An activist is a person who feels strongly about a cause and who is also willing to dedicate time and energy towards advancing and realizing this cause. This might be my own limited interpretation of what activism means. I was born and raised in a
Activists in my refugee camp, whether they're identified as Islamist, secularist, socialist or any other name, ensured the community remained unified in the face of adversity. They did not always succeed, but efforts abounded. Activists provided sustainable community support to families with sons and daughters that were killed in clashes or incarcerated in Israeli prisons. They rebuilt people's homes after they were demolished by Israeli dynamites or bulldozers. Some activists even offered free haircuts to those who couldn't afford them.
Activism, as I understood it, was largely a unifying, pro-active force that kept the struggle and resistance alive. It was the ingredient that allowed the Palestinian people to maintain their relevance to the conflict, despite the brutality of their enemy and the self-serving nature of their elites.
The elitism in Palestinian society led to a breakdown in unity, culminating in the bloody consequences of the Fatah-Hamas clash. Still, despite all the attempts to undermine it,
When I left the refugee camp, my true culture shock was in witnessing the lack of a real sense of community in the places where I lived. These were mostly in Western societies, bustling cities full of nameless people trying to advance their own lot in life, or, in the case of working-class people, to survive. Due to the nature of my work, I also traveled to numerous countries in
In poorer societies, entire communities can in fact be classified as "activists". They don't necessarily have websites or hold regular meetings. Some draw their strength from holy books, ancient philosophies or traditions. Their dialectics are often straightforward rather than academic. A child from
While organizing in support of the Palestinian struggle is not an easy task in most Western societies, it is still an essential one.
Over the course of the last 15 years, I have come across some of the world's most passionate, compassionate and sincere individuals. I can only express good things about that. But I have also become disheartened and disappointed. "Leftist" groups insist on placing
Of course, there is nothing wrong with diversity of opinion. But when diversity becomes polarizing to this extent, the entire project loses its original value. The public disagreements may stimulate academic discussion, but they can be demoralizing and alienating when it comes to actually bringing change.
I myself strongly believe that the pro-Israel lobby has the upper hand in
Activism should not be bound by mere personal affiliation, and nor should it unreservedly embrace or accept ideological dogmas. An activist is an ambassador to his cause; yes, he or she must be morally focused, but there should also be a willingness to serve as a unifying force, and to strategize and organize accordingly.
The day our publications, newsletters, websites, conferences and rallies include all sorts of opposing views, without slander and intimidation, will be the day that we can be sure a cohesive community of activists is in the making, a community able to achieve good things. Without this, no campaign will be effective enough to make major policy shifts, in Washington or anywhere else.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Watch Aljazeera's documentary about my latest book: My Father was a Freedom Fighter: