[News] “Free Palestine from the river to the sea” - Statement by Marc Lamont Hill

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 29 12:41:03 EST 2018


November 28, 2018

Statement by Marc Lamont Hill, "Invited Representative of Civil 
Society," Special Meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the 
Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on the "U.N. International 
Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People", /UN Web TV

(Starts at 1:36:08)

Original Source

Unofficial Transcript by Human Rights Voices

November 28, 2018 Statement by Marc Lamont Hill, “Invited Representative 
of Civil Society”
Special Meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable 
Rights of the Palestinian People in observance of the “U.N. 
International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”
U.N. Headquarters

New York, New York
**“Free Palestine from the river to the sea”*

MARC LAMONT HILL: Mr. Secretary-General, Chairman, Ambassadors, and Your 
Excellencies, good afternoon.

It is with great honor and humility that I accept the opportunity to 
speak before you. As a scholar, as an activist, and as a citizen, I am 
profoundly interested in the plight of the Palestinian people as well as 
the broader ethical, moral, and political implications of their struggle 
for freedom and justice as well as equality. As such, this annual 
convening represents a critical intervention. It also represents a site 
of possibility. On the other hand, it shows considerable irony.

As you well know, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal 
Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration is produced out of the 
rubble and contradictions of World War II. And it was intended to offer 
a clear ethical and moral outline of the basic rights and freedoms to 
which all human beings, irrespective of race, religion, class, gender or 
geography are entitled. This declaration, of course, has been far from 
perfect, both in design and in execution. Too often we have framed human 
rights through the lens of the West. We viewed it through the gaze of 
colonialism, and we have assessed them through the limited prism of our 
experiences. Simply put, the powerful have too often attempted to 
universalize their own particular and local values.

Still the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has offered us a flawed 
but functional starting point from which to articulate basic moral and 
ethical ambitions as global citizens. These ambitions have been 
particularly helpful when attempting to keep track of the vulnerable 
against the backdrop of imperialism, exploitative economic arrangements, 
white supremacy, patriarchy, and all the other entanglements of the 
modern nation state.

For this reason it is indeed ironic and sad that this year also makes 
the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the great catastrophe in May 1948 
that resulted in the expulsion, murder, and to date, permanent 
dislocation of more than a million Palestinians. For every minute that 
the global has articulated a clear and lucid framework for human rights, 
the Palestinian people have been deprived of the most fundamental of them.

While the Universal Declaration for Human Rights says that all people 
are “born free and equal in dignity and rights,” the Israeli nation 
state continues to restrict freedom and undermine equality for 
Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as those in the West Bank and 
Gaza. At the current moment, there are more than 60 Israeli laws that 
deny Palestinians access to full citizenship rights, simply because 
they’re not Jewish. From housing to education to family reunification, 
it is clear that any freedoms naturally endowed to all human beings are 
actively being stripped away from Palestinians through Israeli state craft.

While human rights promises the right to life, liberty, and security of 
person, Palestinians continue to live under the threat of random 
violence by Israeli military and police, disproportionate violence 
within the West Bank and Gaza, unprompted violence in the face of 
peaceful protest, and misdirected violence by an Israeli state that 
systematically fails to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

While the Universal Declaration for Human Rights protects us again 
torture and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, 
Palestinians continue to be physically and psychologically tortured by 
the Israeli criminal justice system, a term I can only use with irony.
As human rights groups around the world have noted, the use of solitary 
confinement constitutes a clear and indisputable form of torture. Yet in 
the West Bank Palestinians are routinely subjected to solitary 
confinement and indefinite detention, often without any formal charges 
being file. Last year, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that physical 
torture in “exceptional cases,” including ticking time-bomb situations, 
constitute acceptable means by which to engage in torture. Although 
these exceptions are themselves a violation of the absolute human right 
not to be tortured, Israeli security operates in practice in such a way 
that nearing all Palestinian cases are viewed as exceptional. Nearly 
every Palestinian is understood to be a potential terrorist, thereby 
making them susceptible to “ticking time-bomb” investigation tactics at 
all times. As such, Israel’s practices are routinely in clear violation 
of the UN’s Convention on Torture, which was signed by Israel in 1986 
and ratified in 1991.

While the Universal Declaration for Human Rights insists that no one be 
subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, Palestinians are 
routinely denied due process of law. West Bank Palestinians are 
regularly placed under administration detention, a framework that allows 
them to be incarcerated for up to six months, and can be extended after 
a judicial review, without being charged with a crime. The only thing 
needed for such outcomes is the ambiguous claim of a security threat, a 
claim used by the Israeli state at all times, at all costs, and for all 
reasons. Through this vagueness, Palestinians are routinely punished for 
their political views rather than any actual threat of violence.

