Glasgow International Festival of Contemporary Art

An Anticolonial Call and Response for a Free Palestine

All Walls Will Fall

This is a sketch, a call-and-response, drawing out the links between education as an oppressive practice in the West, and education as a tool of anticolonial resistance in Palestine. It is in solidarity with Palestinian children who are at the forefront of liberating all children, as they liberate themselves.

Afnan, a 15-year-old student:

“All you hear in the news, is about the fears of the occupiers…they fear us if we walk to school, they fear us if we carry books, they fear women if they are pregnant, they fear our veils, they fear us if we are working together during the olive harvest, they fear our existence, and of course, if we will be educated, and we will tell the world about their atrocities, they would want us dead. Now you understand why I fear their acts? All they want is to imprison us, close our schools, block us from reaching our universities, and for Palestinian youth, educational institutions are the only source of support and solidarity. To summarise it to you, all they want is for us to die, a slow death.”[1]

What is education? What is the purpose of it? To develop and enable human flourishing? For whom? In the capitalist west, schools primarily serve a carceral function: the containment of children during work hours enables parents to be exploited as wage labourers. The school as a carceral space prefigures the prison in the life trajectory of the child; the school-to-prison pipeline is a reality for many, a way to manage surplus labour, surplus populations, surplus life. Here the University exists as a multi-million dollar factory of knowledge production and gate-keeping, preserving a racist, patriarchal and classist status quo.

But the Palestinian resistance, through revealing the colonial nature of the rest of the world, is transforming the fabric of colonial-capitalist realism before our eyes: the form of the university frays around the edges as Palestine solidarity encampments spring up; universities become traversed by barricades; liberated zones reveal the colonial demarcations of public space; students immerse themselves in histories of Palestinian and anticolonial resistance as they simultaneously fend off security apparatus and cops; kids walk out of schools, transform them. Libraries are renamed Refaat Alareer Library, squares renamed Walid Daqqa Square. Lecture theatres renamed after Shireen Abu Akleh. In Edinburgh, Arthur Balfour's portrait is defaced, recalling suffragette tactics. The students ironise and give the university its truer name: "Balfour University." School kids join the encampments, their voices are the loudest, a chorus of youth around the world calling for a free Palestine.

In our thousands in our millions, we are all Palestinians! In our MILLIONS in our BILLIONS, we are all Palestinians!

We hear the kids who lead these chants at the weekly demonstrations in Glasgow. Kids who have been at the vanguard of the Palestinian liberation movement, leading chants, giving speeches with a moral clarity that puts the circumspection and whataboutery of most adults to shame. The war on Gaza is a genocide of children, and children here are responding to the call of their siblings in Gaza, who, in the midst of genocide expressed their unextinguishable dignity as they gave a press conference outside of Al-Shifa Hospital calling on the world to end the killing. In responding to the plight of their siblings in Palestine, children here are rejecting what they are being taught in school, taking ownership of their own education and linking it to the call of other children. They seem to know instinctively the dialogical nature of knowledge production, that it is through communication and building relationships, call and response, that we learn education as the practice of freedom[2].

From Glasgow to Gaza, Globalise the intifada!

In our schools, the possibility of an anticolonial call and response was thought to be carefully insured against by the Prevent programme, itself developed from a colonial counter-insurgency strategy pioneered by the genocidal British in Malaysia. For racialised kids in Britain, the tools used against their ancestors in the colonial world are redeployed onto them in the imperial metropole as they express solidarity with Palestine. Palestine is making us realise the colonial nature of the rest of the world, gesturing towards a universal freedom, which would find expression in the freedom and happiness of children.

What about in Gaza where the structures for education (schools, colleges and universities) have been completely and systematically flattened? In Palestine, schools and educational institutions have long held liberatory functions. In the destruction of the systems for life, every effort is being made by the zionist entity to break Palestinian resistance. In the calculus of genocide it is not only the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of a people from the land but also all systems that make life possible on that land, healthcare, education, agriculture and so on.

