Report back from joint Lambeth and Wandsworth PSC and Lambeth

Unison public meeting during BDS week – 9 November 2010

By Gurmeet Khurana, International Officer – Lambeth Unison

Palestine Public meeting

9 November 2010

Photograph by Gurmeet Khurana

Around 30 people attended this joint meeting organised by Lambeth and

Wandsworth Palestine Solidarity Campaign (LWPCS) and Lambeth Unison during

BDS week.

The meeting was chaired by Jackie Lewis, chair of the LWPSC who opened the

meeting by reading out the Sanctions against Israel from which the International

BDS campaign originated.

The statement can be read in full by visiting Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and www.palestinecampaign.org

The first speaker was Bell Reberio-Addy who is on the National Union of Students Black

students committee. She spoke about the role that students have played in the

supporting the Palestinians concentrating on the actions that students took around the

time of the Gaza bombing in 2008. She also mentioned that within the NUS, only the

Black students committee and the LGBT group were affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity

campaign and also stop the war. Unfortunately, she did not envisage that changing

anytime soon as the leadership in the NUS have made it very difficult for students to

attend meetings where this could be voted on and changed.

The second speaker was Muthanna Al-Qadi who is the Middle East Affairs editor for

the Al-Quds newspaper in Jerusalem. Muthanna gave an update of the current

situation in Palestine. He spoke about Israel’s decision to give the go-ahead for the

construction of more than one thousand new settler homes in occupied East

Jerusalem which was announced as Benyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime

minister, visits the United States. He also spoke about the continued eviction of

Bedouin’s from their villages so their land could be confiscated. He went on to talk

about tourism which has become an extremely political issue. He explained the

proposed Knesset bill which would ban some 300 Palestinian tour guides from

eastern Jerusalem from serving in the city and the anger that it was generating.

According to the bill, the Palestinian tour guides do not present the Israeli viewpoint.

Despite the fact that these Palestinian tour guides are certified by Israel’s Tourism

Ministry, they are being told they will be banned from working! Muthanna explained

the context behind the attacks on Palestinians in East Jerusalem is linked to Israel’s

attempts to claim all of Jerusalem as its capital. Muthanna then went on to give an

update on the situation in the West Bank talking about the violent attacks by settlers

on the farmers and olive trees, which are the main source of income for many

families in the West Bank, whilst IDF soldiers stand and watch. Mutanna ended by

talking about the security situation in Gaza and warned of the signs of a possible

future attack on Gaza and Iran.

Next to speak was

moving account of their journey to Gaza as she recalled her experience of driving as part

of the convoy. She spoke about warm reception the convoy received at every stage of

their journey from farmers in fields giving the convoy the peace sign to the family of some

of those brave activists who were murdered on the Mavi Marmara.

She also spoke about how people from local communities came to visit them to

bring them medicine and clothes to take with them. The convoy was also able to

visit the graves of three of the men who were killed on the Mavi Marmara and

Amena recalled the moving story of the families of these men giving the convoy

soil from the graves to take and mix with the soil in Gaza so a part of them would

forever be in Gaza.

In Leon, the convoy met the town’s Mayor who flies the Palestinian flag above the Town

Hall. He has been ordered to remove it but refuses to do so until Palestine is free!

Unfortunately, Amena was one the 17 members of the convoy who was denied entry

into Gaza but was delighted that the convoy managed to break the siege.

Amena Saleem who was on the Viva Palestina 5 convoy, gave a

The final speaker was Sahida Uddin, who was part of a recent Lambeth Unison

delegation to West Bank. Sahida opened by explaining the purpose of the delegation

visit which was to officially twin Lambeth Unison Branch with the Nablus branch of

the PGFTU. She explained the importance of such initiatives between unions and the

role they can play in building International solidarity amongst workers and also as an

opportunity to share experiences of organising in a trade union. It also provides us

with a source for information about the latest situation in Palestine.

Sahida also brought a clear message from the PGFTU who stated that while the

Palestinian economy has been tied into the Israeli economy due to the occupation

and and the Palestinians do not often have a choice to buy non-Israeli products, we

clearly have a choice. BDS is a movement endorsed by the PGFTU and it is a

powerful tool in the struggle for equality, justice and freedom for the Palestinian


Sahida went on to talk about her experience of visiting the West Bank and the work

of the Hebron rehabilitation centre and her shock at hearing about the settler attacks

on Palestinians living and working in Hebron. She described seeing the checkpoints

in Qalqilia and the horrific conditions that workers there had to endure to get to work

in the settlement. She also recalled her experience of going to the weekly nonviolent

demonstration at Bil’in, which is echoed throughout the West Bank in

villages, towns and lands at risk of destruction from the Israeli apartheid barrier.

Sahida spoke of the bravery of the international and Israeli activists as well as the

determination and courage of the local Palestinians, who faced this weekly attack of

tear gas, violence and often rubber and live bullets from the IDF, but continued to

hold peaceful protests. She told the story of one of the key Palestinian leaders of the

non-violent movement who was killed at Bi’lin, during one of these demonstrations,

when a tear gas canister hit his chest and exploded. Sahida went on to talk about her

visit to the Defence for Children International in Hebron and the accounts she heard

about children sometimes as young as five years old being arrested, interrogated

and scared into spying on family members. She talked of the annexing of Palestinian

lands in Bethlehem and the visit to a Palestinian farmer whose land is being

confiscated with a ruthlessness that means his parents’ graves will now be on the

Israeli side of the proposed separation barrier.

She went on to describe the mobile health clinics in Nablus and the effects of the

military occupation on health, resulting in the deaths of Palestinians as a result of

the long delays and harassment at checkpoints. She closed by taking about the main

message that she has taken away from her visit which was that Internationals need

to do what they can in their own countries and put pressure on their own governments

as well as giving support to Palestinians.

Gurmeet Khurana, International Officer – Lambeth Unison


[email protected]

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