The Universal Declaration for Human Rights insists that all humans are 
entitled to a “fair and public hearing by an impartial tribunal.” 
Israeli military courts, the exclusive adjudicator largely for West Bank 
residents, and in some cases Palestinian citizens of Israel, they have a 
conviction rate of more than 99 percent. That suggests that Palestinians 
are either more guilty than any other group in human history or that the 
Israeli government is unwilling or incapable of offering fair and 
impartial trials for Palestinians.

The Universal Declaration for Human Rights promises the right to freedom 
of movement and residence within the borders of each state as well as 
the right to leave any country, including his “own” and to return to 
said country. It is impossible to travel throughout historic Palestine 
and not see the blatant restriction of movement between cities in the 
occupied Palestinian territories as well as inside the State of Israel. 
Standing checkpoints, temporary or flying checkpoints, annexation walls, 
and other security barriers prevent Palestinians from moving freely, 
both within areas legally designated by the Israeli government and 
cosigned by the Palestinian Authority under the terms of Oslo, but also 
we see in Gaza the restriction of movement that is so severe that it 
literally defines life in the area.

I promise you that I will not exhaust all of my time by enumerating 
every human rights violation perpetrated by the Israeli government. 
These are well known and have been well documented by every credible 
human rights organization in the world.

Rather, I would like to speak to you about the urgency of the current 
Forgive my thirst. I literally just off of a flight from Palestine to 
come to address you this morning and I was boycotting the Israeli water 
so I was unable to quench my thirst, but thank you for your indulgence. 
Or for indulging me rather.

As we speak, the conditions on the ground for Palestinian people are 
worsening. In recent decades, the Israeli government has moved further 
and further to the right, normalizing settler colonialism and its 
accompanying logics of denial, destruction, displacement, and death.
Despite international condemnation, settlement expansion has continued. 
At the same time, home demolitions and state-enforced displacement 
continues to uproot Palestinian communities. For Gazans, the 11-year 
Israeli and Egyptian blockade by land, air, and sea has created the 
largest open-air prison in the world. With only four percent potable 
water, electricity access that is limited to four hours per day, 50 
percent unemployment, and the looming threat of Israeli bombs, Gaza 
continues to constitute one of the most pressing humanitarians crises of 
the current moment.

In the West Bank, conditions are not much better. Unemployment is 
generally around 18 percent with frequent loss of income due to Israeli 
military closures making it impossible for Palestinian workers to get 
access to jobs. Settlements and the extra land allocated for them, as 
well as closed military zones and other restrictions make it impossible 
for Palestinian towns to grow. And in the midst of it all, Prime 
Minister Netanyahu’s administration has become increasingly indifferent 
to critique, censure, or even scorn from the international national 
community for its practices.

Perhaps the most glaring example of this indifference, as well as the 
urgency of the current moment, is the recently passed nation-state law. 
Through this basic law, the Israeli state has officially rejected Arabic 
as an official state language. It has described settlement expansion, 
both inside and outside of the Green Line, as a national value, and it 
has reinforced the fact that Israeli is not a state of all of its citizens.

As an American, I am embarrassed that my tax dollars contribute to this 
reality. I am frustrated that no American president since the start of 
the occupation has taken a principled and actionable position in defense 
of Palestinian rights. And I am saddened, through not surprised, that 
President Trump’s administration has further emboldened Israeli’s 
behavior through its recent actions.

In May of this year, President Trump officially moved the US Embassy to 
Jerusalem, which he recognized as the undivided capital of Israel. This 
choice not only flew in the face of international law and precedent, but 
also constituted a powerful provocation and a diplomatic death blow. In 
late August, President Trump then permanently reneged on America’s 
commitment to funding UNRWA, a move that now leaves millions of 
Palestinian refugees in medical, economic, and educational peril. 
Moreover, the move serves as a political strong-arm tactic whereby the 
United States is unilaterally attempting to resolve, through the Trump 
administration, the final status of Palestinian refugees.

While President Trump’s policies have been the most dramatic, it is 
important that I stress to you, to reiterate to you that they are wildly 
out of step with American policy. Cuts to UNRWA is an idea that has been 
raised in Washington for years, dating back at least to the George W. 
Bush administration.

President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel 
Aviv to Jerusalem caused enormous controversy, but he was merely 
implementing a bipartisan law Congress passed in 1995. And in so doing 
he executed what has already been official United
States policy and the fulfillment of a promise made by every United 
States president and presidential candidate, Democrat and Republican, 
for a very long time.

With regard to the question of Palestine, Donald Trump is not an 
exception to American policy. Rather, Donald Trump is a more transparent 
and aggressive iteration of it.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, the words offered today 
by everyone in this room are a necessary component of our resistance 
efforts. We need powerful, counterintuitive, dangerous, and courageous 
words. But we must also offer more than just words. Words will not stop 
the village of Khan al-Ahmar with its makeshift schools created by local 
Bedouin villages. Words will not stop them from being demolished in 
violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Words will not stop poets 
like Dareen Tatour from being caged in Israeli jails for having the 
audacity to speak the truth about the conditions of struggle on her own 
personal Facebook page. Words will not stop peaceful protesters in Gaza 
from being killed as they fight for freedom against Israel’s still 
undeclared borders.

