What Next for Palestine?

It has been a year since Israel dropped approximately twenty tonnes of explosives over Gaza. Most of the strip remains devastated, with the scarce material being used to reconstruct  homes and infrastructure being bought from Israel itself. “Operation Protective Edge” has long been declared over and the media and politicians have turned their attention away. Unfortunately for the residents of Gaza, the wounds, devastation and continued Israeli aggression have not been over. In May alone, a total of fourteen teenagers were shot by IOF watchtowers according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Hundreds of thousands of children are still in dire need of psychological support, 90% of the water in Gaza is considered undrinkable, and people only have a few hours of electricity a day. With two thirds of the population being refugees within their own land, people have no jobs, tranquility or future. The rest of Palestine also remains occupied, segregated and dispossessed, under the constant threat of ethnic cleansing.

Qalandiya checkpoint

Qalandiya checkpoint

In spite of all this, within Palestine and within the Palestinian diaspora, people keep resisting. Internationally, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) keeps growing in size and success. The recent historic endorsement of the movement by the National Union of Students in the United Kingdom, coupled with the upcoming divestment of U.S. churches to divest from Israel (as well as fossil fuels), is small but represents the increasingly symbolic indication of the growing isolation Israel is heading towards. The inflammatory reactions by the Israeli foreign ministry and Benjamin Netanyahu, coupled with the millions invested to counter BDS can only be a sign of strength for the movement.

A recent talk at King’s College London, chaired by journalist Ben White and co-hosted by Amos Trust and KCL Action Palestine, featured a Question-time style panel with Palestinians from all walks of life. The main themes fuelling the discussion were the meaning of resistance and the future and what was next for the Palestinian struggle.

Ahmed Masoud, Palestinian writer and activist from Gaza, made the case for armed struggle in specific contexts, arguing it is the inevitable and last option that has been left to people, especially in besieged Gaza.

Riya Hassan, BDS European and National Co-ordinator, spoke about the BDS movement and international solidarity as the most effective tools to combat the occupation.

Iyad Burnat, from West Bank’s Bil’in’s Popular Committee, defended the strategic importance and relevance of non-violent resistance, talking from his own experience in succeeding in dismantling part of the apartheid wall. This sentiment was joined by Sami Awad from the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, who spoke about the moral grounds for non violent struggle and its function as a uniting and inclusive force.

Finally, Leila Sansour from Open Bethlehem, emphasised the importance of lobbying, political parties, negotiations and institutionalised struggle to pursue actual change on the ground. The debate was by no means consensual, which showed in a nutshell the diversity of positions existing within Palestine itself. There was a heated discussion on the legitimacy and efficacy of each type of resistance, as well as in the ways they should interact with each other. Some common convergence points were the importance of the BDS movement in shifting the narrative to one of rights rather than political boundaries, and having an impact on the ground yet while being wary in not converting it into a movement of its own that intends to “liberate” Palestine. This is recognition that Palestinians are the main actors of their struggle and thus have to be the drivers of their fight for liberation and a just settlement.

As an example of the effect international solidarity is having on the ground, Riya pointed out to the fact that during the recent Gaza massacre, no European country was willing to sell Israel ammunition, and so it had to be transported all the way from the United States. Another point made was the significance of the resistance to the Israeli Prawer Plan since it was announced in 2013. This plan aimed to ethnically cleanse around 40,000 Bedouins from the Negev desert, but the cohesion showcased by thousands of protestors from Palestine 1948, the West Bank, the diaspora, and even Gaza, created a sense of shared struggle that led to the withdrawal of the plan in December that year. This temporary success allegedly radicalised many Palestinians and has marked a turning point in the Palestinian grassroots struggle.

Lastly, Sami mentioned we should never overlook Netanyahu’s remarks on anti–Semitism and the invoking of Nazi Germany to condemn actions such as the recent NUS boycott as frivolous. Not only is his cabinet allocating money and people to combat BDS, but these statements are intelligently formulated to appeal to a certain national and international neo-conservative Jewish audience that is highly susceptible to the language of fear. By utilising the label of anti-Semitism, Israeli officials foster a sense of paranoia and entrenchment to the Israeli state as the protector of Jewish people, which gives political strength to Netanyahu and the Israeli right wing at home, whilst also maintaining and boosting international support from Zionist donors and lobbyists.

