IN PHOTOS ~~ WEEKLY SUPPORT FOR PALESTINE IN NEW YORK

A WEEKLY EVENT WE HOLD AT UNION SQ. IT’S CALLED SAMIDOUN[FREENALL POLITICAL PRISONERS]. THIS WEEK IT WAS GEARED TO THE HUNGER STRIKERS.

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

*

Our very own Carlos Latuff was there in spirit

*

*

IN PHOTOS ~~ THE ROAD TO FREEDOM COMES TO COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

We must not co-exist but rather co-resist 

On the evening of April 24th an auditorium at Barnard College/Columbia University was packed to capacity with students waiting to hear Omar Barghouti, one of the originators of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, speak.  Earlier in the day he was given the Gandhi Peace Prize at Yale University and all were aware that the Israeli government had tried to interfere with him taking this trip.  There was also interference from the university which was not pleased to have Barghouti at Columbia that evening.

When he entered the room he was given a loud, long and enthusiastic standing ovation.  Two other speakers were on the program, Professor Premilla Nadasen, of the Barnard History Department and Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace.  Both spoke well, Nadasen described her experiences growing up in an apartheid South Africa which she  said was not as bad as the apartheid in Palestine.  Vilkomerson discussed the new tactics that Israel was using, “lawfare”, in an attempt to defeat the growing BDS movement.  When Barghouti stepped up to the podium there was another lengthy standing ovation.  He began by giving the history of the non-violent BDS movement and explained their 3 demands – ending the occupation and the wall, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel (there are currently 61 laws in Israel that favor Jewish citizens over Palestinian citizens), and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees in the diaspora as guaranteed by the UN.  He said that the Nakba had never ended and that there was a continual effort to colonize the minds of the Palestinian people by destroying all hope.  But hope was not destroyed.  There is still strong resistance and the success of the BDS movement has raised hope even higher.  He added that we must not co-exist but rather co-resist.  To boycott or not to boycott is a moral choice that we must all make.  And when, not if, freedom, justice, and equality exist there the BDS campaign will come to an end.  And then there was another lengthy standing ovation for Barghouti and, by extension, for the Palestinian people.

Photos © by Bud Korotzer, Report by Chippy Dee

*

*

*

ON SUNDAY OMAR BARGHOUTI WAS PRESENTED WITH THE GANDHI PEACE AWARD AT A CEREMONY IN NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT

SWOONING OVER WAR IN SYRIA

Image by Carlos Latuff

More HERE

Not everyone is swooning ……

HANDS OFF SYRIA DEMONSTRATION @ UNION SQ. NYC

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

*

*

*

*

*

*

Mazin Qumsiyeh PhD, adds the following from Palestine …..

The attack on Syria by the United States while illegal per international
law (not sanctioned by the UN Security Council and opposed by Russia and
China) comes to remind as all of four basic facts of geopolitics:

1-US Presidents no matter how “unconventional” must always obey the rules
set for them. Trump came to office opposing intervention in Syria and is
now directly siding with the “rebels” and has accepted the 1990s neocon
strategy of regime changes across Western Asia that are supposed to benefit
"Israel".

2-As Henry Kissinger said: “all foreign policy is domestic policy”. With a
strong Zionist lobby in the US and absence of any counter lobby that
watches over US (let alone world) interests, we have a push for wars
supposed to help apartheid Israel whether in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, or Syria.

3-Modern warfare kills far more civilians than military (the ratio now is
>10 to 1). War is immoral, illogical, and criminal and has no “good side”
or “bad side”. The only positive thing now is that countries that use wars
as their main tools (Israel, US being the key ones) will lose because wars
have now become also illogical in terms of achievement of policy. Just take
as examples in the past 20 years: the US attack on Iraq and Israel’s attack
on Gaza and Lebanon. It is now almost a given like the Newtonian laws of
physics.

4-People still have the power to change things. Governments regularly lie
to their own people (all governments). But their biggest tools are to a)
create fear, b) create apathy (powerlessness). Getting people to be good
consumers (of propaganda and products) is key to government “success”
(short term as it may be and to enrich politicians and their backers). Key
to human rights advocate success is getting people to be good involved and
informed citizens. The conflict between the two (governments and people) is
the real consequential conflict we face. It is between short term greed and
long term planetary interests. It is an existential conflict for humanity.

*

ERIN GO BRAGH! ~~ TOGETHER WITH PALESTINE!!

Israel has strongly condemned the decision by a Dublin City Council subcommittee on ceremonies to raise the Palestinian flag over city hall in solidarity with the Palestinian people “who have lived under brutal Israeli occupation.”

Image by Carlos Latuff

Dublin City Hall to raise Palestinian flag in solidarity against ‘brutal’ Israeli occupation
*
The provocative gesture is being initiated by a known pro-Palestinian councilman who claims that Israel is ‘an apartheid regime.’ Council: Event is expected to take place on May 15 to mark 50 years of ‘Israeli occupation.’

Israel has strongly condemned the decision by a Dublin City Council subcommittee on ceremonies to raise the Palestinian flag over city hall in solidarity with the Palestinian people “who have lived under brutal Israeli occupation.”According to the decision Tuesday, the flag will be raised on May 15th, marking 50 years since the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip came under Israeli control.

The proposal must pass another round of ratification set for May 8th before it can become an official decision. However, given the council’s composition, the chances are good that the proposal will be passed with a large majority, as it was unanimously approved in the subcommittee.

The Dublin City Council is controlled by Sinn Féin and other leftwing parties that are traditionally anti-Israel.

The initiator of the proposal, which is sure to cause international tension, is a pro-Palestinian local councilman named John Lyons.

Lyons, who has also organized pro-Palestinian protests in Ireland in the past, explained that he initiated the proposal as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

“The Irish people have held large demonstrations to support the Palestinians in recent years. Israel is an apartheid regime. If raising the flag was to cause a bit of a debate amongst some people who are unsure of it flying over City Hall, I think that’s a welcome development. I think that today more and more people think that the way Israel behaves drastically undermines the cause of its establishment.”

In response, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said, “If the Dublin City Council approves the decision, it is actually raising a white flag of surrender to terrorist organizations, hate and extortion. This is a hostile decision that first and foremost hurts the decent citizens of Dublin and marks the city with the stain of shame.”

(Translated and edited by Fred Goldberg)

SOURCE

FRENCH STUDENTS ‘WELCOME’ THE ISRAELI AMBASSADOR

Video of student walkout on meeting with Israeli Ambassador to France- merveilleux!

You don’t have to be a French speaker to understand this!!

 

Je Suis Palestine!

