Breaking the Wall – How to Bring About Change in Palestine
Activism and Solidarity, a Political Programme, or Both?
Analysis, Debate and a View towards the Future
The 2019 ICAHD UK Conference took place on 11 May with over 100 participants arriving at the Amnesty International Human Rights Centre in East London to debate the big and bold questions we chose to raise this year:
- Where is the international solidarity movement with Palestine heading?
- What were the successes of, and mistakes we can learn from, in our struggle and from other successful political campaigns over the years?
- What is the best way to rally support and provide solidarity: creating a wide platform on the basis or a broad agreement, or presenting a specific political programme detailing the way forward? or both?
The conference opened with ICAHD Founder Jeff Halper and Hisham Sharabati of the Hebron Defence Committee, who were in the middle of an UK speaking tour. Jeff expanded on his current work in rallying support for the One Democratic State Camapign (ODSC) in Palestine-Israel, much of which is detailed in his new article here. Hisham focused on the daily struggle to live a normal life in Hebron, surrounded by violent settlers, indifferent soldiers, oppressive walls, checkpoints and barriers – a day to day account of Apartheid. Hisham also stressed the point that no outsider could dictate a political programme to the Palestinian people.
The first afternoon panel, led by ICAHD UK Director Daphna Baram, focused on contributions from representatives of fellow solidarity organisations: Louise Regan of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and National Education Union ran in with haste, carrying the spirit of solidarity from the streets of London, where thousands were marching under the single slogan: "for Palestine". Louise spoke of the importance of sending out a broad-based message and of rallying support for Palestine, which in turn enabled making the BDS campaign a household notion within the solidarity movement.
Naomi Wimbourne-Idrissi of Jewish Voice for Labour concentrated on the witch hunt against the members and leaders of the Labour party and the use of false accusations of anti-semitism to try and weaken those in solidarity for Palestine.
Diana Neslen of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and a veteran of the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, focused on the points of similarity between the Israeli oppression of Palestinians and the now dismantled South African Apartheid regime. You can read her fascinating paper here.
Dionne Gravesande of Christian Aid provided some rays of hope, reminding us of the swiftness of changes we have seen in our times, how it is sometimes darkest before the dawn, and how important it was to do the groundwork to create readiness for change.
Jeff and Hisham joined the panel for an extensive Q&A session.
During the final panel of the day, Linda facilitated a session that reviewed our activity on the ground as we heard from several of those who had participated in our camp and the study tours over the last twelve months. Amelia Mills presented a slide show about the October 2018 Camp: Build, Harvest, Learn. She described how emotional it was to work with Palestinians on the ground and the powerful impact of experiencing day to day life under Apartheid. Sue Parfitt, both a former camper and study tour participant, described the need for self-sacrifice in support of the Palestinian people
The day opened with a tribute to a dear friend of ICAHD UK and the solidarity movement in general, beloved comedian and activist Jeremy Hardy. We are grateful to filmmaker Leila Sansour and Jeremy's widow, Katy Barlow, for allowing us to show the ending minutes of their film Jeremy Hardy vs. The Israeli Army, containing what we see as Jeremy's political will for activists.
We closed with a poem by Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, ‘Resist, My People, Resist them’, for which she was sentenced to five months in an Israeli prison. Read the poem here
It was unlucky that our conference this year clashed with a big national demonstration in support of Palestine. ICAHD UK send a message of solidarity to the demonstrators, which was read by Ben Jamal, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
From our annual conference in East London ICAHD UK – The Israeli Committee against House Demolition, UK chapter - sends a warm message of solidarity to all who stand, and march, with the Palestinian people today. Side by side we fight against Israel's campaign of occupation, displacement, demolition, racism, dispossession and killing against the Palestinian people. Together we make growing cracks in the Apartheid wall. Together we stand in Solidarity to free the Palestinian people, and indeed the Israeli people, from Zionist oppression. Our voice is being heard. More and more people join us every day. Together we will keep cracking the wall, and the wall will fall.
If you are not already a member of our dynamic organisation that works for political change with democracy for all, join us now through this link.