PRC Hosts Return Week IV

PRC Hosts Return Week IV

The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London held a panel discussion as part of its annual Return Week.

The discussion was chaired by Farrah Koutteineh, a political activist focusing on intersectional activism, including the Decolonise Palestine movement, indigenous people's rights, anti-establishment movement, women's rights and climate justice. Farrah is also the founder of KEY48 - a voluntary collective calling for the immediate right of return of over 7.4 million Palestinian refugees.

Farrah provided an overview of the Return Week, which is annual commemoration to mark the anniversary of UN Resolution 194. In 1948, the UN adopted UN Resolution 194 (III) resolving that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

The first speaker was Prof. Muhannad 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.

Prof. Ayyash underscored the intensification of Israeli genocidal violence, which has been going on for over 75 years, saying this is an ongoing Nakba.

In his view, the military operation and genocides in Gaza make part of Israeli intent to take over the entire Palestinian territory from the River to the Sea and expell Palestinians from their lands.

He stressed that the operation is contextualized within structural genocide and that Israel is using October 7 as a pretext for that plan, to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

“Cutting off electricity, fuel, water; deliberately killing many civilians as possible; bombing infrastructure, schools, shelters, hospitals, bakeries, and resources for clean water, educational institutions, mosques, and churches  aims to make Gaza Strip uninhabitable for Palestinians, which, itself makes part of Israel settler colonialism”, said Ayyash.

“To me, any effort to understand what is happening today outside of the settler colonial paradigm is doomed to not understand what is happening and doomed to repeated the same cycles of violence… Unless we talk about it in these very clear terms, then we are bound to see the continuation of Israeli settler colonialism and the expulsion and elimination of Palestinians in Palestine”, he added.

The second speaker was Bana Abu Zuluf, a PhD Researcher in International Law at NUIM, Ireland. Bana is a researcher and community activist with the Good Shepherd Collective. She played a crucial role in developing the Campaign to Defund Racism - designed to organize over 200 Palestinian organizations, villages and individuals from across historic Palestine - to stop the flow of charitable money to Israeli settler organizations.

Bana’s presentation entitled “Contesting International Law’s Verticality: A TWAIL’s Perspective” tackled the notion of accountability in relation to international law and argued that the international community itself is absolutely complicit in crimes committed against the Palestinians.

In her view, Palestinian dispossession and oppression was aided and abetted by the international community.

“70% of Gaza population now refugees displaced from their homes”, said Bana. “How can the international community and Western powers ensure Israel’s accountability to IL when they are complicit in Palestinian oppression?”

Bana stressed that the international community denied the Palestinians the right to self-determination from the inception of Palestinian oppression under the British Mandate and then the United Nations, to Israel’s settler colonial conquest of Palestine until today.

She reminded the audience that though UN Resolution 194 called for the right of return to displaced Palestinians, in reality, however, these promises are met with performative humanitarianism and non-recognition.

She exposed the double standards with the international community’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Israeli crimes in OPT

“We simply cannot overlook Gaza’s Nakba as a right of return issue”, Bana stressed.

The final speaker was Tommy McKearney, a senior member of the Provisional IRA from the early 1970s until his arrest in 1977. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he served 16 years during which time he participated in the 1980 hunger strike in the Maze. He is now a freelance journalist and an organiser with the Independent Workers Union and the author of The Provisional IRA (Pluto, 2011).

“Not for one second should we exonerate or excuse the Zionist regime for its crimes against the Palestinian people in Gaza”, said Tommy.

He stressed that imperialist powers, mainly the US, played an important role in supporting Israel and directing what’s happening in Gaza

“To a large extent, Israel serves as a garçon for the global imperialism of the US”, said Tommy.

“Let’s keep in mind the type of action that’s happening today in Gaza, this genocidal murderous assault on civilian population of Gaza is due to the US military financial support to Israel”, he confirmed.

The activism called for continuous efforts to speak up for Palestinians’ rights to self-determination and to both expose and impeach Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The speakers agreed that Israel’s destructive politics, material criminality, and the continuous use of violence and military power in an attempt to drive Palestinians out of their land could only happen with the collusion and direct support of the world’s global imperialist powers, particularly the US and the UK.

This year’s Return Week comes amid a gloomy situation in the Gaza Strip, where an intensifying conflict has rattled the area and, most tragically, destroyed so many innocent lives. The death toll passes 20,000. The unfolding catastrophe makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent with every passing hour.


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