The author, Chris Khamis is a British Palestinian who has been active in the Palestinian solidarity and labour movements for many decades.
The article was first Published in The Organiser Newsletter of Momentum supporters and Trade Unionists in Birmingham
This year, 2017, is a year of significant but unpleasant anniversaries for
Palestinians. It is 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, usually seen as the origin of the Israel/Palestine conflict, which said that the British Government “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” thereby promising a land they didn’t own and where Jewish people were a small minority to the Zionist movement, supported at the time by a minority of Jewish people worldwide.
It is also the 60th anniversary of the Six Day War when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian territories which remain under occupation to this day.
At a personal level, this year is the 69th anniversary of the newly formed Israeli state telling my late father that he could not return from his studies in Britain to the town near Nazareth where he was born and brought up.
They told him he was a refugee, ignoring his valid study visa on his British Mandate of Palestine passport. Unfortunately, my father was a Palestinian Arab; if he had been Jewish from any part of the world he would have
had the right to enter Israel. My father’s predicament was just one of the same faced by over 700,000
Palestinian Arabs who fled the fighting in 1947 and 1948 or who were driven out by Zionist forces. All have been denied the internationally recognised human right of refugees to return to their homeland. Palestinian
refugees now number perhaps 7 million, many living in poverty in refugee camps.
The refugees’ and my father’s predicament goes to the nub of the Israel/Palestine conflict. The Zionist answer to a vicious, mainly European history of antisemitism culminating in the Holocaust was to create a state where Jewish people had rights denied to others of a different ethnic or religious background, even if these people had been living there for hundreds of years. In response to racism, Zionism proposed and delivered a state which discriminated and continues to discriminate on racist grounds. It’s as simple as that. And the consequences, not just for Palestinians
but for Jewish Israelis and for Jewish people around the world who still face antisemitism, have not been pleasant.
Solving the conflict is not so simple. Israel’s continued building of settlements in the Occupied Territories and brutal treatment of Palestinians who live there is perhaps well known, less is written on the plight of Palestinian refugees, on discrimination faced by Palestinians who are Israeli citizens or the attempts at ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem. International institutions and the western powers occasionally issue condemnations but have singularly failed to stop the medieval siege of Gaza, the growth of settlements in the West Bank that is making the concept of a two-state solution a non-starter, the increasing discrimination against Palestinian Israeli citizens and the rising racism in the Israeli population.
That is why we need the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This non-violent movement was launched by 170 Palestinian civil society groups in 2005. Inspired by the success of a similar campaign against apartheid South Africa, they called for BDS until Israel:
1. Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Wall.
2. Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
3. Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
These are demands for basic human rights backed by international law,yet for being active in this movement, I am denied the right by recent Israeli legislation to visit my Palestinian relatives and my father’s grave.And in a display of amazingly twisted logic, there are people who claim that BDS is anti-Semitic. (So the campaign against apartheid South Africawas anti-White?)
The Israel/Palestine conflict has gone on for too long. Too many people have died and too many continue to suffer. Britain has an historic responsibility to try and find a just, peaceful and sustainable solution based on human rights and democratic principles. We need to pressurise our government to live up to its responsibilities but we can also do something by supporting the BDS movement.
As we enter the last week of the election campaign, we need to make a concerted effort to ensure every candidate within West Midlands is aware of our campaign and its objective of peace and justice in Palestine.
So far, very few of the West Midland candidates have responded to the questions put to them. You could help by sending them a reminder by following the link below.
You can also view the responses from the candidates we have received so far by following the link here
Vigil outside the Mail Box B1 1 Birmingham
Tuesday 30th May 6-7pm
Yesterday after 41 days on hunger strike , Palestinian prisoners suspended the strike after Israeli authorities yielded to the demand to enter negotiations with the prisoners’ chosen leaders.
Issa Qaraqe, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission , speaking on May 28th declared that “80 percent of the demands” of the prisoners were achieved in the strike, calling it “an important achievement to build on in the future on the basis of the protection of the prisoners’ rights and dignity
In recognition of this victory PSC and organizing partners have called off the actions planned for Tuesday May 30th including a solidarity fast and rally outside of the BBC
It is appalling that over 1500 people had to place their lives at risk to be granted basic human rights such as proper medical care and family visits. But the hunger strike was of course about more than that. It was an assertion of the broader Palestinian struggle for freedom equality and justice. The hunger strike has been an action which has galvanized Palestinian society and emphasized the centrality of the Prisoners movement to the struggle of the Palestinian people as a whole.
So we salute the courage of the strikers their families and all of those groups in Palestine and beyond who campaigned in support for their action, and also commit ourselves to continuing efforts in our broader campaign for an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people and the achievement of a just peace.
In the UK our immediate focus must now turn to the election campaign and to ensuring that we all put every effort into ensuring that the cause of Justice for the Palestinians is not lost in the fog of election debate. To date over 1000 have contacted your candidates in our vote Palestine campaign. Please add your voice by sending an email to your candidates here
Let us remember the words Marwan Barghouti sent out to the world as he entered the 6th day of the hunger strike : “I call on you to stand up for those thrown into dark cells to be forgotten. I call on you to support the legitimate demands of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and to uphold international law. I call on you to support the freedom and dignity of the Palestinian people, so peace can prevail.”
Ben Jamal, Director Palestine Solidarity Campaign
|Over 1500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails have gone on hunger strike since the 17th of April demanding improvement in the treatment they receive in the prisons. They are demanding two monthly visits and an extension of the visits from 45 minutes to 90 minutes and allow children to visit their mothers without barriers so they can hug and kiss them.||The prisoners demand an end to administrative detention and solitary confinement. Today Over 500 Palestinians are held without charge or trial indefinitely under administrative detention orders. The United Nations has denounced Israel’s practice of administrative detention where by Palestinians are caged indefinitely, without charge, on the whim of the Israeli military.|
|The prisoners demand proper health treatment for sick prisoners. Ramla prison hospital where they are currently taken is unfit for medical care. It has been described by patients as “a slaughterhouse, not a hospital, with jailers wearing doctors’ uniforms.”
The prisoners demand prisoners not be charged for their medical care.
|The prisoners demand that kitchens are restored in all prisons and place them under the supervision of Palestinian detainees to prepare their own meals. The kitchens in most prisons in Israel where Palestinian political prisoners are caged are run by Israeli criminal prisoners. According to testimony from Nafha prison, Israeli criminal prisoners routinely urinate and spit in food prepared for Palestinian prisoners. Witnesses have also seen them stirring the soup for Palestinian prisoners with a broom that they previously used to clean the floor.|
|The prisoners demand humanitarian treatment of prisoners during transportation and transfer, returning the prisoners promptly to prison from clinic and courts. At present prisoner are held shackled in an iron box on the transportation vehicle, the journey of a few miles from the prison to the court can take a full day with no access to a toilet and sometimes no food. political prisoners during the transport.||The prisoners demand that they be allowed to receive cloths, food and reading material from their families during visits. Israel has turned prisons in to money making enterprises with prisoners essentially forced to pay for their own imprisonment. Israel deliberately fails to provide Palestinian prisoners the basic essentials like edible food, cloths (underwear, shoes..) and hygiene products (soap, toothbrush..), and doesn’t allow families to bring these during visits, forcing prisoners to buy them at the extortionately priced prison shop.|