As Mohammed El-Kurd writes: “...the world’s superpowers aid and abet our annihilation - explicitly, institutionally and materially - then berate us about the meaning of human rights and the myth of Israeli self-defence. We are, to them, an unfortunate complication of an otherwise acceptable status quo.”[3] But the spirit of steadfastness remains unbroken and the principles of Al-Thawabet remain, whether that is the persistent continuation of education by displaced Gazans, or the studying and achieving degrees within the Israeli carceral system; education grows like the little child that scratches out a plot by his displaced tent and plants out onions.

We watch a clip of a 23 yr old woman called Doa’a Qudaih setting up a classroom in a tent in Gaza. She calls it the “Peace & Freedom Class”. Kids cram in, sitting on rugs on the sand, colourful tinsel hanging up from the metal poles of the tent, there's a small green chalkboard hanging up at one end. All the kids, waiting excitedly to take a turn writing and drawing on the board with her.

Tasnem Auid, a young kid speaking in an instagram reel on 27 April says, "we decided to take advantage of the land we live on and cultivate it’. He sits on the ground outside a tent and shows us the earth; ‘the first thing we planted was onions. Then we planted corn.’ 8 videos later he updates us. ‘Friends, do you remember the plants we planted before? It started to grow, god willing, look at the corn and this onion. When the onions are ready I will harvest it and cook with the tastiest Palestinian Musakhan.’’

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, who was recently sacked from her post at Hebrew University, then imprisoned and tortured, interviews children for her 2010 essay on the Israeli ‘industry of fear.’[4] Hidaya speaks of her frustration with the west and Israel:

“How can the world live in peace when we suffer every single minute? I am sure they pay a high price. I am sure. See, every time they hear about our resistance, they feel weak … for they are weak. I believe that I, Hidaya, the very simple person, is much stronger than all of them, otherwise why would they send a tank, big computerised planes and machines to kill me. They fear the Palestinian child, and therefore we must stay strong, love each other, help and support the needy, and be educated. They fear educated people that can speak English and tell the world about their crimes.”

We realise more and more about the imperialist chokehold that attempts to strangle and suppress life in Palestine and in countless other countries worldwide through its mixture of brutality, aid and a nexus of deep entanglements with human rights frameworks that aim to suppress peoples movements to power through processes of NGOisation and planned de-development.[5] Their insidious nature is continually being exposed and ultimately cannot prevail. Palestinian martyr Nizar Banat: “NGOs defuse the resistance and your support to it. They dilute the root cause of oppression (settler colonialism) by focussing on the symptoms of colonialism (apartheid, inequality, etc.) as mere challenges related to ‘government’ policies that can be solved through protests and awareness.”

We think of the bombing of the bakeries, of food systems, of growers and processing and distribution centres leading up to the wholescale planned starvation of the entirety of the Gaza strip, the blockades to stop aid getting in, then the ‘aid-drops’ leading to the flour massacres - this removal of the means of production from people, so that they can better control and subjugate people in such a brutal and dehumanising way.

We listen to Bisan Ouda report on this in northern Gaza in early March where attacks on the infrastructure for the distribution of aid were targeted to halt not only the delivery of aid, but also to dismantle the very idea of mutual aid, solidarity and community - as the site of collective resistance within the Palestinian liberation struggle. From checkpoints in the west bank to choke points in Gaza, “asphixatory regimes of power”[6] suppress life in Palestine to a continual last breath and then attempt to distort the images of starvation, maiming and annihilation of a people, even going as far as to disavow their own genocidal speeches.

We notice this chokehold in the silencing of Palestinian-British surgeon and recently elected rector for the University of Glasgow, Ghassan Abu-Sitta, and his deportation from Germany and later France, in what seems to be a Schengen wide travel ban. He was going to testify as a witness to the genocide in Gaza where he worked as a surgeon for the now destroyed al-Shifa and al-Ahli hospitals.

We re-watch the video of kids holding a press conference outside Al-Shifa Hospital on the 9th November 2023. A group of children stand behind a table with lots of microphones on it, a young boy in the centre of the video reads from a scrap of paper, "since 7 October, we've faced extermination, killing, bombing over our heads – all of this in front of the world," one of the children said, first in Arabic then in English. "We came to Al-Shifa to seek shelter... we faced death again when they targeted the hospital."