IN PHOTOS ~~ RUNNING FOR GAZA IN BROOKLYN

On March 25th, for the 3rd year in a row, UNRWA held a 5K run in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.  The sky was threatening, the temperature was moderate after a week of winter cold, and the rain never arrived.  At 8AM people started arriving to pick up their numbers, tee shirts, and have something to eat.  At 9AM about 1400 runners took off – they included babies and grandparents, some ran, some walked, some were pushed in carriages and some were in wheelchairs, one used a scooter and many were carried.  It was truly a joyful family event.  The Brooklyn event raised approximately $200,000 for mental health services for the children of Gaza.  The people of Gaza will see photos and videos of the event – they will see that good people are thinking of them and trying to help.  There will be 4 more 5K runs in other U.S. cities.  The people of Gaza will not be forgotten!

Photos © by Bud Korotzer, Report by Chippy Dee

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

REMEMBERING OUR FALLEN ANGEL, RACHEL CORRIE

March 16th marked the anniversary of the Israeli killing of Rachel Corrie in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, 14 years ago.

14 years ago today, Israeli bulldozers killed ISM activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza

On March 16, 2003, Rachel was killed by an Israel Occupation Force (IOF) armored bulldozer in Rafah during the second Palestinian intifada.

Rachel had come to Gaza to try and establish a sister city project between her hometown Olympia, Washington and Rafah, Gaza. She was a peace activist connected to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who tried to prevent the demolition of Palestinian houses which were being carried out by the Israeli army.

After a three hour long confrontation between ISM activists and the Israeli army’s demolition forces, she was killed, less than two months after arriving in Gaza.

Israel claims that the driver of the bulldozer could not see Rachel because of the limited field of view from within the bulldozer. Humans rights groups claim that the driver had seen her and deliberately continued driving, disregarding her fellow activists who were shouting and waving their arms, which resulted in Rachel’s death.

The Israeli army’s investigation of the incident concluded that the death was an accident because the driver of the bulldozer had limited visibility and therefore couldn’t see Rachel. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations criticized the military investigation, claiming that it was not transparent, credible or thorough enough.

In 2006 Bradley Burston, Haaretz columnist said “We should have saved Rachel Corrie’s life that day… Right now, somewhere in the West Bank, there’s an eight-year-old whose life could be saved next week, if we’ve managed to learn the lesson are resourceful enough to know how to apply it.”

In 2005 a one-woman drama called ”My Name Is Rachel Corrie” ran at London’s Royal Court Theater, and received a warm reception. In April 2015, the drama was staged Off Broadway in the East Village in New York.

Two years ago a symbolic gravestone with her name was installed in Tehran cemetary in Iran, alongside twelve other symbolic gravestones.

There is a street named after Rachel Corrie in Ramallah, West Bank.

 

Source

 

Italian activist Nicola Arboscelli stands in front of graffiti memorializing American peace activist Rachel Corrie who was killed 14 years ago today, on March 16, 2003, Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Abid Katib/ Getty Images)

 

ISRAEL’S BDS BAN IS PROOF THAT WE ARE WINNING

A new law denying entry to foreigners who call for a boycott of Israel or the settlements shows the BDS movement is gaining strength — and Israel is “panicking.”

Cornel West Says Israel’s BDS Ban Shows Boycott Push Is Winning

Cornel West says a new law denying entry to foreigners who call for a boycott of Israel or the settlements shows the BDS movement is gaining strength — and Israel is “panicking.”

“lt’s a sign of panic, a sign of hysteria, a very sad response to an intense situation,” the African-American philosopher said. “Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel would turn in his grave thinking about the spiritual blackout that is occurring in Israel.”

West has publicly supported BDS for years, and as such, is one of the prominent public figures who could be denied entry under the new law.

West, who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primaries, says he’s worried about Israeli democracy.

The law “shows that BDS is getting stronger but it also shows that any critique of the settlements, any critique of the ugly occupation is grounds for excluding people from the country,” he says.

“What about the people inside the country?,” he asks. “People who live right there, in Tel Aviv, are you going to say they don’t have the right to be inside their own country? That is what authoritarian regimes do. It’s just sad to see Israel move more and more in that authoritarian direction.”

 

ELTON JOHN SUPPORTS BDS BY PLAYING PALESTINE

The honorary guest at the opening ceremony of British graffiti artist Banksy’s new hotel in Bethlehem was none other than Elton John. The famous singer recorded a special message that was played for the guests who attended the opening ceremony. “I would’ve loved to have been with you all tonight but you know, there wasn’t any room at the inn,” John said. The popular British singer also made a political statement: “It’s my great pleasure to be playing in Palestine this evening. Please know that you are not alone. You are not forgotten.”

See THIS related post

ACTION ALERTS FOR ISRAEL APARTHEID WEEK

Happening Monday 2/27Friday 3/3

unnamed-59

Israeli Apartheid Week 2017

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an international series of events meant to shed a light on the settler colonial project and apartheid policies of Israel and build the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

This year will mark 100 years of Palestinian resistance against settler colonialism, since the inception of the Balfour Declaration. IAW will be an opportunity to reflect on this resistance and further advance BDS campaigns for the continued growth and impact of the movement. Despite all the legislative attacks on BDS internationally, IAW and the BDS movement continue to build linkages and solidarity with other struggles to achieve freedom, justice, and equality.

For IAW at Columbia, we’ve organized a week of programming meant to educate about Palestine, its history and struggles, as well as how it intersects with other indigenous struggles around the world.

As per tradition, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine will be installing our mock apartheid wall for display on Low Plaza Mon-Fri, Feb 27-March 3rd from 11am to 4pm. Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace will be tabling at the Sun Dial. Drop by for fact sheets, information on events, and for answers to any other questions you have.

#IAW2017 SCHEDULE:

Mock Apartheid Wall
11am-4pm
Mon-Fri
Low Plaza
Check facebook for more information on the event and accessibility

Zionists are Racists
Monday, February 27th
8-10 pm
Math 203

In November, 1975 the United Nations passed the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, a resolution that declared “Zionism is Racism.” With the support of newly liberated African nations, the bill recognized the supremacist ideology of the Israeli nation-state that had predicated its settler colony upon racial apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

Come learn about Israel’s racist and imperialist policies and hear Barney Pityana, leading figure in the Black Consciousness Movement and the South African Students’ Organisation, as well as a close comrade of Steve Biko, will discuss what the BDS struggle looks from the perspective of South Africa.

Check facebook for more information on the event and accessibility

No Peace on Stolen Land: From Standing Rock to Palestine 
Tuesday, Febuary 28th
7-9 pm
James Room, Barnard Hall

Say no to the DAPL, no to the occupation of indigenous lands from the U.S. to Palestine, no to the plunder of native resources by imperialist corporations with no regard for our sovereignty, what we hold sacred, and our planet.

Hear from Maile Hampton, a genderfluid afro-native organizer from the Bay Area who has spent years in the student movement and anti-racist movement, about what it means to fight for the self-determination of all oppressed people. This skype conversation will cover organizing strategies, experiences from the struggle against the DAPL at Oceti Sakowin and across the U.S., police repression, cultural resistance, and people’s power. Learn from a water protector how we can best support front line communities in the struggle against environmental destruction and settler colonialism here in the U.S. and how to build international indigenous solidarity with Palestine. From Standing Rock to Palestine, Settler violence is a crime! Resistance is justified! Mni Wiconi!  #NoDAPL  #FreeAllWaterProtectors #FreeAllPoliticalPrisioners  #FreeRedFawn  #FreeLeonardPeltier

“When so many people and the system are going after you, you know that the things you’re saying are powerful and true. And you know that they know the things you’re saying are powerful and true.” Maile Hampton

Check facebook for more information on the event and accessibility

50 Years of Occupation: The 1967 Naksa with Prof. Rashid Khalidi
Wednesday, March 1st
7:30-9:30pm
Roone Arledge Cinema, Lerner Hall
NON CUID MUST RSVP TO THIS EVENT

On June 5th, 1967, Israel launched a massive unilateral airstrike on Egyptian territory, destroying the Egyptian Air Force and initiating the Six-Day War between Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. By the end of the war, the Israeli military had occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, as well as the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights. Immediately after occupation, Israel initiated the “second wave” of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine – the Naksa, or “setback” – beginning with mass village demolitions and resulting in the displacement of 300,000 Palestinians and 100,000 Syrians from their homes, adding to the 750,000 Palestinians who had been displaced from their homes in the 1948 Nakba, or “catastrophe.”

To this day, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights remain subjugated under a brutal Israeli military occupation, denied basic human needs like water, electricity, and medical care, and subject to regular civilian massacres by the occupation forces. Most recently, the 2014 assault on Gaza left 2,235 Palestinian civilians dead, including more than 500 children, over the course of 51 days.

As part of Israeli Apartheid Week, join Columbia University Apartheid Divest in remembering the victims of the Naksa, recognizing the 50th year of subsequent military occupation, and discussing its lasting impact on the 69 year Palestinian freedom struggle. Learn how the UN Security Council’s 1967 Resolution 242, condemning Israel’s actions and calling for the right of return for all displaced Palestinian refugees, laid the groundwork for the Palestinian civil society call for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel – a call we hope to honor by pressuring Columbia’s administration to divest its $10 billion endowment from companies that profit from the occupation.

Check facebook for more information on the event and accessibility

Palestine in U.S. Politics: Israel, AIPAC, and American Foreign Policy
Thursday, March 2nd
6-9 pm
Broadway Room, Lerner Hall
NON CUID MUST RSVP TO THIS EVENT

Israel commands a very strategic role in American foreign interests, representing an integral ally to the US in the Middle East. Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid and, just recently, President Obama signed a $38 billion military aid package, solidifying the close relationship between the two nations. President Trump has continuously cited Israel as an inspiration for his racist immigration policies and Prime Minister Netanyahu reciprocally voiced his support for Trump’s plan to build a wall.

Join Columbia University Apartheid Divest as we discuss the place of Palestine in the American political discourse. We are proud to host Professor Joseph Massad from the Middle Eastern, South Asian and African studies department who will share his views on the discourse about Palestine in US Politics, the unique role that Israel plays in US national interests, and the significance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in determining the US’ foreign policy towards Palestine and the Middle East region more generally.

Check facebook for more information on the event and accessibility

Teaching Palestine: Scholarship and Resistance 
Friday, March 3rd
3-5 pm
Hamilton 717
Join us for a panel discussion between MESAAS PhD candidates Rana Baker, Nasser Abourahme and Matan Cohen who will share their experience in bringing together their academic research and Palestine activism. Their talks will focus on how their scholarship has changed, inspired or hindered their solidarity work on Palestine as well as ideas and strategies for the future.

Check facebook for more information on the event and accessibility

These events are all free and open to the public. Individuals without Columbia U IDs MUST RSVP for Wednesday andThursday’s event by 2/26. RSVP here.

IN PHOTOS ~~ NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION

unnamed-57

On the NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION, February 15th, at Grand Central Station NYC, 300 people met to protest the meeting of Trump And Netanyahu and what it portends. Participants held posters and gave out leaflets to commuters. Many stopped to take photos.There was chanting & singing. Then the protesters marched out of GCS going through NYC’s over crowded streets to Trump Towers. When they got there the police had cordoned off several blocks to keep the demonstrators from protesting in front of the building. The marchers were not deterred and continued around the police fences till they met up with the Palestinian protesters who were waiting for the main group to appear. Between them there was a mass vocal outburst and, with a flurry of many Palestinian flags, the marchers moved on to Columbus Circle in front of Trump’s International Hotel where they continued the protest.  

Photos © by Bud Korotzer, Report by Chippy Dee

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

PALESTINIANS THANK INDONESIA

There is no doubt that Indonesia’s adamant refusal to establish diplomatic relations with apartheid Israel will be a a significant morale booster for the Palestinians who are struggling around the clock to survive a decades-long Israeli onslaught aimed at uprooting them from their ancestral homeland.

Indonesians pray for the Palestinians who were killed in the airstrikes launched by Israel.

Indonesians pray for the Palestinians who were killed in the airstrikes launched by Israel.

Thank you, Indonesia

By Khalid Amayreh

Occupied Palestine

 

Palestinians must send a message of thanks and appreciation to the big sister, Indonesia, for her principled refusal to normalize relations with Israel. the shameless apartheid state that occupies our country and torments our people on a daily basis.

Israel has been seeking to woo Indonesia to embark on this dishonorable diplomatic feat for the purpose of further weakening the just Palestinian cause in the conscience and consciousness of Muslims world-wide.

Some utterly undemocratic Arab regimes, notorious for ignoring the feelings of their own masses, hastened to embrace the poisoned Israeli solicitations. They didn’t hesitate to swallow the Israeli bait: hook, line and sinker.

These well-known tyrannical regimes effectively committed moral adultery with their own national honor and dignity by embracing Israel and betraying Palestine.

Furthermore,   some of these entities even sought to outmatch the apartheid state by perfecting their own draconian measures against the Gaza Strip that many Palestinians began to wonder if these Arab regimes were siding with Israel or with Palestine.

But, al Handullila (thanks to God), Indonesia has demonstrated she has guarded her chastity by refusing Israel’s solicitations and venomous courting.

This feat on the largest Muslim country’s part deserves admiration and gratitude.

It shows that Indonesia is still espousing some moral principles in its foreign policy. It also shows that Indonesia is still not willing to trade her genuine concerns for Palestine and al-Masjidul Aqsa for expediency or some quick benefits that come with normalizing relations with Israel.

