Nadia Hijab on Moving Beyond Statehood Debates and on to How We Get There

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Nadia Hijab is co-founder and President of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, the transnational Palestinian think tank. She is a writer, public speaker and media commentator. Her first book, Womanpower: The Arab debate on women at work was published by Cambridge University Press and she co-authored Citizens Apart: A Portrait of Palestinians in Israel (I. B. Tauris). She was Editor-in-Chief of the London-based Middle East magazine before serving as at the United Nations in New York. She is a co-founder and former co-chair of the US Campaign for Human Rights and now serves on its advisory board.

Nadia Hijab:

Thanks very much, and I want to thank you all, in fact, for inviting me to speak. As the title of my talk indicates, I’ll be focusing on ways to bring about change in the power dynamic of this conflict rather than the ultimate outcome.

A lot of energy has gone into, and still goes into, the ultimate configuration of what Israel and Palestine should look like. Almost every day, you’ll come across an argument that “one democratic state for all” is the only possible outcome, or you’ll come across an argument for two states. There’s also recently constant arguments about a confederation.

So there’s plenty to tap in terms of the ultimate solution. But in a sense, the excessive focus on the state solutions, I think, has done some damage to the Palestinian quest for freedom and rights, because it detracts attention from the very skewed power dynamic that exists in the Occupied Territories. In fact, it affects all Palestinian citizens of Israel to say nothing of the refugees. So there’s a very skewed power dynamic, and it focuses on investment in building a state in the Occupied Territories while they’re still under occupation. And it focused – or it used to anyway, until the negotiations stopped a few years back – on negotiations between the all-powerful occupying forces and the largely powerless occupied people.

This costly experiment has been underway for nearly 30 years now, since the Oslo Accords began to be signed in 1993, and it has brought us to where we are today, with East Jerusalem fighting for its life. This week’s heartrending scenes from Sheikh Jarrah – I’m sure you’ve seen them – the slow death of Gaza under siege and the carved-up land in the West Bank. And all this has been underway with a Palestinian leadership trapped in security co-ordination with Israel against its own people, by and large.

Despite this grim background of failure, we saw recent attempts to hold elections under occupation, which also give the illusion that political change and agency can happen through the ballot box when actually so much is out of Palestinian control.

There is one real value that comes from Palestine having won non-member state’s observer status at the UN in 2012, which is actually recognised by 138 members of the UN. It’s enabled Palestine to secure membership at many UN agencies and, most importantly, to become a state party of the ICC, which it did in 2015. Just to say that I, myself, am agnostic about the state solution. I’m happy to live and will support any outcome that realises Palestinian rights to be free from occupation, provides justice for the refugees and exiles, and equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

My main concern now is that, currently, Israel has almost all the power to bring about the outcome it wants. The outcome it wants is an Israeli Jewish state that incorporates the entire territory across the Green Line, including East Jerusalem, plus the Golan Heights, but minus Gaza.

The question is, for those who want to see justice without creating injustice: what power do we have to bring about justice? And how can we grow that power?

For Palestinians, what’s missing is a long-term strategy that’s constantly recalibrated in light of the external environment. But this sadly cannot be developed without a national leadership representing all the Palestinian people, which is not likely to be achievable in the near future.

Nevertheless, there are several sources of peaceful power available for Palestinians and for supporters of Palestinian rights, and they include the narrative which is a big source of power as well as various strategies and alliances.

The narrative is, as I said, an important source of power. In terms of that source of power, we’re actually moving in the direction of what Palestinians and their allies are calling a watershed moment, due to the publication of the Human Rights Watch report that Israel is committing crimes of apartheid and persecution against the Palestinians. There have, of course, been other reports on Israeli apartheid. The most prominent was the UN report by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley in 2017 that was pulled almost as soon as it was published, but it remains widely available. And, of course, there’s the report that was published earlier this year by the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem.

The Falk / Tilley report was quite easy to keep on the sidelines. Although, as I say, it’s there for anyone who wants to read it: do read it, it’s an excellent report. The B’Tselem report is harder to crush because it was produced by an Israeli organisation, but the Human Rights Watch report is by far the hardest to dismiss. It’s such a major and highly respected organisation with a great deal of sway in the US, especially amongst the Jewish community.

