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Experts and Activists Gather in London to Condemn Israeli Apartheid, Commit to Fight for Freedom, Justice and Equality

Expert speakers joined hundreds of activists in London to condemn Israel’s apartheid regime at the PSC’s ‘Justice in Palestine: Ending Apartheid, Achieving Freedom and Equality’ conference, on Saturday 3rd November.

Attendees began the day by hearing from Professor Virginia Tilley, who co-authored a UN Economic and Social Commission of Western Asia (UNESCWA) report which accused Israel of apartheid. She outlined how Israel commits the crime of apartheid in its treatment of all parts of the Palestinian population, before discussing the report’s implications. She argued that it is necessary to re-imagine Palestinian identity as multi-sectarian, embracing all within the territory of mandate Palestine.

Credit: Ryan Ashcroft Photography

This was followed by an all Palestinian panel, which discussed the multifaceted ways Israeli apartheid affects them. Kamel Hawwash, vice-chair of the PSC, spoke about how the ‘permanent resident’ status applied to Jerusalemite Palestinians is used to deny them their political and civil rights. Hazem Jamjoum, an academic and Al-Shabaka policy member, reminded attendees that Israel’s system of institutionalised racist discrimination began at the point of its foundation, when Palestinian refugees were refused the right to return to their homes, while Jews from across the world could migrate to Israel as citizens. He went on to detail how the main aim of Israeli apartheid is to dominate and erase Palestinian indigeneity. Palestinian-American Sarona Bedwan provided a perspective from the diaspora, discussing the ways in which Israel attempts to erase their Palestinian identity.

Credit: Ryan Ashcroft Photography

The conference also gave attendees the chance to view Visualising Palestine’s 7 piece graphic set comparing the state policies of Israel and apartheid South Africa. The unique set of images are available for download here.

In the afternoon, workshops provided a space to discuss how to build the solidarity movement in the UK. Attendees heard from high-profile activists, including veterans of the anti-Apartheid struggle against white minority rule in South Africa, and organisers of the ‘Apartheid Free Zones’ campaign currently sweeping Spain. Participants resolved to use the skills learnt to build the fight against Israeli apartheid in the UK.

Credit: Ryan Ashcroft Photography

The closing session was composed of a panel of speakers from across the world, who provided key lessons from their own contexts. Rima Khalaf, former head of UNESCWA, detailed how she refused to withdraw the report detailing Israel’s apartheid practices, choosing instead to resign to prevent covering up an ongoing crime. Huda Elmi, Labour Party NEC member, reminded us that support for the Palestinian struggle is integral to the struggle to build a world free from all forms racism and discrimination. Finally, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of US-based Jewish Voice for Peace, spoke movingly about how marginalised groups provided #SafetyThroughSolidarity after the recent Pittsburgh massacre. She reminded us that the Palestinian struggle is linked to the struggle against all forms of oppression.

Videos of the main sessions of the conference, as well as a number of new resources, will be available very soon, watch this space…