A man picks up burning tear gas can and throws it back at police in Ferguson Missouri. WITH AN AMERICAN FLAG SHIRT AND BAG OF CHIPS IN ONE HAND. Photo by Robert Cohen.
(This was written by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. Passing it on as it’s a very useful set of tips)
I have seen a lot of people in my life, myself included, going through hard times right now with the extreme escalation of colonial violence in Palestine. People are sad, angry, and praying. Many people are overwhelmed. Worried for our families. Many people in our communities are learning more about Palestine for the first time, and want to know ways to connect. It’s hard to know what to do from so far away, and easy to feel helpless when you don’t know what to do.
This list is for all of us, to recommit to the work we’ve been doing, to get grounded when this massacre has knocked us off our feet, and to get connected where we haven’t been before.
Please share with your communities!
1. BDS – BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, & SANCTIONS
Boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) is a movement that was called for by Palestinian civil society. It is a grassroots, nonviolent form of resistance that there are so many ways to participate in.
Here is the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions: http://www.bdsmovement.net/call
Get involved with (or start) a campaign for your university, workplace, union, etc. to pull out its investments in companies that are connected to Israeli human rights offenses.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has led many successful divestment campaigns at universities across the country. http://sjpnational.org/
We Divest is a project of Jewish Voice for Peace, which has successfully pressured TIAA-CREF around its occupation investments. https://wedivest.org/
Here is a quick list of companies that profit from Israeli human rights offenses.
Consumer boycott is about individually deciding not to buy these products, but it’s also about popular education. Flyering to educate people about what’s behind this stuff. Encouraging local shops not to sell these products.
There are ongoing successful consumer boycott campaigns against SodaStream and Sabra Hummus, for example.
Cultural and Academic Boycott:
As artists and academics, it’s very important that we decolonize the way we produce our work, and don’t let it be used to normalize violent structures.
There is a set of guidelines for cultural and academic boycott from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) that artists and academics can sign on to.
Academic boycott guidelines: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108
Cultural boycott guidelines: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047
If you are an Israeli citizen, you can also sign the Boycott from Within statement, and get involved with their work: http://www.boycottisrael.info/
An excellent resource, which can help you find information for whichever kind of BDS campaign you decide to get involved with, is the Who Profits? database: http://www.whoprofits.org/
Donating money is not an action that everyone can afford to get involved with, but if you have even a small amount to spare, here are some great places to donate to:
Middle East Children’s Alliance: http://www.mecaforpeace.org/
Palestinian Center for Human Rights: http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/
American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA): http://www.anera.org/
United Palestinian Appeal: http://www.helpupa.org/
Australians can make tax deductible donations to:
3. PARTICIPATE IN LOCAL PROTESTS & VIGILS
Protests and vigils are a great way to make the Palestinian struggle visible in your city, and also to build community with other people who are feeling the same way you are.
If you go to a protest, come through with good friends that you can trust, and have a plan for what to do if police or counterprotestors escalate.
For organizers: Palestinian liberation is connected so intricately with all of our liberation. Reach out to members of other oppressed communities and build coalitions, feature their voices at your demonstration (for example, African, Latin@, and Indigenous activists). Keep racial, gender, and disability justice as the foundations of your work.
4. MAKE ART! & SUPPORT ARTISTS
This is giving us a whole lot of feelings, right?! Write/draw/paint/act/sing/print/dance it out! Bring attention to Gaza and Palestine within your artistic communities.
Endorse the USACBI statement, commit to its principles. Educate other artists you know about it, and encourage them to sign as well. http://www.usacbi.org/about/
Tell your story and tell it true. Be ethical and accountable in the way you handle the stories of others.
If you are not an artist: Help support Palestinian artists, and artists from other communities in struggle against Israeli apartheid. Donate, purchase work, host events, for example.
5. CHECK YOURSELF
Make sure that the information you have is accurate. Behind every single news story is a human being with a life as full as your own, and you owe it to them to get the facts straight. Do not re-post gory images of dead children on social media with no context—this is extremely disrespectful.
Below are a few (but not the only) reliable English-language news sources:
Al Jazeera English: http://www.aljazeera.com/
Ma’an News Agency: http://www.maannews.net/eng/
The Electronic Intifada: http://electronicintifada.net/
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/
Read and understand the BDS call, and its demands and guidelines, and do not present false information about it. This is very important, because oftentimes even people who are part of the Palestine solidarity movement can misunderstand the guidelines, and fall for Zionist misinformation about them. Read the calls for yourself and figure out how you can plug in. (see above for the guidelines)
Think about what your role is in this movement. Ask yourself some questions before you take action:
What is your relationship to Israeli apartheid historically, and the recent colonial violence?
What are you directly complicit in and what can you do to address that?
Who are you being accountable to?
Amplify the voices of, and support people who are more directly impacted than you. Step back when you need to and when you are told to.
Avoid false and oppressive binaries, like Arab/Jew. Remember that Israeli apartheid is a multi-layered system, and bring that understanding to your work.
Think about your social position in the country where you’re doing this work, and consistently check yourself on this, too. Again, keep racial, gender, and disability justice as the foundations of your work.
