A meeting under the title: "No to colonization in Palestine like elsewhere, today like yesterday" took place in
Paris on February 23, 2006.
It was a very interesting meeting. Surprisingly, it started on time (19:30).
It ended some four hours later.
The meeting took place in a huge auditorium of Universite Peirre et Marie Curie (Paris VI) that was made available by
the president in spite of enormous hostile pressue, a fact the organizer, M. Olivia Zemor, didn't fail to point out. She also
pointed out the discourse of "freedom of expression" that is now high on the agenda in France, but stops when it
comes to denouncing the Israeli
occupation and attrocities.
M. Zemor stressed that by presenting the war criminal Sharon as a "man of peace" the leaders of France betrayed
the principles of freedom, equality and fraternity on which the Republique claims to be based. She mentioned that
some French company is involved in the construction of the apartheid wall in Jerusalem, and that apparently the unmanned
airplanes that are used to assasinate Palestinians, that Israel presents as an Israeli development, were somehow acquired
in France. The head of the Israeli police was invited to advise on how to deal with minorities, and Arno Klarsfeld, who had
completed his service in the IOF, serving in the occupied Palestinian city Beit-Lehem, was asked to write a presidential
advisory position paper on the treatment of the French colonial history. She went on to point out that the Palestinians are
in urgent need in solidarity, now, that the Hamas victory is being exploited as an excuse to deepen their suffering. The aim
should be to oppose the rising barbarism.
There must have been at least 600, perhaps 700 people in the packed auditorium, but it all proceeded very respectfully
and calmly, expect for a brief disturbance by a Jewish ("Zionist") group, that was allowed to be present
after they promised to behave decently. Once starting a noisy disturbance they were (very politely) asked to leave. They
did leave, not without shouting like crazy, and than launched a genuinely false complaint in the police, claiming that they
had been kicked out aggressively. I volunteered to testify against them, if necessary, along with several other people. It
appeared that Palestinian residents in Paris, some of whom were present, would not risk testifying against a Jewish militant
An important theme was the response to the rise of the Hamas. The recently elected mayor of Ramallah, M. Janette Mikhail,
who later told me she is the first woman mayor in Palestine (we easily found some common acquintances in
Ramallah and Birzeit) spoke, using low key terms, about the immense difficulty of running a city whose garbage dumping
ground is in area C, which Palestinians cannot easily get a permit to enter. I am trying to imagine the process of negotiating
for a garbage truck to pass through a so-called "security" checkpoint.
M. Mikhail is a secular-Christian, and I am not sure whether she was elected on the Fatah list or as an independent. She
did form a coalition that includes the
three Hamas representatives in the city counsil, pointing out that they all share a committment to running the city affairs,
serving the community as properly as the extremely difficult situation allows. As far as I can tell,
there was little (if any) support for Hamas either on the panel or in the audience, but the general attitude was that
Hamas is a legitimate part of the Palestinian people [like "Likud" or "Kadima", let alone "The National
Front", in Israel-JK] and that it was elected after the other option failed to deliver. In her public presentation M.
Mikhail mentioned the fact that several of the Hamas leaders have reputable Ph D's in secular/"modern" disciplines
(I compare this to a degree from "Bahad 1"/Latvia University/"College of National Defence" of our illustrious
leaders). She is not concerned that Hamas will attempt to modify the way of life of the secular majority. M. Mikhail suggested
that the coalition with Hamas in the city council can serve as a real-life exercise in democracy. Responding to a question
she pointed out that Israel never respected the Hudna that Hamas piously maintained (and keeps maintaining, which Israel desperately
tries to undermine as the asasinations it perpetrated in Nablus just the day before clearly suggest - JK). She emphasized
the resilience of the Palestinian people, who will not give in to the harsher oppression that Israel announces and implements.
She described how the settlement of Beil El prevents the refugee camp of Jelasun from expanding in response to the population
growth, except towards the sky - which, she concluded, may be the reason why they sought help in heaven, via the Hamas.
In her final words she pointed out the ongoing cultural activity in Ramnallah, including the writing and publication of
literature and poetry.
