International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and Campaign Launch to Make It RightNov. 29, 2016, midnight
Saturday 26th November saw the launch of the Make It Right Campaign for the Palestinian Mission here in London and was also was an event which marked the International Day of Solidarity for the Palestinian People. The event was a great success. It was hosted at the National Union of Teacher’s Headquarters, Hamilton House, in central London and Hanan AlHroub, The Palestinian teacher, who won the Global Teacher prize was keynote speaker.
Ambassador Manuel Hassassian formally launched the campaign which aims to mark key anniversaries for Palestinians: 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, 70 years since the partition plan, 50 years of occupation and 10 years of siege of Gaza and use them to raise awareness in Britain to mobilize pressure on British government. He spoke of the importance of this year for the Palestinians and their supporters. He said: ”I’ve a message for the British government. It’s a badge of dishonour to boast about marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. This infamous declaration led to the destitution of the Palestinian people. The British government today is continuing to deny Palestine its right to statehood.
‘I can see the oxymoron of the attitude when it comes to the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is one of the longest occupations in history. Why is the right to self-determination denied the Palestinians when 150 nations have full-scale independence?
‘The two-state solution recognises the state of Israel but not the state of Palestine. This is a contradiction. I say to the British government “You talk the talk, but you don’t walk the walk”.’
His Excellency Hassassian challenged the ‘allegations of anti-Semitism when talking of anti-Zionism’.
Addressing the NUT, he continued: ‘Thank you for highlighting the plight of Palestinians, especially children. This is why we are here today, to make it right for children, for education, for the future.
‘I salute Hanan AlHroub who teaches Palestinian children, I’m a teacher too.
‘Education is a key aim of our campaign to inform people here in the UK how the occupation of Palestine came about. Education for Palestinians is the ticket out of the ghetto, to stand steadfast and to fight until we end the occupation – one of the biggest social injustices of our time.
‘Balfour signed away the inheritance of our people, his declaration is a short, vague and ambiguous letter. It was never debated in parliament but it changed the course of history in Palestine. It urged there be a home for Jewish people in Palestine while protecting the religious and civil rights of the minority, not political rights. We, the majority of 92%, were referred to as the minority!’
The Ambassador condemned the 50 years of occupation since 1967 with its ‘arrests, imprisonment, demolition of homes, expropriation of land to build more settlements,’ noting: ‘It’s ten years since the occupation of Gaza and two wars that has left it devastated.’
He said: ‘Occupation and siege are part of our suffering, this is why we are here today to mark this campaign for the anniversary. Our campaign aims to mobilise people, put pressure on the government to end the occupation and give hope to the future generation where every Palestinian child will be free to fulfil their potential.
‘We’ll have a rally in Trafalgar Square in May, an event in June to mark 50 years of occupation and, on the 2nd November 2017, we will inaugurate an alternative Balfour Declaration. Mark my lips: This occupation is ending.’
Hanan AlHroub, the World’s Best Teacher Award winner followed the Ambassador. She moved the audience with her speech on how occupation affects Palestinian children and their education. Hanan was followed by Leanne Mohamad, regional winner of the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge, decked out beautifully in traditional Palestinian costume. She spoke with passion about what the Balfour Declaration and its consequences means to her as a young British Palestinian. The National Union of Teachers which hosted the event showed two short films made by their international relations department about Palestinian school children. Philipa Harvey the Ex-President of the Union and Kiri Tunks, the Junior Vice President both spoke about the importance of solidarity with Palestine, particularly, in the field of education and the hope it represents for future generations of Palestinian children.
Ben Jamal, the Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign talked of the importance of keeping up pressure on the British Government despite the threats to freedom of expression when it comes to Palestine. Justin Butcher, the playwright, theatre director and creator of Bethlehem Unwrapped gave a moving monologue about his experience meeting a Palestinian family whose house had been demolished three times.
Beside the sobering and heart-rendering themes of the talks, there was a strain beneath them all that was about hope and justice for the future, despite all the challenges. There was a real buzz in the hall and no one seemed to want to leave. There was a sense of a great determination growing stronger and more focused to Make It Right for Palestine.