To whom is the award granted – and why?
The decision to launch this award derived from the natural right to self-determination for all people. It is a right supposedly enshrined in the modern world but one which is frequently abandoned by world powers when it does not suit their political and economic agendas.
Similarly, the award was inspired by the right of oppressed people to resist – to resist the occupation of their lands by colonial and imperialistic forces and to resist displacement from their homelands. This resistance is not an abstract political ideology fed to the oppressed by those seeking to manipulate others for their own aims, as is often claimed by the world’s leaders, but the reality of resisting simply to survive, to retain dignity, to hold on to the land, property, and people on which the oppressed rely.
The Western world as we know it today was built upon the colonialism of the Arab world, Africa and beyond. European settlers committed genocide on indigenous populations in the Americas and Australasia, and now those lands bear the names given by those colonialists. While it might be taught that such tragic events are now confined to the history books, with modern resistance movements limited to the small indigenous populations still surviving and holding on to what little they have left – such as with Native Americans or Aboriginal Australians – there is, of course, an ongoing process of colonialism and resistance still in process. The theatre for this conflict is Palestine, and its occupier is the Western-backed state of Israel.
The ideology and practice of Zionism has followed a similar path to those earlier European colonialist projects. The movement of Zionism grew from the horrors faced by Jews in Europe over centuries, horrors that culminated in the Holocaust. Zionism – the belief that Jews can only survive in their own ethically pure state – was initially a small movement within the Jewish community, but grew exponentially following the attempted genocide committed by Germany under the Nazis.
After the Second World War, anti-Semitism was still rife in Europe – and Britain saw a perfect opportunity to both retain its control of Palestine, of which it was colonial master, while encouraging Jews to leave Europe. As such, the state of Israel was created in 1948 in Palestine, resulting in the expulsion of Palestinians from their land and the creation of, as one British parliamentarian put it, the creation of a “little Jewish Ulster” in Palestine – a reference to how Britain held control of Ireland through its relocation of Protestants to the island.
The rise of the US empire after the war saw it take a special interest in Israel, which gave it a foothold in the region. Israel would become its attack dog – it would have similarly aligned interests, stand up to anti-US forces, as it does to states like Iran today. It would also, however, have its own interests – which would sometimes cause problems for the US imperial project.
The myth of Palestine being the historical home of the Jews, and that this occupational force was itself an exercise in self-determination, came to become accepted wisdom in the West and beyond. Zionism attempted to re-write history and theology to ensure this story was the accepted truth.
The story grew to be that Palestine had been a Jewish homeland from pre-historical times, just as those justifying white colonialism made similar outlandish claims about white dominance of the world in such eras.
Traditional Palestinian clothing, foods and land were appropriated by Zionism as part of this retrospective rewriting of history – from Canaanite Palestinian dress to hummus.
However much the official history books of the Western world have maintained this story of Zionist legitimacy in what we now call the Middle East, Palestinians still live, survive and resist in their homeland. Every act of resistance – from militant reprisals to demonstrations to boycotts – are condemned by Western leaders and their media as being fuelled by racism, rather than the right to resist occupation.
Recognition of the state of Israel has now been accepted by states such as the UAE, and Saudi Arabia has long collaborated with the state of Israel, despite its hollow words of support for the Palestinian cause.
But the resistance to occupation continues – in the region, in the West and around the world. It is not based on hatred of Jews, as the slanderous Western powers hope the world will believe. It is based on justice and freedom – the values that those same states claim underpin their own very existence.
Our awards aim to shame those who claim to be Palestinian allies, but are instead on the side of their oppressors. In doing this, we want to show the world that resistance to occupation still exists – and, one day, will succeed.