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News :: Human Rights : International
Bostonians Rally on the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine
01 Dec 2004
On November 29, 2004, the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine, about forty people gathered from 6:00 to 7:00 pm for a rally in Harvard Square organized by the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights (BCPR). They joined people around the world, expressing their solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle to end their occupation by Israel, an occupation that sees Palestinians murdered and humiliated on a daily basis, their homes and villages destroyed, and their best agricultural land and aquifers confiscated. As people at the protest argued, it is particularly important for Americans to oppose the Israeli occupation, because the United States government is not the even-handed broker in the conflict that it depicts itself as, but in fact Israel’s chief supporter worldwide.
Bostonians Rally on the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine
by Matthew Williams

On November 29, 2004, the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine, about forty people gathered from 6:00 to 7:00 pm for a rally in Harvard Square organized by the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights (BCPR). They joined people around the world, expressing their solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle to end their occupation by Israel, an occupation that sees Palestinians murdered and humiliated on a daily basis, their homes and villages destroyed, and their best agricultural land and aquifers confiscated. As people at the protest argued, it is particularly important for Americans to oppose the Israeli occupation, because the United States government is not the even-handed broker in the conflict that it depicts itself as, but in fact Israel’s chief supporter worldwide.

Nancy Murray of the BCPR and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation explained the origins of the International Day of Solidarity: “This day, November 29, was proclaimed the International Day of Solidarity by the UN in 1977. It refers to the day, November 29 in 1947, when UN Resolution 181 was approved. It partitioned the territories--at the time, 30% of the population were Jews, but the UN offered them 55% of the land; Palestinians were 70% of the population, but they were only offered 45% of the land and they turned it down. Ever since 1947, the UN has been trying to fix this problem.”

Things, however, have gone downhill since 1947. Israel declared its independence from the local colonial power of Britain in 1948, upon which it was immediately attacked by several of the neighboring Arab states. In the ensuing war, the Israeli military seized additional land, leaving it with 78% of of historical Palestine; Israel also expelled Palestinians en masse from their villages in the territory it controlled, creating a massive refugee crisis that continues to this day, fifty-six years later. Israel got involved in another war with its Arab neighbors in 1967, seizing the remainder of historical Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza Strip (which had never gained independence, but been taken over by Jordan and Egypt respectively during the 1948 war). Israel still continues to occupy these territories seized in 1967, despite widespread international support for establishing a Palestinian state within the Occupied Territories (the land occupied by Israel in 1967).

Murray explained that, “There was a call by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation for demonstrations and educational events in the US to match what’s happening in Europe and the Middle East.”

Dave Slaney of the BCPR argued that the US government is not the even-handed peace broker that it depicts itself as: “US policy towards Israel should change--we need to stop giving Israel a blank check. Israel is the number one recipient of US aid. The US continually protects Israel in the UN Security Council with vetoes--it’s the only thing that protects Israel from international sanctions, which the rest of the international community supports. The US sends all sorts of military aid to Israel. The US road map to peace supposedly calls for an end to Palestinian attacks on civilians and an end to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, which have expanded ever since 1967. Only once under the first Bush administration have we cut aid to Israel as a result of the settlements though. The US professes one thing, but provides cart blanche to Israel.”

The settlements--Jewish colonies in the Occupied Territories--are only one of many violations of international law and basic human rights engaged in by the Israeli government. While some Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad have engaged in terrorist attacks on Jewish civilians, Israeli state terrorism is far greater and more systematic. In addition to the settlements, the Israeli government has constructed a system of Jewish-only roads throughout the Occupied Territories. The construction of settlements and road continued even through the Oslo peace process, one of the factors that lead to its collapse. Since the collapse of Oslo and the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) in September 2000, the Israeli government has stepped up its level of repression. A system of check-points has been set up throughout the Occupied Territories, making it impossible to get from one place to another quickly--even ambulances on emergency medical trips may be delayed for hours. In response to Palestinian terrorist attacks, the Israeli military has bulldozed houses or whole neighborhoods, rendering homeless people who had nothing to do with the attacks. The Israeli government has engaged in numerous assassination attempts against Palestinian leaders--generally by firing rockets from helicopters--often taking out large numbers of innocent by-standers in the process. The Israeli military has also opened fire on numerous nonviolent Palestinian protests, killing large numbers of civilians. Finally, the Israeli government has begun constructing a twenty-six foot wall through the West Bank (not on Israel’s 1967 borders), cutting towns in half, separating farmers from their land, and enclosing much of the best agricultural land and aquifers on the “Israeli” side of the Wall, leading many to see it not as a security measure, but as a giant land grab. Some sense of the wholly disproportionate nature of the conflict can also be gained by looking at the casualty statistics--while (according to the Israeli military’s website http://www.idf.il ) 989 Israelis--295 soldiers and 694 civilians--have died since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000, there have been 3,455 Palestinian deaths in the same period (according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, http://palestinercs.org/intifadasummary.htm ); in other words, three-and-a-half as many Palestinians have died as Israelis. While many innocent Israelis have died, Israel is clearly the oppressor in this situation.