In fact, the government of Indonesia has  demonstrated its faithfulness to its own predominantly Muslim people who wouldn’t be comfortable with normalizing relations with the very state that practices murder, ethnic cleansing and discrimination in the ugliest form against Palestinians. Needless to say, this virulent modus operandi is pursued on no account other than that the Palestinians are not members of the “The Holy tribe,” clinging to their homeland and refusing to leave.

There is no doubt that Indonesia’s adamant refusal to establish diplomatic relations with apartheid Israel will be a a significant morale booster for the Palestinians who are struggling around the clock to survive a decades-long Israeli onslaught aimed at uprooting them from their ancestral homeland.

This means that the Indonesian decision will definitively serve the cause of Palestinian resistance, resilience and steadfastness, all considered vital prerequisites for Palestinian freedom and liberation.

Finally, the Indonesian step also shows that the vast majority of Muslims around the world still have their hearts where they properly belong, namely on the side of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

Once again, thanks, Indonesia.

ANTI-TRUMP DEMOS COME TO ISRAEL ~~ IN VIDEO AND PHOTOS

Scores of  left-wing demonstrators in Israel gathered outside of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem to protest against President Donald Trump’s executive action ordering a temporarily halt to the entry of asylum seekers into the United States.

Photos by Tomer Neuberg & Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90

resizedimg101168-jpg

*

resizedimg101167-jpg

*

resizedimg101166-jpg

*

resizedimg101165-jpg

*

resizedimg101164-jpg

*

resizedimg101163-jpg

*

resizedimg101162-jpg

*

resizedimg101161-jpg

*

resizedimg101160-jpg

CHILDREN OF PEACE ~~ A DIALOGUE

In the following our interview with Richard Martin, President and Founder of Children of Peace. The organisation struggles for children to be safe from criminality and terrorism in the Middle East, in particular in Palestine. Richard talked to us about the history of his organisation, about how to work for peace by challenging all kind of racism, discrimination of all monotheistic religions, by personal contact and dialogue. Dialogue is the magic word to promote peace. Richard told us: “Children of Peace is a UK based non-partisan, conflict resolution organisation, that aims to protect children and build friendship, trust and reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian children, aged 4 -17 through arts, education, healthcare and sports projects and programmes, so that a future generation and their communities might live in peace, side-by-side.” 

11

Richard Martin of Children of Peace – peace needs contact and face-to-face dialogue

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi

*

How do you identify the organizations you cooperate with?
When I founded Children of Peace in 2004, we sent a delegation from the UK to Israel and Palestine on a fact find. We discovered – to our incredulity – that there were over 50,000 NGOs in Israel & Palestine. This is a huge industry and since the early 1950s we estimate that 7 trillion dollars has reached the region from world organisations and donors.

*
Yet, despite all this funding, almost nothing has changed. Only six organisations actually made contact with each other. We wanted to change the culture and focus on dialogue – on making contact, of listening to each community’s narrative, respecting each other’s heritage and those things that we all share – a yearning to protect our children, to build a better life, to be in a safe and hopeful place.

*
That’s why we established the Coalition of Peace.

*
Essentially all groups – CBOs or NGOs – must apply to join us as affiliates or partners. Most groups approach us or are researched by our team. The application is scrutinised by our Compliance Committee to check the group’s track record and connections to protect the children and our work from criminal or terrorist fronts. If accepted, groups go through a monitoring process for two years before applying for funding.

*
Today, the Coalition of Peace is now the single, largest peace network across the Middle East with affiliates in Bahrain, Egypt, Gaza, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Turkey and the West Bank.

*
Since 2005 we have helped over 120,000 children in Israel and Palestine.

*

How has civil society been responsive so far? 
Right from the get-go our position has been to welcome a diverse range of religious, secular and political supporters who shared our non-partisan position. As a conflict-resolution organisation we focus on reconciliation, simply refuse to take sides or bring our own agendas into the region. We take our cue from the communities themselves. We are proud of the support we receive from Christians, Jews and Muslims both in the region and worldwide.

*
Taking sides says more about you. It does not advance peace one jot.
As part of our backstory – although we are not a religious organisation nor have any connection with faith based groups – we challenge Christianophobia, Antisemitism and Islamophobia – now on the rise throughout Europe right now – often used as a cover to take sides in this conflict.

*
Across the region Children of Peace enjoys the respect of communities in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank. We are the go-to organisation if contacts need to be made. We act as a conduit or peace channel for groups or communities who wish to connect across the divide but cannot do so through direct means.

*
Our projects and programmes focus on alleviating poverty within disadvantaged communities, bringing children together from Israel and Palestine through the arts, sports, healthcare and education.
Every year – with Israeli affiliate Humans Without Borders – we help bring dozens of sick or disadvantaged Palestinian children and their families to the seaside in Israel from towns and villages in the West Bank. This is one of the cherished dreams of many landlocked West Bank children – just to see the sea.

*
We just funded the refurbishment of the Leir Peace Pre-School in Jerusalem where Christian, Jewish and Muslim children learn and play together. Through another affiliate Rabbis for Human Rights we have provided grants to assist the resource centre for the Negev Bedouin. In Gaza, we work with various groups funding clinics, hospitals and education facilities.

*
A few months ago, for example Celtic FC contacted us days before playing a match in Israel. As part of their commitment to diversity in soccer they wanted our help in linking them up with Israeli and Palestinian youth sports groups and within hours the Chairman of Celtic FC Foundation met up with three groups in Israel and Palestine in Jerusalem to gift them football kit and other resources.

*
None of this would be possible without the commitment of our extraordinary team at Children of Peace from the Board of Trustees to the Regional Representatives to the volunteers.

*
This trust is reflected by the support we receive from world leaders including Pope Francis, former US Vice President Biden, French President Hollande, the Palestinian Envoys to the UK and Washington and the last four British Prime Ministers including Theresa May.

*

What are, according your experience, the most effective strategies in order to promote tolerance and democratic values among children? 
It’s simple……contact, contact, contact. And dialogue. Meeting people face-to-face and developing a relationship with a real person from a “group” or “community” that you have been brought up to distrust or be suspicious of….changes everything.

*
I recall a magic moment when some young Palestinians who were staying here in the UK as our guests were busy texting their Jewish friends in Israel, following an incident….concerned for their safety.
Once you break bread together, everything changes.

*

Can you tell me more about the researches on children health issues? What were their findings and conclusions?
Richard: In 2007, Israeli-Palestinian Kassim Baddarni and myself completed a huge research study on the impact of conflict and the presence of violence on Israeli and Palestinian children. We looked at the effects of stress and tension on the physical and mental health of children – on their educational attainment, on family life, on relationships, on their own sense of well-being and adjustment. It is too complex to spell out here but the findings confirm that children from all communities are seriously and adversely affected by the dire situation.

*
Israeli children have excellent healthcare but suffer from worrying levels of morbidity whilst Palestinian children have poorer healthcare – they have the highest levels of childhood diabetes, for instance – they too suffer from fear and anxiety. Too many children know of someone in their lives who has died or been injured or negatively affected by sudden and unexpected acts of violence.

*

Do you cooperate with any local authority or institution? If yes, how?
Children of Peace is a UK based non-partisan, conflict resolution organisation, that aims to protect children and build friendship, trust and reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian children, aged 4 -17 through arts, education, healthcare and sports projects and programmes, so that a future generation and their communities might live in peace, side-by-side.
As an entirely independent organisation we will cooperate with local government or national governments to further our aims in helping the children, promoting tolerance and building a better place for the next generation.

*
Israeli and Palestinian supporters talk about the ‘Children of Peace family’. I like that.

*

Original source and more photos HERE

IN PHOTOS ~~ FREEDOM DENIED TO STUDENTS AT FORDHAM UNIVERSITY

Fordham flunks a free speech test

unnamed-51

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

Fordham flunks a free speech test 

BY AHMAD AWAD

This month, Fordham University, my alma mater, denied students on campus the chance to form a student group to support Palestinian rights.

We thought we’d go through the same application process as any other student group. Instead, we were subject to a protracted 13-month review process.

We were eventually approved by the student government and started preparing for our inaugural event — only to learn that Dean of Students Keith Eldredge implemented a rarely used veto power to ban the group from campus

I was still a student when the application to form the group, Students for Justice in Palestine, was first submitted. The process included repeated meetings with administrators; questioning around Gov. Cuomo’s widely criticized executive order against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement; and numerous administrative hurdles.

All of this drained my time and energy and had a serious impact on my studies. I graduated and was never given a chance to advocate for what I believe in on my campus. Now, current and future students won’t have that chance, either.

Advocating for the basic rights of Palestinians is more than just a conviction for me, it is an integral part of my identity. My mother’s father was a Polish survivor of Nazi labor camps, and my father’s parents were born in Palestine prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948. These two histories of oppression taught me to value human dignity and to fight injustice wherever I see it.

My relatives in the West Bank have been forced to live under Israeli military rule for decades now, with no ability to control even the most basic aspects of their lives. The Israeli government controls the borders, which means that even though my grandparents — one of whom is a U.S. veteran — were born there, they are now prohibited from living in their birthplace. They can only obtain a visitor’s visa for three months a year, if they’re lucky.

When I travel to Palestine to visit my relatives, I am routinely discriminated against and threatened by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints simply because I am Palestinian.

It’s only natural that I wanted to establish Students for Justice in Palestine — an organization that exists on over 170 campuses nationwide — at Fordham.

I was devastated to discover that Fordham would prohibit SJP — and, even worse, do so not because of any bad behavior, but simply because of what it represents on paper. This decision violates the free speech and academic freedom the university guarantees under Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act in addition to its own values as an institution “committed to research and education that assist in the alleviation of poverty, the promotion of justice, the protection of human rights and respect for the environment.”

This experience has underscored how difficult it is to talk about Palestinian freedom in America without facing serious suppression. In recent years, students and faculty who choose to speak critically of Israeli policies have faced increasing pushback, a problem that has been widely documented by constitutional and civil rights attorneys. In the first half of 2016 alone, there were 171 such incidents of suppression across the country.

Despite these obstacles, support for Palestinian rights has grown over the years as more Americans have become aware of the oppression facing Palestinians. Recent polls found that 60% of Democrats and 46% of all Americans support sanctions or stronger action against Israel for building settlements on Palestinian land, and that sympathy for Palestinians among millennials has tripled since 2006.

Fordham and other institutions can try to shut down this growing social justice movement, but they won’t succeed in silencing people who feel a moral imperative to create a better world.

The great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who called on the U.S. government and consumers to boycott and divest from the apartheid regime in South Africa, once said, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.” Despite Fordham’s wishes otherwise, I won’t give up this fight. I will continue to stand up for what is right until freedom rings. I will not die.

My request of Fordham is a very modest one: Let Students for Justice in Palestine live.

Awad is a recent Fordham graduate.

COLDPLAY TO PLAY BOTH SIDES OF THE WALL

The British rock band Coldplay will play two “peace concerts” for Israelis and Palestinians.

Coldplay singer Chris Martin

Coldplay singer Chris Martin

Coldplay to Play 2 Israeli-Palestinian Peace Concerts in West Bank

The British rock band Coldplay will play two “peace concerts” for Israelis and Palestinians.

The concerts, set for Nov. 3 and 4, will be performed at an outdoor location north of the Dead Sea, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Monday.

The shows will aim to promote human rights and bring people together, The Times of Israel reported. The tickets — 50,000 for each concert — will be sold in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Coldplay, which has sold over 80 millions records worldwide, will arrive in Israel two weeks before the shows and record a song with Israeli and Palestinian artists.

Few artists have attempted similar Middle East peace-themed concerts on this scale. Roger Waters, the former Pink Floyd frontman, played a concert in the Israeli Jewish-Muslim coexistence village Neve Shalom in 2006. He has since become a leading proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Leonard Cohen made a failed attempt to play a concert in the Palestinian territories in 2009 while touring in Israel.

Coldplay singer Chris Martin is currently the artistic director for the Global Citizen Festival, which is run by the Global Poverty Project, an organization devoted to ending extreme poverty by 2030.

Two of Coldplay’s recent musicvideos were directed by Israelis.

From Coldplay’s FaceBook Page

The band fronted by Chris Martin has come under fire after posting a link to a “Freedom for Palestine” video by the band OneWorld on their Facebook page.

The song, which contains the controversial lyrics: “No matter your faith or your community/ this is a crime against humanity” and “Enough illegal occupation/ violence and racial segregation,” calls for people to rally in support of Palestine. As the chorus goes, “We are the people/ this is our time/ stand up, sing out/ for Palestine.”

TOP TEN BDS VICTORIES OF 2016

“People now realize that it doesn’t make any sense to claim that you’re a progressive or that you care about basic principles of equality and human rights if you can’t apply those principles to the question of Palestine … and a freedom struggle that has gone on for decades now.”

maxresdefault_med_hr

 

What were the top 10 BDS victories of 2016?

2016 began with a bang: French telecommunications giant Orange announced in early January it was dumping its Israel affiliate.

This came just months after boycott activists renewed their campaign against the company over its support for Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza and its complicity in Israel’s colonization of the occupied West Bank.

The same week, a major Irish corporation yanked its cement contracts with Israel following boycott pressure.

Meanwhile, churches, student unions and local activists continued to organize strong boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns that caused panic among Israeli leaders.

Embarrassed by these significant victories, Israel spent 2016 waging “an all-out war” on the global BDS campaign, “in a desperate attempt to crush it,” according to the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC).

Bullying

Israel resorted to threatening and bullying individuals, adopting policies to expel suspected boycott activists and to bar others from entering.

