FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Palestine Takes Center Stage at European Social Forum

“End the oppression, end the occupation” was the rallying cry at the European Social Forum in London last weekend, where thousands of delegates from all walks of life descended on Alexandra Palace united in the belief that “another world is possible.” Delegates spent three days discussing issues ranging from Palestine, Iraq and the Basque country to privatisation, animal rights and globalization.

In the Great Hall, Cubans sold Che Guevara books, badges and mugs. Communists distributed Marxist literature. Palestinians sold olive oil. Persians protested the Ayatollahs. Feminists campaigned for women’s rights, greens for the environment and Iraqis for Iraq. Activists drew attention to the plight of political prisoners throughout the world, and artists protested against the war. “It’s not who you are against but what you’re for” declared one banner.

An elaborate network of translators, called Babels, volunteers from all over Europe, sat in little boxes translating the cries against imperialism, capitalism, colonialism and occupation into English, French, Spanish, German, Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic and a plethora of other languages including Euskera. Headphones were free of charge and a travel card was included with the price of the ticket. Food and beverages were provided at extra cost. Due to immigration restrictions there was a heavy demand for Arabic and Turkish interpreters.

On the first day of the forum, in a show of solidarity and cooperation, Palestinians and Israelis universally condemned the government of Ariel Sharon. “I am calling for international sanctions on the Israeli regime” shouted Jonathan Shapira, a former helicopter pilot turned refusenik to rapturous applause. “Sharon must be put in Jail” thundered Mustafa Barghouti of Medical Relief for Palestine.

Towards the end of the talk, a young woman approached the microphone. “I am a Palestinian refugee from Chatila” she said. “When I was a child I had to walk over the bodies of my dead brothers and sisters. I have never seen Palestine” she lamented as the audience tried to hold back their tears. It was an emotional experience.

A young man then approached the stage from Jabaliya refugee camp where over a hundred Palestinians, including many civilians, were killed by the Israeli army in Gaza last week. “Jonathan is my hero” he said as he shook the hand of the former Israeli pilot who had admitted that “lately, I learnt how to say no.” Shapira was the first of twenty-six pilots in the Israeli air force to refuse “illegal and immoral orders.”

Palestine was so popular at the forum that people had to sit on the floor, or stand at the back during the plenary. Dennis Brutus, a poet, professor and former political prisoner who spent time on Robin Island with Nelson Mandela “breaking stones”, said it was “encouraging to see the crowds that have attended on each occasion to discuss the issue of the Palestinian people and their struggle for social justice.” He urged the audience to build a “global movement in support of the Palestinian people” just like was done in South Africa. “We can do this by boycotts, divestments, embargoes and sanctions” he said.

Ben Soffa, co-convener of “Jewish Students for Justice for Palestinians” was handing out leaflets at a seminar on Palestine. He told me there are “an awful lot of people” who sympathize with his organization even though they don,t always stand up and say so. In a recent poll, Soffa told me that “more British Jews say they are frequently critical of Israel than say that they are frequently supportive of the Israeli government.”

Primal Scream, a major British rock band, performed in Brixton Academy on Saturday evening in solidarity with the Palestinian people. The lead vocalist, Bobby Gillespie, wrote in the Guardian that “most people can see what is taking place on the ground in the Middle East. And they can see who needs our support. Everyone knows who is under the boot and who’s got the mouthful of broken glass. The Palestinians are a prisoner nation, refugees and exiles treated like ghosts. Now we want them to feel our solidarity.”

Jeremy Corbyn M.P. noted that Palestine is an icon across the whole continent, across the whole of the Middle East. “The injustice to the Palestinian people is seen as an injustice to the poor, to the downtrodden, to the oppressed and the marginalized throughout the world” he said. The rain over the weekend did not dampen expectations. Outside in the Marquee there was salsa music and a Palestinian rap group called DAM. “The Palestinians rappers were really good” a student informed me as we huddled together for shelter in the train station on our way home.

VICTOR KATTAN is a correspondent for Arab Media Watch and a Member of its Advisory Committee.

 

More articles by:
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail