Palestinian maps, faces and books were all around. Scores of flyers were sorted carefully, and neatly positioned on the many shelves that consume the little office. Outside, another room filled with merchandise, scarves, buttons, pins and all the rest. A mixed feeling engulfs me: pride and gratitude for these resilient individuals whose dedication knows no bounds, and ashamed that the accountable sums which are squandered on futile projects on behalf of Middle Eastern governments and individuals all across Europe and the United States fail to appreciate the unparalleled role of such organisations.
But PSC (PalestineCampaign.org) isn’t just any organisation. Waving flags aimlessly and composing booklets with exaggerated news about their own greatness is hardly their habit or aim. They seem to appreciate the intensity of the many challenges facing them: the power of the Israeli lobby in Britain is growing rapidly as each of the three major political parties has their own "Friends of Israel" branch, public apathy —an avoidable outcome of media misrepresentations —lack of Arab involvement and the diversion of attention towards Iraq, and so forth.
But one’s passion for justice, if it is indeed genuine, is everlasting, hurdles or not. Established in 1982, PSC has grown from a tiny cluster of concerned British human rights activists to the largest pro-Palestine solidarity movement in Britain, if not in the whole of Europe: with thousands of members across the country and with over 40 chapters, PSC has managed to win the support of Britain’s largest unions. The group is instrumental in keeping the pressure on, tirelessly lobbying parliament, winning the support of many MPs, calling for and leading boycott campaigns, working with the media and extending a hand of friendship and solidarity to resisting Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
In December 2004, PSC’s campaigners collected and handed over to 10 Downing Street 21,000 signatures protesting Israel’s Imprisonment Wall in the West Bank.
But starting now, all the way to early June, PSC will be consumed with one thing and one thing only: the June 9 rally in London, the international day of action which marks the 40th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza.
PSC is not alone in this. This year, a recently established coalition which calls itself "Enough" ( EnoughOccupation.org), will help bring together dozens of such groups in what is hoped to be the largest rally for Palestine. Under the motto: "Say Enough to 40 Years of Israeli Occupation", tens of thousands will meet at Lincoln’s Inn Field at 1:30 pm to descend in large numbers on Trafalgar Square. For Enough, this day is hardly about flag waving, but rather mobilisation; without mass organisation and public pressure, change in the UK or anywhere is simply unfeasible.
"More and more British people are appalled at the way our government ignores Israel’s violations of international law and human rights which leaves the Palestinian people imprisoned in the Occupied Ter ritories and being starved by Israel and the International community blockage," Betty Hunter, General Secretary of the PSC told me as we drank mint tea at a small coffee shop adjacent to her group’s office. "This demonstration is vital to show the British government that they must change their policies and actively support the rights of the Palestinian people."
British MP Jeremy Corbyn, an instrumental member of the Palestine solidarity movement in Britain is an ardent activist. He hardly hesitates as he charges against his government’s unabashed policies on the Middle East. His support for a just peace in Palestine is unfaltering. He told me, "Most Palestinians live in poverty, insecurity and in the case of Gaza, in an open air prison.
The occupation means their lives are a daily routine of checkpoints and daily humiliation, as they try to conduct a normal life." He added, "Enough is a campaign that will draw the world’s attention to the crying injustice of the Palestinian people, and demand and end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine."
Bruce Kent, vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament seconds Corbyn’s call. "It is high time for the Enough campaign to begin. The situation of the Palestinians is intolerable and Israel has already effectively made a two state solution impossible. If we want peace in the Middle East there must be justice for the Palestinians."
The Enough campaign and the critical role of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign cannot possibly be timelier. As the American, and to a lesser degree British debacle in Iraq deepens, those powers are realising, although reluctantly, the need to reconsider and hopefully reorder their policies in the Middle East. Iraq will require a total rethink. In the United States, a serious debate on the war is still overlooking the primacy of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the region’s instability. The Baker-Hamilton report, however, had the courage to admit that without resolving the conflict, the Middle East’s future stability is in peril.
June 9, 2007 is a day in which thousands of British citizens intend to send a clear and uncompromising message to their government: end your support for Israel to bring an end to the Israeli occupation. The relationship cannot be any clearer. Without the support or consent of Western governments, Israel could not have possibly maintained so long and cruel an occupation.
My hope is that the efforts of these tireless activists will be rewarded on June 9, and that Enough will send a strong message to "the British government to stand up for international law and human rights." To do so, serious mobilisation is needed. Neither a few activists, no matter how dedicated nor an entire coalition can achieve this without the help of each and every person concerned about justice for the Palestinians, stability in the Middle East and peace the world over.
Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. His latest volume: The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London) is available from Amazon and other book venues
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