Palestinians Are “Marching To Freedom Land”

by James M. Wall

A warning to the United States and Israel is embedded in a New York Times analysis entitled, “Arab Debate Pits Islamists Against Themselves”.

The warning lies in the reality that the Palestinian people are on the same march against the same obstacles that have stirred the quest for freedom throughout the region.

The warning is there, even as the Times editors chose to leave Palestine on the editing room floor.  Anthony Shadid, who co-wrote the analysis with David D. Kirkpatrick, may have wanted to include Palestinians, but it is a strong possibility the Times editors had a different agenda.

What the analysis delivers, however, demonstrates a deep understanding of the rise of a younger Arab/Muslim generation which seeks to balance secularism with Islam.

The people of Palestine know they are a part of this uprising. They, with others in the region, will not be denied. This is the “moment” when the Palestinian people are joining in the march to freedom land. Here is part of Shaddid’s analysis:

The moment is as dramatic as any in recent decades in the Arab world, as autocracies crumble and suddenly vibrant parties begin building a new order, starting with elections in Tunisia in October, then Egypt in November. Though the region has witnessed examples of ventures by Islamists into politics, elections in Egypt and Tunisia, attempts in Libya to build a state almost from scratch and the shaping of an alternative to Syria’s dictatorship are their most forceful entry yet into the region’s still embryonic body politic.

“It is a turning point,” said Emad Shahin, a scholar on Islamic law and politics at the University of Notre Dame who was in Cairo.

At the center of the debates is a new breed of politician who has risen from an Islamist milieu but accepts an essentially secular state, a current that some scholars have already taken to identifying as “post Islamist.”

Its foremost exemplars are Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party in Turkey, whose intellectuals speak of a shared experience and a common heritage with some of the younger members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and with the Ennahda Party in Tunisia. Like Turkey, Tunisia faced decades of a state-enforced secularism that never completely reconciled itself with a conservative population.

A party formed by three leaders of the [Egyptian] Brotherhood’s youth wing says that while Egypt shares a common Arab and Islamic culture with the region, its emerging political system should ensure protections of individual freedoms as robust as the West’s.

One of three leaders of the youth wing, Islam Lotfy, argues that “the strictly religious kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the Koran is ostensibly the constitution, was less Islamist than Turkey”. He then points out, “It is not Islamist; it is dictatorship”.

The Palestinan people are significant players in this uprising. They, too, face a dictatorship, the US-backed Israeli government that controls every aspect of Palestinian life with controls that are illegal, immoral and ultimately, self-defeating.

The Palestinians have joined the “march to freedom land”. They now have their own self-governing plan.

On September 9, 2009, I wrote on this blog 

Another encouraging sign is the program Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (pictured here) has developed, a lengthy document describing a future Palestinian state alongside Israel, with borders along the 1967 Green Line.

In his [Washington] Post column, President Carter referred to the Fayyad program, [and to] Javier Solana, secretary general of the Council of the European Union, for the United Nations [who is] is a strong supporter of the two-state solution:

. . . Solana proposes that the United Nations recognize the pre-1967 border between Israel and Palestine, and deal with the fate of Palestinian refugees and how Jerusalem would be shared.

Palestine would become a full U.N. member and enjoy diplomatic relations with other nations, many of which would be eager to respond. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad described to us [the Elders traveling with Carter on a recent visit] his unilateral plan for Palestine to become an independent state.

The US and Israel knew this was coming. Jimmy Carter and Javier Solana told them. Salam Fayyad showed them his plan.

Which explains why the US and Israel have done all they could do to exacerbate the differences between the two opposing Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas, hoping to prevent a unified Palestine from going to the UN.  Fatah and Hamas still have their differences, but they are unified in their shared need to be free of Israeli occupation. 

The Palestinians are now at the front door of the UN. Whatever finally happens there, and the betting is that the US will barricade the front door with another veto, the Palestinians will move forward.

John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer, based in Paris, writes,

The number of UN member states extending diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine has now risen to 131, leaving only 62 UN member states on the wrong side of history and humanity.

If one ignores small island states in the Caribbean and the Pacific, almost all of the non-recognizers are Western states, including all five of the settler-colonial states founded on the ethnic cleansing or genocide of indigenous populations and all eight of the former European colonial powers.

A few years back, neo-conservatives were pushing a propagandistic theory they called, “The Clash of Civilizations”, by which they meant “Western Powers versus Islam”. It was a fear tactic that fell apart upon closer examination. The neo-cons should have called their clash, “declining colonialist powers versus emerging states of the future”.

It is because of this “clash” between the past and the future,  that Palestine will take its place as a UN member in good standing. That will not happen in this session. The US has embarrassed itself by its veto and its shameful campaign to bully Security Council members into rejecting the Palestinian request for membership.

The veto will only further damage US influence in international affairs. It will delay Palestinian elevation to full UN membership, but in the long run, there is no question but that the US and Israel have lost this political struggle.

A new generation of Palestinians no longer tolerates the pro-Israel “road maps for peace” which were obviously designed as an Israeli cover for Israeli expansion. Even the current Palestinian leaders are rebuking the the Quartet—the US, the UN, the European Union and Russia—for making Tony Blair, former British prime minister, their official point man with Israel and the Palestinians, a bad mistake from the outset.

