Strengthening our movement in times of crisis: a historic task of the Palestinian liberation movement

From May 24–26, the Palestinian Youth Movement along with other Palestinian and anti-imperialist organizations are hosting the People’s Conference for Palestine

May 20, 2024 by Palestinian Youth Movement
The Palestine movement in North America surged to new heights in the last seven months.

Two hundred days into the Zionist war of aggression on Gaza, the Palestinian struggle is in the midst of a critical conjuncture. For months, organizations in North America have been strengthening and leading a mass movement to advance the cause of Palestinian national liberation from within the imperial core. The popular and revolutionary character of the movement has been borne out by the millions marching in the streets, direct actions across all major cities, new and newly-energized sector-based organizing and campaigns, victories across ideological and media struggle, and most recently, student encampments demanding divestment in the universities and colleges. Through these developments, thousands of people have been brought into the struggle, moved to act by the depravity of the U.S.-led and -funded genocide and the moral clarity of Palestine’s resistance.

Amidst this mass movement, we have witnessed the martyrdom of over 50,000 Palestinians, the destruction of the Gaza Strip, and a concerted effort by Zionism and Western imperialism to break Palestinian resistance and to sever our people from their lands. To live through an ongoing genocide has meant battling feelings of despair and confusion; while daunting, the task of committing ourselves to political clarity amidst these difficult conditions remains essential.

On October 18, 1975, the largest public gathering of Palestinians in Israel since the nakba of 1947–49 took place in al-Nasra (Nazareth), aimed at confronting Zionist plans to confiscate Arab lands across the Galilee. This conference was associated with leadership of the uprisings now commemorated by Palestinians as “Land Day,” having produced many resolutions, laid the groundwork for a general strike, and established committees to implement its political goals. It is one node of many in a long history of Palestinians using conferences to concretize strategic objectives and consolidate on ideological questions, dating to the pre-nakba period: from the First Arab Women’s Congress in October 26, 1929, to the Youth Congresses in Jaffa on 4 December 1932, and in Haifa on 10 May 1935—all of which asserted opposition to British and Zionist colonization, and supported the Great Peasant Revolution of 1936–39. In moments of crisis and of revolution, Palestinians have turned to conferences in order to bring our people and movements together and to breathe conviction and political clarity into organizations and civil society.

In honor of this tradition, from May 24–26, 2024, 14 convening organizations and over 300 endorsing organizations – including Palestinian organizations that have been leading the mass movement for Palestine in North America – will convene in Detroit, Michigan, for The People’s Conference for Palestine. A city that is no stranger to the depredations of American capitalism, Detroit has been a site of revolutionary struggle for decades, playing host to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (and their participation in the historic National Black Economic Development Conference, first held in the city in April 1969), and to one of the largest settings of Arab diasporic life.

The People’s Conference for Palestine appears at a juncture when the liberation struggle in Gaza has generated pockets of revolutionary energy all across the world. That call has been answered: in the labor movement, on the campuses, and in the streets, people are being politicized around Palestine and its attendant imperial contradictions at a rate heretofore unseen in the 21st century. The popular action of the last seven months has also posed important questions around consolidation, unity, scale, and structural form, particularly related to how the struggle builds on the existing mass mobilizations towards deeper organization. An organized movement is an effective movement, better able to politicize and maintain the gains in mass consciousness, to sustain the long-term relationships required for base building and advocacy, to protect against and resist state repression, and to coordinate across the different settings of struggle with scale and historical specificity.

The question of organization is particularly important in light of the sustained attacks on the institutions of Palestinian social and political life, accelerated by a post-Oslo neoliberal period that has led to a collapse in the strength and militancy of the struggle in the West. These conditions are being readily challenged by a movement being rebuilt and led by politically-committed Palestinians, who have convened this conference alongside  journalists and aid workers in Gaza, activists from Palestine, anti-war movement elders, and student leaders in order to support each site of struggle in developing its own assessment of conditions and objectives.

The conference’s sessions, assemblies, and teach-ins will focus on building strong political organizations; confronting Zionism and imperialism in the heart of empire; advancing the ideological struggle through art, culture, media, and education; and supporting the student movement to continue to exert pressure inside and outside their campuses. Through its direct fundraising role of contributing all registration fees to Gaza, the conference has already raised over $100,000.00 USD, asserting that the Palestinian diaspora has a historic role to play in the national liberation struggle not only in the realm of political organization, but also with regards to supporting the steadfastness of our people – a concept known in Arabic as ta3ziz al sumud.

These forms of struggle are critical not only for opposing the horrors of the ongoing genocide, but for the historic challenge of ending U.S. support for the Zionist project, lifting the siege on Gaza, and liberating Palestinian land and people until our return is achieved. We hope you will join us!