Just under a hundred people attended the ICAHD UK conference, In the Name of Justice, on 23 March. People came from many parts of England and there was representation from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (including the Orkneys). We were also delighted to welcome ICAHD supporters from Germany. Speakers included Clare Short, Secretary of State for Intenational Development in Blair’s Government, until she resigned in protest at the UK’s entry into the Iraq War which toppled Saddam Hussein. ICAHD Director Jeff Halper and author Antony Lerman took part also.
In feedback, participant M Kemp stated, _It felt really worthwhile being there – new perspectives and angles, when the fear always is that one will have heard it all before! And a very good, diverse panel. I liked the dynamic between Jeff [Halper] and Clare [Short]. it felt as if optimism of the will and pessimism of the intellect were each personified on the platform. I enjoyed too the tension between the two Palestinian participants._
Deborah Maccoby provides this summary of the morning sessions at the conference:
The conference began and ended with screening from ICAHD UKas new DVD that includes four new films that range in length from 2 _ 27 minutes. In the clip from _The Matrix of Control_ the filmmaker goes on a tour of Jerusalem with Jeff Halper, Director, ICAHD, as he explains how the Judaization of East Jerusalem has happened. The film set the scene for Jeffas talk in which he again emphasised that ICAHD is a political organisation with analysis and that it is more than an activist organisation. Jeff has coined the phrase: “the normalisation of resistance”. Young Palestinians are resisting bravely, but resisting without a solution in sight. There is a plenitude of conflict resolution studies, peace studies etc. – but academic professors are not activists and are disconnected from the needs on the ground and therefore don’t have real solutions.
Jeff reported that the British government says that 2013 is the last year for any chance of a two-state solution and there is no Plan B. A one-state solution is impossible for it to contemplate and he heard similar assessment from other governments during meetings heas had in other European countries this year.
He believes that Western governments can live with Israeli apartheid if it is quietly and smartly managed. In Jeff’s view, this is what Obama’s visit to Israel was about. His message to the Netanyahu government was: end settler violence, make it up with Turkey, don’t build in E1, let the PA develop a bit. Just keep things quiet, so that the outside world can live with the situation and go on to more important issues. The major issues that Obama discussed with Netanyahu were Syria and Iran – the Palestinians were just a side-issue.
Therefore this lack of an end goal weakens everything, as we are all reduced to just activism. BDS needs to be connected to a particular programme. Our Palestinian partners need to engage with thinking about solutions. At present, there are no forums in which critical Israelis and critical Palestinians can hammer out where we’re going.
Israel thinks it has won. If it has indeed won, all the talk of human rights in the world becomes hollow.
On the positive side, the Palestinian issue has become one of the two or three global issues in the world. It resonates with all freedom movements. But our task at present is to keep the issue alive.
Clare Short, former MP and ICAHD UK Patron responded to Jeff. She began by thanking him for his analysis but said that she disagreed with it! She thought Jeff was far too pessimistic. She believes that we are winning. Outrage against Israel has spread across the world – the BDS movement is growing in strength. She mentioned the enormous parallels with the anti South African apartheid movement and that too was not plain sailing. But protest grew until South Africa became economically unviable.
But the Arab world is stirring and it is a matter of time. Israel has no intention of letting the Palestinians have a state and has thrown away the two-state solution. So it has become obvious that the only solution is one-state with entrenched rights for both peoples.
Clare ended by saying she is not belittling what we are up against, but we will win. We just have to make sure that change comes sooner rather than later, or it could be bloody and horrible.
Deborah Maccoby, ICAHD UK Executive member
Read Jeff’s latest article, Towards an End-Game in Palestine-Israel While Imagining the Future.
See a hundred and one photos of the conference here. [Warning – they are not all flattering!]