And importantly, the Human Rights Watch report refers to Israel’s treatment, not just of Palestinians under occupation in Israel, but also of Palestinian refugees whose rights have been brushed under the rug.

It’s also worth noting that Falk / Tilley report also mentioned the entire Palestinian people and its three component parts as being impacted by apartheid.

Now the Human Rights Watch report is an unavoidable wake up call to the world community that something must be done to stop Israeli crimes, as it termed them.

Direct focus on apartheid is also important, in that it clarifies the narrative of what has been done and is being done to Palestinians and what restitution is needed.

I want to refer back to a paper that Al-Shabaka published in 2017 by myself and my colleague Ingrid Jaradat Gassner in which we address the problem of there being multiple frameworks to analyse what’s going on in Palestine. Is it settler colonialism? Is it ethnic cleansing? Is it racial discrimination? Is it a struggle for indigenous rights? It’s all of these and more, but this constant discussion about what we should apply creates confusion.

In fact, in our analysis, we found that apartheid’s framework was the most strategic framework to use, because it communicates both what has happened to Palestinians as a people, as well as the need for decolonisation and reparations in whatever state solution involves.

So we’re coming to the real crunch here, of how to move forward with the search for Palestinian rights. In addition, the apartheid framing enables us to push for an end to both sides framing of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. This is one of the most damaging things, I think, about the Oslo Accords and about recent discourse: they somehow enshrine the narrative of both sides. There are not two sides to this conflict. There’s an occupier and an occupied. Yet throughout, they’re being treated as though they’re equal sides and through the endless negotiations between the Israeli occupier and occupied Palestinians, the world would call on both sides to compromise for peace. Both sides have to stop the violence, both sides have to solve the problem.

This narrative is extremely damaging, and still is to the Palestinians, as a dispossessed and brutalised people with inalienable rights in Palestine. Reframing the reality of this conflict as apartheid enables us to build solutions grounded in international law. So I’m very happy to, I hope, be seeing the end of the “both sides” discourse and if not, we should push to end it.

It’s worth noting, also, that the impact of Israel’s efforts to legalise its occupation threatens not just the Palestinians, but it also threatens the legal order put in place after the Second World War, so as to prevent atrocities from reoccurring. This is something we all have to fight for to uphold the system of international law. International law is undermined when Boris Johnson opposes the International Criminal Court’s investigation into crimes in Palestine as a prejudicial attack on Israel and when Keir Starmer reprimands Stephen Kinnock MP’s recent plea to uphold international law with regards to settlements. If we don’t have international law, really, we have nothing.

There’s another area I want to highlight with regards to the narrative, which is vital, and that is the need to place Palestinian voices, which are being silenced, at the front and centre. That’s why I’m really happy to be here today. They’re being silenced, especially in the UK, but also across Europe. Here in the UK, there’s such a hostile environment that it’s become almost impossible for Palestinians and our allies to have a say or, indeed, to meet with people in power.

It didn’t used to be like this. There’s been waves in this movement. Sometimes we have a lot more access and freedom of speech, but now, at present, it is really quite draconian. Ironically, it’s draconian because at a certain point the Palestinians had succeeded in putting their cause on the map. I would say that in the last 15 to 20 years, the movement for Palestinian rights has grown a lot. But it’s very important for Palestinians to be able to have access and a voice, and important for friends and allies to help in this area.

Again, I’ll say that your upcoming conference really gives voice to some quite strong Palestinian voices, as well as quite strong advocates of human rights.

Palestinians and their allies have built a very strong movement for rights in the United States over the past 20 years. I know, because I was part of it, because I lived in the US then, and it’s reached the point where it’s now listened to in Congress and all across the US. Sadly, there is no such movement yet in Europe. There are sympathies, but they’re not organised in a sufficiently effective way as in the US.

