As part of its ongoing efforts to work with and mobilize the international community in support of a just peace in Palestine/Israel, ICAHD’s Coordinator Jeff Halper joined a local team of activists for the launch of ICAHD UK. It was a week packed with presentations, meetings and events. ICAHD UK raises public awareness over issues of Israel’s Occupation, advocates for a just and sustainable peace in the UK and in Europe, and provides financial support for ICAHD’s activities in Israel.
A Midsummer Evening Garden Party at Southside House, a fund-raiser held at a charming historic house in Wimbledon Common, inaugurated the launch. William Dalrymple, the internationally-acclaimed author of From The Holy Mountain, a chronicle of the demise of Christianity in the Holy Land, read from his journal about his latest visit to Palestine/Israel. Ghada Karmi, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian physician who served as Chair of the Palestinian Association of the UK, then read from her autobiography In Search of Fatima. They set the scene for Jeff’s presentation about house demolitions. Our guests were spell-bound by the entire evening and several have pledged support for ICAHD UK.
The following day saw the official launch of ICAHD UK at Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament. A new ICAHD film, with its strong visual images on house demolitions, formed a backdrop to the presentations. Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield, welcomed the 150 guests and introduced Jeff, who spoke for twenty minutes to the MPs, Peers, Bishops, NGO staff and journalists present. Crispin Blunt, Conservative MP for Reigate, just back from Palestine (and being shot at in Rafah), gave a powerful response. “This impressive event was the fruit of years of cultivating political and NGO networks in the UK,” said Jeff.
Public meetings were also held in London, Birmingham and Leeds. Jeff had meetings with MPs, officials of the Middle East Desk of the Foreign Office, Amnesty International (which recently issued a report on the house demolition issue), the Middle East Forum of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Christian Aid and the Palestine Delegation to the UK. Several important meetings were also held with the Jewish community, always a part of ICAHD’s international advocacy efforts. The Jewish Board of Deputies held a special session in which views were exchanged, and Jeff spoke to Reform and Progressive rabbis at their annual conference in Leicester. There were also interviews with the press.
The ICAHD UK launch and Jeff’s visit left a very strong base of activists, potential for working cooperatively with other groups and a clear direction for future work.