Sumud, beyond protesting occupation: protecting life

For over a month now, I have been involved with a group of Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals, in a new and emerging protest and protect movement called Sumud Freedom Camp. One of our key aims is to build a nonviolent movement that focuses on joint action towards resisting the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian people.

The first action of our protest movement has been in a small hamlet made up of caves dug in the dry stony and beautiful southern hills of Hebron called Sarura. The Palestinian farming and shepherding community of these hills were forcefully evicted by the Israeli army twenty years ago and the area they lived in was declared as a closed military firing zone for the Israeli military. Jewish settlers nearby played a major role in the families being evicted through their violent abuse of the residents, destruction of the farms, and the killing of the livestock.

This summer, empowered and inspired, the residents decided to return. Through direct nonviolent action, solidarity, steadfastness (sumud), a coalition of several organizations was able to make that happen. Despite three violent Israeli army attacks, continued settler provocation, and even some Palestinians groups questioning our intention (claiming it to be normalization), two caves and two streets leading to Sarura were renovated and the families are preparing to take charge of their lives again. Such an action is noble and unprecedented when it comes to nonviolent actions protesting the occupation, and as such, has gained international recognition.

I joined and continue to be part of this movement because it has also triggered in my soul something bigger than Sarura, more sacred than my political rights as a Palestinian, and more profound than reaching a political settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It has connected me to a new and emerging global movement that in its newness is also deeply rooted in our deepest understanding of our human history and our humanity.

Sumud has connected me to the movement of indigenous nations and marginalized communities who despite their continued struggle for the recognition of their own political, economic, civil, and human rights, are addressing the bigger and most challenging global crises affecting our humanity today. It is a movement that sees and feels the destruction that is taking place on the planet in ways most of us are blind to. It recognizes that greed, fear, and the need to possess more than others have become global epidemics. It recognizes that the answer is not through signing “treaties” and passing resolutions, but the transformation of belief systems that we carry within us where we see that our faith, our ideology, our political identity, our way of life, our color, our race, our status, our sex, is better than the other.

The Sumud Freedom Camp has connected me to a movement that sees every single human being and creature on this planet as precious, suffering, and worthy of a good life. It is a movement that recognizes that while we need to protest against those who are behind the destruction, the aim is not to destroy them but create a space for true reconciliation.  It is a movement that is an invitation to work together to protect the precious resources that allow us to live on earth.

I have been reaffirmed in the past few weeks that steadfastness and safeguarding historic ways and indigenous rights unpack the deep rooted means and tools to heal our humanity and our planet. Within these sacred traditions, we find the power of nonviolence as a means of protesting, protecting, healing, and transforming. It is through the power of nonviolence and the transcending of separation, we build the community that honors the land, the water, all creatures, and our humanity. When we begin to recognize these sacred aspects of nonviolence as our framework for life, a chance for real peace, justice, and rights for all peoples in this land and the world can be manifested.

Sumud is a seed planted in the Holy Land. Slowly its roots are growing and connecting with the roots of all those around the world who believe in a healed humanity and a healed earth.

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