by a tear gas canister shot by a member of the Israeli occupation force,
on April 17, 2009, the Friday before the conference.
In late April 2009, MPTers attended the Fourth Bil’in International Conference on Non-Violent Resistance, in honor of Bassem Abu Rahme. Basem had been killed in Bil’in by a tear gas canister shot by the occupying Israeli army during the demonstration against the illegal apartheid wall the previous Friday. (Just a month before an American, Tristan Anderson, was critically wounded by a tear gas canister in a peaceful demonstration in the nearby
The conference was three full days of activities. The first two days consisted of grassroots and political speeches about the present situation of occupation and some possible solutions; workshops and field trips to areas where there is nonviolence activity with the goal of understanding the complexities of the oppression; and then group efforts toward some resolutions. The final day concluded with the weekly nonviolent action against the apartheid wall.
The Conference attendees were welcomed with speeches by the Bil’in Popular Committee, the Prime Minister of Palestine, Salam Fayad, Mairead Corrigan-Maguire (Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) and a letter from Jimmy Carter. Luisa Morgantini, an Italian, Vice President of the European Union (EU) Parliament, was to speak, but we heard her later in the morning via internet video and again in the next two days in person. All expressed their condolences to the village at the sad death of the village’s beloved Bassem, spoke of the harsh and unjust oppression of the Israeli occupation, and encouraged the continuance of the courageous nonviolent resistance of the villagers, to be expanded even more into the
promised to return often to Bil'in and Palestine.
She was on one of the boats to Gaza earlier in the year.
The next section focused on the saving of
in early November '08 and lost her husband a week later, shares a light moment.
Palestinian organizers of popular resistance movements from different parts of
Hafez, a special friend of MPT and a popular committee organizer,
relates the situation of the Bedouin people of the South Hebron Hills.
Various heads of delegations spoke, including a young Israeli woman, Adar Grayevsky of Anarchists against the Wall. A French peace activist, representing three French peace groups with a total of 70 people, expressed his sympathy for the death of Bassem. He informed the conference on the French support of
A Spaniard from
Zico Tamela, International Official of SATAWU (South Africa Transport and Allied Workers Union) from
and a coordinator of the BDS movement workshop.
Zico Tamela - Union Official South Africa.
Iman Hammouri, Director of the Popular Art Center, Jerusalem
The Palestinians on the panel promoted a culture of resistance through the arts, advocating support only for that artistic expression which expressed resistance. Art for art’s sake has to wait for the end of the occupation. They called for boycotting Israeli cultural groups, including the dance group, Batsheva, since these groups are utilized for Israeli propaganda and have no stated opposition to the occupation. Haidar Eid, an English professor, and others from
A panel of Palestinian politicians from various parties spoke. Hard questions from Palestinians in the audience challenged their ability to work together with common goals and strategies for ending the occupation were asked. Answers were not yet satisfying to the questioners.
After the Barghouti’s presentations, a simple, but poignant village-prepared film documentary and another moving documentary of Bassem by Shay Goldman (Israeli cinematographer – Bil’in My Beloved) were shown. Bassem was deeply loved for his kindness to all and his playful, but very direct, interacting with the Israeli occupying force. He was a lover of peace for all peoples.
The following day MPTers attended a motivating workshop on boycott, divestment and sanctions. These seem some of the best means to end the occupation. [A blog will soon be written on this.] Following the workshop conference attendees went on buses to a site where they has been organized nonviolent resistance – the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the south Hebron Hills, and the northwest – Qalqillya and Tukarum. The MPTers chose the northwest, which is their new area of our work. [There will be a forthcoming blog on this field trip.]
Several young Israelis who were not part of the Israeli Anarchists against the Wall [a highly politicized, pro-Palestinian group] attended the conference. Having almost no experience in the
On the final day, Friday, after words of remembrance for Bassem and Tristan, the American peace activist, the resolutions and strategies from the workshops the previous day were read and approved by the assembled people. Resolutions or unifying strategies included better coordination of national BDS campaigns, promotion of legal action for the war crimes in
( For a complete reading of this statement regarding these strategies, go to http://www.ramallahonline.com/content/3244-closing-statement-of-the-fourth-bilin-international-conference-on-non-violent-resistance)
After a training for internationals, several hundred Palestinians, Israelis and internationals walked to the apartheid wall in Bil’in. [There will be a blog on this in the coming week..] This was a somber time for all because of the death of Bassem, but a very hopeful time for the future of
(For a concise Palestinian account of the conference see: http://www.alternativenews.org/english/1886-bilin-nonviolent-resistance-conference-between-rhetoric-and-action-.html)