We see it now exposed across our universities who send in their riot police and lawfare to stifle change and momentum because we are building, and people are learning fast.

This is the site of education, outside the institutions, in between the spaces where it is controlled, “where the eye acts as a weapon and vice versa”[7] (Eyel Weizman quoted in Mbembé).

We read about this unstoppable desire for knowledge in Wisam Rafeedie’s Trinity of Fundamentals, where the protagonist Kan’an undertakes the party’s directives to begin a secret clandestine life for the revolutionary movement, to organise and work from the confines of a room or a house. Despite the sacrifices of formal study: “You can quench your thirst for knowledge in any field you choose, right here between the walls. You do not need a university.”[8]

We listen to Yasmine from the Palestinian Youth Movement speak about how prisons in Historic Palestine are schools of liberation where the prison system becomes a site of resistance.[9] This is “the essential paradox that Israeli colonialism can scarcely grasp, much less overcome.”[10]

Mumia Abu Jamal, in May 2024: “I am speaking to you from the American system of mass incarceration, but what we are involved in right now is something called mass education. City College, Columbia, Emory, and USC are all part of that process right now. That education is about the repression that Gaza is suffering under. It is a wonderful thing that you have decided not to be silent…”


Moving beyond the Victorian idea of a school as a site for forming bodies, disciplining them into shape, now through schooling as a process of disciplining the disposition, enabling us in the west to make a life built on the disavowal of the oppression of the other, and on to what? Wherever schooling exists there exists a duty to find the ways forward to resist this conception of education. As Sandy Grande points out through Paulo Freire: “rather than using schools as a mechanism of social control and reproduction, Freire argued that education could be liberating even within the most limiting circumstances.”[12]

Activist Ahed Tamimi writes: “I imagined being able to move from city to city without being stopped at checkpoints. I imagined playing outside, maybe even on a real playground or an actual soccer field with grass, without armed soldiers interrupting my game. Instead I played in the streets and on hills and in front and back yards littered with the remnants of bullets and explosives marked ‘made in the united states’. It’s impossible to play without accidentally kicking or stepping on these artefacts.

But rather than feeling like defeated victims, we began collecting and repurposing these relics of war. We’d plant flowers in empty tear gas canisters. I’ve transformed bullets fired at us into necklace pendants, and gifted them to close friends. The fence in front of Janna and my uncle Bilal’s home is decorated with dozens of empty tear gas canisters, an unusual display that sends a message to the Israeli army that despite its attempts to literally choke and suppress us, we’re still standing. We strive to create life out of death, and we’ll continue to find beauty even in the ugliest parts of our lives.”[13]

“...the Palestinian national liberation struggle has electrified revolutionary movements worldwide.”[14] It is why the Black Panther Party published the poem Enemy of the Sun in George Jackson’s name after his assassination, when it was in fact a poem by the Palestinian Samih al-Qasim. It is why the disability justice movement is aligned with Palestine, why queer liberation is not possible without Palestinian liberation and so on.

The third intifada will be a cultural intifada.

Ahmed Tobasi: “Everyone has to resist in a way that they can…and for us in the Freedom Theatre, we choose to resist through art and theatre. And for us, the point is not to die. The point is to stay alive as long as you can, and bring your story and reality and the Palestinian reality everywhere on this planet.

And that’s what I mean, because I was in prison for four years, and I lost all my friends. All my friends, they have been killed. And for me, I was asking what we can do. And then I found the theatre, which made me stay alive until this moment. And then they were calling me a terrorist. Now they’re calling me an artist. And they buy my tickets and sit in my show and listen to my story, which is a Palestinian story. And when I finish, they clap to me, and they call me a Palestinian artist.”[15]

It’s Mayday. I save an image of a photo of two hands holding a copy of the ‘New York Roast’ newspaper by Page 48. Its headline reads ‘Bring Frieze to its Knees’, ‘Will the art world wake up?’ and in small writing in the bottom corner it says; ‘What will it take?’ It’s shared by @wawog_now (Writers Against the War on Gaza). The editors’ letters reads:

“While art enthusiasts from around the world attend Frieze 2024, Palestinians continue their courageous resistance as they enter the seventh month of the most escalated phase of genocide against their people. We, at Page 48, take inspiration from the resistance and we refuse Frieze’s fantasy world that propels the genocide forward by pretending it doesn’t exist while profiting off it at every turn.

