Intersectional struggle: Social justice movements at the heart of growing global protests for Palestine

Gaza protest
8 min read
06 December, 2023

Massive protests against Israel's war on Gaza have surged on the world's streets, from the Global South, where people recognise the brutality of colonialism as a lived experience as well as liberation from its chains, to the Global North in states which practised colonialism and have finished with it – at least in its traditional form.

The marches for Gaza have been about more than demands for a ceasefire: there is a deep awareness among demonstrators that the issue isn't Gaza alone, and that current events did not start on October 7. Rather, they are the fatal harvest of decades of ethnic cleansing and apartheid; the continuing Nakba against the Palestinian people.

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Awareness of this fact has been evident in the atmosphere of the demonstrations and their speeches in the last six weeks – over which the world has seen an unprecedented global wave of solidarity with Palestine.

While many attending the demonstrations have not condoned the atrocities perpetrated against civilians on October 7, and have in fact condemned them, this did not stop them from mobilising in increasingly vast numbers to stand with the Palestinians – this historic upsurge of solidarity began taking shape from the first days of Israel's reaction to October 7.

"The marches for Gaza have been about more than demands for a ceasefire: there is a deep awareness among demonstrators that the issue isn't Gaza alone, and that current events did not start on October 7"

This is in spite of relentless Israeli propaganda which has sought to conflate the Palestinian struggle with terrorism, as well as Hamas with Islamic State (IS), and October 7 with September 11 and the Holocaust – a narrative which most of the Western powers along with their mainstream media channels have readily adopted and acted as a mouthpiece for.

If we look carefully at the mosaic of participants in the current wave of solidarity and protest, we find a large number of local and international social justice movements both participating and organising.

These groups see Palestinian liberation as intersecting with their struggles to achieve justice on the issues they work on as their core focus – and it is on the principle of justice that they all come together on Palestine.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter (BLM), which was launched in the US ten years ago, is one important movement which sees a crossover in its struggle with the struggle of the Palestinian people.

BLM stated on October 10: "As Black people continue the fight to end militarism and mass incarcerations in our own communities, let us understand the resistance in Palestine as an attempt to tear down the gates of the world's biggest open air prison."

The statement continued: "As a radical Black organization grounded in abolitionist ideals, we see clear parallels between Black and Palestinian people. For lasting peace to come, the entire apartheid system must be dismantled."

Feminist movements

In the feminist movement, both in the Arab world and internationally, many organisations have called for a ceasefire in Gaza and participated in a number of actions.

Several Arab feminist organisations (including Takatoat, nahwa wa'I niswi, marche mondiale des femmes -  Liban and FEMALE) released a statement on October 14 which identified anti-colonialism as a feminist issue.

In the statement they emphasised their support for the Palestinian resistance in all its forms: "As feminists within these groups and institutions, we, like millions of women in the region, reject any stigmatisation or scepticism of this resistance as anything other than an anticolonial liberation struggle, one that will only conclude with the liberation and restoration of the historical land of Palestine and all bodies oppressed under the military and structural despotism of Western settler colonialism in Palestine."

The statement called feminists not to "succumb to the narratives of liberal and white feminists, but rather support the Palestinian people and their resistance through all available means."

Other feminist groups from the Global South more broadly issued another statement in November, which confirmed that: "Israel is not only committing threats against the Palestinian people — this is a war against humanity, and its actions are threatening the transition of societies towards non-violent societies. We will not allow Gaza to become the image of the persecuted and colonized poor world. We emphasise that the women and children of Palestine are not alone, and that the women of the Global South stand behind them, and we will continue to defend them in the face of this massacre. Palestine is a feminist cause."

Climate Movement

As for the climate and environmental movements, a number or organisations have declared their solidarity with the Palestinian people – taking the view that colonialism is an issue which threatens the environment and the climate, and that environmental justice will be impossible without justice for the Palestinians.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is one of the most prominent and popular climate activist movements in the UK, which also has branches in other countries. It released a statement on November 3 saying: "If we believe in climate and ecological justice, we must seek justice in all forms. The climate and ecological emergency has roots in centuries of colonial violence, exploitation and oppression – for which the UK bears a disproportionate share of responsibility.

"Britain has historically been instrumental in the ruthless suppression of Palestinian human rights and continues to offer unwavering support for the military onslaught we’re seeing now."

LGBTQ+ Movement

The LGBTQ+ movement has also been noticeable for its contribution to organising and mobilising action of solidarity for the Palestinians, both in the Arab world and globally.

A large group of LGBTQ+ organisations and activists from West Asia and North Africa stated in late October that they confirmed "unconditional support for the Palestinians' liberation of their lands from the river to the sea. It is not possible for any free person who adopts methodologies or theories of individual and gender freedoms, to ignore the rights of peoples to rid themselves of occupation in its entirety."

These statements and solidarity confront the occupation's attempts to promote Israeli pinkwashing, which is based on the idea that Israel is the only safe haven for LGBTQ+ people in the Middle East.

Anti-Racist Jewish Movement

The role of anti-racist Jewish movements has become more prominent in a number of Western states, where millions of Jews live, outside Israel.

Many of these Jews, some of whom are Holocaust survivors, don’t consider themselves as linked in any way to the Zionist project or the State of Israel, and many have battled against the idea that Israel represents Jewish people all over the world.

US-based Jewish Voice for Peace is one of the best-known of these groups and has organised high-profile and attention-grabbing protests during the last month and a half. These have involved occupying train stations; conducting a sit-in in front of the White House, and occupying the US Congress. They also organised sit-ins outside various senators' offices and many have faced arrest.

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Labour Movement

As well as the above movements, several labour unions around the world have stood with the Palestinians and against genocide. Among them were the Belgian port workers who refused to load shipments of weapons bound for Israel. The same happened in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

University student movements around the globe are also continuing to advocate for Palestinian rights, despite all the threats against them in some Western countries, by both university administrations, and even senior businessmen, threatening not to employ those who show solidarity with Palestine. There have also been many statements from writers, journalists and artists who have unequivocally condemned Israel's aggression on Gaza, and expressed their support for the Palestinians.

It looks like this global upswell, of which we have only mentioned a few examples, will continue to protest and demonstrate in the weeks to come, as the Israeli onslaught continues and no one knows how or when it will end.

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However, what is known, is that the current wave of solidarity can be credited with establishing a new global awareness – especially among the younger generation – not only of the Palestinian issue, but also of the justice of the Palestinian cause, and its centrality for people all over the world and their many social justice movements.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko   

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

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