We are a people who have fought against Apartheid and can remember the days and nights when Caspirs and riot police cut off our neighbourhoods by strategically parking at a major interaction of a bridge. One of the worst incidents was the Trojan horse attack where children in Thornton Road were brutally killed. The soldiers were close by.
However we did not have our areas bombed from the air with helicopter gunships, from the sea with warships and from land by tanks. When an activist was arrested the Apartheid police did not give the family ten minutes before the house was demolished. Yes we had checkpoints but they were not ever-present. In the occupied territories there are checkpoints as part of the daily humiliation and economic sabotage of the Palestinians. Trucks with fresh vegetables will be kept waiting at a checkpoint for long enough for the vegetables and fruit to be rotten. A wall cuts off families from their land and from one another. A journey that should take five minutes down the road takes a whole day because of checkpoints, Apartheid roads reserved for only one people and completely denied to another people. Leaders of a people under occupation are subject to assassination, even if they are in wheelchairs. We did not experience this level of inhumanity under Apartheid. We were evicted from District Six and Sophia Town for example to “ethnically cleanse” the cities under Apartheid. In 1948, 349 villages were ethnically cleaned. The occupation, expropriation and displacement of Palestinians took place from before the State of Israel was established especially since they were given the green light by the very states, which gave it a forged birth certificate. We who have lived under Apartheid know of the unequal allocations for social welfare, health and education. That is the case inside Israel today. The Christians of the village of Ikrit have been unable to return to their home village since 1948 from which they were expelled by Irgun terrorists. They are internally displaced because their return would provide a legal basis for the right of return of the refugees who now live in refugee camps in places like Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
These are issues that are well known to almost everyone. Those who support Israel and those who support the Palestinians all know these facts. The interpretations might differ but the facts are indisputable. Why are we on the streets? Why are we marching on Quds Day when Israel, its big power, mainstream media and sectarian Muslim apologists have actively discouraged people from coming out onto the street. This message is directed at those of us who look at this carnage in Palestine and choose to not remain be indifferent. In Europe any criticism of Israel is dismissed as anti-Semitic. If one were to venture criticism it must be ritualistically involve the right of Israel to live in peace and security and for Palestinians to accept the Jewish state’s right to exist. We are on the street because we refuse to play this deadly game. It is not Israel that is at risk but the Palestinians need protection from Israeli hatred. This march and its message is about us and is directed at us. There are political parties, businesses and NGOs who provide unqualified support for Israel irrespective of the dripping blood from the hands of the sons and daughter of Cain. Those who have joined this and previous Quds Day marches should be pleased with themselves for no other reason but they have chosen to take a stand for that which is right. They, yes we have taken to the streets to say that we do care that children, women, elderly people and even activists are killed for no other reason other than the fact that they refuse to surrender. We are on the streets because we remember every mother who carries the keys and documents of ownership to a house demolished long ago. We are on the streets because we fight for the right of return of refugees in every place on earth where there has been conflict and we are on the streets to say that Palestinians have the same right. To the Zionists of Sderot we say we are on the streets to bear witness that the people from Gaza, whom you are now bombing lived in Sderot and they protected you from the British. The British punished them with expulsion to Gaza and instead of repaying them with an embrace and a smile you bomb them. We are on the streets because there is a history and a context to this conflict.
We are on the streets to bear witness to that history which is being erased in blood. We are on the streets because we do not care that you wish to label every legitimate criticism of Israeli political and military actions as anti-Semitic. We are on the streets because we will not shut up. We are on the streets because we refuse to make shady non-mandated deals with Zionists abroad and at home. We are on the streets because like there are Palestinians who are prepared to make every possible deal with the Zionists but they make every pre-condition for an agreement with other Palestinians. We are on the streets because we have people in our own midst who do the same. We take to the streets because we refuse to be cynical and say that it does not matter. We are on the street because we refuse to say that marching does not change anything. No marching does not change everything. We are on the streets because it changes us, into better people. This march is about you and me who bear witness to mass murder and we refuse to turn the other way because it is costly to take a stand against Zionist Israel. It can indeed be a bad career move and also be bad for business.
