“IMAGINING THE FUTURE”
The past two months of international advocacy have been extraordinarily busy ones for ICAHD as we add our voice to those trying to formulate a resolution to the conflict beyond the defunct two-state solution. “Imagining the future” as we are starting to phase it.
During the first two months of 2013, ICAHD’s Director Jeff Halper visited a number of countries. In January, Silje Ryvold of ICAHD Norway and her partners (and parents) organized a ten-day speaking tour across the country, beginning with the international film festival in Tromso, Norway’s northernmost city, where Jeff spoke, and on to presentations before activist and university groups in Trondheim, Stavenger and Oslo, where Jeff also visited the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
Jeff Halper and Silje Ryvold
Here’s how Silje summarized Jeff’s trip – and the work of ICAHD Norway:
From the 16th to the 25th of January ICAHD Norway hosted the director of ICAHD Dr Jeff Halper on a mini-tour of Norway. In Tromsø Jeff was one of the key note speakers at a seminar organised by ICAHD Norway in cooperation with Tromsø International Film Festival (TIFF) and the United Nations Association (UNA). The seminar was a part of the film festival’s side focus on Israel and was attended by around 150 people. In addition he held an inspirational lecture about the work of ICAHD at the youth cultural house TVIBIT. After Tromsø Jeff traveled to Oslo where an audience of about 120 people got to hear him speak about “Where is Israel heading?”, the day before the Israeli parliamentary elections. The lecture was a co-operation between ICAHD Norway, Norwegian People’s Aid, The Palestine Committee of Norway, YMCA-YWCA Global and Quaker Service Norway. Furthermore he met with journalists, youth representatives from the Labour party (AUF), the director of the Norwegian Peace research Institute (PRIO), the Mosaic Belief Society and representatives from the Middle East Section of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Jeff also held a lecture in Stavanger, co-arranged by the Palestine Committee of Stavanger. The mini-tour of Norway ended in Trondheim, where the university NTNU had invited Jeff to speak about a one-state/two state-solution.
Jeff Halper’s visit to Norway has been of great inspiration for ICAHD Norway, a small but growing sister organisation of ICAHD. On April 10th we will have our first annual meeting in Tromsø, and we encourage everyone interested to check out our website or like us at Facebook for further information and updates. We are currently looking for new board members, and if you’e interested in joining us (or setting up a local chapter), send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are based in Tromsø but we are interested to have members on the board also from elsewhere in Norway, especially Oslo. (Meetings will be held on Skype.)
In other news, we are recruiting people now for the Summer Rebuilding Camp in August. If you would like to go, contact email@example.com for more info. If you live in Tromsø, you might be interested to know we are also going to have a series of action-oriented meetings related to the summer camp, the first ones scheduled for March 13th and March 20th, where we’ll discuss ways of raising money for building materials and work on strategy. In addition, on April 4th we are organizing an International Seminar on Gaza, where journalist and author of the new book “Spillet om Gaza” Åshild Eidem will speak. The seminar is part of UNA’s International Seminar series and will take place at the public library at 20.00.
Want to support our work in Norway? Become a member of ICAHD Norway here
Following his visit to Norway Jeff continued to Helsinki at the invitation of the members of ICAHD Finland: Bruno Jäntti and his active cohort. (Bruno is doing a lot of advocacy and lobbying around the issue of Finland’s military ties with Israel, especially drones.) There Jeff gave a presentation at the university, met with a number of journalists and strategized with the ICAHD Finland group.
In February Jeff embarked, with the Palestinian activist and professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, on a week-long speaking tour of French universities (in Paris, Bordeaux and Grenoble, with a stop in Geneva), sponsored by FFIPP, Faculty for Israel-Palestine Peace – the focus being the one-state solution. Following that, Jeff visited Brussels where he spoke at Louvain-La-Neuve University and met with Aneta Jerska of the European Coordinating Committee on Palestine and the staff of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. He then returned to Paris where, with the assistance of Claire Paque, a long-time ICAHD supporter, he spoke at a fund-raiser for ICAHD sponsored by the French Jewish Peace Union (UJFP). Finally, he travelled to Luxembourg at the invitation of the Committee for a Just Peace in the Middle East (CPJPO).
