Below is a report compiled by board member Deborah Maccoby on a very successful day, for which feedback suggests that much was learned by many people on aspects of the Palestine/Israel situation and on effective campaigning for a just settlement.
Highlights were the talks by Jean Lambert MEP on the European Parliament scene with regard to Isael/Palestine and by Brian Klug
REPORT ON: _VITAL ENGAGEMENTS: DAY CONFERENCE AND ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING_: ICAHD UK: APRIL 25TH, 2009
SESSION: EU LOBBYING: _ENGAGING WITH THE EU_
1) The husband-and-wife team of Professor David Pegg and Dr Monica Wusteman talked about _Our Experience Lobbying the EU about Palestine_. Here is a very brief summary:
York Branch of PSC paid visit to Brussels, and two other regional groups also went – Liverpool and Durham Friends of Palestine. MEPS are very much worth lobbying, because of close ties with Israel, and EU Parliament does have some real power and influence. Also donat forget the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.
Advice on lobbying methods and on submitting petitions. Accounts of fates of various petitions _ slow process, some petitions just get ignored, but sometimes things can be hopeful. Some hope for petition asking for ICAHD EU funding to be reinstated.
EU-Israel Association Agreement: contains highly preferential conditions for Israel. Last December, the EU Commission voted to upgrade this Agreement! But since Gaza, the upgrade has been in suspension. A majority of MEPS are against the upgrade. Our priority should be a complete suspension of the whole Association Agreement, not just the upgrade.
Diplomats and bureaucrats tend to justify Israel because of need to oppose _world Islamification_. Also guilt of countries such as Germany, Poland etc produces automatic support for the Israeli government. But Miliband is now pushing for a stronger line against Israel. Luisa Morgantini has expressed anger at imprisionment of Palestinian parliamentarians. Anger at deliberate destruction of EU _funded projects. Support for a ban on import of settlement goods into Europe.
Conclusion: it is vital to lobby EU, because it lends support to MEPS and puts Civil Society pressure directly on lawmakers.
2) Jean Lambert MEP also gave a paper. Here is a brief summary:
Great concern in European Parliament, especially after Gaza. Important to get MEPS to go to Palestinian territories to see for themselves.
Speaking out is still extremely difficult for German and Austrian MEPS. There is also the terrorism issue causing problems with talking to Hamas.
Strand of antisemitism in European Parliament. Many different viewpoints and backgrounds. Always take a look at background of the MEP you are talking to.
Increasing sense of power in European Parliament. Voice of criticism getting stronger. Try to get meetings with British Conservative MEPS (especially as the Conservatives are likely to form the next British government).
Use different frameworks, such as climate change arguments _ Palestinians canat control their own water supply; waste dumping. Look for new angles suited to the interests of the MEP you are targeting. You donat just have to stick to British MEPs. Donat forget the staff _ they often draft resolutions.
EU LOBBYING SESSION DISCUSSION SESSION
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS INCLUDED:
Q: Why doesnat the EU recognise that Hamas has changed its position on the two-state solution?
A: Hamas is still on the terrorist list, and this still affects the EU. Also some parts of Hamas still advocate armed struggle.
Q: Re paying for damage to Gaza _ any possibility of getting Israel to pay by diverting US funds to reconstruction of Gaza? Also what about Israeli generals and soldiers being tried for war crimes?
A: Re US funds _ no possibility of this. Re war crimes: some interest in this by Spain and Belgium, but chances of this happening are slim _ it will be seen as closing the door to reconciliiation.
Q: Comment re different political parties and their different attitudes.
A: Reiteration of importance of lobbying Conservative MEPS.
Q: Is it easy for MEPS to get to Palestine? What about funding?
A: Money would not be a problem.
Q: To what extent is EU funding policy dictated by Palestinian civil society priorities?
A (by another member of audience): Someone in Gaza is researching this very topic and suggesting more appropriate priorities for EU funding.
SESSION: _ENGAGING WITH ONE ANOTHER_: TALK BY BRIAN KLUG ON _A JEWISH APPROACH TO HUMAN RIGHTS AND ISRAEL/PALESTINE. CHAIRED BY PAUL ROBINSON
Brianas talk is on our website. As Paul Robinson pointed out in his vote of thanks at the end, Brian emphasised the split in the Jewish community between nationalism and universalism and explained that he and other members of groups such as Independent Jewish Voices and Jews for Justice for Palestinians feel the need to speak out “as Jews” in support of the universalist tradition of the Hebrew Prophets.
<iENGAGING WITH ONE ANOTHERDISCUSSION SESSION
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS INCLUDED:
Q: Can the concept of the Chosen People be reconciled with Jewish universalism?
A: Does the Chosen People concept mean that Jews get special privileges or does it mean a) that they have special responsibilities and b) more important, that they are an exemplary people, representing humanity in its aspirations, flaws and achivements? If the two latter meanings is the case, it can be reconciled with universalism.
Q: Does Jesus’s imperative “Love your enemies” exist in Judaism?
A: Jesus lived and worked very much within the Jewish tradition, as modern scholarship has established, and “love your enemies” is an extension of ideas that are found in Judaism.
Q: Why are Jews still afraid?
A: There is an ingrained Jewish mindset that sees antisemitism in the outside world. When Israel commits atrocities, this leads to increased antisemitism, which increases this mindset.
Paul Robinson mentioned the EU definition of antisemitism, which has muddied the waters.
Q: Are there many different kinds of Zionism? I have liberal Jewish friends who call themselves Zionists and seem confused and ambivalent about Israel and the treatment of Palestinians.
A: When we talk nowadays about Zionism, we are referring to what Zionism has become now. There have been many historical Zionisms. Before Israel was created, one form of Zionism wanted a binational state. Put it to your liberal Jewish friends: do they want an Israel with equality and dignity for all?
SUMMING UP OF DAY BY LINDA
Linda concluded with a quotation from Gandhi: _The ways of truth and love have always won_.