By Karma Nabulsi*
Witnessing the composite motion on Palestine being moved and then seconded in the large hall at Labour Party Conference last September was an incredibly moving experience for a Palestinian, and a great privilege to be there. It had begun with a handful of (mostly young) British progressives, quickly becoming dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands joining in the careful mobilisation to advance the voice of Palestine through two motions, following the lengthy complex process to get them combined and to the conference floor. It was a sustained and valiant gesture of universalism, common values, and commitment towards the dispossessed. It was also a demonstration of how to stand on firm ground alongside the Palestinian people, how to fight for them in a way that unites, mobilises and strengthens those engaged in it, as well as those it serves: the Palestinian people in their long struggle for liberation and return.
By explaining the core of the conflict and the heart of the Palestinian cause, Conference also restored the Palestinian people to their own history, showing what injustices we have faced in the past and still face today. The humanity and the dignity of the Palestinian people, our long struggle for collective and inalienable rights were made visible once again, with clear demands for action and for increased engagement; unanimously passed.
The effects and the impact of this lovely gesture were immediate and extensive – right across the Palestinian homeland and refugee camps across the region, video clips of the motion on Palestine and the debate that afternoon were quickly subtitled into Arabic, and disseminated by mainstream news channels, and carried by social media to everyone’s home and direct to their heart, as true old-fashioned internationalism does.
Palestinians everywhere could see, feel and hear that our fierce daily struggles were understood, and know that in Britain there are those who will always stand alongside us and not be silenced, who understand how to speak up for the Palestinian people and their rights. The ebulliant, inclusive and emancipatory language used, the touching manner the motions were introduced – with beauty, passion and principle – also restored and returned to the broad Labour movement its deep connection of international solidarity with the Palestinian people. It is a connection that carries a lengthy and distinguished tradition here in the UK.
Indeed the fate of Palestine and her people has always been deeply intertwined with British history, both colonial and contemporary. Our dispossession and forced displacement from Palestine in 1948 with the terrible loss of our national sovereignty came as a direct result of British colonial policies, and the actions of British colonial troops in Palestine from 1917 to 1948. The British army’s suppression of our united demands for national self-determination in our land is the reason we now face a continuing settler colonialism today: the lack of protections the lack of sovereignty always confers, with the constant and accelerating expropriation of our land, the imprisonment and collective punishment of our entire people: these dis-enfranchisements have their origins in Britain’s fateful decisions towards the Palestinian people not so long ago.
Today the Palestinians need Labour’s strong, intelligent and aware voice more than ever. The level of international solidarity so beautifully demonstrated in September is what will give us the support we need to withstand a truly existential moment of crisis in Palestinian collective history. We face an unprecedented attack from a coalition of extreme right-wing governments that are aiming to implement the complete destruction of our collective national rights this coming year. Only an aware and determined solidarity can constrain this plan – and they count on your silence, and being silenced, in order to implement it.
In a lifetime spent serving a people’s struggle for justice, I learnt that the only way a Palestinian can truly convey her people’s voice, or properly explain the simple unity with which we hold to our inalienable rights, is by giving the platform to them.
Towards the end of last year, a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations from inside Palestine and the refugee camps (made up of associations, campaigns, trade unions, human rights organisations, refugee and community organisations) published a united call to international solidarity, in order to alert everyone to the dangers of Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’, and expose its dangerous features.
So this public call comes from us to all of you: stand with us! We count on British solidarity – since September 2018 we know that we can, and are honoured by your steadfast commitment to justice, in our joint struggle for a world transformed.
An Urgent Call to the Peoples of the World:
Join us to confront the new Nakba against the Palestinian people
Unite and Mobilise to Defeat the Deal of the Century
- Throughout a century of anti-colonial struggle for liberation and the great revolutions against imperialism, the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America gifted the world with the lessons of liberation: its meaning and value, the need for unity on common principles, and the essential role of international solidarity in these struggles.
- Today, Dec 11th 2018, on the 70th anniversary of UN General Assembly resolution 194 affirming the right of return, we issue this call, in the name of Palestinian popular and national coalitions, unions, and organisations, from the Palestinian refugee camps, from across the Palestinian shatat, and from all parts of historic Palestine. We call on all peoples of the world represented at the General Assembly to resist the new settler-colonial plan that is set to destroy the Palestinians. We call on the generations descended from these heroic 20th century struggles to raise the alarm, to mobilise awareness, and to stand alongside the Palestinian people as they face this lethal 21st century colonial and imperial scheme. Only international solidarity can provide us with the force to withstand this unprecedented regional collusion to liquidate the Palestinian people and their cause.