Jeff with Michel Legrand and Eliane Algrain of CPJPO Luxembourg
There he met with the Foreign Minister, Mr. Jean Asselborn, and the heads of the major political parties and gave an evening public presentation. Watch the video below:
Jeff summarizes the thrust of his travels as follows:
There is clearly something moving in Europe regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Public opinion throughout the Continent, always wavering between guilt over the Holocaust and a strong commitment to human rights, has clearly shifted to the Palestinians. Though criticism is growing in the EU – in February the EU Heads of Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah released at damning report on settlement construction which, in their view, is “systematic, deliberate and provocative…and remains the biggest single threat to the two-state solution,” even recommending sanctions on Israel – both the EU and its member governments remain far behind public opinion in their own countries.
During my meetings in the Foreign Ministries of Norway and Luxembourg, I asked them what would have to happen to convince them that the two-state solution is dead. Their answer was always clear and concise. They stated tha
t the Palestinian Authority (which we know keeps alive the pretence of negotiations between two “sides”) would have to resign or collapse. I said that it is indeed likely that the PA will collapse and asked them “what then”? The parliamentarians were adamant that the governments would still not adopt a one-state solution and would merely increase their humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.
Given that governments will not act effectively to end the Occupation (they engage in conflict management, not conflict resolution), it is up to civil society to formulate actual solutions and to develop campaigns that pressure governments to adopt them. That’s the way it works. At the moment we are “between solutions.” Almost everyone who knows the Occupation on the ground, Israeli policies and it government dynamics realizes that the two-state solution is over. But our Palestinian partners, who must ultimately provide the direction, have not yet shifted to a one-state solution; it is not an automatic default position. Since they are engaged in a national liberation struggle, the two-state solution offers them the only opportunity for gaining even a modicum of self-determination. Like Gramsci who spoke of “the pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will,” so, too, do Palestinians seem torn between the realization that a Palestinian state will not emerge and the reluctance to give up that aspiration.
But rather than mechanistic formulae, it is time to imagine what political form the Middle East could assume that would address the cultural needs, political aspirations and economic concerns of all the peoples of our conflict-torn region, an area containing dozens of national, cultural, religious and political communities, not just Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. My tour with Mazin helped me crystallize some ideas – and I do believe we are in a preliminary stage of envisioning our future, of identifying the sources of conflict and trying to suggest political frameworks that address rather than suppress them. Hopefully that stage won’t take too long – we are in the midst of political crises that demand urgent attention – but thorough venting of the problems and brainstorming over how to solve them must precede concrete plans and solutions.
Many of our Palestinian partners are still (understandably) shying away from going beyond the two-state solution, and from brainstorming with even critical Israelis. This is a luxury that we cannot afford for long, for if we do not formulate our version of a just peace in the region, governments will, and justice will be their last consideration.
I’m now in the process of writing up my ideas, a fusion of activism and theory (anthropologically-based and “grounded”) that may constructively contribute to that debate, as it did when Mazin and I tried out our ideas with one another. For the moment, let me just share a progression I think is called for: (1) a democratic but bi-national state in Palestine-Israel to address the immediate sources of that specific conflict; (2) because the basic issues facing us are regional in scope (security, economic development, conflict resolution, refugees, water, the strengthening of inclusive polities and civil societies), we need to look beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an economic confederation comprising Palestine/Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon; and (3) ultimately we should work towards a regional confederation of cultures that reflects better the actual social composition of our region than do states.
For me at this stage of our struggle for a just peace, ICAHD’s advocacy efforts are more about engaged envisioning between Israelis and Palestinians, brainstorming and engaging the public than on “selling” a particular solution – though an agreed-upon solution or at least direction is urgently needed.
REMEMBERING STÉPHANE HESSEL
On February 26th, Stéphane Hessel, the French human rights advocate, Resistance fighter in WWII, jurist and Honorary President of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and the author of “Time for Outrage” that helped spark the Occupy movement worldwide, died in Paris at the age of 95. Jeff last saw him in Capetown where he testified before the Russell Tribunal on the issue of Israel apartheid, and Stéphane took an active interest in the activities of ICAHD. Jeff wrote an appreciation of Stéphane on Mondoweiss <http://mondoweiss.net/2013/03/presence-remembering-stephane.html>.