Murray traveled to the Occupied Territories in June of this year and described some of her experiences with this system of occupation to me. “It took me two months to get in--I had to apply to the Israeli military and it was like entering a maximum security prison where there are no visiting hours. I was in the Gaza Strip shortly after the invasion of the Rafah refugee camp in May. I stood in the spot where 2,000 people marched on Rafah in May, to the part of the refugee camp besieged by the army, taking the refugees food, water, and blankets; they were shot at by an Apache helicopter and tank shells and twenty people were killed. We stood at the same spot, where there is now a memorial, and were shot at by an Israeli sniper. The next day, three members of a British Parliamentary delegation were shot at in the same spot. In the West Bank, I visited a friend who is a school principal in a town outside of Jerusalem, Abu Dis. Her school is right across the street from her. Now a twenty-six foot wall stands between her and the school--it takes her forty minutes to get there.”

The people at the rally walked around in a circle in front of the Harvard Coop, carrying Palestinian flags and wearing signs saying, “We Are All Palestinian.” Susan Jacoby of Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine explained the reasons she was there: “This is a moment for us to stop and express our solidarity with and connection to the Palestinian people in their struggle for justice and peace. As a Jewish person, it is particularly important for me to stand in solidarity--to show that we don’t support the Israeli government, that we are against them. We don’t only see the suffering of Jewish people, but also the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

In response to the Israeli government’s claims that its actions in the Occupied Territories are to protect the lives of Jews from Palestinian terrorist attacks, Jacoby said, “It’s a pretext--Jews are less safe as a result of the Israeli governments actions. For instance, if the Wall were being built to protect Jews, it would be built on the Green Line [Israel’s 1967 border], but it’s being built in such a way to take the most valuable farm land and water resources from Palestinians. They say it’s for security, but it’s not. Similarly, the checkpoints that Israel claims are to keep terrorists from getting into Israel would be on the Green Line, but so many of them are near villages. Their purpose is to humiliate Palestinians. They don’t serve a security purpose. We have to see clearly what Israel is doing and not just be swayed by the rhetoric.” Many analysts argue that the Israeli government’s “security” measures make life so desperate for Palestinians, that many of them fall into despair and are thus willing to act as suicide bombers--while Israel’s state terrorism does not justify a terrorist response in turn, it will be impossible to end Palestinian terrorism with out understanding what drives people to it.

Many American politicians and media commentators have seen hope in two recent events--the plans announced by far-right Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and the death of long-time Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. People at the rally were a good deal less optimistic.

On Arafat’s death, Slaney said, “I don’t see it changing Israeli intention to occupy as much of the West Bank as possible. Hopefully, it will allow Palestinians to move beyond the corruption of Arafat’s government--it hasn’t done much for Palestinians in the last ten years.” The candidate of Fatah (the Palestine Liberation Organization’s dominant faction) and Arafat’s likely successor, Abu Mazin, however, has little popular support among Palestinians. There is also a long-shot candidate, Mustafa Barghouti (not to be confused with his distant relative Marwan Barghouti, a popular member of Fatah jailed by Israel on trumped up terrorism charges), who is deeply involved with the grassroots, nonviolent resistance movement to the Israeli occupation (a movement that gets little press in the US, where accounts of Palestinian resistance are dominated by reports on terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad); his election might improve the Palestinians’ governance system considerably.

On the proposed withdrawal from Gaza, Murray said, “It’s actually very frightening to Palestinians because the plan involves destroying a huge swath of territory near the Egyptian border and near the checkpoint with Israel. Israel would control all the borders, the sea and the air. The Palestinians would be living in the world’s largest open air prison. Abu Mazin is saying he wants to negotiate the terms of the withdrawal--they hope at least to control the borders.”

Of the whole situation, Murray said, “It’s left Palestinians feeling that there’s no peace partner, that peace is very far off--it’s not even on the horizon.”

####

For more information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict see the Electronic Intifada http://electronicintifada.net, the Middle East Research and Information Project http://www.merip.org , or ZNet’s Middle East Watch http://www.zmag.org/meastwatch/meastwat.cfm . To get involved with local organizing around this issue, contact the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights http://www.bcpr.org at info (at) bcpr.org.

