Notes on May 2024 Forum: War and Resistance in Palestine

(Video of forum at the bottom)

On Thursday May 23, 2024, Palestine Action of the South Sound, Economics for Everyone, and Rachel Corrie Foundation hosted an educational forum entitled “War And Resistance in Palestine.” The event took place free of charge at the Olympia Center in downtown Olympia, WA. Speakers included Sabrene Odeh, Steve Niva, and Cindy Corrie. The evening was hosted and moderated by Peter Bohmer. 

Due to unforeseen circumstances, one of the originally scheduled speakers, Zarefah Baroud, was unable to attend. Fortunately, and at the last minute, Sabrene Odeh graciously agreed to travel to Olympia in her place.

Sabrene Odeh was the first to speak; the power of Odeh's speech was in her weaving the history of her family during and after the Nakba with the broader occupation of Palestine. The Nakba of 1948 took place 76 years ago; among the 750,000 Palestinians who lost their homes were Sabrene’s grandparents. The village they lived in, al-Maliha was destroyed and is now a part of greater Jerusalem. Where their home once stood, is now the infamous Apartheid Wall.

Image Source: Visualizing Palestine

Both sides of Sabrene Odeh’s family are from al-Maliha. While her grandmother’s family (on Sabrene’s mother’s side) made their way to Oman, Jordan and later to the US, Sabrene’s father and his family found themselves living in a refugee camp in the West Bank. Like many other Palestinians, the Nakba internally displaced them – we are currently witnessing further internal displacement of Gazans, who are being forced to flee from their homes in the north and are pushed to the south. Like so many other Palestinian families during the Nakba, Sabrene Odeh’s grandparents left their homes, only taking their keys with the hope that they would soon be able to return.

Odeh continued on to describe a broader history of colonialism in Israel from 1967 to today. Sabrene illuminated how the Israeli state weaponized the census and used identification cards as another tool of displacement. For instance, Palestinians attending universities in Egypt or Lebanon were denied citizenship if they were absent during the census-making process. These tools determine who is and who is not a citizen. They enshrine apartheid. Sabrene Odeh ended her talk by speaking to the interconnectedness of the struggles for liberation in Palestine, Congo, Sudan and across the world.

Odeh was followed by Steve Niva, a professor at The Evergreen State College.

“The conditions that make life possible in Gaza have been destroyed," remarked Niva.

He later took aim at the notion of President Joe Biden issuing a “red line” to the ongoing genocide calling it a myth. Since the forum, despite the orders of the ICJ and Biden’s so-called “red line”, Israel has sustained a full scale ground invasion of Rafah, bombing a refugee camp and seizing control of the Egyptian buffer zone along the southern border. The “red line” which purportedly stated that a full scale ground invasion would cause the United States to withhold military aid, has apparently not been crossed according to the Biden administration. Israel depends on the US for diplomatic cover and financial support. As far as military aid goes, the US has provided Israel $12.5 billion dollars worth through legislation; “including $3.8 billion from a bill in March 2024 and $8.7 billion from a supplemental appropriations act in April 2024.”

Later in his talk, Steve Niva addressed dimensions of the Zionist occupation of Palestine that made it unique in comparison to other settler colonial projects. Israel has always depended on external support from a Western superpower. It’s important to remember that the establishment of the state of Israel was done through the British Mandate, a decision that gave Britain administrative power over Palestine. That power has shifted over to the United States. Niva offered that this is because Zionism is not a project about bringing resources from a colony back to the metropole – the goal of Zionism is to populate the land with settlers and remove the native population. For example, when the Dutch ruled Indonesia, their primary interest was not permanent settlement but wealth extraction. Continuing on this point, Niva began to draw comparisons between other similar attacks on indigenous populations around the world, namely in Myanmar (2017) and Guatemala (1980s), stating that the weapons used in those attacks were provided by Israel.

Lastly, Niva urged the crowd to reject the common tendency of Westerners to overemphasize the importance of AIPAC or the Military Industrial Complex when examining Israel-Palestine relations. While these do play a role, the key to understanding the historical context of Zionism is recognizing Israel’s importance as a ‘resource’ to US/the West’s regional interests. Niva contextualized the United States’ long term foreign policy; illuminating a plan that preceding and current presidential cabinets have pushed forward in the Middle East: from Trump’s normalizing the relationship between Israel and the UAE, to Biden’s unconditional financial and military support for Israel. All with the goal to move the question of the Middle East into the hands of a few allied powers. This type of clarity is necessary for those who stand not only against Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing but globalized military violence more broadly. As Niva pointed out, the new Cold War between the US and China looms in the background of recent Zionist violence and Palestinian resistance.

140 community members participated in the forum and engaged with the teachings and perspectives of the speakers. Quality educational forums provide a way for the public to access critical analysis from insightful speakers. With the excessive amount of misinformation and disinformation on the various corporate media platforms, it is important to maintain spaces where people can still hear from reliable sources in person. People gathering in community, learning and sharing information and opinions, is a practice as old as time. Education and action work hand in hand. The more knowledgeable a community is, the more ready it is to take decisive and meaningful action.

Watch the full forum below:


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