ICAHD’s evolving agenda: resistance, advocacy, strategizing

Publication date: 
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

 

ICAHD has always been a political organization dedicated to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not merely managing it. We see ourselves as a political actor, not merely as a protest group, which requires, besides resistance activities, a vision, an end-goal and a strategy for achieving a just peace.

 

Three external realities present major challenges to our work. First, we come out of the grassroots. As a civil society organization, ICAHD has had to find channels into political decision-making among governments and international bodies that do not consider us legitimate partners, unelected as we are, having little if any political power and not representing a recognized political entity. We have had some limited success in this, but make no mistake: governments are not our friends, they are not on our side and they will certainly not take any meaningful steps to end the Occupation. We, civil society, are on our own – at least until we mobilize enough support that governments have to take notice. 

 

Second, even if it chose to, ICAHD cannot act as an independent agent. We have never advocated for a particular solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because we consider that the Palestinians’ prerogative. We cannot dictate to them a solution, certainly not as Israelis. Still, since any proposed solution affects us, we do consider it our responsibility to explore the merits of various solutions that are raised and to suggest directions of our own. For all that, we have always endeavored to both coordinate our actions and campaigns with our Palestinian partners and to engage with them in strategic brainstorming.

 

We need Palestinian partners, but this has fallen on hard times. The Palestinians with whom we mainly partner, primarily those affiliated with PNGO, the Palestinian NGO Network, have ceased to believe in a two-state solution though they have not gravitated as yet to a one-state solution, in whatever form that may take. They are understandably reluctant as part of a national liberation movement to give up a solution that would grant them self-determination if even in a tiny state, and equally reluctant to turn their struggle into one for civil rights in a single state with Israeli Jews – a prospect not only problematic for them but seemingly attainable, if at all, only after long years more of humiliation and suffering. We are, in short, between solutions, without a clear goal for which to advocate.

 

To make matters worse, resistance to “normalization” is increasingly making coordinated actions and strategizing with our Palestinian partners difficult, if not impossible. Working with ICAHD does not fall under the rubric of normalization as set down by PNGO in 2000. Israeli groups who accept the three essential elements of the Palestinian struggle – an end to Occupation, the Right of Return and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel – are to be considered partners; normalization, justifiably rejected, applies to cooperation with Israeli organizations that do not accept these elements. ICAHD has, yet we, like other non- or anti-Zionist groups, have experienced a pulling back of our Palestinian partners. Worse yet from the perspective of joint struggle and a vision of a joint future, the Palestinian left has begun to endorse a Zionism-is-colonialism discourse. The merits of such a perspective aside, the implications are a fundamental shift from a South African model that is ultimately inclusive to an Algerian one in which, when the colonized homeland (Algeria/Palestine) is liberated, the colonists (the French Pieds-Noirs and Israeli Jews) are out. Such an elemental shift is still not clearly articulated, but it does contribute to Palestinian reluctance to work even with groups like ICAHD.

 

And third, although the Palestinian grassroots and the critical Israeli left have created something of an international movement for resolving the conflict, we have failed to give it direction, to offer a genuine political alternative. True, activism on the ground has been brave, creative and prolonged, from Bilin, Ni’ilin and Budrus through the protests at Shiekh Jarrah and the South Hebron Hills to the rebuilding of Palestinian homes and olive harvesting. But while it has kept the Palestinian issue on the global political map, it lacks a program and a strategy. The same can be said for BDS; as important as it is in terms of keeping the conflict at the center of public attention, it is a tool, not a strategy that will end the Occupation. We lack, then, both a solution for which to advocate and a strategy for getting there. And a curious development appears to affect the younger generation of activists, Palestinian and Israeli alike: a rejection of political work through movement building. A kind of normalization of resistance has taken hold by which the younger activists, rejecting the notion that the conflict can be resolved, busy themselves in localized activities, whether through “popular resistance” as in the Popular Resistance Committees coming out of Beit Ummar, the Bab esh-Shams encampment in E-1, Anarchists Against the Wall, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity – or engaging in projects, the latter encouraged and funded by international donors and administered through NGOs. In some ways both can be seen as de-politicizing in the sense of seeking to end the Occupation and build a just future. To be sure, the young deal with politics and resistance to the status quo, but with little vision, analysis, strategy, program or even mutual solidarity. The political organizations that exist are populated primarily by “older” people, many of them activists from the Sixties. 