According to Sami, the Israeli status quo is composed of 3 pillars – the army, the media, and the economy. These factors are heavily dependent on international support, hence why it is key to use tactics such as BDS to weaken them. This way Palestinians can pressurise Israel into providing equal rights, the right of return, and an end to the illegal occupation – the three key demands of the BDS movement.

Until Victory,

Alberto Torres and Tayyaba Rafiq (All photo credit to @AfroArabian_ [Twitter] who is currently in Palestine)

KCLAP’s scholarships for Gaza campaign

In light of last summer’s bombardment of besieged Gaza, we passed a motion at KCLSU’s student council to send a symbolic gesture of solidarity to the strip by advocating for a fully funded scholarship for a student from Gaza. After the motion was passed in November last year, we have been working in conjunction with KCLSU to lobby and put pressure on King’s to set up a scholarship scheme for Palestinians from Gaza. And we have great news! Our VP of Education for the schools of Arts and Sciences Areeb Ullah has been in talks with Joanna Newman, who is the Vice Principal of International Affairs at King’s. They are currently working to raise funds to establish scholarships for students around the world who cannot afford to travel abroad but have the talent to do so. After communication with Areeb, it seems the idea for a specific scholarship for a student for Gaza has gained a good amount of traction. Now the work comes in ensuring it is fully funded and supported so that a Palestinian can leave Gaza with security and without problems and is supported to live in the UK too.

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Currently and as a consequence of the 2008 occupations to protest the 2008 Gaza massacre, any Palestinian student can already apply for a HESPAL scholarship to do a Masters at King’s. These scholarships are funded by a combination of the UK foreign office, King’s and other bodies. We have also ensured the online page has been updated and that it is fully functioning, as it did not have been updated since 2013. We do not want to claim victory yet but should the scholarship specific for a student of Gaza be achieved (which is likely), we will send another update and hopefully at some point we will be able to meet with some of those Palestinian newcomers! The result of these developments is not sheer luck but rather the fact that throughout the years KCLAP has built a really strong presence and reputation on campus and been at the forefront of the student struggle. This is why your support and continued involvement with KCL Action Palestine is immensely appreciated.

The walls of apartheid will fall one day, and that day will be determined by us.

KCL Action Palestine

Right 2 Education Week: No to Occupation, Yes to Education.

This week marks the beginning of Right 2 Education Week: an international student led campaign of events and action, instigated by Birzeit University in the West Bank, aimed to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinian students, teachers and academic institutions and the many obstacles they face on a daily basis in their quest for education.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, ‘Everyone has the right to education’ yet Palestinians living under military occupation are being systematically denied this basic right. In the West Bank and Gaza, occupied since 1967, there are today 11 universities, 5 university colleges and 25 community colleges. These universities have had a history of becoming sites of resistance so since their establishment have become targets of the Occupation.

Barriers to Education

The construction of a 730km wall since 2002 (declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004) annexing half the West Bank creates a system of gates and permits that imprisons Palestinians; separating them from land, jobs, healthcare and education. With gates only opened at specific times, the delay to the commute of students and teachers significantly paralyses the hopes of an education as we would know it. Students and professors are specifically harassed and humiliated at checkpoints, often immobilised for hours then denied access or arbitrarily arrested. Women in particular are routinely harassed by soldiers in ways that infringe on their religious beliefs

Direct attacks on educational institutes are another crippling tactic. During ‘Operation Protective Edge’ of this year, 118 schools were damaged and 22 destroyed, most notably was the prestigious Islamic University of Gaza which was completely destroyed by Israeli missiles. Birzeit University has been closed by military order fifteen times, the longest closure lasting 4.5 years (1988-1992) during the first Intifada. Many students face arrest and detention for political activism. Since 2003, 480 Birzeit University students have been imprisoned; currently, 80 are held in Israeli prisons, more than half of whom (42 students) have yet to be formally found guilty of any charge.

