Convening for Palestine

Delegate Feroze Mithibowala at the conference.

Delegate Feroze Mithiborwala at the conference.

December 8, 2014, Crescent-online

Beirut, Eva Bartlett:
As the Zionist state increasingly and openly reveals its criminal, genocidal nature, more and more citizens from around the world are waking up and standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice. Activists, academics, journalists, unions and ordinary people are confronting the lies of Zionist propaganda, rendering the Zionist narrative weak and its genocidal, colonial agenda opaque.

Rather than leaving the issues of justice, the return of Palestinian refugees, the release of Palestinian Political Prisoners from Zionist jails, the Palestinian just struggle for sovereignty, and ending the siege on the Palestinians of Gaza to institutions and governments, Palestinians and supporters take matters into their own hands, among other actions organizing conferences to share strategies and successes and build networks.

Over 80 delegates from around the world attended the Second “Global Convention of Solidarity With Palestine” in Beirut for two days of discussions (December 1-3), including delegates from Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, North America, Britain, Europe, Russia, Iran, among other nations. Notably, delegates from Gaza under siege and other areas of occupied Palestine were unable to make it to the conference due to the Zionist, and sadly the Egyptian, control of border crossings.

Special focus was put on the Zionists’ summer massacre of Gaza and on the ongoing assaults on Palestinians in al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the openly-admitted intent to Judaize Jerusalem and all of occupied Palestine.

“Two hundred thousand people came out to demonstrations to support Gaza. That’s even more than when Mandela was released,” said South African delegate Firoz Osman, of Media Review Network.

Indian peace activist and journalist, Feroze Mithibowali, said “The extremist face of ‘Israel’ is getting more exposed with these attacks on al-Aqsa mosque. There are Jewish fanatics who want to destroy al-Aqsa. Today we have al-Aqsa under threat, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem and Bethlehem under threat… because of the entire Zionist design of taking over all of historic Palestine.”

Some of the current troubles wracking Jerusalem, according to a resident and journalist, include Jewish colonists desecrating the Aqsa mosque and the continued excavations under al-Aqsa; the civilians, including many youths, injured by shrapnel and suffocating in tear gas at al-Aqsa and around Jerusalem, and the continued raids and arrests of Palestinian civilians. The Zionists continue to demolish Palestinian homes, and likewise continue their policy of not giving permits to Palestinians to build, pushing them to instead leave al-Quds, while illegal colonists continue expanding their colonies.

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Via satellite, Jerusalem-based Archbishop Attalah Hanna spoke on the importance of unity amongst Palestinian leadership and amongst Arab nations. He noted that “the conspiracy against Syria is serving Israel/Zionism,” and called for Arabs “to unite in defending Palestine.” As a pre-eminent leader representing Palestinian Orthodox Christians, Hanna’s call for unity extends across religious and political boundaries, and his emphasis on the war against Syria being tied to the Palestinian struggle brings light where media and propaganda shed darkness.

Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General, Sheikh Naim Qassem, also spoke, as did Hamas’ Gaza-based Ismail Haniyeh (via satellite), both praised the Palestinian Resistance and the resilience of Palestinian civilians during “Israel’s summer massacre of Gaza.”

“Palestine is the bedrock of Resistance… We support all forms of resistance that the Palestinians use. This is their legitimate right to confront their enemy.”

In his speech, Feroze Mithibowali noted the right-wing nature of the government in India but said there were still positive developments in India, with respect to Palestine. “At the time of the Gaza war, the government of India voted against Israel at the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

Among India’s population there has been a shift in public opinion, Mithibowali said.

“The last war on Gaza has led to a tremendous understanding in India, because of the fact that ‘Israel’ lost the war due to a combination of tunnels and twitter. This time even the corporate print and television media had to go against “Israel”. This is a breakthrough in India. In practically every town and city across India, there were pro-Gaza, pro-Palestine demonstrations. There was a continuous spate of protests across India.”

One action Mithibowali called for was to bring back Resolution 3379 at the United Nations, “which clearly stated that Zionism is racism. It was taken away at the time of the Oslo accords.”

Calling Zionism for what it is, racism, is a point that California-based activist Paul Larudee has been urging solidarity groups to adopt in their own mission statements. It is a massive irony that criticizing the criminal policies and actions of the Zionist state inevitably immediately results in accusations of being “anti-Jewish”, but that Zionism, which is racist to the roots, has not been more widely so-condemned.

Larudee’s speech focused on an example of concrete actions taken which are damaging a Zionist company.

