World Social Forum on Palestine:
The uninvited un-invites the invited
By Herbert V Docena, Focus on the Global South
Day after Christmas, around three hundred delegates from all over the world were set to fly to Israel not to celebrate Christ¹s birth in his birthplace but to push for something still struggling to be born the free and sovereign state of Palestine. The World Social Forum on Palestine was to be held defiantly enough in Ramallah, one of the most dangerous places on earth in the last few months.
Organized by a network of Palestinian NGOs, it was to be a symbolic show of solidarity, a daring message that no, it is not only people like bin Laden who care about Palestine. People from across the globe, Muslims or not, and even from a country as overloaded with problems as the Philippines, were set to march on the bloodstained streets of the West Bank and Gaza to protest Israel¹s continuing colonization of what remains of Palestine.
But it was not to be. The uninvited guest drove away the guests that the host invited.
Treated like royalty in Tel-Aviv At the Tel Aviv airport immigration area, after a 20-hour journey from Manila through Frankfurt, I was led to a small room where I was interrogated and intimidated by a young police officer who indignantly told me I could not enter her country. I was not alone. Outside were a group of dejected-looking men and women, mostly Belgian and one French, who had just been told to take the first flight out of Israel.
It was a very warm welcome. We were subjected to the most intensive body search some of us have ever been through and all the pieces of our luggage were scrutinized with the most prying eyes and the most high-tech pieces of equipment. Escorted by one police officer each, we were then led to a detention cell with a small square hole for a window, three bunker beds, and the cold of winter seeping in from openings on the wall just below the ceiling. It was only there, in hushed tones, that we were able to confirm to each other what we had been suspecting: We were all going to the Palestine forum.
It turns out that the Israel ministry of interior had gotten wind of what was being planned and had ordered the immigration to thoroughly check out everyone who was traveling alone and to turn away all those visiting Israel for reasons other than to celebrate Christ’s birth. Since Palestine is bracketed on both sides by Israel and Jordan the only way to enter is through Tel Aviv or Amman. Since Jordan has signed a peace pact with Israel, going through Amman is as risky as going through Tel Aviv. Delegates who came in groups on Christmas day managed to slip through; some other groups such as some Germans and some Spanish delegates had already been turned back.
At the airport, we were locked up in the detention cell for eleven hours, guarded intently by an officer outside. When the time to leave came, we were taken to the plane in a convoy led by a police car. In Frankfurt after landing, we were shepherded by the Bundestag to the airport police headquarters for another round of questioning. Tel Aviv apparently sent the Frankfurt police a note saying we were denied entry because we were illegal workers.
At least they didn¹t shoot us And yet, despite being detained and driven away, we still felt like we were given royal treatment by Israel.
At least they offered us lodging for the night. The Israeli military has demolished scores of Palestinians’ dwellings in the occupied territories, leaving many Palestinians homeless in the dead of winter. At least they offered us a piece of sandwich each for dinner. With Israeli tanks on their streets and with curfews enforced by the soldiers, many Palestinians have often not even been able to go to the stores to buy food, much less go their schools or their offices to earn some money by which to buy something to eat.
At least they left us alone in our cell. Amnesty International has documented thousands of young Palestinian men being rounded up, imprisoned, and tortured in detention camps. At least, they released us alive. Almost two thousand Palestinians have been killed since the latest round of conflict escalated. Of these, around 200 were victims of “targeted assassination,” the official Israeli policy of singling out and shooting those whom it suspects to be “terrorists.” Just on the day we arrived, the Israeli army shot dead seven Palestinians including three unarmed teenagers. There are new areas in Palestine, now slowly being taken by Israel in a creeping invasion, that Israel has unilaterally designated as no-go zones for Palestinians. Should Palestinians stray in these zones, Israeli soldiers are free to shoot them on sight anytime.
At least lucky for us who have been spirited away but continuing woe to the Palestinians who are still there struggling to stay Israel is still kinder to its hosts’ guests than to its host itself.
Not that the Palestinians have been less than gracious hosts. In 1993, the Palestinians recognized the existence of the state of Israel and, in effect, sympathized with its people’s historical affinity with their land by virtually bequeathing to them 78% of what was once Palestine. In other words, their former guests they were now willing to see as their new neighbors.
All they ask is that they be given back what they lost in Israel’s 1967 surprise US-backed attack. If it’s not too much, they plead that they be allowed to establish an independent state with the remaining 22% of their homeland. And if their former guests don’t mind, that they both conform with UN resolution 1397 which calls for the creation of “a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders.”
And if this is still not abusing the hospitality of their former guests, to please stop killing them. Because they can’t help it when in the face of Israel’s overwhelming military might, funded by the biggest foreign aid given by the United States to anyone their children decide to blow themselves up, to repay the kindness.
ASIAN PEACE ALLIANCE © COPYRIGHT
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002