This followed last year’s naming by Israel’s leading financial daily of Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, among 100 people most likely to influence Israel’s economy in 2016.

Israel imposed an effective travel ban on Barghouti, following threats against him and other Palestinian human rights defenders by top Israeli government ministers in March.

Amnesty International condemned the threats, which included a call by intelligence minister Yisrael Katz for “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence.

“Israel has attempted to stigmatize, demonize and in some cases delegitimize BDS from above, after failing to crush the movement at the global grassroots and civil society levels,” notes the BNC.

But throughout 2016, BDS has only grown stronger, the group adds.

“The logic of appeasing Israel’s regime of oppression has started giving way to the logic of sustained international pressure, which proved instrumental in ending apartheid in South Africa,” it says.

With that spirit in mind, here are the top 10 BDS successes of 2016, as covered by The Electronic Intifada.

10. Activists rose up against Hewlett Packard. Campaigners in dozens of cities across six continentsparticipated in an international week of action against Hewlett-Packard, bringing attention to the company’s role in enabling Israel’s rights violations.

9. Irish company divested from Israel’s cement industry. One of Ireland’s largest companies, CRH, announced in January that it was chucking Israeli assets after sustained grassroots boycott pressure. CRH held 25 percent of the shares in Mashav, owner of Israel’s top cement manufacturer Nesher.

Nesher cement has been used in constructing Israel’s wall and settlements in the West Bank and in the light rail network serving Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

8. Spanish municipalities declared themselves “apartheid-free zones.” More than 50 cities across Spain now declare themselves free of Israeli products in a campaign that began in July 2014, at the height of Israel’s attack against Gaza.

With more than 120,000 residents, Cádiz, in Andalusia, is one of the largest cities to support the campaign.

7. Norwegians ditched Israeli products. Two major cities in Norway voted to boycott Israeli goods and services produced in settlements inside occupied Palestinian territory.

6. Churches continued to mobilize for Palestinian rights. Denominations voted in 2016 to boycott Israeli financial institutions, and to dump or bar investments in corporations that profit from Israel’s occupation.

A church in California vowed not to purchase supplies from Hewlett-Packard, a company that provides equipment to Israel’s military and settlements.

Presbyterians reaffirmed their previous commitments to divestment, while 24 denominations together called for “economic leverage” against businesses or governments that violate human rights.

Lutherans voted to call for an end to US aid to Israel.

5. Governments and political parties stood up to anti-BDS bullies. Sweden, followed by the Netherlands and Ireland, publicly upheld the right of citizens to work for BDS.

Meanwhile, the European Union and the US State Department admitted that boycott advocacy is a protected free speech right.

The Canadian Green Party and the Dutch government rejected pressure by right-wing Israel lobby groups.

4. Activists helped defeat anti-BDS legislation. Grassroots campaigners fought back against a growing wave of legislation promoted by US state and federal lawmakers – and encouraged by Israel lobby groups and the Israeli government – to suppress BDS activism.

In Massachusetts, an anti-boycott amendment was withdrawn in the state senate in July following a campaign by Palestine solidarity groups.

The amendment, which was tacked onto an unrelated economic bill, would have blacklisted individuals and businesses that engage with the Palestinian-led boycott of Israel. Organizers said that in order to successfully counter the imminent anti-boycott legislation there, they knew they had to engage directly with lawmakers over a sustained period.

In the UK, a test case for banning BDS campaigning failed in the high court.

And in France, a court overturned a government ban on a meeting to support individuals facing trial for their Palestine solidarity activism. The BDS campaign in France continued to flourish despite the government’s crackdown.

In May, lawmakers in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, made history: theirs was the world’s first full legislature to vote down an anti-BDS law.

3. G4S was forced to buckle under BDS pressure. Under years-long pressure by grassroots campaigns, the world’s largest private security firm, G4S, ditched most of its Israeli businesses.

Four UN agencies in Jordan and one in Lebanon ended their contracts with the corporation.

The city of Berkeley, California, also voted to divest from private prison corporations, including G4S, for its role in human rights abuses against undocumented persons in the US and Palestinians under occupation.

2. Telecom giant Orange quit Israel. The French telecommunications company Orange announced it was quitting Israel in January, following sustained international boycott pressure.

The campaign calling on Orange to cut ties with Israel’s Partner Communications began in 2010 and involved unions and groups in France, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, countries where Orange or its affiliates have tens of millions of mobile phone subscribers.

The campaign received a major boost in May 2015 when BDS Egypt called for a boycott of Orange subsidiary Mobinil, which has 33 million customers. This came after The Electronic Intifada revealed the extent of Orange’s complicity in Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

“Orange had no choice but to realize that investing in occupation, profiteering from Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land and involvement in violations against Palestinian rights is a commercially bad investment,” said Abdulrahman Abou Salem of BDS Egypt, a coalition of trade unions, political parties and campaign groups.

Partner Communications, which operated under the Orange Israel brand, built and operated extensive mobile telephone infrastructure in Israel’s settlements built on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law.

1. Students stood strong. Students in the US, Canada and the UK passed strong divestment measures in their student governments and trade unions, amidst intensifying smear campaigns by outside Israel advocacy groups and shady websites.

Students “are eventually going to be members of the public in various capacities after they graduate. And the rapidly shifting politics around Israel-Palestine on campuses is something that we should really take heart in,” Rahim Kurwa, a graduate student at UCLA, told The Electronic Intifada in August.

Since the beginning of 2016 alone, more than a dozen campuses around the US passed some form of divestment resolution or boycott measure, Kurwa, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, said.

“People now realize that it doesn’t make any sense to claim that you’re a progressive or that you care about basic principles of equality and human rights if you can’t apply those principles to the question of Palestine … and a freedom struggle that has gone on for decades now.”

SOLIDARITY FOR STANDING ROCK CONTINUES TO GROW

As the crisis in Standing Rock continues, so does the support  both internationally and nationally.

Solidarity has always been a thing of beauty in our hands.

unnamed-24

Cuba-Trained Doctors Head to Standing Rock

A delegation of doctors trained at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba announced they will head to Standing Rock to “serve in solidarity.”

In a late Thursday Facebook post, a group of U.S.-based medical professionals trained at Cuba’s famous Latin American School of Medicine, or ELAM, announced they will head to Standing Rock “to humbly serve in solidarity with the Sacred Water Protectors on the front lines of the current human rights and ecological crisis occurring right now in North Dakota.”

Dr. Revery P. Barnes, a graduate of ELAM, said in a post on Facebook, “We answer the call to serve in alignment with the mission and core principles of our alma mater and dedication to our commitment to serve underserved communities in our HOME country.” The delegation will work in collaboration with the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council.

“While Cuba instilled in us an unwavering commitment to internationalism, with the acceptance of a full scholarship to medical school at ELAM, we made the moral commitment to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable communities here at home in the U.S.,” the statement continued.