 

Where, then, does all this leave ICAHD? With no solution to advocate for at the moment, no effective political partnership with Palestinians, no common language with younger activists, it would seem that a fundamental rethinking of our strategy is called for. Plus, as you all know, our financial predicament caused by dependency on a few big donors is a consideration as well. Three contributions to the struggle that have distinguished ICAHD over the years continue to be extremely relevant: resistance, in our case resisting the demolition of Palestinian homes, rebuilding and monitoring Israel’s demolition actions; advocacy, bringing our critical analysis of the conflict to both the public and to decision-makers; and strategizing, trying to formulate solutions that are workable and just from the wreckage of moribund solutions and developing effective strategies for achieving them.

 

The limbo “between solutions” in which we find ourselves today offers an opportunity to rethink our political solutions, our strategies and our organization, something we should be doing as a movement, but aren’t. In the absence of collective thinking and action, we at ICAHD are reconceptualizing our organization as a kind of think tank of strategic activism and analysis. From a central organization with international support groups, we are beginning to conceive of ourselves as a global network of sister organizations sharing analysis and advocacy initiatives. Intimately connected with what is happening “on the ground” in Israel and the OPT, able to translate events and developments into an ongoing evaluation of what must be done to achieve a just peace yet also experienced in civil society diplomacy, ICAHD is able to carve out a unique political space; we can act as an interpreter of events and provide a cutting-edge analysis when required, while acting as a catalyst among our partners in terms of formulating pro-active strategies of action.

 

So in some ways the financial crisis that forced the closing of our office provided that catalyst for rethinking our work and organization at this time of limbo between solutions. We will continue to have a physical presence through Beit Arabiya, run our critical tours, rebuilding camps and other programs, but otherwise our work will be done from home – writing analysis and producing informational materials to be spread by ICAHD groups and other partners abroad – or on our many advocacy missions throughout the world (I am writing this from Oslo, where Silje Ryvold of ICAHD Norway and her partners have organized a ten-day speaking tour across the country). We will still need financial support, especially for rebuilding, the publishing of our materials and maintaining our website, but with only a couple salaries to pay and minimal office expenses, our efforts can be devoted to pushing a genuine peace process forward rather than constantly scrambling for funds. In fact, a fund-raising strategy based on grassroots support of focused activities rather than trying to satisfy donors with agendas of their own will be downright liberating.

 

So as a new year of struggle begins in Israel/Palestine as well as in what I am calling “Global Palestine” (of which more in future newsletters), we recommit ourselves to the cause of a just peace with new solutions, new approaches and new organization. ICAHD will continue to reinvent itself in ways dictated by political realities until we achieve our goals. Thanks for staying with us as we move forward.

 

Jeff Halper

 

 

Jeff in Oslo, Norway

                                                                                                     

 

 ICAHD USA AT THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM ON PALESTINE

 

Salena Tramel, Executive Director of ICAHD USA, attended the World Social Forum: Free Palestine held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in late November. Here is her report:

 

Just weeks after the most recent spate of attacks on Gaza, more than 3,500 participants from at least 36 countries gathered in the south-of–the-Capricorn Brazilian city of Porto Alegre to voice their opposition to Israeli occupation and pool the knowledge and experience gleaned from their own grassroots movements, as opposed to the sympathy and charity offered by the Global North. The gathering highlighted the different approaches to the Palestinian cause and the Israeli Occupation taken by the Global North and the Global South. ICAHD/ICAHD-USA was honored to be a part of this gathering, offering our analysis (particularly as it applies to land and housing rights) and our solidarity.

 

Social movements and grassroots organizations chose Porto Alegre for a number of strategic reasons, first because it is an epicenter of progressive politics, the first global World Social Forum taking place there in 2001. It was hoped that a visible linking of the Palestinian struggle to the Social Forums would strengthen international solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially on a Global South-Global South basis. Brazilian social movements like the Landless Workers Movement (MST) also won many of their hard-fought battles in the Porto Alegre area, and they were eager to share these victories with the 70+ member Palestinian delegation they were hosting. The necessity of having the meeting outside the Middle East was also imposed by Israeli restrictions on movement into the OPT, combined with the politics of surrounding Arab countries, all of which made it impossible for Palestinians from Israel, East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza, and the Diaspora to gather in their own country.

 

The idea for a thematic Palestine-based World Social Forum originated in meetings in Dakar during the 2011 World Social Forum. Social movements, especially large Latin American movements such as the MST, offered to host a Palestinian-led international delegation. Three organizational committees, Palestinian, Brazilian and international, spent almost two years in putting together the Social Forum. The Palestinian delegation included a diverse collection of women, youth and key grassroots leaders from all across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Israel, and the Diaspora.