Despite boasting equality Israeli schools and colleges with a higher proportion of Palestinian Israeli citizens receive markedly less government funding. Students and professors alike are denied the right to freely express any criticism of Israel’s state policy for fear of dismissal, incarceration and intimidation. There has also been shown to be a pro-Israeli bias within the curriculum of schools and colleges where textbooks often redesign history and promote Zionistic ideals which claims divine rights over the land and essentially legitimises the expulsion of the Palestinian people. In 2012 schools in East Jerusalem were required to purchase and teach textbooks prepared by the Jerusalem Education Administration, a body of the Israeli ministry of education.

Face to Face with the Facts

As a preliminary event to r2e week campaign KCLAP hosted a Skype session event on November 13th which allowed students and academics, including Dr Hanada Kharma a teacher of Human Rights and Democracy at Berzeit University, to share with us their story and the day to day trials they face. They spoke of the Qalandia checkpoint, in the West Bank, delays students for up to 5 hours daily who can expect to wait through 5 checkpoints per journey.

Dr Kharma implored us to Boycott Hewlett Packard and their involvement in production of the microchips integrated into the Israeli ID System that restricts movement of Palestinians whilst tracking the location of students in the West Bank.

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KCLAP Skype Event

KCLAP Skype Event

Jehan Al-Farra, a Palestinian graduate and activist, who now studies in the UK gave us an insight into the distinctive issues of education in an area besieged; the Gaza strip. She spoke of the lack of a Gazan economy and her desire to promote reviving one through internet based entrepreneurship, such as creating websites, programming and graphical design, and so pursued a degree in Computer Science. Like in the West bank, the Gazan’s aspirations to study what they want, where they want are obstructed by the Israeli regime. It is now near impossible for a Gazan student to study in the West Bank. There were 350 Gaza students at Birzeit University, near Ramalla, in 2000 but many were deported, and those who were not remained in the West Bank ‘illegally’, at risk of deportation at any instant. In 2005, the number had diminished to 35 Gaza and today the number stands at zero.

KCLAP with Jehan Al-Farra

KCLAP with Jehan Al-Farra

Free Education Demo

We strongly feel the right to education is one that all of humanity shares. Whilst there are massive parallels between the struggles of the Palestinian people and people wishing to pursue higher degree education here in the UK, we are first and foremost activists and any unfair impediment to education is one we are compelled to speak out against. Many of you reading this blog post are likely KCL students and many of you I imagine share the same dilemmas I did following the three fold rise in tuition fees.

On the 19th of November KCLAP joined over 5000 students at the Free Education national demo here in the street of central London, with the main ethos being ‘No Fees, No Cuts, No Debt’.

Free Education Demo

Free Education Demo, Central London

Right 2 Education Week #R2E

We are currently in the final days of R2E week. With stalls throughout the week at Guy’s and Strand Campuses from 11am to 3pm, our aim is to remind you of a form of oppression that you are unlikely to hear on the news. We hope you can join us tomorrow on our last day of the week and leave a message of solidarity. I leave you with a quote:

“Palestinian education and propaganda are more dangerous to Israel than Palestinian weapons.”

Ariel Sharon (Israeli Prime Minister 2001-2006)

Stop Attacking Education

Stop Attacking Education

A pen is the greatest weapon #ProEducation

A pen is the greatest weapon #ProEducation

R2E Stalls, Strand Campus

Education is the difference between just surviving and living – and should in this spirit be as much a right as the right to live

R2E Stalls, Strand Campus

Education is power! To take away someone’s right to education , you take away their freedom!

R2E Stalls, Strand Campus

From the River to the Sea, Education will be Free.

By Kamil Mahmood (KCLAP Committee)

Photography by Mariya Hussain

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Silent Disruption of Israeli Soldier’s talk – 3/11/2014

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On the 3rd of November 2014, King’s College London’s Israel society hosted Lieutenant Hen Mazzig who had served in the Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) for five years.

