Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Palestine at the World Peace Forum ­ A Lesson in How to Stand Your Ground

Vancouver's World Peace Forum [www.worldpeaceforum.ca] comes to a close today. While it has been impossible to attend even a fraction of the 300 events, for many of us the Palestine forum on Monday night was the event that could not be missed. The WPF has weathered and survived many vicious attacks for allegedly being a "hatefest", [Vancouver Sun, Wednesday, June 21, 2006] ironically because of the position the WPF took in regards to international law - i.e. organizations could not participate in the Peace Forum if they were advocates of policies, [war, occupation, apartheid, etc] that violated international law. This left out Zionist organisations whose stated policy is to be advocates for Israel and its policies of occupation, apartheid and assassination.

This was not an easy position for the WPF to take, and it only arrived at this after a very long process in which the local Anti-War Movement and the Palestine Solidarity Movement demanded this principled stand of the WPF organizers. But it was all worth it on Monday night when we filled our large venue and in pin drop silence the crowd heard 3 powerful women tell their heart-breaking stories of the occupation.

The speakers were:

- Miryam Rashid, Interim Director of the Middle East Program of the American Friends Service Committee ­ Chicago, lived in the occupied West Bank for 5 years during the first Intifada. She was involved with Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations from 1998 to 2000, and sees peace as inseparable from recognition of Palestinian human rights.

- Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli education professor at Hebrew University lost her daughter in a suicide bombing, and has turned her grief into a tireless quest for justice: the end of the Israeli occupation which she considers the root cause of her daughter's death, including the elimination of racism in Israeli education.

- Cindy Corrie's daughter Rachel was killed by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer as she non-violently protested the demolition of a Palestinian home. Cindy Corrie continues Rachel's pursuit of sustainable peace, one rooted in justice for all.

Later that night those of us who organized the event gathered in celebration with the speakers. Social justice activism can be a dreary business consisting of endless and tedious grunt work. In this line of work, there aren't too many immediately perceivable victories. Those of us who do it are in it for the long haul, knowing that we may not live to see the justice and equality that we are working for. But occasionally, we have nights like that one where we see glimpses of what the world would look like if justice prevailed over oppression, and if truth prevailed over greed.

This experience has reminded my heart that there is no injustice, no oppressive power, no matter how well funded and well marketed it is, that can forever withstand the force of reasoned, principled and committed activism.

May we all live to see many more successes and to see a free and democratic Palestine in our lifetime.

The webcast of the event is now available for download at http://www.workingtv.com/26jun06mideast-wpf.html

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