The movement in the US has been greatly strengthened by the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement known as the BDS. It’s worth noting that the BDS movement itself came in response to international law. In 2004, the International Court of Justice, as I’m sure most of you know, issued its advisory opinion about the about the separation wall Israel was building throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The ICJ found that Israel had an obligation to put an end to the violation of its international obligations. And this obligation included dismantling those parts within the OPT – the Occupied Palestinian Territory – of the wall, as well as the obligation of reparation.

This was powerful stuff to come out in 2004: legal obligations dismantling parts of the wall and the territory’s reparations. It could have been used to very good effect, particularly in Europe, which still cherishes international law. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership at the time did not make full use of it. However, Palestinian civil society did by launching the call to BDS almost exactly a year after the ICJ ruling in July, 2005.

It’s important to note that the BDS call actually recognises Israel existence. It calls for BDS actions until Israel upholds international law. That’s basically all it’s asking for. It also specifies the rights, not just of the Palestinian refugees and Palestinians under occupation, but also the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel. And that’s what it calls them: Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The strength of the movement in the US owes much to the BDS movement, because it gave a lot of coherence to the Palestinian solidarity movement, which had grown a lot. It also explained what the end point should be in terms of rights. However, as this movement has grown, so have the efforts to discredit it. One of the major tools, as I’m sure you know, to stifle and discredit the BDS movement has been accusation of anti-Semitism as defined under the revised IHRA definition, which stands for International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and putting a lot of pressure on states, organisations, universities and others to adopt it. The actual definition, which is really short, is not a problem, but the examples that have been tagged onto it are a problem, because six out of 11 of them relate criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism, or come close to doing so.

It’s vital to push back against the IHRA in order to enable freedom of speech and action. There are now many more ways to do so, some crafted by Jews themselves. The most powerful ones, in fact, are crafted by Jews themselves. There is a new definition of anti-Semitism that came out earlier this year that’s much more effective than the IHRA. It’s very simple as well. This was put out by the Jerusalem Declaration on anti-Semitism, which was signed by over 200 prominent Jewish scholars in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies and Middle East studies. It’s intended to provide clear guidance on the fight against anti-Semitism while protecting freedom of expression. It defines anti-Semitism simply as discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews, or Jewish institutions as Jewish. Then its guidelines are extremely clear in protecting Jews, as well as protecting free speech. I encourage everyone to get a copy of it if you don’t have it already.

Getting the fight against anti-Semitism right is vital, because it does exist, obviously, throughout the world. It’s particularly virulent in parts of Europe and the United States, and of course, in Germany and elsewhere. So an effective definition like the JDA, or the papers written by my friends and colleagues at the US organisation, Jewish Voice for Peace – they have some excellent resources – are very important to use and they can be used to counter anti-Semitism and to counter the efforts to silence Palestinian voices.

Meanwhile, there are other ways that have been resorted to, to weaken the movement for Palestinian rights. One of them is the push to organise dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians on the basis: if people just get together and get to know each other and work together, that understanding will bring peace. Well, people bought into this in the early days, perhaps of the state building project under Oslo, but most Palestinians dropped out of these people-to-people projects, as they were called and as they’re being called now, because it was clear: they brought neither peace nor justice. They only siphoned off energy and resources. And, of course, it ignored the entire structure of control and dispossession.

Sadly, there’s now a very, very well-funded effort to revive these people-to-people initiatives with the Partnership for Peace Act that was passed in the US Congress late last year. It puts a huge amount of money behind this, about $250 million over five years, to fund two funds. One of these is ALLMEP, specifically focused on peace and reconciliation projects between Palestinians and Israelis. These moves are quite dangerous to the efforts to bring about real peace and justice. Both my colleagues Yara Hawari at Al- Shabaka as well as Zaha Hassan who have written important papers explaining the dangers of these efforts.

With this new act that has been passed in the US, not only can settlers potentially apply for these resources despite the illegality of the settlements, we’re not only not holding Israel accountable for the crime of settlement in the territories, but inviting settlers to get access to resources. And there are also restrictions to Palestinians trying to access the ICC to using these funds. Clearly, the route to the ICC is a very important one and this act is one of the ways in which it’s being separated.

