The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) & Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East (LFPME) hosted a seminar at the House of Commons on 24th February 2016. The event focused on the obstacles Palestinian advocates face when criticising Israel and its policies. The discussion looked at how the Palestinian narrative is distorted in order to depreciate efficacy and obstruct the peace process.
The event was hosted by Grahame Morris MP, Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East (LFPME) and chaired by Sameh Habeeb, Head of Media and PR at the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC). Speakers included:
Jonathan Rosenhead, Chair of British Committee for Universities of Palestine, talked about the limits to public discussion of Palestinian issues, academically and in the media. In these discussions, criticism of the Israeli government is wrongly portrayed as anti-Semitism. Palestinians, he said, are selectively misrepresented in the media and there is no adequate pressure to correct the bias reporting that has taken place. Moreover, there is currently an emphasis on what he called “lawfare approach to Palestinian advocacy”, with states in the US, Canada, and the UK trying to officially condemn BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) as an offense.
Dr. Kamel Hawwash, British-Palestinian Professor & Vice-Chair of Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, talked about how Palestinians should have the right to challenge Israeli propaganda without fear. He explained how Israeli propaganda attempts to turn the struggle in Palestine into a religious conflict. However, the truth is that any population have the right to resist their oppressors. He affirmed, “we, Palestinians, didn’t choose our occupiers; the occupier chose our homeland,” in order to clarify that Palestinians are not fighting against the Jewish people because of their identity, but they are resisting the occupation of their lands by Israel and would be doing so whatever the identity of the occupier was. There is a difference between “acts of terror” and “acts of resistance” he further added.Leah Levane, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) addressed the question: Is Israel speaking on behalf of the entire Jewish people? Although Israel claims to speak for all Jewish people, there are numerous groups of Jews both within Israel and around the world who are against the discriminatory policies of Israel against the Palestinians. The Jewish values, including the principle of welcoming a stranger, are not reflected in Israel’s oppression against the Palestinians. She concluded that under international law, Israel’s occupation has to follow the rules set out in the Geneva Conventions. Therefore, there is no justification for the ill-treatment of Palestinians and other illegal practices by Israel.
Peter Tatchell, International Human Rights Campaigner and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, discussed how Israel uses claims of anti-Semitism to silence campaigners for Palestinian rights. He explained how pro-Israelis accept no criticism of the Israeli government’s policies and they turn that criticism into allegations of anti-Semitism. Tyrannical regimes and occupying forces around the world were condemned by the international community, so why should the Israeli occupation be different and stand beyond the standards that are applied all over the world? The systematic targeted campaigns to intimidate campaigners and academics who speak out against the brutality and illegality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine show that Israel wants to close down the debate.