The bias Blair had toward Israel has finally led the Palestinian Authority to openly take note of Blair’s bias.  One Palestinian official, expressing his disapproval of Blair, paid him a back-handed compliment: “He is not as bad as Dennis Ross”, referring to the US point man for the region who has served three duplicitous diplomatic stints under three different US presidents.

The Palestinians are on the march for freedom. Sporadic outbursts of violence from Hamas have been pointless. The path of non-violent protests have been far more effective. BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) is having its strong effect, hitting Israel where it hurts, its international public image.

And that Gaza blockade that Israel tried to protect by killing eight Turkish citizens and one American citizen?  Gazans are sending out the word that they are ready again to receive visitors.  A remarkable statement,  “A Call from Gaza, to the People of Conscience worldwide to break the Israeli Blockade”, has been sent out, inviting other nations, with other ships, to come to Gaza’s shores.

The world now listens to Palestinian voices. When I first started regular visits to the region in 1973, those voices were barely audible.  Now they are being heard.

Prominent among voices that are reaching the outside community is Zoughbi Zoughbi, Director of Wi’am, The Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem. Zoughbi knows a great deal about resolving conflict peacefully. In a recent interview,  Zoughbi looks to the future:

Let’s put the world in front of its political responsibility once more. They have held on to the guilt they had for the Jewish people, which resulted in the UN resolution of 1947 that created Israel, but what makes us a lesser nation?

We are the victims of the victims of the holocaust, and thus its direct victims and we too need our home, our safe haven.

It is a symbolic victory on the General Assembly level but it will lead the Palestinians to think of different strategies for continuing their nonviolent struggles on the ground and to continue negotiations on equal footing.

The younger generations might start to believe that they are giving the leadership their last chance for negotiations and then they will start the 3rd intifada. It is worth mentioning that 75% of the population in Gaza is under the age of 30 and 60% of the population in the West Bank is under the age of 24.

The “victims of the victims of the holocaust” are “marching to freedom land”

President Obama and the US Congress, would be well-advised to fall into place in that march, because in the words of the African American spiritual, the Palestinians, one by one, “ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around”.

Joan Baez sings her version here:

Joan Baez’ version of this spiritual/civil rights song is from Youtube. The picture at top is  from a Ramallah rally, taken when President Mahmoud Abbas spoke after returning from speaking to the UN in New York. It is from Al Jazeera.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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8 Responses to Palestinians Are “Marching To Freedom Land”

  1. Samia Khoury says:

    Indeed ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around. In fact without that spirit of the civil rights movement, Mr. Obama would not have been where he is today. More than anybody else he should know what that means

  2. Fred says:

    It’s sad to see our country as a reactionary force here at home, on the I/P issue and around the world. Instead of standing for freedom and justice, we stand for oppression and corporate greed. Obama gave us hope, but dashed them all, and the Republican choices are frightening beyound belief on this and other issues.

    How long will the US be the source and ally of domination and oppression? Somehow, people of conscience have to stand together to change things. I would like to see this country be a source of progressiveism and justice, but we’ll have to fight the big monied interests that support oppression here, in Palestine and around the globe.

  3. N. Lundeen says:

    I believe it is time that we Americans stop trying to “run the
    world,” protect the interest of the rich, in America and inter-
    national, and “just mind our own business” and stop following the British Colonial mentality, or we will wind up
    like them!

  4. Indeed it is the Palestinians right to regain their nation.

  5. Sam Jones says:

    The decision by Congress to “punish” the Palestinians by denying them over $200 million in assistance for hospitals, schools, etc. was perhaps even more onerous (and reflective of our hypocrisy) than the coming veto. However, I do sincerely wish that President Abbas had pursued the General Assembly track (which would have resulted in a majority) instead of the Security Council where it will either be tabled in perpetuity or vetoed by the U.S. I fear that he lost an opportunity by going this route and allowed the U.S. to once again bog the process down while more settlements are going up.

  6. ali says:

    Thank you Mr Wall for another great article.

    Just finished reading ‘Kings Counsel’ by Jack O’Connell. he served as the CIA station chief in Amman in the 1960’s to early 1970’s.

    Was wondering if you have come across him in your dealings over the years and if so what your impression of Mr O’Connell was? I found his book fascinating, yet simple. this is not a typical CIA author, he is clearly from the intellectual wing of the CIA as opposed to the more physical part of the agency.

    It’s a book American’s should read if they want to understand why we are in such a difficult situation in the middle east (most of it is, again, our own doing).

  7. wallwritings says:


    I share your enthusiasm about King’s Counsel. I do know about it. My recent posting here will give you my impression of his work. Click this link to go to the posting:

    Thanks for your comment.

    Jim Wall

  8. Bill Gepford says:

    Well done Jim. From my vantage point, with help from the Arab Sprng, in Arab Detroit, it is only a matter of time before our government, whether white, black, democrat or republican or? will see the light at the end of tunnel and there is a Palestinian state. It may come sooner than later.

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