We are on the streets because we refuse to practice self-censorship. We refuse to be cynical and say, “What’s the use”. We are on the streets because we care. We are on the streets because we know that indifference is not neutral. Indifference provides support to the powerful and the status quo. We are on the streets because we stand by the victims. In this bloody spectacle of mass murder there are three categories of people i.e. the murderers, the victims and the bystanders. We are on the streets because we know who the killers and their apologists are. We also know who the victims are. The numbers of dead, maimed and broken people are clear irrespective of what the apologists for Israel might say about Israel’s right to live in peace and security. We are on the streets because we say that the racist state of Israel is the biggest threat to peace and security. We are on the streets because we are letting Israel know that even if we cannot stop their advanced weaponry, we bear witness to the blood on their hands. Even if the whole developed world says, “Israel has the right to protect its citizens” we counter that by taking to the streets by saying that we are not indifferent to the murder of the Palestinians. And Israel does not have the right to periodically commit the mass murder of Palestinians. We are on the streets even if you say that we are disproportionate in our comments. Let us say that we are on the streets because we do not bloody care what Israel and its apologists say. We are on the streets for the victims.
We are on the streets despite the costs because we know the costs of being silent and getting on with our lives are more costly. We are on the streets because those people who are martyred on the streets of Gaza will tell our martyrs that we are still continuing the good fight despite the facts that we are not the most courageous, not the most knowledgeable and not the most perfect people. We are on the streets because we are just about good enough to take a stand and not be indifferent. Abraham Herschel has said, some are guilty but all are responsible. We know who are the murderers in this case despite the routine; “Israel has the right to live in security” We are on the streets because we are not indifferent to the ritual murder, suffering and humiliation of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel. The martyrs of Gaza will bear witness that we are on the streets not because we can do anything today against Israel. We are on the streets for our own selves. We are on the streets because when we look at ourselves in the mirror then we can say that we did the right thing today.
When one looks at the pictures of people running away from bombs in Gaza one asks how can someone run away from bombs that are being shot from 5 kilometres away? We are on the streets because we bear witness that they, the Palestinians did not have a chance in this massacre and every other massacre since 1948. We are on the streets because we do not believe that certain issues are so complicated that they have to be left to experts. No we are on the streets because we affirm we know who Cain is and who Abel is. We are on the streets because we know who David is and who Goliath is. We are on the streets because the mainstream media including our own BBC and Sky News have not indoctrinated us. We are on the streets not because we expect our government to recall our Ambassador to Israel or the ask the Israeli Ambassador to leave. No we are on the street because we hear the voices of those who call for the cancellation of the right of Russia to host the World Cup. Yet, when we call for the boycott of Israel that is anti-Semitic. We are on the streets because any Member of Parliament who dares to criticise Israel without condemning the Palestinians is in trouble without fail. We are on the streets because we do not blame both sides. We are on the streets because we believe that a people under occupation have the right to fight for their freedom.
We are on the streets to bear witness that we saw the massacres in Gaza. However in Gaza they face bombing from the air, from the land and the sea. We are on the streets to bear witness that this is happening in our lifetime and our presence and we are taking sides in this bloody conflict. The mainstream media and the big powers can do what they like but we are here. We cannot do much but we are on the streets. We are not guilty but we are responsible to bring the guilty to justice. To the political parties who created this problem in the first place and who dare not support the victims we say that we are on the streets to bear witness that you have blood on your hands. To the Zionists and their apologists we say that we will never make deals with you. To Jews we say we will always love you because you are our own. Our Prophet married a Jew so we do not care about you labelling us as anti-Semitic.
Yes we are on the streets because we choose to live with integrity. We are on the streets because we try to do what we say. We are on the streets not because of the Palestinians but we are on the streets because of ourselves. Palestinian martyrs are already and have been for some time conferring with our own martyrs. We hope that they carry the good news that we do not make a distinction between a struggle in Grabouw and the struggle in Gaza. We are on the streets because the struggle in Tafelsig is the same struggle in Tel Aviv. I do not care that you might call it conceptual confusion. No we are on the streets because the struggle for justice is one. We are on the streets even if the G7 countries are in their boardrooms eating prawn cocktail sandwiches and red wine dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s to provide diplomatic, economic and military cover for Israel. No we are on the streets even if the Arab League, that was established to defend Palestine, stands idly by. No, we are on the streets because we can only stand in solidarity. We are in the streets because we shall not be moved.