I would just close by saying that, finally, despite all the examples I gave and the initiatives that are underway, that can be no resolution of wrongs or restitution of rights without a revival of the Palestinian National Movement. This is a very challenging project because the remaining leadership of the movement is trapped under occupation. And while the Palestine solidarity movement is strong – very strong in the US and ok in Europe – it has no cohesion and no ability to achieve results on its own. There are several attempts to try to revive the Palestinian National Movement. If I may, I’d like to mention the study that Zaha and I, together with two other colleagues, worked on that dealt with the status of the PLO diplomatic corps, and the various states in which there are representatives of the PLO, and its relationship with the diaspora. We studied the relationship between the diaspora and the diplomatic corps, we examined where the diplomatic corps is at now and the rules and regulations that guide it, and we see that the relationship between the corps and the diaspora could possibly be an entry point to reviving some of the strength of the Palestinian National Movement. You’ll find the paper on the Al-Shabaka website. And if you haven’t yet signed up to Al-Shabaka, I do encourage you to do so.

I’d like to thank you all for listening and I’ll turn it back to Diana.

Diana Safieh:

Hi, thank you. That was so interesting.

I’m going to start with a question that comes from Afif Abu Rish. Hello Afif, thank you for joining us again. He asks: “Can you please explain how both leading parties in the UK became so pro-Israel?”

Nadia Hijab:

Oh gosh. Yeah, that takes quite a bit of history.

I think, to my mind, the stronger the movement for Palestinian rights got, the stronger the Israeli pushback got. There’s quite a large movement by Israel and its allies, I think, to really push parties in this direction and also to use the stigma of anti-Semitism to silence discourse. But, you know, there was a time when the PLO was first active in the West and Palestinians came together as a movement when Palestinians were heard. As I say: today, I think it’s very, very hard for Palestinians to get access to either party. That’s something that we have to work on. So yeah, I hope we’ll all work on that.

Diana Safieh:

That’s what we are here for, what we’re trying to do as well.

There’s been a couple of questions about the elections and their postponement. This one from Claire Walford: “How do Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza feel about the cancellations again of elections by Abbas?” Then we’ve got Jenny Tonge joining us – hi, Jenny – “At the beginning of your talk, you said Palestinian leadership is not available in the near future. Why not? Why have the elections been postponed? Campaigners can do little unless we have the support from the Palestinian leaders. When will the ordinary people of Palestine take action and, for example, call a general strike until there are elections for proper leadership?”

Nadia Hijab:

Obviously people are very upset about the elections being canceled, a lot of Palestinians are. Something like 93% of eligible voters had signed up, so that indicates a very high degree of wanting elections. But really, when you think about it, these are elections held under a draconian occupation and there’s a limit to what freedoms will be achieved for Palestinians. In the case of those elections, I’m working on a paper – which I hope will get published in the next week or two – that shows that there are other ways for representation other than elections which, to my mind, make much more sense for a people that still hasn’t achieved its rights. Several of these ways were used over the history of the Palestinian national movement, including consensus building and other ways that have been used.

The elections could have shaken up the status quo, no doubt about that, and they were postponed because they were going to shake up the status quo. But would what they had put in place, even if it was the most perfect representatives, have been able to take action against Israel? I think, for freeing the Occupied Territories, you would have to rebuild the kind of movement that you had with the First Intafada. That’s not something that’s related to elections, that’s something related to organising different sources of power on the ground.

So, to get to Jenny Tonge’s question, it takes a very long time to build up something like this. It will happen. If you look at the history of the Palestinian struggle, almost every 15 – 20 years there has been an uprising, but then people are crushed and it takes time for an uprising to rebuild. You can still support the Palestinian people by working through civil society organisations and through international law, which is really important to uphold, not just for Palestinians, but for everyone.

Diana Safieh:

Thank you for that really clear explanation.

I’ve got a question from Robin Kealy, “How do you see the influence of Palestinians in Israel growing and how could this play into the change in the political centre of gravity in Israel?”

Nadia Hijab:

Interesting question. That also ebbs and flows; the power of Palestinian citizens of Israel. They are now quite powerful in economic terms, not just active in political terms. They hold several positions in the country that are really key, especially in the health sector and in other sectors, so they can no longer be, I think, dismissed or crushed by the Israelis.

