On a pleasantly warm day on April 21st, people arrived, some having come a good distance, for ICAHD UKas AGM and London conference at the Amnesty UK Human Rights Centre. Half of the attendees, who numbered in all about 100, had already gathered the night before at The Methodist International Centre for dinner, time with old friends and to make new acquaintances, and an opportunity to see a performance of Still Life by ICAHD UK administrator Karen Chalk and fellow veteran Ecumenical Accompanier in Palestine Penny Stone. They had performed it to packed audiences at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
Deborah Maccoby, ICAHD UK board member, has written the conference summary. Click here to see it. Her full report will be published here soon.
Robert Thorburn writes this overview:
The relational theme ran through the whole conference. It was kicked off by Jeff Halper, the ICAHD Director from Jerusalem. In his keynote address, he called for less masculine, linear thinking, more feminine, joined up inclusivity. He maintained this idea by his repeated references to the growing ICAHD _family_, including those in _chapters_ in an increasing number of countries (recently formed chapters are in Poland, where Jeff was headed next, and Norway). This theme then developed in subsequent sessions: connecting to others through sharing cultural events and experiences, through finding overlapping areas of interests and concerns, through adopting less of a masculine, logical, either-or, linear, problem-solving mindset; more of a feminine, relational, both/and connectivity, through telling stories, and occupying the space in-between right/wrong, true/false, yes/no dualistic thinking. Already occupying that space are the ICAHD summer camps, where friendships are formed through shared work and simple living.
An example of the influence and point of connection created by sharing knowledge on overlapping interests came from participant Stephen Leah. On reporting back on the workshop which he attended, he related how his brother, who had previously viewed Stephenas immersion in Palestinian affairs with perplexity, was converted to indignation at the righteousness of the Palestinian cause by learning from Stephen that Palestine is a full member of FIFA but has been excluded or expelled from FIFA tournaments as a result of opportunities missed due to the restrictions on movement of Palestine national team players by Israel. You can read more about this issue for Palestinian sport here, and see that this is not a trivial example, but a good illustration of the unjust conditions under which hard-working and talented Palestinians are deprived of reaching their true potentials and rewards in all fields of endeavours, commercial, social and cultural.
“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”. Bill Shanklyas famous words point to the power that the Beautiful Game has, to pull people together, even in a region where political forces often hijack and manipulate traditional religious or ethnic diversity in their power struggles. Even as a potential uniting force between young Palestinian fans and militarised young Israelis? Iave been asked about my footballing allegiances in our Premier league more than once by soldiers at checkpoints, when they learn that Iam from the UK.
Sportmusic and performing arts, visual arts, medicine, education, even spirituality rather than religious dogma – all are areas to explore where at the grassroots we all have common ground, and can build many-to-many relationships. “Only connect”, as aetheist E.M. Forster stated.
Healthy families are in it together for the long haul, through triumph, tragedy, gain, loss, for better, for worse, giving each other honest guidance and support, working to the strengths and interests of the whole group. Families forcibly split geographically is one of the worst tragedies of Israeli apartheid. Jeff Halper reiterated that we who seek a just, peaceful settlement, one which meets fully Palestinian needs, need to be prepared for a long haul. Many of us, he suggested, may not see it fully realised even in our lifetimes. But in the end, injustice cannot outlive a just cause. In a networked world, activists in many diverse struggles for justice may converse and converge round their common interests. In finding a resolution of the iconic struggle in which ICAHD is playing its part, peace could break out in many other places, said Halper.
Let’s keep hold of the dream, then, that in good time the joined hands of peoples of compassion (com-patior – ‘I suffer with’) may criss-cross all humanity’s self-inflicted physical and mental boundaries and barriers, to build “another country”, a metaphysical one; in which, as is described by an old hymn set to music extracted from Gustav Holst’s The Planets, “…soul by soul and silently/Her shining bounds increase/And her ways are ways of gentleness/And all her paths are peace”. See www.charterforcompassion.org.
ICAHD UK CONFERENCE AND AGM SUMMARY
by Deborah Maccoby
_WHAT NEXT IN PALESTINE?_
Saturday April 21st, 2012
Amnesty International Human Rights Centre, London
JEFF HALPERaS KEYNOTE SPEECH
The Conference opened with the keynote address from Jeff Halper, the Director of ICAHD, entitled _Collapsing with Agency _ What Next?_
Jeff began by emphasizing that he is not a Palestinian and has no right to tell Palestinians what to do. Nonetheless, he wishes to express his views, and his opinion is that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is enforcing the Israeli Occupation and needs to go _ ie to collapse. There is a crisis of Palestinian leadership, brought about by Israelas systematic fragmentation of the Palestinian people and assassinations of Palestinian leaders. Jeff argued that the two-state solution is over _ under the veneer of the endlessly spun-out _peace process_, it has collapsed, and its collapse needs to become evident. So collapse – and collapse that has become openly apparent – is necessary before things can move on. Many possible future world events could bring about this collapse.
From _collapse_, Jeff moved on to _agency_. He said that at present we are in a time of limbo, in which nothing is happening. This is a difficult moment, but also one with hope in it. The Palestinian issue has become a global issue and the US is becoming marginalised in the UN. There is hope for a renewed Palestinian unity in the possibility of the revival of the PNC. We must keep the issue alive, through BDS and other policies, but we must also plan for the future, to be ready when the _collapse_ becomes evident, so that it can be _collapse with agency_. We need to rethink our strategies, get out of the two-state linear thinking. Jeff called the linear thinking of _getting there from here_ typically masculine thinking, whereas we need to adopt a feminine non-linear perspective that can produce change.
