Beginner’s Guide to Palestine on 3 November
This was the first meeting organised by the recently formed Surrey University Palestinian Society together with the Islamic Society, held at the university.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and was based in Palestine from 2004 - 2007. Here is a link to his website if you are interested: http://www.winstanleys.org/. He is the editor with Frank Barat of “Corporate complicity in Israel’s occupation” (Pluto Press 2011). This is a very useful summary of the evidence presented at the London Session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in November 2010. A database at http://www.whoprofits.org contains much of the detailed information.
About 40 people attended and it was a basic background on what had happened in Palestine and how it all began. It was mostly aimed at people who wanted to know more about the situation who were not familiar with the facts.
The Life of a Palestinian in Israel on 2 December
It was organised at short notice by the Palestinian Society jointly with the Islamic Society and also held at the university.
Masaud Ghanayim, an Israeli MP, and Sheikh Ahmed, of the Islamic Movement party in Israel, both spoke of the conditions of life for the 1.5m indigenous Palestinians who had remained in Israel after the formation of Israel in 1948 and the expulsion of 800,000 other native Palestinians.
Israel has tried unsuccessfully to relabel them as Arab Israelis, in order to weaken their cultural traditions.
They are subject to heavy discrimination. For instance Palestinian villages, unlike the others, are not allowed to build outside their original boundaries in spite of the growing population. The State also provides systematically less resources to Palestinian communities, for schools etc, than for Jewish settlements. Three % of the land is held by Palestinians forming 20% of the population, the other 97% by the state. When Palestinians have from time to time demonstrated peacefully against the discrimination, the army has reacted with severe violence and a shoot-to-kill policy which has led to many deaths over the years.
Mr Ghanayim said that while it was true that Israel was a democracy, it was a ‘conditional’ one, in which minorities do not have the same rights.
New laws going through the Knesset under this extreme Netanyahu government will make their life significantly worse. For instance one redefines an Israeli citizen as only somebody who is loyal to a Jewish Israeli state, no building permits will be given to Palestinians to try to force them to emigrate, Jewish villages have Committees of Acceptance which will now be able to keep out Palestinians.
There is now also a drive to push 40,000 native Bedouins out of the Negev and take over their land.
Sheikh Ahmed explained through translators that the Islamic Movement has developed as a moderate party represented in the Knesset which abides by Israeli law, is not corrupt and although there are plenty of contradictions between Islamic and Jewish laws, it does not focus on this. It also provides humanitarian help to for instance orphans in the Occupied Territories.
About 30 people came to the talk. After a discussion, Dalia Barakat of the PS thanked the speakers and all adjourned for the food and drinks which had been prepared by the Society.