It’s difficult in terms of getting political representation, both for the Palestinian citizens of Israel themselves. It’s going to be hard to align yourself with an Israeli political party that’s calling for colonisation, annexation and expulsion. So it’s a difficult one, but they have reached a level – as in the previous elections where they had 15 seats in the Knesset – a level of being able to have a voice and a sway. Actually, by breaking with the rest of the Palestinian citizens of Israel political parties, Mansour Abbas’s group has positioned itself as a kingmaker amongst the Israeli Jewish group of political parties.

Diana Safieh:

Thanks, Nadia.

Nadia, you mentioned your report: it’s on the Al-Shabaka website. We will also post links to it when we put the recording up on our website.

Sorry, I missed the message from someone about being hard of hearing and wishing there were subtitles. We post transcripts of all of our past events, as well as the audio and visual recordings, so please do make the most of those. If you miss anything, hopefully that will help you catch up.

We’ve got questions coming in thick and fast now, which is great. Hopefully we will be able to reach all of them.

From John Mitchell: “Media coverage is paramount in influencing public opinion on our issue. The BBC has in particular failed to give an impartial and balanced account. How should we approach the BBC and other media outlets to change their bias?”

Nadia Hijab:

That’s a very important concern, really. I think one just one needs to push. They need to hear from as many people as possible. If they heard from each one of us who was on this call repeatedly, they would change their bias. Certainly, it has been very hard to get Palestinian voices on the air. I lived in Britain in the eighties and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon happened at that time, as you know, a lot of the lineup on Palestine was a pro-Israeli British spokesperson, a pro-Palestinian British spokesperson and either an Israeli or a British Jew. That was the lineup. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, somehow, people here seemed to think, well, maybe this is not the Israel we know we need to change.

There was a lot of flowering of Palestinian voices on all the media, and that continued until, maybe, the late eighties and early nineties. Then at that time, at that period, there was the First Intafada, and that also led to a lot of coverage.

At the moment it’s extremely hard to get Palestinians on. However, there is a nascent Palestinian organisation, a pro-Palestinian British organisation that’s seeks to get Palestinian voices out. I hope that will go further.

It’s noteworthy that after the Great March of Return was launched in Gaza about two years ago, when it first happened, there were several of us Palestinian commentators on the BBC and several other channels. After two or three days that ended, and somehow hasn’t recovered. It’s very hard to get Palestinian voices in the media, that’s a reality. And yeah, we all have to push to get them out there.

Diana Safieh:

I think that it is, in my own personal opinion, very, very important to get the Palestinian voices out there. So I’m so pleased on behalf of the Balfour Project that we’ve managed to secure you for this talk for this reason; to hear such an interesting and important perspective.

I’ve got a question from Angus Rhodes. I talk about him a lot because I know him as a fundraiser for St. John of Jerusalem’s Eye Hospital and he has undertaken herculean tasks to fundraise for St. John. He’s jumped out of a plane, he’s done firewalking, he’s done marathons, so a really great guy. He asks this question: “Can you see anything new that can be done to reopen the doors to the voice of Palestinians in the UK?”

You’ve touched on it, but what can we do to really get the voices out there?

Nadia Hijab:

These are all great questions.

There are several organisations that do work to get Palestinian voices heard. Things are a bit better in the United States, I have to say, largely because the movement for rights in the United States is stronger, and it’s stronger because US civil liberties are really strongly protected, especially free speech. So it’s very hard to crush.

Here it’s more difficult, but it’s very helpful to have Jewish voices putting Palestinian voices out there if they can. These Jewish voices would be voices who recognise the old Palestinian rights, i.e., the rights of the refugees, equality for citizens of Israel and ending the occupation. For example, there’s a Jewish group called Na’amod (British Jews Against Occupation), whose members are young Jews that’s getting out there, similar to another group of young Jews in the States called If Not Now. There’s also the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which is quite effective in organising for Palestinian voices. I would say, just in your communities at the local level: organise as much as you can and keep after the more prominent outlets of organisations. One has to be relentless in this call. It’s exhausting, but there’s no other way, sadly.