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Comments

"Israel" is a lie
03 Dec 2004
[Editor's note: bullwinkle is responding to now hidden posts making racist comments about Palestinians.]

i cant believe that there is talk like this on IMC. Anti Israel does not equal anti-jewish. Using missles and helicopters to opress a third world country is more cowardly than a 13 year suicide bomber who is acting out of desperation. And shame on all "peace" supporters that think Palestinians should negotiate with Israel. Israel is a murderous, racist government that has been opressing the Palestinians for decades, what right do they have in negotiating for "peace"? Should the slaves have negotiated with their owners? Should the allies have negotiated with Hitler? If you agree that negotiations are the only way, then you are giving Israel a free ticket to murder innocent civilians.
Re: Bostonians Rally on the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine
03 Dec 2004
Anyone who doesn't support the Jews is a Nazi. And there are a lot of Nazis!
Re: Bostonians Rally on the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine
03 Dec 2004
Hey Bullwinkle, are you defending the actions of Arafat and Yassin and their goons?

Show me proof that there even is a "Palestine."
Re: Bostonians Rally on the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine
03 Dec 2004
Rocky, can I suggest you reread the article? You will note I quote a Jewish woman criticizing Israeli policy. One of the things she--and many others--argues is that the policy of the Israeli government makes Jews less safe, by creating a climate of despair and desparation among Palestinians that leads to suicide bombings. You will also not I make the point that this doesn't justify suicide bombings--but if you want to solve a social problem, you still need to understand its roots, including people's motivations and what social conditions foster those motivations. Finally, you will note that the article is critical of Arafat's government for its corruption, as well as terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, instead saying something supportive about the nonviolent, grassroots movement that is emerging, particularly in resistance to the Wall. Palestinians are not all some homogeneous lump, acting together and blindly following their leaders. There are many different political tendencies, using different tactics, ranging from terrorism to armed struggle against military targets (Palestinians' legal right under international law as an occupied people) to nonviolent direct action to diplomacy. This intifada was as much a revolt against the corruption of Arafat (at least before Israel turned him into a hero by laying seige to his compund) as against the Israeli occupation.

Criticizing the government of Israel--or even arguing that the state of Israel, as a state that privileges a particular ethnic/religious group over others, should not exist--is not the same as being anti-Jewish. There are Jewish anti-Zionists out there and many more Jews who, while they support the idea of a Jewish state, are deeply critical of the current Israeli government's policy. Many base their stance on a a deep commitment to the Jewish tradition of social justice. Opposing a state's existence or policy is not the same as calling for the extermination of an entire ethnic/religious group. Israel does not equal the Jewish people. One can oppose anti-Semitism and Israel. And, as I said, Jews would probably be much safer is Israel pulled out of the Occuppied Territories and made a just peace with the Palestinians.

So there's no state of Palestine. That doesn't mean there are no Palestinians. There are many other stateless peoples as well--the Kurds, Tibetans, Druze, Uighirs, Lokta, Hopi, Navajo, etc.--the list extends at least into the hundreds, if not the thousands. Many of these ethnic groups have never had a state historically. That hardly means that they have no distinct identity, no culture and tradition of their own, and no rights to self determination, after some fashion or other. Or do you support the Chinese government's right to repress all non-Han ethnic groups?
Re: Bostonians Rally on the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine
04 Dec 2004
but who is to day that is a bad thing? Its only the economy that would crash. I dont have any stocks invested, and i think having a job is a bit over rated. There would be a reversal in roles for the US, with out its stock market and free trading, they have nothing. Israel would also be up shits creek if the US economy fell. all the anarchists could finally get what they wished for
Re: Bostonians Rally on the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine
19 Dec 2004
WHY CAN'T THE JEWISH PPL SEE THAT SHARON IS A SICK, SICK, MAN?? THAT JUST BAFFELS ME... WHAT THE NAZI'S DID TO HIS PPL, IS WHAT THE ISRAELI ARMY IS DOING TO THE PALESTINIAN PPL! WHAT'S SAD IS THAT IS 2004, AND NOTHING IS BEING DONE ABOUT IT, THE KILLING'S ARE DAILY IN GAZA, THE WAR CRIME'S CONTINUE, GAZA STRIP IS NOW LEFT TO NOTHING, IT'S BASICLY A HELL-HOLE, NO WONDER THE PALESTINIAN PPL ARE THROWING STONES, BLOWING THEMSELVES UP.... THEY HAVE NOTHING!!! IN A WAY, MAYBE THE INTIFADA WAS A GOOD THING, B/C THEN IT OPENED MY EYES, AN AMERICAN WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THE PALESTINIAN/ISRAELI CONFLICT, TO SEE THE HORROR'S THAT THE PALESTINIAN'S FACE DAILY. I WOULD HAVE NEVER KNOWN WHAT SAVAGES HUMAN'S CAN BE--TO KILL A CHILD FOR THROWING A STONE AT A ARMORED JEEP!! SUCH COWARDS.... GOD FORBID A STONE TOUCHES THEIR PRECIOUS JEEP, I MEAN GIVE ME A BREAK! SO PLEASE DON'T SAY THAT THE PALESTINIANS NEED TO STOP THE VIOLENCE, WHEN THE ISRAELI ARMY IS CONSTANTLY PROVOKING THEM!
Matthew Williams is a twat
01 May 2006
Go suck some Hamas dick, Matthew!