We are on the streets because every move Israel makes, every life Israel takes we are on the streets because we are watching and we are not afraid. Or perhaps some of us are a bit afraid and hide their faces behind the placard that they raise but as afraid as some of us are, we are on the streets. We are on the streets because there we walk in the footsteps of prophets of God who were sent to establish justice. Yes, we are on the streets for justice. To Palestinine and the Palestinians we say we are on the streets for us and for you. Yes, we are on the streets and we might not stop a single bullet but we are on the streets. Yes, Boeta Mailie from Bonteheuwel, we are still on the streets. Convey the news to our own martyrs that we are still on the streets. Give the news to our martyrs that we are on the streets despite some having encouraged people to stay away because of their sectarian agendas. Yes Palestine we are on the streets and many of those who tell people not to march on Quds day have actually not had a day in struggle or a night in prison. We are on the streets today and remind those who might be too young to know that history is being rewritten. The same places and people where notices of Quds Day marches are unwelcome today are the same places where notices of meetings and marches against Apartheid were unwelcome. Yet, we have always been on the streets and the ones whose struggle history is rather sketchy have always supported distant causes and even those only when they were safe. Yes, we are on the streets and have always been on the streets whether sectarians and cowards try to put obstacles in our ways or not.
We are on the streets for us to just meet up and say that we are not alone. We are on the streets not because we expect our government to do the right thing. No we are on the streets because we know that our government wants its bread buttered on both sides. We are on the streets because we know that the Palestinians –with the little that they had- supported us politically, militarily and economically in our own struggle. Ask Leila Khaled as she reminded us when she visited our country. Yes Leilah Khaled, we are on the streets because we know our friends from our enemies. We are on the streets because we have debts to pay. Whether the Palestinians know about it or hear about it, we are on the streets because of our common humanity. We are on the streets because we are not afraid to care and the consequences of caring.
We are on the streets because we know after the march we will work with the on-going projects like Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions. We are on the streets not because we can stop a single Israeli tank. No we are on the streets because G4S operates in our country and G4S runs prisons for Palestinians who are in detention without trial. We are on the street because there are still South African companies that provide funding for Zionist occupation and dispossession projects. We are on the streets because we are involved in the Israel Apartheid Week and we are preparing for 2015. No we are on the streets because like Dennis Brutus we continue the fight for the cultural and economic isolation of Israel. We are on the streets because Israel continues to play a major role in the cutting and polishing of South African diamonds. We are on the streets of our country because we can do something in our own country.
We are on the streets because we want to be whole. We are on the streets because we do not want to live by the lies of Israel and its apologists. To those who defend Israel in our country we say that we will always return to the street for as long as there is injustice in Palestine. Yes, we are on the streets and when we pack up to go home we will continue to struggle for Palestine. To our government we say, we are on the streets and we have a memorandum to hand over but we know what we will do and somehow we know what you will do. Israel fears us, as small as our numbers are and wherever on whichever street in whichever country we might be, because we are prepared to raise our heads above the parapet. Yes, we will keep our eyes on the prize and hold on. The price that is exacted on people in academia, business, media, politics can be very steep when they step outside the red lines of the elite consensus. We are on the streets because we operate outside the consensus. We shall overcome as long as we are on the streets. Israel, you have no place to hide for as long as we are on the streets, in this country and every other country. We are in the streets and like the butterfly flapping its wings in every country causing a hurricane in Israel. For the apologists of Israel in our own country, we know who you are, we are working against you and we might even be working for you but we will always take to the streets. To our own government what can we say, one country changed the Israeli Embassy into the Palestinian Embassy and it is still paying the price after three decades.
To the sectarians we say that even when you served Apartheid government and Zionist interests by physically attacking us and we had the means to take you out in the days of Apartheid, we did not raise a finger against you because we knew who our enemy was and is. The doors of our hearts will always be open to those who repent and make amends. Yes, we will always find our ways to the streets. To those who make deals with Zionists we say we are on the streets because with us what you see is what you get. Once you have made your un-mandated deals with the Zionists then you are in their pockets no matter what you say. Look at parts of the Palestinian land Arab leaderships flapping in the wind because the Zionists are grabbing them by the proverbials. We are on the streets because we do not put increasing and ever-changing pre-conditions for unity amongst oppressed peoples. Yes one cannot be on the streets and also in the smoke-filled room.
To the comrades, brothers and sisters trust we say even if you are alone take to the street but also continue the hard and sometimes disheartening work away from the street when there is no one else. We are on the streets because we stand by Palestinians and by Jews like Ilan Pappe and his comrades. If you look for us today look in the street. If you look for us tomorrow look in the streets. If you look for us at all look in the streets. Even if you do not look for us at all we will be in the streets somewhere, somehow raising and supporting one issue or another. Yes we are the sons and daughters of the streets.
Moosa Arendt is a grassroots social movements activist and writer, who has lived on four continents. He provides and alternative and often humorous take on current affairs.