Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Melbourne, Australia. Image credit Matt Hrkac CC BY 2.0.

It is nearing the 75th commemoration of the beginning of the Nakba, and Palestinians have mourned at least 150 martyrs since the beginning of 2023. Currently, 4,900 Palestinians are detained in Zionist jails, including 160 children. But for Palestinians on the ground and those of us in exile, the revolutionary optimism remains, underlying a long, arduous, steadfast struggle for liberation.

Since the “Unity Intifada” of 2021, we have witnessed a clear, systematic rise in popular armed resistance in Palestine. With it comes a necessary reckoning with the current phase of the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Zionist settler-colonialism. Unity among Palestinians has characterized the Unity Intifada, as the name suggests. Palestinians are unified against the Zionist project, in spite of the deliberate, systematic fragmentation imposed upon them.

The notion of unity, especially regarding armed struggle, prisoner revolt, and labor revolt, is what consistently rings the loudest. It rings loudest despite a colonial separation wall, military checkpoints, and indiscriminate detainments by the Zionist state and the comprador Palestinian Authority (PA). It rings despite a genocidal blockade on Gaza, and the imposition of arbitrary colonial categories—IDs, passports, permits, and laissez-passers.

After the martyrdom of 18-year-old resistance leader Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi in August 2022, the Lions’ Den made its first appearance in public. Heeding Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi’s call to action, a grassroots, youth-led, revolutionary armed faction sprouted from the occupied West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin. We long recognize these cities as two nuclei of Palestinian resistance. The conditions of 75 years of brutal settler-colonialism birthed Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi, Oday Al-Tamimi, Wadie Al-Houh, Mish’al Baghdadi, and the Lions’ Den at large. They are perhaps the personification of the natural progression of colonized youth raised to become revolutionary freedom fighters by parents who were themselves born into, and raised through genocide and dispossession. Freedom fighters who, on a daily basis, function as a tangible, steadfast embodiment of the moral duty and inalienable right to resist genocide, land theft, dispossession, and colonial violence by any means necessary.

Importantly, at the root of this revived youth-led popular resistance is a constant call for unity among all Palestinian armed factions. The call is for unity behind a singular goal of freedom from the common enemy: the Zionist project and all its arms. The noticeable resurgence of a unified Palestinian armed insurgency is reminiscent of what Palestinian scholar and organizer Loubna Qutami calls the rebirth of the Fida’i during and after the 1968 Battle of Karameh (in which Palestinian freedom fighters achieved a landslide victory against 15,000 Zionist soldiers). Indeed, the enthusiastic renewal of unified, youth-led popular armed resistance in Palestine is a reminder of the continuously produced and reproduced conditions of settler colonialism. It reminds us of the continued rebirth of young revolutionaries spearheading resistance.

Armed popular resistance in Palestine continuously rebuilds the spirit of revolutionary optimism among the Palestinian masses. The Palestinian political prisoners who the Zionist state and the PA abduct and detain also rebuild this spirit. On May 3rd, 2023, resistance leader, husband, father, and baker Sheikh Khader Adnan was martyred after 87 days of hunger strike. He was martyred as a result of a slow and deliberate assassination by the Zionist state and its arms, including the PA, which had thrice imprisoned him. In 2012, Sheikh Adnan launched The Battle of Empty Stomachs as an individual hunger strike. This strike later transformed into a collective 1800-prisoner strike. Through this individual-turned-collective hunger strike, Palestinian prisoners underwent a revival of steadfast, popular defiance. They underwent a “revolutionary becoming” and refused to accept defeat. They reclaimed and affirmed Palestinian prisoners’ life in the face of death.

This is perhaps an example of the most tangible embodiment and practice of sumoud. Palestinian prisoners provide an unambiguous breadth of practicing hope as a revolutionary discipline. They practice hope for a liberated future beyond the hunger strike, whether in life or death. Hope for a collective life beyond incarceration within colonial prisons, and for a collective life beyond the carceral nature of colonialism and occupation.

Along with stifling Palestinian armed resistance, the Zionist project long targets the labor revolt and solidarity in Palestine, both in terms of eradicating Palestinian labor in order to build an exclusively Jewish nation and also in terms of exploiting it. Since the years of the British Mandate, Palestinian workers and peasants, in tandem with the internationalist labor movement, organized general strikes, boycotts, and pickets. These actions developed the anti-capitalist, anticolonial national consciousness which still exists today.

