Ilan Pappe: Summary of the Day

From the archive (legacy material)

Ilan Pappe | Resisting Israeli Apartheid conference | 5 December 2004

[Note: French translation available here.]
We began I think all by acknowledging we were here because of Hilary and Steven Rose, whose moratorium initiative moved us all to action.
Victoria Britain started our day by reminding us that the anti-apartheid movement appeared at a time when the ANC felt almost defeated and demoralized. It was indeed, as Tom Paulin remarked in his keynote address, a mass movement that took time to materialize. Its roots were in action within the Irish civil society that alerted Europe at large to the possibility of boycott; but it took time – and a lull of few years – before the protest became effective and influential.
Tom gave us the context of cultural images and representations as tools and strategies against oppression and occupation. This means of course that our camp has to expand beyond academia into the media and the arts, both as a form of protesting against the occupier self-images and propaganda as well as in support of augmenting the Palestinian representation of their plight and rights.
Lisa Taraki clarified how widespread and committed is the Palestinian academic position on the initiative; weary of false dialogues and co-opted policies. Without this support the whole campaign would seem futile. No less encouraging were the news from America as reported by Lawrence Davidson. The various divestment initiatives and grass root support for them show as Lawrence pointed out that there is a process, intensifying and promising. A sentiment shared by Betty Hunter who updated us on the PSC activities in the UK and its vital role in the future boycott campaign.
I wish we could all have a pocket version of Omar Barghouti’s systematic and devastating rebuttal of all the possible anti-boycott argumentation. His presentation leaves me, at least, utterly convinced that we are on the right track forward. There is no need to look for justification but just ways of maximizing our impact.
The Jewish voice, as well as the Israeli one, was clearly heard in this conference. Ur Shlonsky suggested expropriating the struggle against anti-Semitism from the Zionist establishment in Europe and in Israel and Ben Young brought the support of Jewish students to our campaign. I personally identified strongly with Haim Bresheeth’s analysis of the turning point in his political understanding of the essence of the Zionist project: much worse than that of apartheid, as it is meant to destroy the Palestinian people. His, and I hope my contribution as well, echoed calls of ‘boycott me’, heard by whites in South Africa. A point made also by our friend from the ANC, from whom we learned that we are building a model of Jewish support for the Palestinian cause very much like the Jewish support in South Africa for the ANC and we shun the false paradigm of parity – of two peace camps on equally culpable sides – offered by the Zionist peace movement.
With the promise of John Docker to take the struggle to Australia and the news of BRICUP solidifying and making a presence, we can go back to our keynote speaker’s wide historical perspective and realize this is a long journey with ups and downs, but one whose very onset provides oxygen to the people suffocating under occupation; people who at present have no political or military means of resisting an ever increasing brutality and destruction on the ground. I am sure we are all aware of what we mean and how much more we can do. But today we have started and this by itself makes this meeting historical and significant.