By IAW Organizing Committee – Gaza
Israeli Apartheid Week took place in Gaza City and was a huge success with many attendees from Gaza of all ages benefitting from a mix of events including talks from some of the most renowned and visionary scholars and activists, films and interactive video conferences.
These were held over 11 days from March the 7th beginning with a day dedicated to Israel’s apartheid system and the similarities with the struggle against the South African Apartheid regime during the latter half of the 20th Century. Resurfacing throughout the week were the themes of apartheid, racism, the important role of international civil society with the boycotts divestment and sanctions movement and equal rights for all in one democratic state.
At a time when visions for a future Palestine are lacking or based on the false and meaningless solutions still entrenched in the derelict Oslo process, new voices have come to the fore, the majority of whom are Palestinians who have developed a narrative that returns to international law, human rights, equality and justice.
Many of these voices were transmitted live to packed audiences in Al Quds Bank Association in central Gaza City, beginning with Naeem Jeenah who spoke directly from Johannesburg South Africa. His view was that the similarities were so close between his experience fighting the Afrikaaner’s apartheid regime and the Palestinian experience and resistance movement. A key factor in both was that at the core of the oppression was racism, and as the world has become accustomed to expectations for human rights for all peoples, so the world must act as they did for South Africa. He spoke of the 3 pillars that characterize the nature of South Africa’s and Israel’s apartheid system of control and 4 pillars of resistance.
He said that hope came from the fact that the successful international boycott divestment and sanctions strategy against Israel was developing much faster than that which successfully helped to end the oppressive South Africa regime in 1994. He also stressed the importance that Palestinians reject the 2-state solution or South African ‘Bantustans’, which would bring no justice and only legitimize apartheid even more. This analogy was brought home by the documentary ‘Roadmap to Apartheid’ shown, which exemplified all the sickening detail of how one race imposed with horrific violence its supremacy over the perceived ‘other’.
The Israeli Historian and author of the ground-breaking book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine Ilan Pappe, spoke eloquently of the explicit intentions of the Israeli regime to expel, isolate and besiege the indigenous Palestinian Arabs and erasing their historical ties to the land. As someone who had grown up in a Zionist family surrounded by this narrative that for so long had concealed the Palestinian narrative and deceived the world and his own people, he described his journey to reject Zionism as racist and oppressive. His clarity came from his research into first hand Israeli testimony as to what should become of the Palestinians to make way for an exclusively Jewish state. Like Naeem he was an advocate of one democratic state in Palestine, saying the two state solution was now defunct and would only lead to a more entrenched apartheid. In fact he stated that the situation now was one state, being run by a tyrannical regime that systematically discriminated against over half the population of Palestine and another 6 million Palestinian refugees in forced exile.
On the Wednesday was the film “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” that showed the Irish Struggle against the British protestants who were attempting to consecrate their colonization as Israel has continuously aspired to do. The battle against compromise was as explicit as for the Palestinian resistance which even now after 18 years is still hindered by the limits of the Oslo agreement of 1994.
On Thursday the “Family from Gaza” was a touching film showing the humanity and tragedy of a family in Northern Gaza who lost their house and their son Ibrahim. Their father who was badly injured lost his son in his arms, shot by Israeli soldiers in the Cast Lead attacks. He and his wife repeated a common anguish amongst Palestinians that they couldn’t do anything to protect their loved ones against the brutality of Israel’s attacks. At the same time he insisted on the importance of maintaining and respecting life of all peoples, even those who had killed his son.
Lubna Marsarwa, a passenger on the Mavi Marmara spoke about the difficulties facing the Palestinians in Israel and the escalating racist policies against them. She presented the new legislation and laws that prove that apartheid is entrenched in the legal and political structures in Israel. She said the left had died in Israel and rejected any hopes of its revival, hence the failure of joint campaigns that only consecrated the normalization of Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinians.
Rafeef Ziadeh, a Palestinian poet and activist, on a video conference from London, described the experience of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement abroad and the challenges ahead. She presented the importance of BDS activities in academic institutions. She said that in the beginning there were few expectations from the BDS movement, but the intensive activism that took place in approximately 120 institutions this year proves the effectiveness of BDS. She insisted on the importance of restoring the collective Palestinian identity.
Omar Barghouti, founding member of the Boycott National Committee (BNC) and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), also spoke on Saturday, 12.March, of the gains made over the past 2 years in isolating Israel through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). On an economic, academic, political and cultural level the boycott movement had begun to penetrate the Western mainstream and importantly had worried Israel to the point where Israeli policy makers and think tanks were seeing it as an ‘existential threat’. He stressed the importance of no compromise on international law and human rights as the BDS goal, reaffirming the 3 criteria for the BDS continue namely:
a. putting an end to Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and to dismantling the Separation Wall;
b. Israeli recognition of the fundamental right of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and for
c. Israeli respect, protection, and promotion of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
He made continuous calls for all international actors and civil society to bolster current BDS campaigns such as that against Veolia, Caterpillar, Motorola while maintaining the pressure on cutting academic and cultural ties with Israel institutions.
Ramzy Baroud emphasized the importance of reinvigorating the Palestinian narrative of history, not to only depend on Western and Israeli sources. He also insisted on the importance of recording the Palestinian history through the experiences and narratives of the ones who lived in Palestine before the Nakba and his story is a solid example of such efforts. As a Palestinian whose narrative in English has penetrated Western circles; he told the young people attending who can articulate the Palestinian issue in English that they should never play the victimized, reminding them they are heroes to the outside world. When you talk to the West he said, talk to them in their language which is what the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions principles adhere to.
– IAW Organizing Committee—Gaza contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.