- It is now clear there is no single Palestinian institution remaining, nor principle of human dignity and international law existing, that the current US administration and extremist government of Israel are not prepared to destroy in order to execute their strategy. With Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia playing a key role, along with some Gulf states, the Israeli-US-Saudi scheme aims to complete the settler colonial project that began in historic Palestine just over a century ago. Its goals are to liquidate the Palestinian cause entirely, to destroy the collective character of Palestinians as a people with collective rights to self-determination, and expropriate the remainder of our land in historic Palestine, including Jerusalem. It will do this by dismantling international consensus, the international laws protecting Palestinian refugee status and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), UN agency established to provide humanitarian relief to Palestinian refugees until a just solution was achieved.
- Known as the ‘Deal of the Century’, this project intends to a) erase the Palestinian refugees and their right of return; b) radically diminish or expel the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, along with Palestinians’ claim to their capital c) entrench and expand illegal settlements to complete the Israeli appropriation of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank; d) perpetuate and even intensify the siege of Gaza, envisioning its future as a zone of indentured labour known as the ‘Sinai Plan’; e) remove the already limited civic and political rights of 1948 Palestinians, and initiate discussions on their potential expulsion in the future, and f) crush all and any regional or international resistance to these steps.
- A central element of this massive assault on the Palestinian people and their national cause is the quiet dismantling of UNRWA, created by the General Assembly after the Nakba of 1948 in order to serve the urgent needs of our dispossessed people. By extinguishing UNRWA they seek to erase the international community’s direct responsibility for Palestine’s destruction, and its continuing responsibility to ensure Palestinians achieve their inalienable rights of self-determination and return. The Israeli-US-Saudi plan also seeks to erase the reality UNRWA was founded upon: the origins of the conflict, the core injustice of the Nakba, along with the fateful role UN member states and colonial powers played in 1947 and 1948 to dispossess us from our land. This attack on UNRWA is an attack on our entire people, in the attempt to dismantle our very history, our existence, our people’s just cause, a century of struggle.
- This assault on institutions is combined with the acceleration of brutal policies against Palestinians across the region, imposing a state of economic desperation to force our submission to their political diktat, and to alienate us from our rights. Gaza is suffering the worst siege in modern history, with vital services – including major hospitals – having to close down. Trump’s vicious withdrawal of assistance to hospitals in Jerusalem is followed by the US-Israeli assault on the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, its largest employer and responsible for the life-supporting wages of entire sectors of our people: our nurses, teachers, and doctors. All this is intended to bring us to our knees in order to accept our collective annihilation.
- Half a million Palestinians have now faced the wholescale obliteration of their presence in Syria: most refugee camps demolished after long and violent sieges, our people cast even further from their homes in Palestine and from each other. The resulting influx of our people into Lebanon increases the hardship and pressures in the already intolerable conditions our people face in the refugee camps there.
- Once this violent and extremist agenda to erase the Palestinian people is understood, the purpose of current silencing on Palestine becomes clear: to suppress international solidarity to prevent serious organised resistance to the plan’s realisation in the coming months. Recent events in the UK showed that any institution espousing support and solidarity for the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice becomes subject to intense pressure, in order to shield Israel from criticism of its illegal actions, both past and present, but especially any protest against the steps planned for 2019.
- The Palestinian people view the current juncture as one of emergency and grave threat, requiring action by all peoples, organisations, and institutions supporting justice, equality, and the Palestinian cause. This moment calls for collective lines, a renewed commitment to a unified approach, ensuring that the Palestinian people, their history, rights, and national cause, can never slip from global consciousness: this plan can be defeated.
- To our brothers and sisters across the world, united in the cause of justice, we ask you to stand alongside us as we confront this new Nakba. We call on you to:
- Launch a global day of action against the ‘Deal of the Century’, marking the month the Organisation of Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia Africa and Latin America (OSPAAL) was founded; 50 years from when the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination came into force.
- Educate, organise, and mobilise against the ‘Deal of the Century’ and the attempt to liquidate the Palestinian cause.
- Focus resources and energies to build alliances in order to successfully confront this ominous threat against the very being of the Palestinian people, and their cause.
For more than a century of struggle Palestinians have joined other colonised peoples in their quest for freedom. Likewise, those struggling for justice across the world hold the cause of Palestine close to their hearts: from Bangladesh to Yemen, from Vietnam to Cuba, from South Africa to Algeria, from Ferguson to Southall – wherever tyranny, colonialism, and imperialism is fought, Palestine can be found: part of our common humanity and international solidarity. For liberation and self-determination; for equality and for return, we call on you – join us!
*Professor Karma Nabulsi writes and teaches at Oxford University. She is a member of and patron to a number of campaigns for justice for the Palestinian people.