On Wednesday, the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council – which has been providing emergency and chronic health care services to the thousands of water protectors gathered at Standing Rock – issued a warning about the grave health and safety threats posed by escalating use of violence by Morton County Sheriff’s Department and Dakota Access Pipeline security personnel, whom they described as creating “war-like conditions.”

While the Facebook statement did not give details about the size of the delegation or when it is expected to arrive, the announcement comes as thousands of U.S. Army veterans are expected to arrive at the Oceti Sakowin camp this weekend in anticipation of the Dec. 5 eviction notice given to the camp by the Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota Governor, Jack Dalrymple.

Health and safety concerns for the thousands of Water Protectors, who are asserting their Indigenous sovereignty in attempts to block the multi-billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline project, are also on the rise as harsh winter conditions have been exacerbated by state law enforcement threats to cut off supplies and access to emergency services.

The Latin American School of Medicine was created in 1999 by the Cuban government and is one of the largest medical schools in the world, with approximately 19,550 students from 110 countries. All students receive a full scholarship, including room and board, and preferential treatment is given to applicants from marginalized groups who intend to return and practice in their own communities. The school plays a key part in Cuba’s widely-hailed medical internationalism, which has seen the socialist country send over 80,000 health care workers to over 94 countries to provide treatment and assistance to impoverished or underprivileged populations.

And from within ….

Family & Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Jim Williams is taking our flags to Standing Rock! He left Friday morning with a busload of veterans who plan to join 2,000 or more other veterans in protecting the indigenous peoples rights to their lands. He is the son-in-law of Lincoln vet Matti Mattson. Jim remembered helping Matti carry the VALB flag as well as the FFALB banner, and he wanted to take ours to Standing Rock.  As we waited for the bus in Manhattan early Friday morning, we had a chance to explain the significance of the Brigade and the flags. There were tons of supplies and food — and excitement. I felt as if I were sending them off to Spain!

unnamed-25

*

unnamed-26

*

unnamed-27

And the best news of the day …..

(Click on link)

Alternate Route for Dakota Pipeline to Be Explored

  • The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a major victory in a battle that has become a global flash point for environmental and indigenous activism.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers said that it would not approve permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline at a site that the tribe said would threaten a water source and sacred sites.

BLACK FRIDAY PROTEST AT HP

Reaching out to Best Buy shoppers on Black Friday with materials and information about HP’s role in human rights violations, protesters faced the rain for several hours to spread the word about Hewlett Packard’s involvement in the oppression of Palestinians.

hp-slider-image

NYC Black Friday protest draws dozens to protest HP involvement in oppression of Palestinians

nyc-hp-demo5

On the busiest shopping day of the year, protesters in New York City – hailing from Manhattan to Gaza – joined in the Black Friday kick-off of the International Week of Action against HP’s complicity with Israeli attacks on Palestinian rights, protesting outside Best Buy in Union Square.

nyc-hp-bds1

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network organized the protest, which highlighted HP’s role in providing servers and management systems to the Israel Prison Service that imprisons over 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners. Hewlett Packard is also involved in providing imaging equipment for Israeli checkpoints and ID cards, enabling the siege of Gaza, providing services to Israeli settlements, and supporting other occupation infrastructure. The New York City event is one of over 99 protests around the world between 25 November and 3 December demanding a boycott of HP and an end to HP’s involvement in deportations, incarceration and oppression in Palestine, the United States and around the world. These protests were organized in response to a call from the International Boycott HP Coalition and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC).

nyc-hp-demo2

Reaching out to Best Buy shoppers on Black Friday with materials and information about HP’s role in human rights violations, protesters faced the rain for several hours to spread the word about Hewlett Packard’s involvement in the oppression of Palestinians.

nyc-hp-bds2

Several Zionist counter-protesters, including one person dressed in an Israeli military uniform, repeatedly heckled the protesters and attempted, yet failed, to provoke confrontations. Throughout the protest, demonstrators chanted loudly against HP and its complicity in the occupation of Palestine, urging shoppers to boycott Hewlett Packard technology products. A wide range of activists, groups and writers concerned with Palestine participated in the demonstration, while a group of youth from a video training class organized by Picture the Struggle interviewed participants. Picture the Struggle works to document justice movements, including the Black movement, in New York City, through video, photography and audio recording.

nyc-boycott-hp1

Samidoun is planning to join and encourages all to attend the protest on Monday, 28 November in New York City in solidarity with Rasmea Odeh, former Palestinian prisoner and torture survivor facing persecution in the United States. A major hearing in her case to determine the entry of evidence relating to her PTSD after torture will take place on 29 November in Detroit, which is also the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Rasmea Defense Committee is organizing protests and buses to Detroit to support Odeh, while protests are taking place in Tampa, Tucson, Fort Lauderdale, Salt Lake City and elsewhere to demand justice for Rasmea. In New York City, protesters will gather at Zuccotti Park at Liberty Street and Broadway at 3:30 pm on Monday.

nyc-hp-bds6

Photos 1, 3 by Bud Korotzer/Desertpeace

Photos 2, 4, 6 by Joe Catron

Photo 5 by Anne Pruden

 

WRITTEN FOR

FIDEL’S PALESTINIAN CONNECTION

The deceased Cuban leader and PLO chief Yasser Arafat enjoyed close relations and shared anti-imperialist ideology.

Cuban President Fidel Castro greets Palestine leader Yasser Arafat, right, at a dinner reception.

Cuban President Fidel Castro greets Palestine leader Yasser Arafat, right, at a dinner reception.

Fidel Castro: The Palestinian connection

Dalia Hatuqa

 It’s November 1974, and Yasser Arafat, sporting his signature Ray-Ban sunglasses and checkered black-and-white headscarf, is waving to a cheering crowd on the tarmac of Jose Marti International Airport outside Havana.

He descended from the Algerian Airlines plane that took him from New York City to the Cuban capital, where he was greeted and embraced by Fidel Castro, who was at that time prime minister and had been in power for 15 years.

Castro died late on Friday at the age of 90, according to the Cuban government.

The moment in Havana wasn’t the first time the two men had met – their initial encounter happened just over a year earlier at the 4th Summit of Non-Aligned Countries in Algeria. However, it was the first time they met on Cuban soil.

Despite not being a head of state, Arafat was given a presidential welcome in Havana: Cuban Communist Party officials, ministers and others warmly welcomed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader that day.

Later on, he was awarded one of the country’s highest decorations, the Orden Nacional Playa Giron, or Bay of Pigs Medal, which, according to Cuba’s government radio, is “awarded to Cuban citizens or foreigners who have excelled in the struggle against imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, or who have done great deeds for peace and progress of mankind”.