Another very impressive speaker was a young woman from Nablus, Manal Tamimi, who is now studying towards a graduate degree
in clinical psychology, in France.
Ms. Tamimi spoke in beautiful French with just a trace of accent. She is the founder and head of a group in Nablus called
"Human Supporters Group", whose aim is to promote non-violent civil disobedience. She applied for participation
of both foreigners and Israelis, which is an important variation on the position of the prevailing sentiment in Nablus, one
of the most severely oppressed Palestinian cities, that is very suspicious of Israeli partnership (for good reason). The problem
she faces is how to convert the international solidarity into taking part in resistance to the occupation. She has for a long
time believed that Palestinian independence may take a hundred years to achieve. In the past she took this as an indication
of her pessimism, but now, (in view of the explicit rejection of any prospect of peace by the Israeli
government-JK) she thinks that this is the optimistic outlook. She sees the broad participation in the elections as a
desire for change. She would never vote for Hamas, but was glad that a change is now on the way. One form of civil
disobedience that she implements are creative demonstrations, walking with and playing hand-held musical instruments,
towards one of the checkpoints. Last Christmas she organized a demonstration of people dressed up as Santa-Claus, who walked
to the checkpoint and were recieved rather harshly. She also organized children, who would otherwise only have stone throwing
as an outlet for a most frustrating life, to write letters to the IOF soldiers to let them know about the impact of the occupation.
Her long-term vision is of a one democratic Palestine in which Jews, Christians and Muslims will be able to live together,
in harmony, respect and cooperation. She is aware that only a small minority supports this vision, but believes that all profound
changes start with small groups of "visionaries".
The third speaker was an older man from East Jerusalem, Mr. Hassib Nashashibi, a human-rights activist (after the meeting
we briefly spoke in Hebrew). He started by pointing out that the rise of Hamas, 13 years after the "peace" (quotation
marks mine - JK) treaty was signed with Israel, is a recognition of its failure. He is not afraid of Hamas, with whom he shares
the resistence to the occupation. Today, he said, resistence to the occupation and democratic
elections are referred to as "terrorism". He pointed out the violation of the Oslo agreement by Israel's attempt
to treat East Jerusalem and the Gaza strip as if they were not part of the one Palestinian political entity, as reflected
by brutal intervention in the right of the East Jerusalem Palestinians to take part in the elections and in the extreme
restriction of movements among those
areas. Israel has constructed a whole new city on the Palestinian area belonging to East Jerusalem ("not a kibbutz
or moshav" he said in Arabic that was translated ito French, in both languages the Hebrew terms being used). This city,
which has roads leading to it "better than you have in France", enjoys no international legitimacy. He (rightfully
-JK) stressed that the international
silence vis-a-vis the new restrictions on movement of Palestinians in the Jerusalem area constitues a crime in itself.
The Palestinians agreed to make do with 22% of Mandatory Palestine. The Fence, according to the statement of the IOF(!), would
confiscate some 30% of this remaining area.
Dr. Ilan Pappe made a very strong presentation. He started out by a list of eight myths that we now know are false [Comments
in brackets are mine - JK]:
1. Palestine was not an empty land waiting for a people without a country.
2. In 1948 Israel committed ethnic cleansing, which is a crime against humanity.
The perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.
3.The war of 1967 could have been avoided, but the Israeli government was determined to complete the occupation of the
Part of Palestine it failed to occupy in 1948.
[Indeed. As reported in the open media a long time ago, Ezer Weizmann preached to the air force officers about the need
to complete the task of 1948 in the late fifties or early sixties. The issue of the war with Egypt is now in the domain of
historians. The occupation of the Golan was admitted by Dayan, in a published interview, to have been decided upon for non-military
reasons. There was no military need or justification for occupying the West Bank. The ridiculously dilute mortar fire they
applied along the border affected the Israeli army less than the tear gas in Bil'in affects the peaceful demonstartors every
Friday. I was in both places-JK].
4. Israel is not "the only democracy in the middle east". In fact, the only democracy in the middle east is
[An apartheid state is not a democracy. A state that keeps four million people under brutal occupation, with no civil
rights whatsoever, harasses them, confiscates their land, assasinates them at random - is not a democracy-JK].
