The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London held its second panel discussion as part of ‘Return Week III’ entitled “Building Global Movement for Palestine: International Solidarity”.
Chaired by Farrah Koutteineh, the online panel discussion focused on the intersection between the Palestinian struggle and international struggles and ways to mobilize the international community to speak up for justice.
“The Palestinian struggle is one which is deeply intertwined and interconnected with all struggles around the world seeking decolonization, liberation, equality, and justice”, said Farrah.
The first speaker was Prof. Mark Ayyash, the author of A Hermeneutics of Violence (UTP, 2019). He was born and raised in Silwan, Jerusalem, before immigrating to Canada, where he is now an Associate Professor of Sociology at Mount Royal University. He is currently writing a book on settler colonial sovereignty in Palestine/Israel.
Ayyash said the Palestinian struggle shows key elements of colonial modernity and the deep-rooted structural problems that colonial modernity left behind.
He tackled the notion of racial hierarchy inherent in the Zionist discourse, that human beings are being divided into superior and inferior races. “Zionists believe Palestinians are not real human beings and the entire colonization project is based on the dehumanization of Palestinians”.
In his view, there are differences between different forms of oppression, “but there is that fundamental ground from which that solidarity builds , where people across the world understand that Palestinian liberation means more than liberating Palestine but liberation for all of us who aspire for a better world”.
For the detailed program click here
The second speaker was Bernadette McAliskey, an Irish civil rights leader, and former politician. She served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Mid Ulster in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1974.
McAliskey said there are similarities between the Palestinian struggle and the Irish struggle. Progressives, nationalists, and human rights activists feel not just a political affinity with the cause of Palestine but a deep emotional connection.
According to her, historically, the conflict in Ireland as in Palestine and other areas have their roots “in colonization, in empire building, not only British expedition but the broad European project which was responsible for the genocide of against native populations in Africa and elsewhere”.
“There’s a duty on all of us to build a global movement around Palestine”, she added. “It is not alright to justify the colonization, destruction, and the denial of the state of Palestine simply on the basis of a claim that God determined that a group of people should have a God-given right to displace other people, to kill other people’s children, to annihilate an entire culture, simply to build a supremacy at the expense of another people’s rights”.
“Opposition to slaughter of innocent people by Israel is not anti-Semitism; It is a myth to think that to challenge Israel is to challenge Judaism and the right of Jewish people to exist; This is not true. The only way to subvert this is to create a global movement right from Palestine and understand deeply the consequences of colonization, racism, and the denial of people’s right to land because we all know where we belong and we belong in different places. Historically we know where our fathers mothers grandfathers and grandmothers come from and that is our heritage and history and our battle for equality and human rights”, she stated.
“If we can’t build a global movement for Palestine we can’t save ourselves, we can’t end colonialism”, she concluded.
The third speaker was Rebecca Miles, Executive Director of the Nez Perce Tribe. Miles was elected to the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC), the governing body of the Nez Perce Tribe, in May 2004. Miles was chosen Woman of the Year by the Washington State University Alumni Association in March 2006. She also received the National River Hero Award in 2007 for her work on Endangered Species Act-listed species in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Washington State University in 1997, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University in 2002.
“Injustice is injustice no matter where and by whom; Our earth and resources are our very identity; Taking away my land is like taking away who I am; These are the lands of our forebears of our grandfathers”, said Miles.
“By seeing a sense of communality with each other; by interlinking our arms together; By sharing in the struggle actually gives us strength especially when we get very tired as an activist because you’re asking for the same thing over and over again”, she stated.
Miles said the oppressed peoples should continue the battle until every usurped land is returned to its owners, and until every Palestinian refugee return to their homeland.
Download the Return Week’s brochure here
The fourth speaker was Baram Hanekom. He was born in Zimbabwe to South African parents who moved there to escape Apartheid violence in the 1980s. Now the tables have turned, and Braam is using his experiences of exile as the head of an NGO for immigrants. Back in South Africa he has made it his mission to help people who have fled Zimbabwe and other African countries get their feet on the ground in South Africa.
Braam said he was born to a family that fought against apartheid and that since early childhood “we stood with the people of Palestine and other peoples fighting colonization”.
“Solidarity with Palestine is so popular in South Africa”, he said. “Israel is the perpetrator not the victim. Israel is silencing Palestinian people using the red herring of anti-Semitism and by claiming that various methods of solidarity should be considered terrorism”.
“There’s no integrity in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians”, he said. “It’s even more cruel than the apartheid government of South Africa”.
“The oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel is so sophisticated ; South Africans didn’t believe the day of freedom will arrive, Palestinians should believe in their dream of return”, he insisted. “Palestinian are subjected to daily arrests, abuse, and murder. We will continue to support Palestine because we see in Palestine the pain and suffering we had experienced in our struggle for freedom”.
The final speaker was Bernard Regan, who served for twenty-five years on the National Executive of the National Union of Teachers. He has been publicly campaigning in support of the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination since 1982, for much of that time as an executive member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He was the principal author of the groundbreaking resolution adopted by the Trade Union Congress in 2006 in support of Palestinian rights. He was the first recipient of the NUT’s Steve Sinnott Award (2015) in recognition of his contribution to international solidarity. He gained his PhD in 2016 studying with the Palestinian historian Nur Masalha. He has contributed to journals, including the Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies. He is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at St Mary’s University in the Department of Arts and Humanities.
Regan provided an overview of the history of Cuba’s position on Palestine: “It’s interesting to know that Cuba is actually one of the few countries which in 1947 voted against the United Nations General Assembly resolution regarding the creation of the State of Israel.”
He said famous Cuban leaders, namely Che Guevara and Fidel Castro visited Gaza in June 1959 to express solidarity with the Palestinian people. Similarly, in 1964 Che Guevara made a powerful speech at UNGA about neocolonialism and imperialism.
“In the United Nations, over the last 30 years, there’s been an overwhelming majority of countries supporting Palestine; The only two countries voting against Palestine are US and Israel”, he said referring to the arms deals between the two lobbies.
“When Donald Trump left presidency he was hoping there would be some change in Cuba’s position about Palestine; but nothing of that happened”, he said. “In 2017 Trump at UNGA made clear statements of American imperialism; the normalization deals Israel has been signing are a threat not just to the Palestinian people but also Arab world and the region.”
In his words, Cuba has been clear and categorical in its support and solidarity with Palestine.
“We have to change the attitude of governments and build an international solidarity movement to bring justice to the Palestinians”, he concluded.
The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London invites you to follow its long-awaited “Return Week III” which was launched on Monday December 05th.
Stay tuned to get the latest updates on this year’s Return Week, which is exceptional in form and content as it is loaded with positive implications for the Palestinians and their supporters.
With more than 26 speakers of researchers, thinkers and activists supporting the Palestinian right from the UK, Europe, the United States, South Africa and Palestine, this year’s version of the Return Week sends a message to the entire world that the Palestinians will never ever forfeit their inalienable rights, particularly their right to return to their motherland and establish an independent Palestinian State on the 1967 borders. Until this dream comes true, the longest and most legitimate struggle in the world shall not come to an end.
Pluck up your courage and speak up for Palestine and Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their motherland!
Watch the full seminar here