Regarding the question of Palestine, beyond words we must ask the 
question, what does justice require? To truly engage in acts of 
solidarity, we must make our words flesh. Our solidarity must be more 
than a noun. Our solidarity must become a verb.

As a Black American, my understanding of action and solidarity action is 
rooted in our own tradition of struggle. As Black Americans resisted 
slavery, as well as Jim Crow laws that transformed us from a slave state 
to an apartheid state, we did so through multiple tactics and 
strategies. It is this array of tactics that I appeal to as I advocate 
for concrete action from all of us in this room.

Solidarity from the international community demands that we embrace 
boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as a critical means by which to hold 
Israel accountable for its treatment of Palestinian people. This 
movement, which emerges out of the overwhelming majority of Palestinian 
civil society offers a nonviolent means by which to demand a return to 
the pre ’67 borders, full rights for Palestinian citizens, and the right 
of return as dictated by international law.

Solidarity demands that we no longer allow politicians or political 
parties to remain silent on the question of Palestine. We can no longer 
in particular allow the political left to remain radical or even 
progressive on every issue from the environment to war to the economy. 
To remain progressive on every issue except for Palestine. Contrary to 
Western mythology, Black resistance to American apartheid did not come 
purely through Gandhi and nonviolence.

Rather, slave revolts and self-defense and tactics otherwise divergent 
from Dr. King or Mahatma Gandhi were equally important to preserving 
safety and attaining freedom. We must allow—if we are to operate in true 
solidarity with Palestinian people, we must allow the Palestinian people 
the same range of opportunity and political possibility. If we are 
standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must recognize 
the right of an occupied people to defend itself. We must prioritize 
peace. But we must not romanticize or fetishize it. We must advocate and 
promote nonviolence at every opportunity, but we cannot endorse a narrow 
politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for 
refusing to do nothing in the fact of state violence and ethnic cleansing.

At the current moment, there is little reason for optimism. Optimism, of 
course, is the belief that good will inevitably prevail over evil, that 
justice will inevitably win out. In the course of human history, and 
certainly even in the course of the United Nations, there is no evidence 
of such a proposition. Optimism is unsophisticated. Optimism is 
immature. Optimism is what my
students have when they take examinations that they did not study for. 
Some become quite religious at that time.

But regardless of their strategies of optimism, the outcome is far from 
guaranteed or even likely. What I’m challenging us to do in the spirit 
of solidarity is not to embrace optimism but to embrace radical hope. 
Radical hope is a belief that despite the odds, despite the considerable 
measures against justice and peace, despite the legacy of hatred and 
imperialism and white supremacy and patriarchy and homophobia, despite 
these systems of power that have normalized settler colonialism, despite 
these structures, we can still win. We can still prevail.

One motivation for my hope in the liberation and ultimate 
self-determination of the Palestinian people comes in August of 2014. 
Black Americans were in Ferguson, Missouri in the Midwest of the United 
States protesting the death of a young man named Michael Brown, an 
unarmed African-American male who had been killed by a law enforcement 
agent. And as we protested, I saw two things that provided hope for the 
Palestinian struggle. One was that for the first time in my entire life 
of activism I saw a sea of Palestinian people. I saw a sea or 
Palestinian flags in the crowd saying that we must form a solidarity 
project. We must struggle together in order to resist because state 
violence in the United States and state violence in Brazil and state 
violence is Syria and state violence in Egypt and state violence in 
South Africa, and state violence in Palestine are all of the same sort. 
And we finally understood that we must work together and not turn on 
each other, but instead turn to each other.

And later that night when the police began to tear gas us, Mariam 
Barghouti tweeted us from Ramallah. She, along with other Palestinian 
youth activists, told us that they tear gas that we were experiencing 
was only temporary. They gave us tips for how to wash our eyes out. They 
told us how to make gas masks out of t-shirts. They gave us permission 
to think and dream beyond our local conditions by giving us a 
transnational or a global solidarity project.

And from those tweets and social media messages, we began then to 
organize together. We brought a delegation of black activists to 
Palestine, and we saw the connections between the police in New York 
City, who are being trained by Israeli soldiers, and the type of 
policing we were experiencing in New York City. We began to see 
relationships of resistance, and we began to build and struggle and 
organize together. That spirit of solidarity, a solidarity that is bound 
up not just in ideology but in action, is the way out.

So as we stand here on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration 
of Human Rights and the tragic commemoration of the Nakba, we have an 
opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to 
political action, grassroots action, local action, and international 
action that will give us what justice requires. And that is a free 
Palestine from the river to the sea.

Thank you for your time.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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