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Palestine Solidarity: Past, Present and Future – 2010 USSF workshop

June 24, 2010

On Thursday afternoon I attended the Palestine Solidarity workshop, facilitated by the Lansing-based Peace Education Center. One of the presenters began by saying that it has been difficult to organize around support for the Palestinians since 1993. Before 1993, the PLO was the singular reason for people to rally around Palestinian rights.

Since then, the focus has shifted to the occupied territories and no longer just the PLO. This shift in focus has been due in part to both the fist and second Intifada, the community-based non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation.

However, the presenter said that there has been an ongoing negative impact of the 1993 “peace accord” known as the Oslo Peace Accord. Many people in the US now see the “problem” of Palestine as an internal problem, because they now have control over their own territory. This perception amongst people in the US has made it easier for US policy makers to continue to unconditionally support the Israeli occupation.

Another presenter states that historically the Palestinian solidarity groups had a much stronger socialist or class-conscience base. There have been dozens of US-based organizations that have supported Palestine, but there has been an evolution of these groups. Some watershed moments for the US solidarity groups were the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the first Intifada in 1988. The presenter also points out that many of the previous region solidarity movements were linked with the Palestinian struggle, such as the Central American Solidarity movement and the South African anti-Apartheid movement.

After the 1993 Oslo Accord, people began to realize that despite the peace process more Palestinian land was being occupied by Israeli settlers. Another change in the Palestinian Solidarity Movement was the 2nd generation of Palestinians now living in the US. This new generation brought new energy and fresh ideas.

One difficulty that people working on Palestinian Solidarity in the US is that the Palestinian narrative is not even tolerated. In addition, anyone who speaks out on this issue will be charged with anti-Semitism. This is particularly the case of Palestinians and other Arabs living in the US, which underscores the importance of having more people participate in Palestinian Solidarity work.

The Boycott and Divestiture movement actually began in the early 1990s, based mostly on the experience of the South African Anti-Apartheid movement. This movement grew over the years.

A third presenter spoke about another aspect of the mainstream left and its silence on the Palestinian struggle. This silence could be considered a form of hostility to the issue, especially since the US contributes $3 billion a year to Israel, which translates to $7 million a day.

The US funding of Israel became the focus of much of the Solidarity work in the 90s and the most recent decade, particularly if the funding was framed as funding an illegal occupation.

Now the focus is mostly on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The conditions of this campaign are when Israeli ends the occupation, dismantles the wall and recognizes the right of Palestinians.

Divestment is an action where people will not invest in companies that do business with Israel. Some of these companies are Motorola, Caterpillar and Viola. Sanctions currently don’t exist from the US, but this is a tactic if and when there will be enough public support to get the US government to impose sanctions on Israel.

Someone from Oakland, California spoke about the Longshoreman Union’s refusal to unload goods from an Israeli ship recently. This was an important victory, because the longshoreman also took the same position during the South African Anti-Apartheid campaign.

The rest of the conversation dealt with a variety of aspects of the difficulties within doing Palestine Solidarity work. These difficulties dealt with claims of anti-Semitism, nationalism, the right of return for Palestinians, Congressional support for Israel, international law, war crimes and cultural resiliency.

While the session did not spend enough time on practical solidarity work, the discussion was great and the history and analysis of Palestine Solidarity work was excellent.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Sondra permalink
    June 25, 2010 12:41 am

    Thanks for providing a link to the Peace Education Center in Lansing. And for attending and reporting on the USSF.

  2. I'm right permalink
    June 25, 2010 4:10 am

    are you serious with this article? The palestinians have evolved as far as they will go, they elected hamas, they can barely keep the lights on let alone form a respectable government. The problem is internal. They have no infastructure, no education, no drive to better themselves. I gurantee if you have give them all the land they want they still won’t be satisfied and will still be a third world country. Prove to the world you want peace and maybe they’ll get respect.

  3. June 25, 2010 4:16 am

    When you look at the past ten years in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, casualties figures for Palestinians far out number those of Israel. Israel actions go way beyond eye for an eye.

  4. ben permalink
    June 25, 2010 9:03 am

    casualties from dec 87 to march 2010

    7973 palestinians dead
    1500 israelis dead

  5. ben permalink
    June 25, 2010 9:14 am

    it is even more disproportinate when you look at the more recent past
    2005 -march 2010

    3230 palestians dead
    133 israelis dead

  6. ben permalink
    June 25, 2010 9:15 am

    israel continues to illegally grab land in violation of international law

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  1. Report from Palestinian Solidarity: Past Present and Future workshop – Palestine Program at the US Social Forum

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