[News] Challenging Alleged “Strategic Solidarity”

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 1 11:10:13 EDT 2007

Defining Terms in the Age of Imperialism: 
Challenging Alleged “Strategic Solidarity”
A statement to U.S based social justice movements 
from Palestinian liberation and Palestine solidarity activists



MADRE, an international women's human rights 
organization based in the United States, recently 
released commentary about what solidarity should 
look like for U.S. progressives committed to the 
Palestinian struggle 
“Palestine in the Age of Hamas: The Challenge of 
Progressive Solidarity,” is not a proactive call 
for solidarity.  On the contrary, this call for 
progressives to engage in ‘strategic solidarity’ 
was issued in defense of the position taken by 
the organization’s Communications Director, Yifat 
Susskind, a white Israeli woman, at a plenary on 
imperialism held at the United States Social 
Forum less than two weeks prior.  At the plenary, 
Susskind explicitly equated the armed resistance 
of some people in occupied Palestine with the 
forces of imperialism led by George Bush. 
Susskind and MADRE’s subsequent statement further 
call for particular opposition to Hamas based on 
the Islamaphobic assumption that all movements 
that incorporate Islam into their politics are reactionary and repressive.

There was critical response to the position 
Susskind presented at the Social Forum, 
especially because proposed Palestinian speakers 
had been denied an opportunity to speak at that 
same plenary.  As a result, the Social Forum’s 
National Planning Committee publicly apologized 
for having an Israeli on the panel speaking about 
Palestinian resistance movements, rather than a 
Palestinian, as originally proposed.  The apology 
recognized the importance of social justice 
movements creating spaces for those most impacted 
by imperialism to articulate and critique their 
own struggles rather than defer to the often 
privileged voices of those located within the 
power made possible by racism and imperialism. 
The apology was then followed by a Palestinian 
American woman reading a statement prepared by 
Palestinian, other Arab, and solidarity activists 
to specifically respond to Susskind’s damaging comments.

We agree with Susskind that it is vitally 
important to have a clear sense of what 
solidarity means and to discuss the matter 
publicly.  Given that Susskind’s position has 
been restated and defended by MADRE in a wider 
forum, we are also taking the opportunity to respond more broadly.

‘Strategic Solidarity’ Recreates Oppressive Power Dynamics

Rather than use her time on stage at the Social 
Forum to demand an end to US imperialism in 
Palestine and the Middle East, Susskind chose to 
focus on criticizing political Islam and 
Palestinian resistance leadership. At a moment 
when a central project of US imperialism is the 
dominance of the Middle East/West Asia and, by 
extension, the generalized repression and 
suppression of Islam, Arab people and Arab 
states, this myopic concentration on ill-defined 
and inaccurately generalized political Islam 
recreates and fuels anti-Arab racism and anti-Muslim repression.

Ironically, in MADRE’s follow-up defense 
statement calling for a “strategic solidarity 
that accounts for the complexity of the crisis,” 
they continue Susskind’s simplistic 
characterization of Hamas as “reactionary,” 
thereby failing to heed their own organizational 
call to pay attention to 
complexity.  Unfortunately, this is an 
all-too-common occurrence in progressive circles 
in the U.S., as Lebanese activist Bilal Elamine notes:

Many people on the left in the US make the 
mistake that any time they see a movement that 
has Islam as part of the way it expresses its 
politics, they immediately put it into one 
category that some go as far as calling Islamic 
fascism and others call reactionary....There has 
to be a deeper understanding and we have to lift 
the prejudice that just because there’s religious 
expression in the politics it does not 
immediately mean that it’s a reactionary movement 
or a movement that we have to be wary of...We 
have to {snip} see the real content­what the 
movement represents, what its goals are, what its 
tactics are­and judge it on that basis.

In an article published in The L.A Times on the 
same day as MADRE’s statement (7.10.2007), the 
deputy of the political bureau of Hamas, Mousa 
Abu Marzook indeed speaks to the specificity of 
Hamas’ politics, stating that “
our movement is 
continually linked by President Bush and Israeli 
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to ideologies that 
they know full well we do not follow, such as the 
agenda of Al Qaeda and its adherents. But we are 
not part of a broader war. Our resistance 
struggle is no one's proxy, although we welcome 
the support of people everywhere for justice in Palestine.”

