Palestine: Growing solidarity movement confronts Israel

January 22, 2010

On December 23, almost one year after Israel launched its brutal war on the Palestinian Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) released its report on the situation facing Gazans.

Entitled 23 Days of War, 928 Days of Closure, the report detailed the effects of the illegal closure of Gaza's borders by Israeli authorities. The siege has lasted more than three years.

It reported how Palestinians continue to suffer extreme restrictions on their right to movement, as well access to food and medicine. Even fresh water has become a limited resource.

Israel's siege has meant almost no reconstruction has occurred since the widespread destruction of buildings and infrastructure caused by Israel's December 2008-January 2009 war.

The sheer brutality of that war, in which more than 1400 Gazans were killed, caused anger around the world and sparked global protests involving millions.

This global uprising in solidarity with Palestinians gave a great impetus to the solidarity movement. It drew in new layers of people wanting to fight for Palestinian justice, building on anger at Israel's crimes against humanity.

Solidarity groups grew stronger. In particular, the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, initiated by Palestinian activists in 2005, has strengthened significantly over the past year.

In 2009, British students occupied university campuses in support of academic boycotts. Sporting events involving Israeli teams were met by protesters. Musicians supporting Israel were picketed.

Retailers with economic ties to Israel, such as Max Brenner chocolates and the Starbucks coffee chain, faced boycotts. Israeli leaders were forced to cancel planned trips to Europe, when lawyers in those countries sought to have the leaders arrested as war criminals under universal jurisdiction.

The global solidarity movement needs to use such advances as a base from which to grow even stronger. Brutal repression is still a daily reality for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank.

On January 17, eight activists were arrested by Israeli during a raid in the West Bank village of Ni'ilin, a Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee statement said the following day. The statement said the raid was the 13th to have been carried out in the village by the occupying forces since December 16.

Western governments have continued their support for the Israeli government. The PCHR report said the US$4.5 billion worth of donations offered by many nations in the wake of the Gaza massacre has been used to reinforce Israel's oppression of the Palestinians.

The report said: "By repeatedly covering the cost of the occupation, without demanding accountability from Israel, the international community is implicitly encouraging violations of international law perpetrated by Israeli forces in occupied territory …

"It has become increasingly evident that international aid alone cannot resolve the conflict …"

Internationally, a number of important activities in the global Palestinian solidarity campaign for the coming year are being planned.

These include an international speaking tour of Palestinian and South African trade unionists in the first half of the year and plans to strengthen a systematic boycott of Israeli products by consumers and unions.

There are also plans for an international "Israeli Apartheid Week" in March to highlight Israel's crimes. Another plan is to coordinate a Citizen's Arrest Bureau to build a campaign to prosecute Israeli war criminals.

Viva Palestina aid convoys to Gaza are also set to continue to help break Israel's siege. However, convoy leader and British Respect MP George Galloway has been declared persona non grata by the Egyptian government. This means the convoys, which have previously passed through Egypt, will have to find another path to Gaza.

Galloway told the Iranian Press TV on January 7: "There are other ways into Gaza and we are exploring them. You'll see Viva Palestina coming from all corners of the world."

Galloway told Al Jazeera on January 6 that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and South African President Jacob Zuma would head their countries' convoys.

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