 

Although the final declaration of the World Social Forum: Free Palestine has yet to be released, there was strong agreement to support Palestinian popular resistance and cross-connect issues such as Israeli arms export and military aid that reach far beyond the OPT. Brazil itself purchases increasing amounts of Israeli weaponry as Israel, the world’s third largest arms exporter, aims to reach $10 billion in profits within the coming years.

 

As a movement opposed to war and capitalistic profiteering, MST is rooted in struggles over land, and is therefore no stranger to the kind of campaigns that Palestinians are engaged in right now. In 1983, after years of underground organizing, indigenous and displaced people in Brazil came together and founded what is today one of the most successful social movements in the world. Over the years MST has reclaimed 17 million hectors of land, an area the size of neighboring Uruguay. Its 1.5 million members across 23 Brazilian states realize that land confiscation is not just a national, but also a global problem. This was brought home when the first Palestinian intifada in 1987 focused attention on Israeli land grabs and house demolitions. At that time MST partnered with Palestinians; one of their delegations to Palestine even camped out in Yasser Arafat’s compound in Bethlehem while it was under siege. Ever since, MST has educated its base about facts on the ground in Palestine.

 

The World Social Forum in Porto Alegre set the stage for increasing the prominence of the Palestinian struggle in the Global South, as Palestinians and their allies gear up for the upcoming World Social Forum in Tunis this March. When it comes to Global North patronage versus Global South solidarity, and when traditional political approaches fail, the leadership of social movements may represent a new force in, and approach to, the international politics that have failed us so far.

 

World Social Forum on Palestine, Porto Alegre, Brasil

 

World Social Forum on Palestine, Porto Alegre, Brasil

 

 

FROM ICAHD UK

 

New to ICAHD UK’s range of resources is a calendar for 2013 that tells the inspirational story of Beit Arabiya, which has become a symbol of popular resistance to Israel’s Occupation. Photographs include scenes from some of the six demolitions of the house owned by Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh and their seven children and ICAHD’s resistance to Israel’s cruel policy that has resulted in more than 27,000 demolitions since 1967. There are photographs from ICAHD’s 2012 annual rebuilding camp showing the internationals at work, out on field trips and at the dedication ceremony after the fifth rebuilding. The combination of photographs and text mean that the calendar is an effective tool for helping others learn about the demolition of Palestinian homes, ICAHD’s work and that there are Israelis and Palestinians who refuse to be enemies.

 

Plans are underway for ICAHD UK’s annual spring conference that will be held in London on Saturday, 23 March. The focus for the day, themed “In the Name of Justice”, will be the creation of a single state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Speakers will include Jeff Halper, former MP and ICAHD UK patron Clare Short, author Tony Lerman, Israeli Palestinian Elizabeth Jadon, and more to be announced. Discussion will cover where we are headed – and, as civil society actors, how we can effectively get there. The conference is open to the public and the £20 registration fee and booking is through ICAHD UK.

 

ICAHD UK, along with ICAHD and other ICAHD support groups abroad, signed the petition prepared by Palestinian grassroots organizations calling for the EU to suspend its trade agreement with Israel until it complies with international human rights law. Entitled “Time for Justice – A Call from Palestine to EU Citizens” It states that while recent “statements of concern regarding Israeli war crimes and international law violations are welcome in practice Israel’s military occupation and apartheid policies receive direct and concrete support from Europe.” To learn more about the petition and to take action by lobbying your MEP, go to our respective websites for further information.

 

In-Depth Study Tours: Autumn 2013 Programme

 

Once again our extended study tour programme will be facilitated by ICAHD UK. Two tours are offered for November which go beyond the traditional tourist sites as the political realities that affect Palestinians and Israelis are explored. Participants witness the situation on both sides of the divide and travel to different geographical areas. Unique opportunities are provided to meet ICAHD staff, and other key leaders and organisations to gain first-hand, in-depth knowledge and some of the latest analysis. Participants also sit with local people and hear their stories.

 

These tours are designed for internationals and there is the choice of joining either a seven-day tour that provides a general overview of some of the main issues or a longer eleven-day tour which goes into more depth and has additional visits, including to the Galilee. A wide range of subjects are covered including house demolitions, displacement, education under occupation, refugees, water, women’s issues and more.

