The topic that I am supposed to speak on is the strategic outlines of a Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Well, I don’t represent the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and there is no one individual that does or even a few, it really doesn’t have any unified leadership and it either has many leaders or no leaders, take your choice. But what I can do is to give some impressions from my own experience of what actually is happening with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
First of all, I will say that I have been with this issue since 1965 and during the period of the first Intifada and the events since then, I have never seen Palestine solidarity as strong as it is today. Obviously it needs to be a lot stronger. We have a long way to go but it is very encouraging where we are now. Some of the accomplishments in the last few years are of course the sea and land convoys. The first two small boats in which I was involved that went in there in 2008, my God that you have Galloway, you have Code Pink going by land convoys and you had a Libyan attempt and an Lebanese attempt by sea and so on and so forth, *this has turned into a mass movement this is wonderful. And you then have the BDS campaign that has progressed far faster than the BDS campaign in South Africa, its really making remarkable progress. You have for example the sanctions against Israeli leadership in terms of legal sanctions and travel restrictions. And not just against the leadership, I’m sure that many of you know that a list of 200 Israeli soldiers and officers all the way from Gabi Ashkenazi one of the top generals in the military, down to the level of sergeant they were put on a list of potential war criminals. These people don’t know if they are going to be able to travel abroad and for Israelis, for them their vacation abroad, you’re touching something sacred for them. So we are making them very uneasy and that is not a bad thing.Then you have what Mads Gilbert was talking about earlier, the way the Norway has become a real centre of solidarity. And here in the UK, you have Andy Slaughter and Jeremy Corbyn and others. We haven’t quite reached there in the US I’m sorry to say so my congratulations to you for having these members of parliament. We have had Cynthia McKinney who is wonderful but there is a reason why she is no longer in congress. But we are definitely making progress, so these are all good things that are happening in terms of the solidarity movement. Its growing in importance and we know how important the solidarity movement was in toppling the apartheid regime in South Africa, I think that everyone agrees that the solidarity movement can play that kind of role in helping to liberate Palestine and defend Palestinian human rights. However, as I said I’m a troublemaker and one of my favourite Greek philosophers was Diogenes. Diogenes was well known as very skilled in delivering insults, he was very good with insults. One of his famous types of insult was to carry a lantern in broad daylight and go around holding the lantern to a face of a person, looking at them, then say no and walk away. If he was asked what he was doing, he said he was looking for an honest man. Which he never found of course, no one qualified. Some years ago I saw a cartoon where Diogenes actually finds an honest man and the comment he says in the cartoon is “well yes that’s great but I was sort of hoping for a taller honest man”.And I have to say that’s a criticism I have of the Palestine solidarity movement. We tend to be very, very judgemental of each other and all the movements that we have in the group. That is to say, “well I don’t want to work with that person, I don’t want to work with that group, I don’t want to work with so and so” Why? It could be a variety of reasons, it could be personal, it could be based on principle, there are plenty of principles to go around that we can choose from. One state vs two state, Zionists advocating for Palestinian rights vs non-Zionist/Anti-Zionist, or those who believe that the immigrant Jews in Palestine must all leave and others who feel that it must be a democratic state and those who were born there and lived all their lives should stay. Am I touching on some sensitive points here, are these points of concern? Yes, and they divide us. I would say that when we are victorious as the Tunisians were yesterday, all of these differences will have no meaning at all. Because the Tunisians had the same differences, all kinds of communist and Muslim movements, all kinds of things in Tunisia, but when it came to overthrowing the government and declaring people power, they were one. So let’s not let these things divide us, when we do that we are cooperating with Israel. Israel is very happy to see us divided and guess what, they are not just standing by as spectators, they are going to try to make it happen and they probably are, they’re probably a part of making it happen. So my advice is, let’s get over it, maybe we don’t like the people that we are working with but let’s work with them anyway for strategic reasons because we have a mission. This is one suggestion I have.So where do we go from here? One criticism