Saturday, 3 December 2011

The UN statehood bid and the internationalization of the Palestinian struggle: Joseph Dana


Yasmin Ahmed
(LSE SU Palestine Society)

Joseph Dana, an American independent freelance journalist currently based in Ramallah (West Bank), was invited to speak at the London School of Economics by the LSE SU Palestine Society about "New directions in Palestinian resistance after the Arab Spring: The UN statehood bid and the internationalization of the Palestinian struggle".

He began by speaking about what he called a "crisis of legitimacy" regarding the Palestinian leadership, highlighted by the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September 2011 which was presented as a "top-down" initiative rather than it being a collective decision taken democratically via the consultation of the Palestinian people. Dana argued that the bid was "more about the Palestinian Authority staying in power as opposed to an organic initiative that came from below". 

He then went on to speak about the various ways that the state of Israel contradicts its own assertion as being "the only democracy in the Middle East". Dana focused on the 'Bill for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel Through Boycott', passed earlier this year (July 2011), which has made it illegal for any Israeli to support boycott of the state, with the threat of being sued if they were to do so. There are currently 400 boycotters within Israel. Dana saw this move as indicative of the fact that "BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] is so effective that they [the Israeli government] were willing to pass this law with a majority and violate their so-called democracy's principles". The speaker also cited the controversial loyalty oath which effectively "bans Arabs from Tel Aviv" as a further example of Israel's true anti-democratic nature.

Dana finally moved on to speak about the paradoxical nature of the tent protests that have been taking place in Israel. Whilst citizens of Israel were holding these sit-ins in order to demand "social justice" within Israel, they were "unwilling to acknowledge or confront the occupation". He argued that this symbolises "that the one and two state solutions are both unviable". For this reason, Dana claimed that global pressure through initiatives of resistance on the international front such as the growing BDS movement, the Flotilla that was raided by Israel in May 2010 and the 'Flytilla' activists who attempted to enter Israel to visit Palestinian families last summer are "crucial" in the context of the continuing Palestinian struggle.

We would like to express our thanks and appreciation to Joseph for kindly accepting our invitation and providing us with a very interactive and thought-provoking talk.

Students from Al Quds University visit the LSE

Alice Dawson
(published in the LSE SU weekly newspaper, The Beaver)

Students from LSE, KCL and Al-Quds University
The LSE Students’ Union Palestine Society hosted several students from Abu Dhis, in the Middle East, who recently came to the United Kingdom to take part in an exchange programme organised by the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association. They arrived on Thursday 10th November and participated in a variety of events across London.

The aim of the visit was to compare the university student’s diverging experiences between the Middle East and the UK. The Association’s website claims that the visiting students will “work with students from London universities on a project to document student life through photography.”

Anan Odeh from Al-Quds University speaks to students 
The students took photographs of life at Al Quds University and in the London universities they visited during the exchange. These photographs were displayed in an exhibition at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), entitled, “Look at our Lives.”

One of the eight students visited the LSE on Wednesday 16th November. Yasmin Ahmed, President of the LSE Students’ Union Palestine Society, said that the student was “shown around our campus whilst they took photos, met with the Sabbatical Officers and had a discussion about the Students’ Union and student activism at the LSE and in the UK.”

That same evening, three of the Al Quds students gave a talk at a public event in Connaught House, hosted by the Palestine Society and King’s College London Action Palestine. Approximately forty people attended the talk, which was based around the students’ experience of going to Al Quds University and how, what they refer to as, the “apartheid wall” has affected their education.

The students spoke of their journeys to university through Israeli military checkpoints, where they reported being subject to humiliation or even downright refusal of entry. The students stated that this has extended a five minute journey to one which takes around two hours. They mentioned being forced to leave before dawn for important events such as examinations in case they were refused entry or subjected to delays at the checkpoint.

One student said he had regularly seen Israeli soldiers only granting entry to female students if they were subjected to degrading acts such as taking off their clothes. Another commented that he was refused entry unless he agreed to purchase a packet of cigarettes for an Israeli soldier.

Aimee Riese, President of the LSE Students’ Union Israel Society, commented; “There are powerful narratives on both sides of this conflict. As students, as humans, it is not our role to judge whose narrative is more just. Rather we should do everything we can to support peace, through the internationally accepted two state solution, so that both peoples can live in the peace and security that they deserve.”

One of the audience members, Ahmed, commented that, despite the “very upsetting and angering circumstances that they and their families have faced on a daily basis,” the students “ended their talk with an air of defiance.” They recognise that their education is an “integral part of Palestinian resistance” and resolved never to give up “until Palestine is liberated and justice is served.”

The exchange visit occurred in light of a recent announcement by the Palestine Society that LSE professors from the Departments of International Relations, History and Law will be delivering live lectures to students in Gaza as part of the society’s “Right to Education” campaign.