 

Price: £665 for seven days and £880 for eleven days. 

 

The fee per person includes the full tour programme and staying at good three star hotels at half board (bed, breakfast and evening meal), sharing a twin-bedded room with ensuite facilities, tour leader, guides and tips inclusive. Not included are flights, lunches and travel insurance.

 

For more information please contact tours@icahduk.org.

 

“I thought I knew a lot about the conflict, but the tour changed some of my views quite a bit. If you care for peace and human rights for Palestinians and Israelis this tour is an absolute must to deepen your understanding.”  

C. Walischewski, Bremen, Germany

                         

 

“This tour is transformational. It is essential for those who wish to gain a deep and authentic understanding of what is actually happening in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and to act as ambassadors for developing real peace and justice in this region. It is also an opportunity to witness individuals demonstrate outstanding resilience and courage in the face of extreme constraints and harshness. I cannot recommend this tour enough”.                       

                                                                                  Dr P. de Zulueta, London

 

 Jeff speaks at Abu Dis

 

 Salim telling the story


ANETA TO THE ECCP

 

The ICAHD community extends its congratulations to Aneta Jerska, the Coordinator of the Polish-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (and also the de facto head of de facto ICAHD Poland), on her appointment as the Coordinator of the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), headquartered in Brussels. The ECCP is a network of 20 European associations, NGOs, committees and international solidarity movements in eleven countries that since 1986 has been coordinating activities among Palestine solidarity groups. Aneta, who participated in ICAHD’s summer work camp at Anata and edits ICAHD’s Facebook page and website, has a lot of plans for the ECCP. Watch it become a major voice of support for the Palestinian cause in the near future.

 

 

ICAHD ANNOUNCES THE 2013 REBUILDING CAMP

11 – 26 AUGUST 2013

 

ICAHD invites international volunteers to join in solidarity during the 2013 ICAHD summer rebuilding camp. For the past decade hundreds of activists have participated in the camp, working side by side with Palestinians and Israelis to rebuild Palestinian homes demolished by Israel as political acts of resistance. 

 

This year the camp will be held between 11 August - 26 August 2013.  In this two-week period we will reconstruct an entire home from the rubble, give the keys to the family and help them move in – a truly moving and meaningful experience of resistance and solidarity. Over the course of the camp friendships are struck up among participants, Palestinian builders, local residents and activists.

 

Besides the rebuilding, participants will be taken on field trips throughout the Occupied Territory and Israel in order to expand their understanding of the Occupation and the sources of the conflict. In the evening meetings will be held with local activists, films screened, political analysis provided and wide-ranging discussions among participants held.

 

Accommodations at the camp are basic but a wonderful group spirit makes it all comfortable and functioning. Participants will sleep in tents on the site of Beit Arabiya, served by portable toilets and shower blocks. In the communal area where group meetings are held traditional home-cooked Palestinian food will be provided by Arabiya Shawamreh, as she and her husband Salim host the camp’s guests along with ICAHD staff. For a sense of what the camp is like, visit <http://www.icahd.org/rebuilding-camps>; don’t miss the 4-minute time-lapse of last year’s rebuilding.

 

2012 Summer ICAHD Rebuilding Camp

 

The fee for the 2013 camp is $1750 USA per person ($1250 for university students or young people whose applications demonstrate a willingness to represent ICAHD on campus). The fee, which is used to cover the purchase of construction materials and the expenses of the camp, includes:

  • Accommodations
  • Three full meals a day and beverages between meals (except during three free evenings)
  • All field trips and the educational programme
  • ICAHD materials/resources

 

Not included in the fee are:

  • Airfare and transfer to and from Jerusalem before the start of the camp and return to the airport at the end of the camp
  • Meals during free time
  • Personal spending money

 

If you feel to old or tired or busy to participate (though we have had 80 year olds leading the way), you are welcome to provide a “scholarship” that will permit a young person, or someone with limited means, to join.

 

If you’re interested in joining us this summer, or want additional information, please contact:

 

For the USA and Canada: Salena Tramel <salena@icahdusa.org>

For the UK and European countries: <summercamp@icahduk.org>

For Norway: Silje Ryvold <silje@icahd.no>

For Finland: Bruno Jantti <brunojantti@yahoo.com>

For the rest of the world: <info@icahd.org>

 

So, till the February newsletter…. and remember, you can always donate to ICAHD by simply pressing the Paypal button on our website, always much appreciated.

 

Jeff