My political education in Palestinian Intifada

Kamal Boullata

When I became active in Palestinian solidarity at the University of Minnesota after the 1967 war, it was a handful of Arab foreign students & myself. None of them were Palestinian–although it was a lone Palestinian picketer at the student union who drew me to the movement. They all came from quite wealthy backgrounds (& returned to those backgrounds) & their political perspectives were more conservative than my own. It was pre-feminist movement days & I once had to put my foot down about meeting in a local strip joint to discuss activities. But we worked out our collaboration to good purpose.

At one point, Jerusalem-born Palestinian artist Kamal Boullata held an art exhibit at the University. He is a profoundly intellectual man & was (& I believe remains) an activist who spoke, wrote, & contributed substantially to creating political art & posters for the movement. It was from Kamal’s commitment & explanations that I began to understand deeply what the Palestinian struggle was all about. Though he had long been in diaspora, there was no detachment in his politics, which had been an issue in the U of M group. I doubt if my commitment would have been sustained without what I learned from him.

As an aside to this story, I moved to NYC in 1970 for the women’s movement & kept up Palestinian activism at NYU where I worked. Zionist organizations called a Sunday morning rally in the Wall Street area & Palestinian groups called a counter-protest. The rally was massive with hundreds of Zionists & a handful of Palestinians plus myself behind a police barricade across the street. Without provocation, the police came after us with billy clubs. It felt like I was in some kind of space warp as I watched police beating the hell out of the Palestinians, including chasing them down into the subway & continuing to pummel them mercilessly. Though I was in the midst of the counter-protest, the police never even looked at me, probably assuming I was an accidental participant. All of them were injured; I walked away scot-free but traumatized.

I still have a collection of Kamal’s political posters which have historical & current political value. When I retrieve them from storage, I will find a fundraising event to offer them for the children of Gaza.

(Photo is one of Kamal’s current art works)