When we publish an issue of Slingshot, we sit back and try to think of something exciting, action oriented and hopeful to put on the front page. Something to indicate that there are opportunities for struggle, social change and liberation — that the movement is still moving. This issue, we considered publicizing Freedom Summer in Palestine, which is modeled after freedom summer in Mississippi in 1963 during the civil rights movement. We ended up getting into a huge discussion and writing this, instead.
Freedom summer in Palestine, from June 20 – August 11, seeks to bring internationals from many countries to Palestine to engage in direct action against the Israeli occupation. Internationals will live with Palestinian families in the occupied territories to witness, and hopefully limit, Israeli human rights abuses. The idea is that the Israelis will be less willing to kill or brutalize foreigners than Palestinians, and that the Israelis will be less likely to commit atrocities if they know the outside world may learn about them. (See contact information at end of article.)
While the campaign is important and being literally on the front lines will require immense courage and dedication, we felt troubled.
This kind of action follows typical patterns: The activists are folks who can afford to take the whole summer off work (or who weren’t working to start with), pay for a flight half way around the world, so they can use their first-world privilege to help the under-privileged. It targets a problem that is far away, rather than addressing liberation here at home.
No doubt the idea of confronting tanks in Israel appears a lot more immediate and important than anything at home. No doubt its more sexy. Here at home, things don’t seem so black and white. There appear to be few stark opportunities to put your body on the line, stand up to power, and feel like you really accomplished something.
But step back a bit: Its quite clear that if the US government demanded that Israel end the occupation, they would have to comply. The US government funds Israel, and Israel knows it. And this relationship of the US to the rest of the world isn’t limited to Israel — in area after area, the most important way to help folks around the world (and the environment) would be to confront and destabilize the United States. The ultimate act of international solidarity is not going abroad, but stopping the problem where it starts, here at home. No one is as well positioned to do this as people in the United States. Are we waiting for activists from the rest of the world to come and help us? If the US was destabilized, you wouldn’t have to travel far away to live your daily life for liberation.
And more importantly, rather than activism always being directed outwards only towards someone else’s liberation far away, we could fight for our own liberation while helping others, too. Ultimately, using one’s own first-world privilege to help the “other” is just the activist version of missionary work. For anarchists, its fraught with problems.
Freedom Summer in our own lives would mean following our desires. If everyone in their own communities started living like we wanted to live — refusing to participate in the 40-hour-a-week, industrialized, computerized, toxic, corporate, mediated, managed “life” shoved down our throats — this system would stop. If not everyone, but a lot of people, started living life like it mattered, the system would be knocked of balance, called into question, weakened. Armies would have to be recalled from overseas for service here. The US power to enforce capitalist hegemony world-wide and here at home would be shattered.
The idea of destabilizing life at home — of bringing the war home — is scary. It’s a lot easier to go into an intense, violent, dangerous situation in someone else’s land when you know that it’s temporary, and that at the end of the summer, or sooner if you decide, you can go back to the US where life will be safe and peaceful. But the stability and comfort here at home are paid for with lives and safety around the world. Until people in the US take responsibility for stopping the regime here, which exports terror everywhere else, there won’t be safety or freedom in the rest of the world, nor real safety or freedom here.
Its a huge mistake to allow our agenda to be set in reaction to events elsewhere, losing sight of the big picture — the struggle for total liberation. Rather than reaction and defense, its time for offense. As the storm clouds of war against Iraq build, should we wait until the first tank crosses the boarder so that we can have a rowdy protest at the federal building the day afterwards? With reports daily confirming the precarious environmental situation resulting from unrestrained global corporate capitalism, should we wait for the announcement of each new timber harvest plan so that we may lay down before the bulldozers?
Its time to move beyond activism as a hobby, something separate from one’s life that must be balanced against the rest of our lives — free time, relationships, enjoyment, creative work — something that is best applied to others rather than one’s self, something that seeks out excitement and travel. What we seek is liberation, in which living rich, whole lives is the struggle for freedom for ourselves, the planet and all its inhabitants. Liberation eclipses and renders obsolete the single issues. Let the freedom summer in our own lives and everywhere begin soon, and never end.
For information on participating in Freedom Summer in Palestine, which we encourage notwithstanding the foregoing, please contact www. palsolidarity.org.