Diana Safieh:

Yes. We have to keep our motivation up, don’t we?

We’ve got an interesting question which touches on what you just said about some of the youth groups from Jayne McGlone-Wright: “My understanding is that the youth feel very disenfranchised. If you’ve got any comments on that?”

Nadia Hijab:

Is this the youth here or the youth in Palestine?

Diana Safieh:

She’s not specified. I’m going to assume it’s Palestinian youth in Palestine.

Nadia Hijab:

Ok. I would say yes, I agree. What I find sad about the Palestinian movement itself and the Palestinian movement for rights is an ageism that prevails, actually, on both sides of the coin. So, Palestinian youths and Jewish youths are excluded and people who have established themselves stay in positions forever. They don’t give way to, let’s say in Britain, to younger Jews or younger Palestinians; in Palestine to younger Palestinians.

So a lot of younger Palestinians now have organisations of their own in which there are very few older people. I think that’s a shame because both sides – to use that awful expression – have something to learn from each other.

I’m very proud that Al-Shabaka has all different ages and experiences represented. Two of our policy fellows were 24 years old, and we have all ages well up imnto the seventies and beyond.

Diana Safieh:

Thank you for that. We’ve got a question from Dr. Colin Cooper: “Are the Palestinians in Lebanon destined to be overlooked for the foreseeable future?”

Nadia Hijab:

The Palestinian refugee situation is really heartbreaking, and Lebanon itself is a real disaster area now. There are several groups that are working for, and with, Palestinians in Lebanon still, but just like any other Palestinian diaspora group at the moment, we’re all being overlooked up to a point. That’s something that really has to change. As I said, the report that Zaha and I authored with others does offer one small entry point into a possible way to change it, which is really linking the diaspora to the diplomatic corps.

Diana Safieh:

Thanks. I’m just looking up the report on your website. I’ll be posting that in the chat box. Like I said, we’ll post a link to it on our website when we post the recording and the transcript.

We have got another question from Weam Hamdan: “Recently, we have witnessed censoring from social media platforms regarding any content related to Jerusalem and Palestine. How do you see the future of media and reporting regarding Palestine?”

I presume specifically with regards to social media.

Nadia Hijab:

Yes. This is another arena – and thanks for drawing attention to it – where the battle has to be fought, or, I should say, the peaceful struggle has to be fought just like in all other venues and social media. Luckily, there’s organisations pushing back. I think what we need to do is support these organisations. There’s an organisation called 7amleh that was established by the Palestinian citizens of Israel, they have excellent documents, reports and analysis.

I think also, Palestinians are actually pretty savvy on the media about getting the word out.

One has to keep pushing and saying: we are entitled to the same rights as others. In the States, as I said, it’s much harder to suppress these rights because they’re covered by free speech. I’m happy that, since I’ve come back to Britain, there is more exchange between the US and the European movements for rights, learning from experience and so on, that that will help us develop and that there should be more of them.

Diana Safieh:

Agreed. It’s a really important place to be able to share our voices, right?

Chris Greenwood has got a question: “Will Palestinians ever regain their freedoms; peace, justice, equal rights, right of return, etc.; all the things that we here want for them, without the USA and the UK governments both changing their policies to start supporting and ensuring this? Can we do it without them?”

Nadia Hijab:

The ultimate objective of all the civil society organising is to get change political change in the US and in the UK.

In the UK, in theory, it should have been easier because people have a lot of knowledge about Palestine and Palestinians despite the lack of schoolbooks. I mean, you hear about it a lot more; you’re closer to the area of conflict here.

In theory, it should have been easier, but there’s been, just in the last four or five years, a real push to silence the discourse, as I said, using fake accusations of anti-Semitism as a tool. That’s why I strongly recommend the JDA’s definition of anti-Semitism, which we should all fight against.

Definitely, we need to see change. In the US, we’re seeing extremely slow change, but it is change, with members of Congress speaking up. This is why the Human Rights Watch report is so important, because it has a very big weight in the United States and if they call it apartheid, you know it’s going to make others think twice and use those terms. So we have to make sure that that all gets into the discourse.

