Update On Palestine: Kia Ora Scoop People
By Damian Clarke
The European Social Forum (ESF) came to London over the weekend. It all kicked off on Thursday night for me when three Swedish girls arrived at my flat. One of them was with me im Palestine, the other two are her friends who had also been to Palestine with ISM. They slept in my room. I slept in the lounge. Cest la vie.
I missed the seminars on Friday since I needed to go to work, but I met up with people for dinner at an Edgware Road restaurant. It was something of a reunion really. I couldn't have imagined in September when I was marching through a line of Israeli soldiers in the olive groves of Budrus that I would be together again with four of the ISM people that were there so soon and in such a different place. Dinner was attended by four Swedes, one Brit, a Palestinian and of course one Kiwi. All had come for the ESF. One had gone to a bit more trouble getting there than the others. Guess which one.
After dinner we headed across london for an ISM function at a club there. The usual suspects from ISM London were there as well as some faces that I hadn't seen since being in Palestine. Of course everyone is eager to catch up and swap stories. Imagine a DJ spinning banging house music on one side of a partition while ISM people sit and strain to hear each other talk on the other. Luckily there were other people there who were dancing. I have to admit to abusing the dance area with my groovy moves for a short while though. Behind the DJ was projected video footage of an interview with Israeli Occupation Forces interspersed with cuts to olive groves, Palestinians and activists. Not your usual visuals at a club. Interesting though.
Saturday. I went to three seminars. The first one was entitled: "Palestinian Human Rights and International Law". The first speaker I saw was Jeff Halper who is a university lecturer in Israel and co-founder of the Israeli Campaign Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD). I worked for a day with ICAHD when I was in Palestine. Jeff Halper feels that "there has been a change globally in public opinion as regards Palestine". He also called for military sanctions against Israel. He pointed out that "Israel produces 12% of the worlds arms". Israel is the fifth biggest arms producer "after the United States, Russia, China and the European Union".
The Palestinian General Delegate to the UK; Afif Safieh also spoke. He was also positive regarding public opinion in Europe but not so happy with US politics: "from the Palestinian perspective, both the presidential candidates for the Whitehouse look very unappetising". In another US reference he called for the gathered to "help us my friends, so that we are not the red indians of the twentyfirst century". Another speaker for the Free Marwan Barghouti Campaign pointed out that "almost half of the (Palestinian) males between sixteen and forty years old have been to prison". It also turns out that Marwan Barghouti's arrest was illegal since he was arrested from "Area A". Under the terms of the Oslo agreement Area A is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. Marwan Barghouti was kidnapped by Israel.
Dr Mustafa Barghouti from the Health, Development and Information Project spoke of three processes being carried out simultaneously by Israel in Plaestine: occupation, colonial settlement and the creation of an apartheid system. He told us that the Israeli Knesset has just begun discussing a new law that will allow exclusive towns and cities to be reserved only for Jewish Israelis. There are 1.3 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens who will face further racial and religious discrimination if this goes ahead. He called for sanctions against Israel "for the sake of Palestine and Israel".
The second seminar was entitled "The Apartheid Wall: Palestinian Resistance and European Solidarity". Jamal Jumah spoke first. He explained the proposed path of the Apartheid wall to people. It will divide the West Bank into three pieces and isolate the West Bank from the Jordan river. He alerted us to the fact that Israel is building new Industrial estates in their newly annexed West Bank territory and have hired 300,000 foreign workers to work in them. This is happening in Palestine while the unemployment rate of Palestinians in Palestine is going through the roof.
Nasif Hader (I'm not sure of the spelling) spoke of the problems that his people were having accessing their agricultural land because of the apartheid wall. He also said "we don't want aid. This is not what we are about. This is why we returned the food that the USA sent. We want political support".
A British MP also spoke. Jeremy Corbyn said that there are "things that we can and must do"; end arms trade with Israel, expel Israel from the European football association, suspend the Eurpoe/ Israel trade agreement and make it illegal for European companies to invest in Europe. I would love to see New Zealand lead the way in the world in these matters as we led the way with our antinuclear policy.
The last seminar I attended was called "Workers in Palestine in the Context of the Occupation". The first speaker I saw (I was late getting there) was a Palestinian woman called Minerva (again- not sure of the spelling). She is from the Palestinian Working Womens Society. She talked mainly about ways that Palestinian women can combine two struggles, the social struggle and the national struggle. She also said that "informal and casual work increased dramatically in the four years of the intifada". This really means that full time waged and salaried work decreased dramatically. Everyone seems to be calling for sanctions against Israel. Vernon Regan of the National Union of Teachers called for us to "build a colossal campaign of sanctions against the Israeli state".
On Sunday was a big antiwar march through London. People from all over Europe from all sorts of groups were represented. There were chants in French, Spanish, Italian and Greek, and that was just from what I could hear from where I was positioned.
The forum ended for me with another party in a club in London put on by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. There were graphics of the Palestinian flag waving behind the band who played some sort of Eastern hip hop fusion. I can't describe it too well, but it sounded cool. I met a lot of the London and Palestine ISM people at the club and said goodbye to the Swedish ISM people at the tube station. Then the weekend was over and I could go home and catch up on sleep. Maybe I'll catch up on that sleep tomorrow- this e-mail has taken me a lot longer to write than I anticipated!