As Palestinian revolutionary and intellectual Ghassan Kanafani explains, the 1936-1939 Great Revolt united the interests of Palestinian laborers with the national struggle. It forged an inseparable bond between national liberation and workers’ emancipation. Palestinians of all classes living throughout historic Palestine, struggle against and resist Zionist settler-colonialism. But the Palestinian working class additionally engages in class struggle against the Palestinian comprador national bourgeoisie, namely the PA. As Lebanese communist intellectual Mahdi Amel explains, the colonial mode of production entrenches the colonized national bourgeoisie. This mode of production is one through which the national bourgeoisie does not actually own any capital. Rather, they are subservient to the colonial state’s delegation of modes of production to the colonized. For Amel, the colonized national bourgeoisie is a “fantasy that has material grounds, because it is a class fantasy;” it is “structurally dependent on the [Zionist] bourgeoisie.”

Today, the PA is a useful Zionist asset when it comes to stifling national labor revolt and solidarity. Palestinian public school teachers in the occupied West Bank staged the longest-running strike against the PA in demand of better wages and working conditions. But the PA refuses to grant them to its workers on account of a “financial crisis.” Meanwhile, $1.4 billion is bankrolled into al-Rawabi by billionaire PA crony Bashar Al-Masri.

Throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the importance of dovetailing class consciousness with nationalism lept to the foreground of the Palestinian liberation struggle. Particularly, the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) foregrounded this. The insurgent, armed, class-conscious Palestinian worker was not only regularly featured in Palestinian agitprop bulletins and posters, it was also joined by international revolutionary workers. These workers embarked on a similar struggle for liberation.

Today, Zionist forces relentlessly target the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. This Union is an agricultural organization that works with and for Palestinian farmers. Palestinian workers formed—and certainly still form—the liberatory vanguard against Zionist settler-colonialism. Working-class Palestinians populate and protect the frontlines of armed struggle. They protect the prisoners’ movement, Palestinian cultural production, and Palestinian land itself.

Like all anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggles, the Palestinian struggle for liberation has withstood countless splits and fissures. Most notably it withstood the notorious 1993 Oslo Accords and the so-called “peace process” heralded by the comprador PA. It also withstood the current attempt at the liberal NGOization of Palestinian liberation. It has gone through social and cultural transformations. It has gone through the necessary reckonings with the internal contradictions of Palestinian society. It continues to reckon with hegemonic patriarchy and class antagonisms that hinder our ability to unite.

With these transformations come, too, newer Zionist propaganda tactics. Zionist propaganda ultimately serves to deepen those fissures, whether perceived or material, within Palestinian society. This includes pinkwashing and purple-washing. Yet, we return to our unity as the infrastructure of our struggle. Today, unity above all appears daily in communiqués disseminated by all Palestinian political factions, indeed reminiscent of those produced several decades ago.

Unity takes precedence because it has long been the biggest threat to the Zionist project on Palestinian land and the Zionist lobby elsewhere. For more than 75 years, Palestinians in Palestine and those of us in exile have organized for a liberated future. With every new generation living under occupation or in the shattat (diaspora) comes a renewal of youth-led organizing and struggle, fine-tuning our elders’ tactics and rhetoric, and reviving the tradition of joint struggle among the colonized and oppressed masses. It is a daily recommitment to absolute liberation and return.

While we witness the unraveling of internal contradictions within a Zionist settler-colonial society, we refuse to falter in our resolve for a liberated future within our lifetime. We must first and foremost choose our unity and believe in our liberated future. In the immortal words of martyred Palestinian intellectual and revolutionary Basel Al-Araj, we must be confrontational. We must be willing to engage with the settler-colonial presence on our land. We must think beyond individual liberation and center collective love for our people and land.

Consistently lucid, Basel insisted that “resistance is a continuous endeavor.” He insisted that we must never surrender; we cannot, because we owe it to ourselves, our ancestors, and our motherland. Only after we liberate all our people and lands, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, from the southernmost part of the al-Naqab desert to the northernmost borders with Lebanon and Syria. Only then can we live in peace.

Further Reading

Whose democracy?

In Israel, tens of thousands have demonstrated against the new right-wing government’s plans for judicial reform. But what of the Palestinian question? In this episode of the podcast, we discuss.