Some words are bandied about more liberally than they’re understood. Dr Mads Gilbert decided, at the end of his SOAS talk – which I had the harrowing privilege of seeing – last month, to clarify the meaning of solidarity: the expression of unity over pity. Not pity, such as the kind expressed by an isolated thought or prayer or cheque, but the unity of one’s actions and beliefs with those of the oppressed.
It is the solidarity described by Dr Gilbert that connects his backbreaking work in Shifa hospital last summer with the Italian pilot who made headlines by announcing “welcome to Palestine” to his passengers, the flotilla towed away by the Israeli navy as it tried to bring humanitarian supplies to Gaza, the US state department when it refused to protect the settlements from boycotts, and the stagers of the 2nd sit-in at Elbit’s Birmingham factory yesterday (on the anniversary of the first in the midst of Protective Edge). Or, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s (PSC) own petition, signed by 20,000 members of the public and a selection of British intellectuals and artists, including “film directors, Ken Loach and Peter Kosminsky, actors Maxine Peake, Samuel West, and Miriam Margolyes, musician Brian Eno, poet Benjamin Zephaniah, and the writers and academics, Tariq Ali and Karma Nabulsi”.
We at the PSC’s Slough branch wanted, with our second blog post, to paint a picture of the national group’s dedication to Palestinian solidarity with a summary of its own history and material on the subject.
“PSC is an independent, non-governmental and non-party political organisation with members from many communities across Britain, and increasingly throughout the world. PSC represents people in Britain from all faiths and political parties, who have come together to work for justice for the Palestinian people. PSC was established to campaign for Palestinian rights, including the right to self-determination and the right of return, and to oppose Israel’s occupation and violations of international law.”
Though PSC is based in central London, it “works with students, faith groups, trade unions and many other campaigning, cultural, and political organisations in Britain, Europe, and worldwide”.
The aims of our organisation, exactly as listed on the national website, are “the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people”, “the right of return of the Palestinian people”, “the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli state from the occupied territories”, “against the oppression and dispossession suffered by the Palestinian people”, “support of the rights of the Palestinian people and their struggle to achieve these rights”, “to promote Palestinian civil society in the interests of democratic rights and social justice”, “to oppose Israel’s occupation and its aggression against neighbouring states”, and “opposition to racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and Islamophobia, and the apartheid and Zionist nature of the Israeli state”.
PSC backs a comprehensive boycott as a “key form” of applying “peaceful international pressure on Israel”. A boycott also “lets the Palestinian people know that they are not forgotten and the justice of their cause is recognised. It sends a signal that the world will not sit by whilst Israel flouts UN resolutions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention, and other international laws – Israel cannot be allowed to act with impunity. It enables decisions made in their everyday lives by people outside Israel and Palestine to refresh and reinforce their opposition to Israeli policy. It exerts moral pressure on the British Government by giving expression to the desire to move towards a more ethical foreign policy. It provides an excellent way of stimulating public debate, offers a focus for leafleting and discussion, as well as exerting moral and economic pressure on Israel to comply with international legislation and principles of justice. Apartheid was weakened by a similar international movement of solidarity that succeeded in branding South Africa as a pariah state. Despite obvious differences between these two forms of oppression, this antecedent provides an inspiring model”.
Fundamentally, the boycott movement is beginning to carry more and more mainstream sway as the reality on the ground becomes more and more desperate. “In the latest EU Heads of Mission Report on Jerusalem 2012 the EU representatives urge sanctions against Israeli settlements. Authored by EU Diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah, the report makes recommendations on imposing sanctions on Israeli settlements, including preventing all financial transactions that support Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied West Bank.” PSC’s website carries a petition to label all settlement produce and ban their sale, and alongside this call to action is a description of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) and a list of some of the main companies complicit in the occupation:
“Ahava: its products come from stolen Palestinian natural resources in the Occupied Territory of the Palestinian West Bank, and are produced in an illegal settlement.
G4S: a British-Danish private security company that provides services and equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall and the Israeli police.
Sodastream: an Israeli corporation that produces all of its carbonation devices in an illegal settlement in the West Bank.
Hewlett Packard (HP): is a US multinational information technology corporation. HP not only profits from developing systems to racially profile Palestinians and track and control their movements, it is also complicit in the Israeli apartheid which limits the parts of the West Bank which they can access, and which restricts their freedom of movement. HP is also contracted to provide the Israeli navy’s IT infrastructure.
Veolia: the company also operates bus services to illegal settlements as well as dump waste on Occupied Land from illegal settlements at the Tovlan landfill. Veolia was involved in the construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail which has been designed to connect the illegal settlements built on East Jerusalem with the Israeli territory of West Jerusalem.”
The BDS movement isn’t the only Palestinian solidarity campaign, as it were, listed on the PSC’s website, in addition information on the struggle for Palestinian prisoners’ rights and to lift the crippling, indiscriminate siege of Gaza can be found.
Perhaps the most succinct case for the PSC is the fact it’s “the leading campaign organisation working for Palestine in Britain. We work to influence Government policy, and to ensure that the Government acts to uphold existing British policies – against settlements, the Wall and the blockade of Gaza”. If you are a British citizen who believes the rights of Palestinians are as sacred as anyone else’s, and have an unadulterated desire to educate yourself (documents on the history and politics of the region have been uploaded in abundance by PSC staff) on the ins-and-outs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are few better places for you to go. And it is with you where most of the power lies, as has been the case with arguably every true struggle for justice in history.
After all the UN resolutions, declaring that Palestinian refugees have a right to return to their homes (General Assembly Resolution 194, Dec. 11, 1948), that Israel’s occupation is illegal (Security Council Resolution 242, Nov. 22, 1967), that Israel’s settlements are illegal (Security Council Resolution 446, March 22, 1979), that Palestinians have a right to self-determination (General Assembly Resolution 3236, November 22, 1974), reaffirming the Palestinian state (Security Council Resolution 1397, March 12, 2002), acknowledging the advisory opinion of the ICJ on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall (General Assembly Resolution ES-10/14 , August 2, 2004), and the votes in as recently as 2012 on Palestine’s non-member observer status and calling on Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, how much more can we trust our governments to do?