The iconic picture of Arafat and Castro walking on the tarmac – housed at the Yasser Arafat Foundation in Ramallah – tells the tale of how an unlikely relationship between the two men, and the PLO and Cuba, were forged.

And while Cuban-Palestinian relations can be traced as far back as the 1966 Tricontinental Conference in Havana, it was Arafat’s November 1974 trip that “cemented the official Palestinian relationship with Cuba”, said Hosni Abdel Wahad, the Palestinian Authority’s assistant foreign minister for the Americas.

“It was during that visit that the official PLO-Cuban ties were forged and the first [PLO] representative office was opened in Havana thereafter.”

Cuba recognises the PLO

It is believed that unofficial ties were made between Cuba and the Palestinians during a first-of-its-kind trip by Fidel’s brother, Raul Castro, and Che Guevara to the Gaza Strip in late 1959.

Events in the 1950s set the stage for this trip: during that time, all Latin American countries, with the exception of Cuba, consistently supported the Israeli position over that of the Palestinians in international forums.

Che Guevara, who was not Cuban but was an instrumental figure in the country’s revolution, spoke in support of the Palestinians in the coastal enclave and elsewhere.

This culminated in Cuba’s recognition of the PLO when it was founded in 1964, making it one of the first countries to do so.

The Cubans trained Palestinian cadres, and Fidel himself was a staunch advocate of the Palestinian quest for freedom and independence.

– Mansour Tahboub, former acting director of the Arafat Foundation

Many of Arafat’s pictures at the Yasser Arafat Foundation, which traces and commemorates the life of the late Palestinian leader, attest to a close relationship with Fidel Castro and Cuba.

The mostly black-and-white images document a series of visits by Arafat to the Latin American country – by some accounts, as many as eight; and these are just the official ones, said Mohammad Odeh, who heads Fatah’s Latin America department.

“That’s a significant number considering Cuba is such a geographically distant country.

“It was, at best, a 12-hour plane ride from any European country, yet Arafat made the trip on numerous occasions. Castro always welcomed him like he was a head of state.”

Mansour Tahboub, former acting director of the Arafat Foundation, said such visits were also a testament to the close historical ties.

“Cuba has always been a strong supporter of Palestinians in all realms: political, military, vocational training,” Tahboub said.

“The Cubans trained Palestinian cadres, and Fidel himself was a staunch advocate of the Palestinian quest for freedom and independence.”

The rare archival footage at the foundation provides a window into many milestones of Cuban-Palestinian relations, such as Arafat pictured on stage – with former Syrian president, Hafez al-Assad, in the background – condemning Egypt for signing the 1978 Camp David Accords with Israel, during the 6th Non-Aligned Summit in Havana in September 1979.

During that time, Egypt was suspended as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement after its agreement with Israel was criticised as “an act of complicity with the continued occupation of Arab territories”.

But these pictures show only a portion of the decades-long relationship between the two men. The PLO and Cuba were natural allies, as both championed what their leaders saw as a struggle against imperial and colonial powers.

Quest for independence

Indeed, Castro conflated Cuba’s “strife to fight imperialism” with the Palestinian quest for independence from Israel’s occupation.

“Cuba’s backing of the Palestinians wasn’t exceptional,” explained Abdel Wahad, who studied journalism in Cuba.

“It was part of the Cuban support system to all people struggling for freedom and fighting against colonialism.”

Castro reaffirmed this belief on numerous occasions, including during an interview with the French weekly Afrique-Asie in 1977.

“The Palestinian movements have shown their ability to resist imperialist … aggression … [The Palestinian cause] will prevail sooner or later in spite of the betrayal by Arab reactionaries, imperialist manoeuvres and Israeli aggression.”

In almost every one of Castro’s many speeches, he voiced support for the Palestinians alongside condemnations of US “imperialist plots”.

Following the end of the Six-Day War, Cuba condemned Israel for the first time at the UN. And of all the Latin American countries that had PLO representative offices at the time, only Cuba and Nicaragua granted the PLO full diplomatic status.

Yet despite its close relationship with the PLO, Cuba continued to maintain relations with Israel until 1973. It was during the Non-Aligned Movement summit of that year in Algeria that Cuba announced it would break off relations with Tel Aviv.

Several historical accounts refer to a dramatic scene unfolding at the event after Castro was reportedly convinced to cut ties with Israel.

Tales were told of an embrace between Castro and former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, and some claimed that “Arafat ran across [the hall] to embrace Fidel, and the applause lasted for minutes”.

During the Non-Aligned Movement’s heyday, before the end of the Cold War, Cuba also gave much-needed political support to the Palestinians in international fora, such as the UN.

Around that time, Cuba co-sponsored the UN General Assembly resolution that equated Zionism with racism.

Even when the UN later repealed the resolution in 1991, Cuba stood in opposition.

Quid pro quo?

Some argued that the prominence Cubans gave to the Palestinian cause was a quid pro quo for helping the Castro government secure influence among “Third World nations”.

“The symbiotic relationship between the two … enabled Castro, despite his role in Latin America and Africa as a Soviet client and surrogate, to assume a leadership position in the Third World and within the Non-Aligned Movement,” wrote David J Kopilow, a former consultant for the Hudson Institute in Washington specialising in Central America.

Cuba assisted the PLO – especially left-leaning factions like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) – in forging ties with neighbouring states.

The Cubans had a huge role in us seeking the status of non-member observer state, and we still liaise with them on all high-level international matters.

– Mohammad Odeh, head of Fatah’s Latin America department

“The Cubans played a vital role in facilitating our interactions on the Latin American scene,” said Hisham Abu Ghosh, a member of the DFLP’s political bureau.

The DFLP had an especially close relationship with the Cuban regime; the party’s leader Nayef Hawatmeh made dozens of trips to the island, the most recent of which was made in November 2013.

The PLO also found fertile ground in Cuba for political training and support, giving “logistical and professional guidance for Palestinian factions”, according to Abdel Majeed Sweilim, professor of political science at Al Quds University.

The Latin American state also took a special interest in providing educational support to Palestinians.

“Despite Cuba’s economic woes, the government would give more than 150 Palestinians annually opportunities to study medicine, engineering and other disciplines,” said Odeh, who studied dentistry on the island in 1970 under a full scholarship granted by the Cuban government.

Close relations have been maintained between the Palestinians and Cuba, but “the nature of the relationship has differed”, explained the PA’s Abdel Wahad. “There is an official relationship with the state of Palestine.”

Cuba was even consulted in the lead-up to the UN’s recognition of Palestine as a “non-member observer state”.

“I was in Cuba two years ago to consult with officials about the UN bid,” Fatah’s Odeh said.

“Not many people know this, but the Cubans had a huge role in us seeking the status of non-member observer state, and we still liaise with them on all high-level international matters.”

*

More from MA’AN HERE

From Palestine to Cuba: Palestinian leaders remember the late Fidel Castro

« Older entries