By calling for a “position” on political Islam, 
Susskind and MADRE fall into the Bush/Olmert trap 
described above of collapsing all Islamic 
movements into one entity, obscuring the specific 
root cause of the anti-oppression struggles of 
the Palestinians.  The root cause of Palestinian 
resistance – that Hamas is clear in articulating, 
much to the chagrin of the US and Israeli 
governments – is the creation of a Jewish State 
through the colonization of Palestinian land and 
dispossession of Palestinian people, with the 
imperial backing by the British and then the US 
governments.   This colonization did not begin in 
1967 as the MADRE statement misleadingly 
suggests; it is rooted in the decades leading up 
to the 1948 founding of the State of Israel.

True Liberatory Solidarity:  “Stand Behind Me, 
Don’t Divide Me, and Don’t Decide for Me”

Throughout the last several decades of this 
colonialism, there have always been various forms 
of indigenous Palestinian anti-colonial 
resistance, and repeated calls for international 
attention to and solidarity with this 
resistance.  Immediately following Susskind’s 
presentation at the Social Forum, a long-time 
Palestinian activist from the West Bank of 
Palestine, explained that he was deeply upset by 
Susskind’s plenary remarks and felt inclined to 
share his understanding of solidarity.  His 
impassioned description included three 
fundamental principles: stand behind me, don’t 
divide me, and don’t decide for me.

These are not principles of a simplistic, 
“reflexive solidarity” that fails to take into 
account the complexity of a situation.  These are 
principles that help to keep our steps toward 
solidarity sure-footed throughout the inherent 
complexity and contradiction of being based in 
the U.S. while supporting a decades-long 
resistance struggle that is targeted and divided 
with the direct support of the U.S. 
government.  Standing behind and in solidarity 
with a movement is about listening to and 
supporting the needs of the movement, in the 
various and complex ways those needs are 
articulated, while taking care not to use the 
privileges of our location to speak on behalf of those movements.

U.S.-based solidarity with the Palestinian people 
means resisting U.S. imperialism in the region 
and U.S. support of the apartheid state of Israel 
– one of the primary sources of the oppression of 
all Palestinians, including women. We are not 
promoting the “afterwards” strategy described by 
MADRE to end imperialism first, and end sexism, 
homophobia and every other oppression later.  We 
recognize that struggles to end imperialism are 
intimately connected to the struggles to end all 
oppressions.  However, while there is a need for 
progressives across the globe to create shared 
visions of liberation and justice, those located 
at and most impacted by the intersection of 
imperialism, racism, and patriarchy ought to be 
forging and leading the articulation of those 
inter-connections and the movement and leadership critiques they inspire.

Solidarity with Palestinian women means insisting 
on movement spaces in which they can articulate 
their own experiences and organizing efforts in 
response to the intersections of occupation, 
colonization and gender oppression. Speaking on 
behalf of Palestinians, rather than in solidarity 
with Palestinians, maintains the West as the 
definers and arbiters of what is valuable, 
acceptable, civilized, and just.     Palestine 
solidarity work is about listening to 
progressives in Palestine and in the Diaspora and 
hearing what they need from us in order to hold 
their ground and advance their struggles as best 
as they can, on their own terms.

As U.S. based anti-imperialist activists, we need 
to seek ways to listen, learn and support, rather 
than engage in dividing, deciding or speaking on others’ behalf.

Please forward to your networks, post on your 
website, or continue the discussion by creating 
your own messages defining solidarity needs for 
your own communities’ liberation struggles.


To sign on to this statement as an individual or 
organization, email: 
<mailto:justice at araborganizing.org>justice at araborganizing.org

40/60 Campaign for Freedom and Return

Arab American Union Members Council

Arab Resource & Organizing Center

Break the Siege

Break the Silence Mural Project

Freedom Archives

International Jewish Solidarity Network

Left Turn

Palestine Education Project

Youth Solidarity Network

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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