Why Stones Matter: On Palestine ‘Solidarity’ and ‘Sumud’

Guest contribution by Alexander Abbasi

“Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground.”

— Sara Ahmed

I was thinking of the Palestinian concept of sumud recently in relation to the notion of “solidarity”. Why do we call it Palestine “Solidarity”? How does sumud play a part in our solidarity, or actually act as our solidarity?

Sumud is an Arabic word that translates to “perseverance through staying” or “steadfastness.” Contextually in Palestine, it has developed into an ideology of resistance over the decades by way of persisting on the land, not leaving it, clinging to it by any and all means necessary. With a rock in one hand and mother Falasteen underneath you.

The etymology of the word solidarity contains at least two sub-roots: “solid” and “arity.” Solid can be defined as “firm, whole, undivided,” and “to be solid” visually implies the notion of a rock or stone — a symbol familiar to Palestinians and many indigenous resistors. To be solid is the action of being firmly grounded.

In relation to mathematics and philosophy, “arity” can regard the number of arguments or factors that a function takes on, and also deals with notions of inference and relationality. When we put “arity” in motion it takes on the meaning of “relationality in regards to arguments/factors.”

This makes for a more thorough literal definition of solidarity as “the relational argument or factor of staying firmly grounded.” This breakdown allows us to realize that the notion of sumud is closely tied to solidarity. For to be grounded is to be relational to the land and the conditions of the people of the land. Our hands are tied to the very rocks we use to resist.

Sumud is solidarity: to be intimately linked to the earthly mother that provides us hope, life, and grips the actual dream of homeland in fearless sumud, a perseverance leading to dream actualization, through thick and stone.

Similarly, solidarity is sumud: we act in accordance with those who are steadfast here and everywhere. We listen to the demands of those who are persistently staying, and act upon those demands knowing that our groundedness is what makes the struggle not about the ego or individual, but about the ultimate needs and desires of the land, the yearnings of Palestinian return, the thirsty nectar of the fig and olive, and the fiery stones of the conscious collective.

The Palestinian struggle, both in terms of being on the earthly ground in Palestine and also those of us abroad who are indeed in solidarity, can in many ways be described as a solidarious sumud.

Those of us abroad stand steadfast in relation to our place in the struggle, while those in Palestine stay grounded, as sumud and solidarity link arms towards liberation and decolonization. The stones of our beloved Falasteen act as the flying vehicles of solidarious sumud, the carpets that guide us to our return.

Similar to the struggles we live to die for, solidarity, sumud, and stones all seek to smash borders. They seek to smash Zionism, and all forms of death-affirming supremacy.

Like the spirit of our struggle, solidarity, sumud, and stones know no borders, and breathe life forever.

In this way, we must inhale deeply and shout:

Death to Zionism! Long live the intifada!
Death to Zionism! Long live the intifada!
Death to Zionism! Long live the intifada!

The intifada becomes the reawakening of sumud, groundedness literally shaking off its dust and utilizing solidarity’s energy to uplift the righteousness of the intifada itself, and its freedom-bearing stones.

Alexander Abbasi

Alexander Abbasi is a Palestine solidarity activist and graduate student at Harvard University. He works toward a world without borders, and finds home on the margins, in sumud and solidarity.

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