for this venture. I completely lost my fear of Ben Gurion Airport, which has to be one of my least favorite places on Earth. Israeli-controlled borders are miserable places. They're factories of humiliation, intimidation, dehumanization, and forced submission to vile degrees of racial profiling, political policing, and generally unchecked dominance behavior by cocky soldiers and cold-eyed secret police. Usually, internationals and Palestinians accept submitting to this system as a necessary evil, the unwritten price of an entry visa into Palestine.

But there is something so wonderful about the prospect of being able to defy that system, of being given permission to defy it as part of a nonviolent civil disobedience action. It releases every natural rebellious instinct, the very impulses that draw people to Palestine in the first place, and channels them into mass action. The prospect of getting deported alone is lame, pointless and depressing. The prospect of getting deported along with hundreds and hundreds of people who are challenging Israel's racist, repressive entry policies sounds like it just might be worth it.

The brilliance of this action is that it takes an experience that is often isolated and isolating--interacting with the fearsome Israeli security apparatus--and turns it into a collective, mass solidarity action. The whole system of interrogation, detention, prison and deportation is designed to isolate you as much as possible, to create the impression that you are completely alone against this overwhelmingly powerful repressive machinery. Mass civil disobedience completely undercuts and inverts this power dynamic, which is one of the reasons Israel finds acts of unarmed civil resistance so threatening.

It's not that any of us want to get deported. We don't. We want permission to enter Palestine and travel freely to visit our Palestinian friends, as is our universal human right. But we have no illusions about the system that stands in our way.

I love Palestine. I love the people I've met there, Palestinians and Israelis, who are fighting for Palestinian national liberation and a country where everyone can live in peace with justice and equal rights. To be invited--welcomed--into such a heroic struggle is an honor beyond words. It physically hurts to think about the prospect that I might not be able to go back there for years.

But really, what justification do I have to hold so tightly to my ability to enter Palestine when that right is denied to so many actual Palestinians? When Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have to brave Israeli snipers just to catch a glimpse of their homeland? When it was recently revealed that 140,000 Palestinians from the West Bank lost their ability to return home, simply because they had the temerity to live, work, or study abroad?

Israel is being challenged on every border. If Palestinian refugees can brave minefields and live ammunition, and the folks aboard Freedom Flotilla 2 can face Israeli gunboats and navy commandos, we can stand up to the Ben Gurion security apparatus. Yalla, let's go to Palestine.

About the author: Laura Durkay is a Palestine solidarity activist and member of the International Socialist Organization in New York City

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