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A new kind of Palestine solidarity — the Strike Debt analysis

Roadside insurance billboard in the West Bank. (Tidal)

Roadside insurance billboard in the West Bank. (Tidal)

When I was first asked to participate in the drafting of a solidarity statement for the latest issue of the Occupy movement journal Tidal, I was apprehensive. Solidarity statements rarely make for great literature; worse, they tend to follow a rather tired and jargon-filled mold that leaves little chance of being more than an empty gesture. But at the time I was in the midst of finishing an essay on my recent travels with the Jenin Freedom Theatre — which appeared at WNV as “What I Learned About Empire in the West Bank” — and my head was swirling with the very specific intersections between the U.S. past, the U.S. present and occupied Palestine. So I became involved.

What came out of those meetings, those email chains, those conversations, far surpassed what I’d expected. “Colonizer as Lender,” which appears in the new issue of Tidal released today, benefits from the months of hard thought and work that has gone into the Strike Debt project — the project that brought us the Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual and the Rolling Jubilee. Through this lens, the statement was able to draw very clear connections between the economic structures imposed under Israeli occupation and those that entrap the 99 percent everywhere in the United States and the world; different in degree and context, but not entirely different in kind.

The public debt of the Palestinian Authority is approaching $5 billion—as much as 70 percent of GDP—and more than $1 billion of that is external debt. For an economy still heavily dependent on foreign aid, this volume of public-sector indebtedness is alarming. Household debt has also skyrocketed, largely because relatively new bank lending programs are being used to finance homes, cars, marriages, computers, and educations. So, like almost everywhere else, an ever larger share of personal income and government revenue is being swallowed up by debt service. All over the globe, debts are imposed and manipulated for the sake of social control, but this is all the more true for a people under siege in a struggle for self-determination.

Debt not only helps one understand the problem, but to think about means of remedy:

The psychology of debt impels us to think at every level about who and what Palestinians owe. But since we refuse to value fellow human beings by their relationship to capital, we should be asking the opposite question. We owe to Palestinians at least what we demand for ourselves: freedom from occupation, freedom from new forms of colonization, freedom to return to, inhabit, and live in a territory which we or our parents and grandparents called home, without annexation, without financialization, without exclusion, without pollution, and without the destruction of the common resources that nurture and sustain life.

Read the complete statement, hot off the presses, at TidalMag.org.