After visits in October by Jeff to the US and France and by Itay to the UN headquarters in NY, Britain and Norway (his last mission on behalf of ICAHD was to the Swedish Parliament, where he participated in a conference called to discuss international human rights and humanitarian law in Jerusalem and the remainder of the Occupied Palestinian Territory), ICAHD staff continued their campaign of international advocacy.
In November, two study groups organized and led by ICAHD UK came to Palestine/Israel, a total of twenty-nine people from eight different countries. The first focused on international law as it pertains to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and Israel’s refusal to abide by it. It began three days after the demolition of Beit Arabiya, thus there was additional poignancy to the program as participants viewed the ruins and spent time with Salim and Arabiya. Among the participants on the week-long tour were legal experts plus a delegation of Canadian trade unionists. The second tour lasting eleven days looked at the broader political situation and included more than twenty encounters with local activists, experts and organizations, in addition to extended field visits throughout the OPT and Israel – all Israel’s attack on Gaza.
These in-depth tours are held in high regard by the international participants that have taken them. Contact ICAHD UK <firstname.lastname@example.org> for more information. Dates for the 2013 extended tour programme will be released in January.
ICAHD UK also mounted an ICAHD exhibit at the European Parliament building on November 27th. Called Dreams of Home and based on the joint ICAHD/Activestills exhibit We Never Finished 1948, it graphically showed Israel’s policies of house demolition in boththe Occupied Territory and within the state of Israel, making the case that internal displacement of Palestinians and Bedouins is ongoing and takes place on both sides of the “Green Line” – that, in fact, “we never finished 1948”; the process of judaization (an official Israeli government term) continues apace. The exhibit was opened by MEPs Arlene McCarthy of Britain and Emer Costello of Ireland, the latter in her capacity as the Chair of the EU Delegation for Relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council. Linda and Jeff, who joined them in Brussels, addressed the audience of MEPs and staff.
Karen, Jeff and Linda
In Brussels, the ICAHD team also met with key people and organizations. They held a briefing for the European External Action Service, Catherine Ashton’s team, met with several member state delegations, with Arafat Shoukri, Chair of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza and others. In London, Jeff spoke at the National Lobby of Parliament for Palestine organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and met with a number of parliament members and activists. Guided by Linda, Jeff also met with potential funders and campaign partners in the everlasting challenge of making ICAHD a more effective organization. In particular ICAHD seeks funds for its Beit Arabiya program.
Finally, Jeff left for Warsaw. In ICAHD’s contacts with the EU, it was suggested that much more advocacy and lobbying on the Palestine issue had to be done in Eastern Europe, which is far more pro-American and thus pro-Israel than Western Europe (the Czech Republic was the only member of the EU to vote against the General Assembly resolution to recognize a Palestinian state). Jeff has been to Poland and the Czech Republic several times, his trip organized by Polish-Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
While in Poland Jeff spoke in the Parliament for the second time, this time to the Commission of Justice and Human Rights, organized by the Polish-Palestinian Parliamentarian Group.
Jeff also met with Polish activists and spoke in a high school in the Polish city of Tarnow, together with Omar Faris, one of the leaders of the Palestinian community of Poland. (Palestinians initially came to Poland as students during the Communist era, and about 500 have stayed.) Originally the meeting was to take place last June, but event was cancelled due to the intervention of the Israeli embassy in Poland, who pressured the school’s administration to cancel it. The Embassy’s interference met with harsh criticism from the Polish media, as well as from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who issued a statement about the impropriety of Israel intervening in internal Polish affairs. When they heard that Jeff was coming to the country the students again organized and, supported by a courageous Principal, the presentation was held.
The meeting was attended by over 130 students and teachers. Oliwia and Adam, two students from the Tarnów school, reported: “We made an effort to organize the meeting for the second time to succinctly present to our fellow students and teachers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In our opinion, the key to achieving understanding and empathy among people is to explain to them what the problem is. That’s why we decided to invite Jeff Halper and Omar Faris to present to us.”
Meeting in school in Tarnów
The Polish-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Kampania Palestyna) and The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions helped the two young activists prepare for the event.
ICAHD Finland has been particularly active for the past few months as Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip compelled our members to take part in the public discussion. Bruno Jäntti, the head of ICAHD Finland, participated in an hour long A-talk program, the main political discussion program on Finnish national TV, having a million viewers. Bruno’s comments received huge amounts of positive feedback. Another ICAHD Finland board member, Syksy Räsänen, was interviewed for Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s main daily newspaper and the biggest daily in the Nordic countries.
And Salena Tramel, the head of ICAHD US, traveled to Porto Alegre, Brazil, where she represented ICAHD as the World Social Forum on Palestine.