REMINDER: REGISTER FOR ICAHD’S 2013 REBUILDING CAMP –
or send a young person on scholarship
11 – 26 AUGUST 2013
We remind you that registration for 2013 Summer Rebuilding Camp is continuing, the dates of the two-week camp being August 11- 26. In this brief but intense period we reconstruct an entire home from the rubble, give the keys to the family and help them move in – a truly moving and meaningful experience of resistance and solidarity. Besides the rebuilding, participants will be taken on field trips throughout much of the Occupied Territory and Israel; in the evening meetings will be held with local activists, films screened, political analysis provided and wide-ranging discussions held.
Accommodations at the camp are basic but a wonderful group spirit makes it all comfortable and functioning. Participants will sleep in tents on the site of Beit Arabiya, served by portable toilets and shower blocks. In the communal area where group meetings are held traditional home-cooked Palestinian food will be provided by Arabiya Shawamreh, as she and her husband Salim host the camp’s guests along with ICAHD staff. For a sense of what the camp is like, visit <http://www.icahd.org/rebuilding-camps>; don’t miss the 4-minute time-lapse of last year’s rebuilding.
The fee for the 2013 camp is $1750 USA per person ($1250 for university students or young people whose applications demonstrate a willingness to represent ICAHD on campus). The fee, which is used to cover the purchase of construction materials and the expenses of the camp, includes:
- Three full meals a day and beverages between meals (except during three free evenings)
- All field trips and the educational programme
- ICAHD materials/resources
Not included in the fee are:
- Airfare and transfer to and from Jerusalem before the start of the camp and return to the airport at the end of the camp
- Meals during free time
- Personal spending money
If you feel to old or tired or busy to participate (though we have had 80-year ol
ds leading the way), you are welcome to provide a “scholarship” that will permit a young person, or someone with limited means, to join.
We should add that camp fees do not cover all the expenses of rebuilding the home, especially the materials. Whether you can afford to pay more than the actual fee or are willing to make a financial contribution to the success of the camp, we could certainly use your support.
To join the camp, sponsor a participant or just want additional information, please contact:
For the USA and Canada: Salena Tramel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For the UK and European countries: <email@example.com>
For Norway: Silje Ryvold <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For Finland: Bruno Jantti <email@example.com>
For the rest of the world: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
ICAHD REPRESENTED AT STORMONT
The issue of house demolitions and displacement was included in an event on 25 February at Stormont, home of Northern Ireland’s General Assembly. Entitled “How can Northern Ireland respond to Israel’s illegal settlement policies,” it was organised by the Palestine Society at Queen’s University, Belfast.
The aim of the day was to provide information in support of A No Day Named Motion submitted to the Assembly calling for an Ethical and Human Rights approach to the way in which Northern Ireland commences trade and investment. It calls for “robust leadership from the Executive for a Northern Ireland wide boycott of companies that are complicit in illegal settlement of occupied territories and goods from those territories.”
Linda Ramsden, Director, ICAHD UK, set the tone for the day by explaining the “Matrix of Control” that Israel has imposed over the Palestinian people and the facts on the ground which would render Israel’s Occupation irreversible. She also made reference to ICAHD’s latest photographic exhibition, which was on display at Stormont. All the information and analysis for the day was based on uniting around human rights principles and international law as a strategic way forward for both Palestinians and Israelis and that accountability mechanisms needed to be implemented to bring an end to Israel’s illegal settlement policies.
Linda Ramsden – ICAHD UK Director at Stormont
We should also mention in our newsletter that our long-time tours of East Jerusalem and the West Bank continue, coordinated by Hibat Mahroum of our office and guided by our experienced Chaska, Ruth, Inbar, Mohammad and Yahav. In the past few months we’ve done tours and briefings for British parliamentarian groups, hosts of church groups, two Special UN Rapporteurs (human rights and housing), the American consulate and most major European consulates, World Vision, groups coming through Palestinian travel agencies, and many others – some 250 tours per year bringing around 5000 people into critical contact with the Occupation.
To book a tour, please e-mail: <email@example.com>.
There is much more news to relate, but we’ll wait till next month. In the meantime remember that I will be participating in the ICAHD UK spring conference, “In the Name of Justice, on Saturday, 23 March, in London. For more information and to book your place, please go to www.icahduk.org.