of the movement is that, are things better for Palestinians today than they were before we had these successes with the movement. Obviously not, they’re much worse today but let’s remember history a little bit. We were in the same situation with the anti-apartheid movement, if you take 1988 as a pivotal year if you like. In 1987 South Africa passed the emergency laws and those were the most repressive. Everybody said, this regime in South Africa is never going to give up, they are going to persist no matter what we do, it might take 50 years. Well it wasn’t 50 years, it was two years. Why, because it was their last card. So I think that part of the reason that Israel is being so repressive is because we are getting somewhere. And not the one who is saying it, it’s the Israelis who are saying it, it’s the Reut institute of strategic studies that advises the government. Last year in January then again in August, they introduced the term which we all know, ‘delegitimization’ they accuse us of delegitimizing Israel. Well, I’m sorry I don’t think we are that powerful, I just don’t think we have the resources, I think Israel is doing a very good job of delegitimizing itself, all you have to do is listen to five minutes of Mads Gilbert’s talk to understand how they’re delegitimizing themselves. But we can carry the message and we can make the point and that’s what we are about.What is Israel doing in order to undermine us, well one example of what they are doing to undermine us is banning of 163 organisations, including the Palestinian Return Centre. My congratulations to the Palestinian Return Centre for making the list. They are going to do this and what are we going to do in return? Are we going to be intimidated or are we going to continue and push back. My own opinion is that our successes are because we challenge Israel, we challenge Israel every way we can, as often as we can and if it turns out to be ineffective we move onto something else and we challenge again. That’s why we are not stopping with boats for example, I think that boats may run their course and it may not get the attention anymore and we may not get into Gaza anymore and so forth. So our proposal is to try an aircraft, to fly into Gaza. Its been done by land, its been done by sea, lets try by air. When we made it into Gaza on the first voyage we talked about a couple of hot air balloons in order to go from Gaza to Al Khalil in order to assert the Palestinian right to travel within their own country, why not?We also have a proposal for what we are calling the ‘Return From Exile Project’. Where Palestinian citizens of European countries, the UK and others, maybe from North America, South America and Africa. We will get together and fly from different points around the world all into Lydda or otherwise known as Ben Gurion airport, all on the same day a hundred of us and we will declare that we are there to return to our homes and refuse to be deported and we will pack the jail, I’ve been in the jail so I know it only takes forty people, it won’t take a hundred. So we will make trouble and we will get the attention of people, eventually and hopefully the world will have what South Africa had in 1988. For example they had the concert at Wembley Stadium, 100,000 people attended that concert by Pink Floyd, Roger Waters and Annie Lennox was there, major artists. People who know nothing about Palestine, who not only if you can’t figure out whether they’re an honest man but their height is all wrong. They know nothing about Palestine but they are opposed to Israeli policy. This is what we need, we need lots of support from people who know nothing about it but they care. This is when things will change for us, this is when it will be our Tunisia moment. So this is the direction in which we need to go.So first of all we must not allow ourselves be intimidated, secondly we must work together and we must recognise that our success means that the whole project may be taken out of our hands and be in the hands of somebody else but we win. We have to press every advantage that we have to empower. One of the things that has happened in the last couple of years is that we are empowering ordinary citizens to take control and to challenge Israel, this is very important. I was reminded as I was saying to Dr Salman the other day, in 1999 some of you remember that when Faisal Husseini died in that year and his body was brought for burial to Jerusalem, how many Palestinians came to his funeral? How many, ten thousand, twenty thousand, thirty thousand, one hundred thousand. Did anybody show their huwiya, their ID card when they went to Jerusalem? Are you kidding? The Israelis had to stand aside and let them come in. This is the power of getting a lrage number of people together and this is exactly what Israel fears. If its not just Palestinians but its solidarity people from all of the world who are participating with Palestinians, how much more powerful is that. This is what we need to do, this is our job, we were already making progress and we can still make progress. If in 1988 it took only two years for apartheid to fall in South Africa, who cares if it takes four years for Israel to fall now. Thank you.