Diana Safieh:

I’m going to batch two questions together because they are on similar topics. We’ve got this from Andrew Whitley, one of the Balfour Project trustees: “Why has the Palestinian diaspora been so docile and passive as it watches the disappearance of its homeland and prospects for independence? The degree of political organisation among them is very weak.”

Similarly from Paul Timperley: “Why do you think the Palestinian Mission in the UK is so quiet in response to the Zionist lobby in the UK? And is it the same in other countries?

Not given you any easy questions, have I? Sorry!

Nadia Hijab:

Gosh, well, it’s not an easy struggle!

Things ebb and flow. The diaspora has been passive at some points. It is from the diaspora that the Palestinian National Movement was born, but sadly, at the moment, the diaspora is fragmented between the different factions in Fateh and Hamas and Dahlan and so on. There’s a lot of fragmentation going on, which prevents action.

However, there are a number of civil society organisations that also have a lot of action going on. As for the Palestinian Mission in the UK, I wouldn’t say it was all that passive. I think it’s been, in its way, quite active, and it’s brought out a couple of really strong statements recently against the position that was taken by the government undermining international law.

Diana Safieh:

Yes. We’ve got that statement on our website as well. I posted the link to Boris Johnson’s comments to Conservative Friends of Israel about the ICC and then we also have Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, we have his response to that. Do check that out on our website, if you haven’t had a chance to see it. I’m sure we will discuss it quite a lot at our conference as it’s very relevant and very timely, as you said.

We’ve got a question from our chair, Sir Vincent Fean. Hi, Vincent. “I was hoping that elections would lead to some form of renewed unity between Gaza and the West Bank. Without elections, where do we go for that reunification?”

I’m actually going to batch that with this Ian Tegner question: “To what extent is there agreement amongst Palestinians as to the ultimate objective?” So where’s the meeting point?

Nadia Hijab:

Yes. If there was one good thing about the elections, it was that there was agreement. There had been discussions, negotiations between Fateh and Hamas and agreement. But I think we are going to have to find ways to work around the disagreements between FiDA and Hamas to advance Palestinian rights. Although the ways may not be very clear now, I’m sure they’re bubbling under the surface and will come out soon.

I know this all sounds quite cryptic, but after such a big disappointment like this and not anything to look forward to… The most that is being called for is bringing European governments and the States together reviving the quartet and resuming negotiations… That would be an absolute nightmare.

So, after, there’s this kind of a real feeling of let down. I think we’ll probably see a lot of reaction, but it’ll take a while to bubble up to the surface. I very much hope it’ll be productive and peaceful. But people are so squeezed and what’s going on on the ground is so horrendous, that one is somewhat afraid of this immediate coming period,

Diana Safieh:

We’ve got a comment from Vincent as you were answering his question: “The Balfour Project commends the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism, co-authored by Phillip Sands QC, who’s one of the keynote speakers at our conference. He’s speaking on Day One, 25th of May. It is key to maintaining free speech here in the UK. Let’s keep promoting it.”

 I’m not sure if he means our conference or  free speech, but let’s promote both.

I’m going to end on a final question from Georgie Brooks; she’s involved with St. John as well. She was the former chair of the Guild who do a lot of fundraising events on behalf of St. John’s Eye Hospital. Such a lovely group of people. “Last week, the speaker spoke of the effectiveness of community groups lobbying in support of the Northern Ireland peace process. How can this be replicated for support of Palestine?”

I know that you did touch on this, but because we want to end on a fairly positive note what is the call to action? How can we help? What do we do? How do we get in touch with community groups or set them up ourselves?”

Nadia Hijab:

There are a number of community groups in Palestine. I think there’s a major difference between Ireland and Palestine, in that Ireland has achieved, for the most part, statehood and independence, and it’s a very different situation.

What you don’t want is community groups that are going and saying, look, here’s two peoples, let’s bring them together. If they just get to know each other, everything will be fine. What you need is people who are, are quite clear and quite articulate in pushing for the rights of Palestinians and ensuring  that Jews are protected from antisemitism. That is really what we need in terms of just some very strong pushing of rights.

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