Don’t judge people for not being able to take part in the same forms of resistance as you.
6. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF & EACH OTHER
Mourn the dead. Speak their names. Publicly and privately. Do rituals if this helps you.
Read/watch/listen to/share poems/music/film/art by Palestinian artists.
Make art. (even if you are not “an artist.”)
Write it out. (even if you are not “a writer.”)
Cook Palestinian food. Share it with your loved ones.
Take time and space to feel.
Lean on your friends and let them lean on you.
Tune out the news if you need to. (Keep the news on, if you need to be reassured by the steady flow of information.)
Don’t go to protests/demos/events alone.
Take alone time if you need it.
Turn to your faith if that helps you.
Stay committed to healing, and recognize healing as part of the work.
If you are close with them, stay in touch with your family and friends in Palestine.
Remember, it is not your responsibility to educate your oppressors!
Keep checking yourself.
Affirm life. Affirm life. Affirm life.
“We teach life, sir” by Rafeef Ziadah : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKucPh9xHtM
“What I Will” by Suheir Hammad : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFbE8RBhSDw
"People often say that blindness sharpens hearing, but I don’t think this is so. My ears were hearing no better, but I was making better use of them. Sight is a miraculous instrument offering us all the riches of physical life. But we get nothing in this world without paying for it, and in return for all the benefits that sight brings we are forced to give up others whose existence we don’t even suspect. These were the gifts I received in such abundance."
—Jacques Lusseyran (19 September 1924 – 27 July 1971) was a blind French author and political activist, quotation from SENSE AND PRESENCE: Avenues of exchange, PARABOLA, Volume X, No. 3, Fall 1985: “The Body.”
Image: Ganjin Statue At The Toshodaiji Temple, Nara, Japan. Photograph by Wim Wenders
This turns me on.
The Russian performance and conceptual art collective Voina have stretched the boundaries of art and politics with their stunts, which have included smuggling a chicken out of a grocery store by stashing it in a member’s vagina, spray painting an enormous phallus on a St. Petersburg bridge, and flipping over police cars. The Russian government, sensitive to political critique, has lashed back — that final project caused the pursuit and arrest of several Voina artists. In their most recent action, called “Cops Auto da Fe” or “Fucking Prometheus,” Voina used Molotov cocktails to light a tank-like police transport vehicle used to relocate prisoners.
Carried out on New Year’s Eve (which is notably when the traditional Russian version of Santa Claus, Ded Moroz or Grandfather Frost, comes), the attack was described as “a gift to all political prisoners of Russia” by the group in an absurdist, lyrical fairytale posted on their blog. St. Petersburg police said that the source of the fire was inconclusive and that the damage was fairly minimal, save the interior of the car. However, the video released by Voina shows a figure approaching the van with Molotov cocktails, placing them at its tires, and stepping away as it is quickly engulfed in flames.
Whether the attempted incineration is performance art, activism, or hooliganism depends on whom you ask. Russian intellectual Andrei V. Yerofeyev characterized the attacks as more resembling a mission carried out by a subversive political group than art. However, Berlin Biennale curator Artur Żmijewski (who symbolically named Voina co-curators of the biennale) seems to be pushing back on the idea that such distinctions can even be made. Using the Biennale’s newsletter as a protest bulletin, Żmijewski has organized actions around Berlin for causes such as freeing Belarus’ political prisoners and opposing the recent international arrest warrants issued for Voina’s two founders, husband and wife Oleg Vornikov and Natalia Sokol.
When does avant-garde performance become avant-garde violence? In an email interview with ARTINFO, Voina representative Alexei Plutser-Sarno explained that the police carrier was “a symbol of today’s repressions and human rights and freedoms annihilation, committed by the authorities in Russia” (we have left his text as is). By burning it, he said, the group “stirred up discussion” in the entire country.
Of the reaction to “Cops Auto da Fe,” Plutser-Sarno wrote that “there are sensible people, who understand and support us; who think that our actions are an adequate reaction to all those batteries, tortures and arrests of innocent people, to the situation when thousands of political prisoners are kept in jails all over the country.” In response to Yerofeyev’s accusation that the gesture was not art, he noted that the writer had previously taken part in Voina actions, but “has a lot of masks.”
Asked if Voina had exceeded the boundaries of performance art with its politically-motivated actions, Plutser-Sarno responded, “If an artist follows rules, canons, norms, he is dead. An artist should be walking on the razor’s edge between art and non-art, between death and life.” That territory is certainly where Voina is headed, given their multiple daring escapes from arrest and imprisonment (it is worth noting that Plutser-Sarno is currently in hiding abroad).
According to Voina, the difference between performance art and political activism is art’s public nature and the importance of laying claim to your work. “If an activist secretly burns a cop truck at night, it won’t be art. It will be the revenge of an activist,” Plutser-Sarno wrote. “But to burn it openly and proclaim to the entire country: ‘I am an artist. I burned down your prison, symbol of totalitarianism. This autodafe is our art action,’ then it becomes a piece of art. We made people discuss it as an artistic action.”
Art may be by definition political, as Diego Rivera famously argued, but must it be revolutionary? For Voina, the answer is yes.
More photos and video here.