The past weekend, we had a conference over two days attended by over 200 people from around the world. The Conference addressed issues of Israeli colonialism, occupation, and racism. It was held in the Paradise Hotel in Bethlehem, a scene of previous Israeli attack that severely damaged this beautiful hotel. In workshops and panels we heard from distinguished activists like Omar Barghouti (PACBI), Shawan Jabarin (AlHaq), Ameer Makhoul (Ittijah), Jamal Juma’ (Stopthewall.org), Shir Hever (AIC), Dalit Baum (WhoProfits), Ingrid Jaradat Gassner (Badil), Michael Warschawski (AIC), and many more. It was a very productive meeting with significant networking accomplished and plans for coalition building, for enhancing the growing BDS movement, for support of the people of Gaza and Jerusalem, and more. (see http://www.jai-pal.org/content.php?page=816 )
The meeting came at a critical and difficult period of our history when there is a confluence of events:
– The ramification of the Goldstone report and growing calls not only to hold Israeli leaders accountable for specific acts that amount to war cries and crimes against humanity (e.g. in Gaza) but to clearly identify Israel as the racist, colonial state at its core (from which emanates all these atrocities tat include ethnic cleansing).
– The intensified Israeli assault on the AlAqsa compound and the whole of the Holy City of AlQuds/Jerusalem in a final push to Judaicize the city and erase Arab Christian and Muslim heritage. Home demolitions, denial of basic rights of residence, denial of rights of worship and movement, and outright military assaults on the “city of peace” belie a culture of impunity and disregard for International law that has been allowed to grow. Leaders of Western, Arab, and Islamic world meanwhile oscillate between outright facilitation of the atrocities to collaboration to indifference (and I am not sure those are distinct or meaningful categories). Many of us began to think that should Israel destroy the holy sites and build a Jewish temple in its place, we would see merely a few more declarations and statements. [Stand-up for Jerusalem is new website to help families being ethnically cleansed http://www.standupforjerusalem.org/ ]
– Self-created weaknesses. The continued split between Gaza and the West Bank with two “authorities” in essence as if two wings of the prison are being ruled by separate prison factions while the jailer is happy watching the prisoners waste time cursing each other. I looked into this and read and interviewed many people. My thought is that it is essential to speak the truth regardless of which prison section we are in. I noted that both leaderships stated things that are patently untrue about the reality of what transpired over the past three years. But also both ignored the fact that this situation is directly related to the original and huge mistake of signing Oslo and going down the path that led to an “authority” whose job it is to control the local population while the occupation remains. It is far better to simply state NOW that Oslo was supposed to be an interim 5 year arrangement, it is now 16 and it is time to declare it dead. Let us not bicker about “elections” in the West Bank and Gaza and instead make an agreement to dissolve those authorities and implement the agreement already signed by all factions on the revival/reactivation of the PLO. If we want to have more courage, these factions would take a political initiative like supporting the one state solution. We will explore these issues in the Arabic newsletter sent to those who indicated interest/wanted to be subscribed.
– The logarithmic growth of the boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) movement (see http://www.bdsmovement.net )
ACTION 1: Join the Gaza Freedom March http://www.gazafreedommarch.org
ACTION 2: Petition to create special tribunal for Israeli war crimes (33,300n already signed)
ACTION 3: Join PACBI Listserve to stay abreast of academic and cultural boycott issues
ACTION 4: Campaign to free Palestinian prisoners held in Egyptian jails, at least one of whom was clearly tortured to death (Arabic)
* Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD, A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home. Author of Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle. http://qumsiyeh.org