One very powerful ways that communities mobilize is by choosing to not participate in powerful systems that are hurting them. This is what happens when workers hold a strike, when people remove their children from schools and teach them at home, or when they provide help to each other rather than asking the state to help them. Canadian activist and social worker Eric Shragge talks about these sorts of actions as being “oppositional,” meaning that they oppose existing power structures rather than working with them, and are often focused around the economic and social development of the community. One name that researchers give some of these practices is “pre-figuration,” meaning acting the way we would like to live in a better future and behaving as if that better future were already here.
In this video, Riham Assef talks about a very special time when her community in Palestine engaged in prefiguration, during the first Intifada.
A time when the community successfully worked together to create change or for a campaign, is for a cause that is very important for people in Beit Sahoor.
Especially here, where I am living, close to the historic town. Because in First Intifada, in 1987, an experience we still carry with us to this day. When the Intifada broke out and there was rebellion against the occupying forces, and all Palestinians stood together and resisted. We walked in a way that cut all ties with Israel. We threw out Israeli IDs. People held classes in their homes. We even grew and distributed our own their vegetables. Even when people were not allowed to walk outside, during the mandated curfews, people would go out and distribute things to their neighbors like milk. So the community as a whole experienced this.
My memories of this are right here—in this place. I was only 6 or 7 when this happened. I felt like something was truly right about this. I was right here in this house. And I felt like there was something right about this place. So maybe this is why I am back here to re-create this experience or the environment. It was a very positive experience. I don’t know if we can say this was a story of success or not. But at the time, there was a good chance the First Intifada was going to be a successful resistance to the occupation.