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Third Annual Bil'in Conference Speakers

The Third International Conference on Nonviolent Popular Struggle was held in Bil’in from June 4-6, 2008. More than three hundred people attended, including Palestinians, Israelis and internationals. Many high profile speakers addressed the conference participants, including Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Salem Fayyad, Dr. Rafiq Husseini, Chief of Staff to President Mahmoud Abbas, Louisa Morgantini, European Union parliamentarian and Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Northern Ireland.

Representatives of Palestinian political parties participated, as did peace activists from Israel and around the world. Delegations from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England, Canada, Ireland, Greece, Switzerland, the United States and the Netherlands were present. A letter from former American President Jimmy Carter was read to the audience.

Representatives of Palestinian political parties. [above and below]

Dr. Rafiq Husseini, representing Palestinian President Abbas, supported the nonviolent cause by saying metaphorically that “instead of boxing with Mike Tyson, I play chess with him. This is why I will beat him.”

Louisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament, made the point that the European Union must hold Israel responsible for its present trade agreement with Europe before upgrading the next trade agreement. She also spoke from the floor later in the conference, challenging Palestinian political party leaders to determine decisively whether they want a violent or a nonviolent approach to solving the conflict with Israel, and then to work together in unity, nonviolently, for the good of all Palestinians. Her directness, her passion, and her commitment to peace through nonviolence and to the Palestinians were impressive.

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize winner from Northern Ireland, stressed that Israel must act like a member of the international community - following international law and stopping settlement construction that is going on unabated. She stated that Israel must talk to Hamas. She urged conference participants to remember that we are all part of a common humanity, and that peace must start in our heads, our hearts, our families and our prayer life.

Omar Barghouti, an independent Palestinian political activist and doctoral student at Tel Aviv University, spoke about the following three prongs of the Palestinian resistance movement.

1. Right of return for refugees

2. An end to occupation and colonization

3. An end to a system of discrimination against indigenous Palestinians of Israel who as non-Jewish citizens are treated as a lesser form of humanity

Barghouti said that he is categorically against a two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. He stated, “I want a state where Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews live together as equal citizens in a democratic state.” Barghouti asserted that it is too late morally and too late politically for a two state solution.

He joined other speakers in calling for economic boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. He suggested that more is expected of some nations than others. For instance, Germany could stop the sale of arms to Israel and Great Britain could do a wider boycott of all Israeli products.

Michael Warschowsky, Israeli peace activist and Director of the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, spoke passionately, praising the efforts of Bil’in, the resistance of refugees in refugee camps, and the new generation of Israelis such as Anarchists Against the Wall who are putting aside old models of working with and relating to Palestinians. He was ardent in his statement that nothing is irreversible - resistance can change the irreversible.

Two West Bank residents told their stories of oppression and suffering to the audience. One was a man in the village of Mas’ha whose home is entirely circled by the apartheid wall and fence. The other was a teacher from the Tel Rumeda section of Hebron. They each poignantly expressed the human impact of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Khadedah Jarar of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine expressed her view that peace negotiations must be undertaken through the United Nations rather than the United States because the U.S. government supports the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. (She acknowledged that there are groups of American citizens who oppose the occupation.)

Bassman Yassin of the Bil’in Popular Committee read a poem about the Palestinian people and the deep unbreakable ties they have with their land.

Eyad Bornat, President of the Bil’in Popular Committee, spoke regarding the conditions that prompted the Bil’in resistance movement, the strategies that have made the movement a success, the violent reaction of Israeli soldiers to peaceful protests, and the results of the Bil’in struggle.

[Bornat on the right]

Legal Case. An assistant to the lawyer from the firm representing Bil’in in Israeli court regarding the illegal confiscation of over 65% of Bil’in’s land and the ongoing construction of an illegal Israeli settlement on that land spoke about the details of the ongoing legal battle. The law firm began the case in the Israeli courts in 2005. In September 2007, the Israeli High Court ruled that the wall must be moved back, not the entire 65 % but back to the closest settlement buildings.

Nine months later nothing has been done to implement the court ruling. In the meantime, settlers are putting up simple mobile homes in an attempt to prove that the Israel settlement was further out then it actually was. Bil’in’s lawyers are trying to hold the Israeli government in contempt of court, saying that Israel’s security needs do not justify the wall. The lawyers may take this case to the World Court.


Melody Nelson said...

many thanks for your report, we add it on Bil'in's website (bilin-village.org)

Mabel said...

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