5. The army persuaded the (Barak) government to use immensely disproportionate aggression against non-violent demonstrators,
in the beginning of the present
Intifada, to compensate for its humiliation in Lebanon just a short while before.
6. We know that Sharon was not a man of peace, that he never changed his position, and that the withdrawal from Gaza was
not a first step towards peace but a major step towards forging "The Greater Israel" in the West Bank.
7. Hamas was elected not because of its religeous dogmatism but because of its adherence to two principles that the others
forgot: That Palestine is not just the West Bank and there are Palestinians elsewhere whose plight needs to be
remedied, and that Oslo is not peace but a continuation of the occupation.
[IT WAS AT THIS POINT THAT THE JEWISH HULIGANS STARTED THEIR ATTEMPT TO "EXPLODE" THE EVENT]
8. The two-state solution will not work out. Peace will not be achieved by enclosing the Palestinians in Bantustans. Jews
and Palestinians are human beings who can easily establish a cooperative, peaceful and just political entity.
Therefore, he concluded, we all need to understand what needs to be done:
Diplomacy will not end the occupation. Nor will armed resistance. Only when Israel is treated by the rest of the world
as a pariah state will the occupation end.
Ilan claimed that the Galilee, where he was born and lives, can be served as a positive model where Jews and Plaestinians
find ways to cooperate as business partners and friends. He believes that the fact the numbers of Jews and Palestinians in
that area is roughly equal has to do with this relative success, and views it as a possible model for the rest of the country,
in which the present residents, the refugees and the recently arrived immigrants will live in peace on the basis of the shared
Jewish, universal and Muslim values. This does require replacing zionism by such values.
[I have to disagree with Ilan's description of the quasi-idilic situation in the Gelilee. He seems desperate to see some
light - JK].
Responding to a question, he cited the rising opposition and refusal to serve in the IOF (a refuser young woman, who is
now a student in Paris, was present and served as translator for Ilan, who doesn't speak French) as precursors of change,
that will be produced by the people, not the politicians. He pointed out that Israelis are being indoctrinated from birth
to death ("or perhaps from
before birth to after death"), however, courageous and insightful people see through this indoctrination and expose
the harsh reality. They are not blind to the crimes of 1948, nor are they deaf to the Palestinain plight under the occupation.
They are not afarid to speak up, because they want to live a normal life like the courageous white people who joined the ANC.
They need the support of the international community, by letting the Israeli government know that the world will not accept
it as long as it continues its barbarian practices.
Israel counts on the memory of the holocaust to silence all criticism of its present conduct, and believes that waving
the flag of antisemitism will silence you all. The Europeans have to be reminded that they supported the compensation of the
Jews at the expense of the Palestinians, and that whoever violates human rights is a criminal. No humanist, Jew, Christian,
Muslim or Budhist can accept what Israel does. There is nothing Jewish about it. "I am a Jew", he concluded, "and
I am ashamed in what my country does, as a Jew and as a human being".
Responding to a question, Dr. Pappe pointed out that the boycott on Apartheid South Africa was started by two supermarket
employees in Dublin, who refused to charge customers for item imported from South Africa. These two employees were fired,
which started a protest by supermarket employees across Dublin. It took another twenty one years for the boycott to be adopted
by most western
governments (not Israel, though-JK).
The last speaker was Mr. Youssef Haji, founder and person in charge of "Darna" ("the home of the peace
associations") in Nablus. This young man spoke in excellent French. He protested against the silence of the Arab rulers
and pointed out, referring to the rise of Hamas, that the Palestinians are united in their divergence. The Palestinians trusted
the world and feel betrayed by it. He pointed out that during the Palestinian elections almost fifty international observers
controlled the purity of the elections in Nablus itself, but they failed to protest the severe impediments placed by the IOF
on the electoral process in the Balata refugee camp. He concluded by pointing out that children in Nablus keep singing and
mentioned a song he heard in the Balata refugee camp, starting with "Madinat al-Quds Karibah" (The City of Jerusalem
is close), and continuing with "The sea is near" and "The road to Ramallah is beautiful" - referring to
the present inaccessibility of these three destinations.