Questions in response to Jeff Halper’s address
The many questions included one about the possibility of a one-state solution and one about the USas support for Israel.
Jeff responded that a one-state solution has serious problems. Bi-national states do not work well, and the two populations are too intertwined; and the non-national one state solution ignores the national question. Jeff touched on his idea of a regional solution.
On the US, Jeff mentioned the new book on which he is working, called _Global Palestine_. There are many reasons for the USas support for Israel, but the elephant in the room is the US Defence Industry, which has a more powerful influence than AIPAC or the Christian Zionists. Israel is exporting the Occupation _ and we can bring in new activists by portraying the Palestine issue as a microcosm of other conflicts.
There were so many questions that, following the AGM, Jeff addressed another session devoted to answering questions for which there had not been time in the first session. A longer version of this Report will include all the questions and Jeffas answers.
The participants separated into four workshops: a) Clarifying our message; b) Lobbying the UK Parliament; c) Lobbying the European Parliament; d) using the media to our advantage. After wards, we all gathered together for the workshop reports.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF WORKSHOP REPORTS:
a) Clarifying our message: need for reframing: Jewish reframing, Christian reframing, even football reframing! We need to “switch on” dormant young people who are sympathetic to our aims, through grasping the potential of social networking sites*** and other media such as YouTube videos.
b) Lobbying the European Parliament: There are website links to find out who our MEPs are. Suggest to your MEP that he/she goes on a visit to Palestine. Focus on the MEPas special interest area: education, trade etc.
c) Lobbying the UK Parliament: Rather than focusing on human rights (which most MPs are not directly concerned with), refer to international law, British taxpayersa money ( EU aid money etc), what Israelas policies mean for a lasting solution. Try to personalise letters, rather than everyone sending off a standard letter. We need to share information on whether things have gone well or badly with lobbying our MPs. We need to get to grips with ***Facebook, Twitter etc.
d) Using the media to our advantage: Address the BBCas inertia and bias. We need to get involved in an ongoing slog _ twinning with Palestinian towns and villages, getting to know local press, etc.
The workshop reports were followed by a question and answer session with the workshop leaders. One of the many questions was from a Muslim participant, who commented on apathy and anti-Semitism within the Muslim community and suggested that Jeff and ICAHD should contact influential Muslim leaders. In reply, Jeff said that two ICAHD members are Muslim Palestinian citizens of Israel; Salim and Arabiya Shawamrehas tours of Britain have been to Muslim communities; Jeff has talked to Muslim communities in the US, who contribute to ICAHD. ICAHD hasnat formally reached out to Muslim scholars _ maybe it should _ but has sent a message that it is possible to support human rights and be Israeli.
Miranda Pennell then gave a short talk about the importance of film in introducing people to the Palestinian issue _ she pointed out that film works emotionally and in an intimate way. She introduced the short video _Hotel Diaries_ by John Smith, which focused unusually upon a ceiling in a Palestinian hotel that moved with the wind, and later on brutality against Palestinians by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints.
Karen Chalk, our new Administrator, then sang a moving song about house demolitions, from Still Life, the act that she and Penny Stone have taken to the Edinburgh Festival.
JEFFaS CLOSING REMARKS
Jeff said that ICAHD believes that peace can only come from outside Israel/Palestine. We are all in a common struggle for the long haul. In the end, justice will prevail. If we can resolve the Palestinian issue, we can also resolve many other global issues.
LINDAaS CLOSING REMARKS
Linda closed the Conference by reminding participants that in the summer Beit Arabiya will be rebuilt. She drew attention to the new website. She urged participants to keep up to date and respond to events, and to write about and shout about the Palestinian issue.
A suggestion for a simple advocacy tool to open up a conversation
Music can bring together across boundaries.Who do you know who loves rock, especially American rock, the likes of Bruce Springsteen or Steve Earle? Here’s Steve Earle’s powerful song “Jerusalem” to talk about, another _tool_ for _connecting_ with people of all sorts in every which way which might resonate with them, and draw them in to a fuller appreciation of the evils of the occupation and the great work of ICAHD.
Or, you may sow a seed which will grow, or start a new “conversation”, with more of a folk fan, who’s into the likes of Peter Seeger, ICAHD supporter, by sending them the same song sung by <Joan Baez
A suggested way to connect with people or groups with overlapping interests
This July marks the UN Arms Trade Treaty 2012 Negotiating Conference. Educate yourself. Raise awareness. Find common areas of interest, seek common ground, start conversations with individuals, groups, institutions.
Here’s one or two links to whet appetites for some research:
New report suggests Israel linked to Irangate scandal
Israel’s violations of U.S. Arms Export Control Act
CAAT on Arms Trade Treaty
John Harris writes in Guardian – In London, the [Olympic] games will be an expression of three of the most rotten aspects of our version of modernity: surveillance and the arms trade; out-of-control consumerism; and most spectacularly, the fact that the elites who make their money out of these things have been barely touched by the crisis that is ruining lives across the planet. Full comment here.
(Views and positions expressed through the website links aboved are intended here as information to promote awareness and dialogue and not as a reflection of the position of ICAHD UK or its members.)