In our first issue we said we believe artists should be supported in the creation of work that grounds itself in anti-colonial liberation and in an art/world that believes Palestine should be free. However, in a global art capital like NYC, where not a single arts institution has taken material steps toward Palestinian liberation, it is clear that we must take our commitment a step further. It’s time that we re-imagine what art means and where it can be created in a period of crisis and collapse. May artists make work that facilitates prison breaks. May we refuse the distinction between artwork and life-work. May we liberate learning from landlords. Bring Frieze to its knees. Free Palestine from the river to the sea.’’

Since the first intifada of 1987 in which a youth uprising of kids in refugee camps opened a new chapter in the history of the Palestinian resistance, youth have been leading the way. The Palestinian Youth Movement (“PYM”) is "a transnational, independent, grassroots movement of young Palestinians in Palestine and in exile worldwide" that has acted like a lightning bolt in producing a new anticolonial consciousness among western youth, of demonstrating that every anticolonial struggle involves deep circuits of transmissions between the colony and the imperial core.

"The old will die and the young will forget" so said David Ben Gurion, the founder of the zionist entity, in 1948. But in this, the zionist project has failed on its own terms. The youth did not forget, but instead carried the flame of historical memory from one generation to the next with a new incandescence. The gesture of throwing stones, a powerful and symbolic act of defiance, pioneered by teenage youth resisting zionist incursions, would later be embodied by leading Palestinian intellectuals – Edward Said was famously photographed throwing stones. In this way, he demonstrated that he was being led by the Palestinian youth, not their teacher but their successor. In repeating their gesture the youth who embodied a new will to resist, to fight, until we are all free.

15 hours ago. A video is shared of a rock hurtling through the sky, past olive trees and rubble, that a young boy has thrown. It takes down an Israeli drone.

[1] Shalhoub-Kevorkian, N. (2010) Palestinians, Education, and the Israeli “Industry of Fear”, Chapter 20 in Education and the Arab World ed. Mazani, A.E. & Sultana, R.G. p.343

[2] Freire, P. (2013) Education for Critical Consciousness, p.131.

[3] Mohammed El-Kurd - The Question (last accessed 14.5.24)

[4] Shalhoub-Kevorkian, N. (see note 1 above).

[5] See for example: Haddad, T. (2018) Palestine Ltd.: Neoliberalism and Nationalism in the Occupied Territories

Shafi, A. & Nagdee, I. (2022) Race to the Bottom - Reclaiming Antiracism

Shweiki, O. (2014) Before and Beyond Neoliberalism: The Political Economy of National Liberation, the PLO and ‘amal ijtima’i, Chapter 11 in Decolonising Palestinian Political Economy: De-Development and Beyond, ed. M. Turner & O. Sweiki

[6] Puar, J.K. (2017) The Right to Maim - Debility, Capacity, Disability, p.135

[7] Mbembé, J.A., & Meintjes, L. (2003). Necropolitics. Public Culture 15(1), 11-40., p.28

[8] Rafeedie, W. (2024) The Trinity of Fundamentals

[9] From an online ‘teach-in’ on Abolition and Palestine: (last accessed 14.5.24)

[10] Naser-Najjab, N. (2020). Palestinian Education and the ‘Logic of Elimination.’ Settler Colonial Studies, 10 (3), 311-330, p.325. (last accessed 14.5.24)

[11] Graffiti on the apartheid wall which divides Palestiains from their homes, land, hospitals, schools, family, other towns, and the holy city of Al Quds. @bintdisco Instagram post, 28.1.24

[12] Grande, S. (1964) Red Pedagogy: Native American social and political thought, p.24

[13] Tamimi, A. (2022) They Call Me A Lioness, p69

[14] Shafi & Nagdee, quoted above, p.121

[15] Ahmed Tobasi, Freedom Theatre (Dec, 2023) Democracy Now! Video (last accessed 19.5.24)

This text is written by the collective All Walls Will Fall as part of their research project for Glasgow International. More information on the project can be found here