He is now the Director of Education at the Stand With Us group, a right-wing pro-Israeli group with links to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, whose aim is to ‘enhance Israel’s image in the eyes of the world.’ This is the same lobbying group that claims to have been behind the Trustee veto of the BDS motion that was passed at KCL Student’s Union last year, subverting the vote of over 300 hundred students to serve their political interests.

KCLSU received a number of complaints from students for not duly processing this controversial speaker, in line with KCLSU policy. The distress someone of this calibre can cause to students, especially Palestinians, is a strong reason for considering barring him from speaking.

KCL Action Palestine champions free speech but not when this tries to whitewash a 2,000 people massacre or deny of one of the most disastrous catastrophes in recent history, the Nakba.

In response, from medicine to political science students, a silent disruption of the event in order to raise awareness of the crimes Hen tried to whitewash was organised. With the help of KCL Action Palestine, students mobilised to attend the meeting. Around 50 of us sat down and listened to twenty minutes of what the former IOF soldier had to say.

As he spoke about rockets being launched into Israel during the latest massacre with a map on the background which did not even recognise the existence of the West Bank, students stood up with flags, kufifyehs and the names of families of those murdered in the summer and recently in the West Bank.

Students left the room more than half empty. A banner was held up with the names and figures of how many Palestinians had been killed in the summer.

We were then escorted out of the room by the safe space policy monitors as the speakers shouted us to stay and engage. Problem is it is not us that have to engage, but Palestinians. Palestinians are being deliberately silenced and killed every day, it is them who have to be given a voice by the Israeli Occupation.

A video we have compiled of the event and our silent protest action will follow shortly to substantiate our claims.

After the protesting students exited the lecture theatre, former soldier Hen Mazzig is quoted to have said that the reason that the peace process has failed is because “This is the mentality.” We call on Hen Mazzig to explain to the students of KCL what exactly is ‘this mentality’ and to stand denounce the war crimes of his organisation.

In the same way that pro-Palestinian student activists at KCL staged this protest, similar actions would have been staged at a member of the US army speaking at KCL. Members of the armed forces who have engaged in occupation and killings are highly controversial speakers that even organisations such as Amnesty International do not welcome in our campus.

Students have the right to peacefully voice their opposition in creative ways against the normalisation of Military personnel on our campus.

We would like to thank all the fifty students present in the protest. KCL students have shown they do not tolerate apartheid apologists nor speakers trying to whitewash the crimes of a brutal occupation.

In Solidarity,

KCLAP at the Prinicipal’s Student Open Session

The new president and principal of King’s College London, Edward Byrne, held his first Student Open Session on Monday evening. The sessions are designed to ensure that the student voice is heard when considering the direction of the college.

KCLAP went along to ask some questions regarding our concerns, particularly those we have related to contracts with G4S, Veolia and Eden Springs.

When questioned about ensuring that the motion to support students at the University of Gaza, which was passed at a recent student council meeting the principal stated that he did not know the details but the he supports “collaboration with universities everywhere, and where we can lend a helping hand to people, I think we should.”

Also, regarding the unethical practises of G4S and Veolia and the College’s stance on them the principal said “we need to take the ethical activity of commercial partners as well as academic partners into account.”

The principal appeared generally concerned about the issues raised, and KCLAP hopes that a meaningful relationship between Action Palestine, the Palestine student Movement and the staff at King’s College London can be created by becoming a socially conscious institution that recognises its power to influence global change, be that through providing scholarships for Gaza students or developing our role in shareholder activism.

Confronting Israeli Apartheid 2014, Sheffield University

Mariya Hussain

The annual Confronting Israeli Apartheid conference took place at Sheffield University last weekend. Students from all over the UK, including members of KCLAP, went for the weekend to learn how to, as the name of the conference suggests, confront Israeli apartheid and build the student movement for Palestine on campus. A lot of emphasis was placed on BDS campaigns and how to plan them.

TProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presethe weekend began with talks from Malaka Mohammed, Abdul Razzaq Takriti, Juman Abujbara and Rafeef Ziadah followed by a question and answer session which set a tone of discussion and education for the weekend. Workshops that followed focused on campaigning and how to effectively communicate about the Palestinian struggle on campus, two things that are a Palestinian society’s primary objectives.

Sunday was more specific and very helpful. “Combating Lawfare” explored the tactics used by anti-Palestinian groups to close down debate and how to combat it; “Building Connections with Palestine” and “Working with Local Activists & After University Activism” both focused on building networks, locally, nationally and internationally, something vital for the cause; “Working within Student Unions” and “Operating within NUS” delivered by Areeb Ullah and Malia Bouattia cleared up misconceptions about the role of NUS regarding Palestine and how we can get involved to affect policy and ensure implementation of change.

The weekend ended with dates decided for regional meetups, planning for BDS campaigns and a group photograph before we all departed and took what we learnt back to our campuses across the country.

After the practical advice and education on campaigning and supporting the cause, the most beneficial and exciting thing about the conference was meeting fellow student activists. It was great to hear about Palestinian societies and campaigns, their success, setbacks and plans for the future. Palestinians themselves were heard from too, whether they were presenting or attending, and the conference provided a unique meeting point where their voices and thoughts could be heard.

The conference painted a picture of the state of Palestine activism within the student body and what a diverse canvas it was! Societies and campaigns were at different stages, obstacles were being faced, successes being celebrated, but the common thread throughout the diversity was the inspiring enthusiasm and dedication to the Palestinian cause. Real change can be made through the student movement and the Confronting Israeli Apartheid conference highlighted this, galvanising all who attended.

Some thoughts from members who attended:

It was great to meet with other Palestinian societies, hear their ideas and network. It was also great to meet really cool people like Rafeef Ziadah, who it turns out is an amazing woman.

– David Robinson

A thrilling, politically charged conference full of passionate and active students. The level of organisation was incredible, I could imagine a similar thing happening during the boycott movement against apartheid South Africa or the anti war movement during Vietnam. I hope, as part of the international solidarity movement and the Palestinian resistance, that we make history.

– Alberto Torres

The conference gave me education and confidence in knowing what we can do as a society and student body. The question and answer sessions with Palestinian speakers offered a real and personal view point.

– Duaa Khair

The variety of people there was great to see as it projected this United front supporting the Palestinian cause. Also the workshops gave us brilliant advice on how to effectively transmit and broadcast the principles and motives of KCLAP. It was a well organised event with great guest speakers, and I highly anticipate attending the next one.

– Ghenwa Minawi

I learnt a lot through the workshops and found meeting other student activists from around the country very interesting. It was good to hear about all the work going on and the plans for the future.

– Yousef Eltuhamy

 

 

The Rain in Gaza

It rains death in Gaza,

Wetting the streets with the blood of the drowning.

It rains so often in Gaza,
That there is even forecast and a warning shower;
A promise of heavy weather.
Yet too often, five minutes is too short a time to grab an umbrella,
And as with all forecasts, you cannot completely predict the rain.

It has rained for years in Gaza,
Sometimes it drizzles, sometimes it pours,
But it never fully halts. It rains so much that
Its drenched denizens raise their arms and cry out:
“When will the rain stop?!”
But their wet, weary voices are barely heard over
The thunderous drums of war.

“Will the rain stop today?” Asks a child in Gaza.
And the reply comes from birds with metal wings
Whose melodies do not delight the ears, but instead threaten
With the promise of a revisiting storm.
The mother sighs “Be patient, dear” as she wipes the child’s tears,
Not noticing the two drops of rain
That stream down her own face.

For she knows.
She knows that it will always rain in Gaza.

As long as Gaza tries to stand in the hurricane,
It will rain.
As long as Gaza gasps for air and refuses to drown,
It will rain.
As long as Gaza’s heart beats despite the blood loss,
It will rain.
And rain.
And rain.

I pray as I watch that rain.
I plead and beg and pray for a time when
Men can say: “It used to rain in Gaza”,

“But it doesn’t any more”.

 

————-

By Yousef Eltuhamy, 2nd year studying Medicine.

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