ZIM, he said, is one of the biggest shipping companies in the world, and in North America it calls to ports all along the west coast of the US and Canada as well.

In August, during the Zionist massacre of Gaza, Oakland activists blocked ZIM from unloading or receiving cargo. “We decided that if they are going to stop ships to Gaza, we’re going to stop their ships,” Larudee said. “A few hundred people and sympathetic port workers stopped the ship from unloading, and sent it away without picking up cargo. ZIM lost millions of dollars, and lost customers, too.”

In September and in October, activists again blocked ZIM vessels. “The third ship didn’t even try to dock.” Similar actions took place in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Vancouver, Canada.

“This multi-billion dollar company decided not to send any more ships to the US west coast. This is a huge victory,” said Larudee, listing off other ports of call, which include ports in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, India, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Russia, Senegal, S. Africa, Venezuela, Turkey, the UK, among others.

Larudee pushed for delegates many who were from the named countries, to take similar action.

“If we destroy the multi-billion dollar company like ZIM, is that the end? Or do we have another company to destroy? And another after that…”

While this is just one company, in conjunction with other actions activists world-wide are taking, and with the growing awareness of the crimes of the Zionist state, “Israel” will feel more pressure than it ever has during its illegal 66 year existence.

Firoz Osman spoke on media efforts and the need to deconstruct the narrative of “Israel”, to change the lexicon used when referring to the Zionist state as well as to Resistance groups.

“It is the media that sensationalizes ‘Israeli’ fears and fictitious threats. Every time ‘Israel’ wants to go to war, you find they are talking about ‘anti-semitism’ and there is an exaggerated fear about so-called ‘muslim extremists’ and ‘terrorists’ like Hizbullah or Islamic Jihad.

Interestingly, as US activists were able to stop ZIM from unloading, South African activists were able to prevent Tzipi Livni from coming to South Africa, threatening to charge her with “crimes against humanity”. For criminals like Livni, Lieberman, Netanyahu and other Zionist warmongers, such threats are deserved and should be more widely issued.

A delegate from Senegal spoke of African solidarity with Palestine.

“After the 1967 war, many African countries severed ties with ‘Israel’, including Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, and Mauritania, at that time.”

He spoke of the need to intensify awareness-raising campaigns, to organize more lectures on Palestine in the African continent.

One larger campaign he said is in progress is readying to “send a ship to the prison of Gaza,” noting it will be a major occasion to mobilize media, thus raise awareness. The route would include Senegal, Mauritanian, Marrakesh, Algeria, Tunis, Egypt, Gaza.

Some of the decisions made at the conference include practical projects to support Gaza, particularly in its battered medical sector, with a special focus in helping rehabilitate Palestinians wounded in the summer massacre. Other support includes assisting students whose providers were martyred.

But the key issue of the sealed Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing remains one that needs far more discussion. Many delegates urged for stronger efforts to open the Rafah crossing—the sole non-Zionist-controlled crossing—to Palestinians permanently. At present, the Egyptian authorities keep Rafah sealed and reports say Egypt demolishing homes near Rafah and implementing a buffer zone. There are over 5000 Palestinians in Egypt who can’t return to Gaza because of Egypt’s closure of Rafah. Likewise, there are students in Gaza who can’t leave to continue their studies abroad, and many other Palestinians who need to travel via Rafah for various reasons but cannot.

Other key issues pertaining to Gaza include the rebuilding of the tens of thousands of Palestinian homes destroyed in this summer’s massacre, as well as those destroyed in the other two major wars on Gaza in 2008/9 and 2012.

The specifics of Gaza, Jerusalem, Zionist colonist and army violence against Palestinians, expanding illegal colonies aside, the overwhelming message from many delegates was the need for unity amongst political parties, the need to be more active in combating propaganda, and to not exclude neighboring countries and parties from analysis when discussing Palestine. Understanding and rejecting the war against Syria is critical, as is Syria’s support for Palestinians; the question of Palestinian liberation cannot be properly addressed without this understanding.

Ahmed Fouad, Deputy-General for the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), also spoke on the need for unity, noting, “The dignity and blood of our people comes first.”

The conference, with its many international and local delegates, was one of many important, anti-Zionism, anti-Imperialism conferences increasingly occurring around the world. Like-minded activists and organizations are coming together, building an alliance that can far better than ever support Palestinians’ struggle for liberation and justice.

As Firoz Osman said, “If there is no peace in Palestine, there will never be peace anywhere.”


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