Eleven participants from different branches of SCI International visited Palestine from ’48 this September to attend a seminar organized by Baladna Youth Association and SCI Catalunya
From SCI Catalunya we are concerned by the situation in Gaza. It is impossible to know the current situation of violence without understanding the structural causes: we are not talking about a conflict between equals, but about a colonial and apartheid situation perpetuated by the state of Israel. We defend the Palestinian people’s right to self-defense, always through non-violence. It is essential that the international community, the Spanish State and the Catalan institutions take immediate measures in the name of the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people. Two weeks ago we were in Palestine ’48, where we could see with our own eyes the process of ethnic cleansing perpetuated by Israel. We wrote a chronicle of this seminar organized in Palestine:
Participants from SCI Italy, SCI Catalonia, SCI Belgium, SCI Austria, Solidarités Jeunesses (France) and VCV Serbia have traveled to Palestine from ’48 to attend the seminar “MIDI-LINKS: Empowering youth from a grassroots involvement” from September 18 to 24.
In the seminar, organized by SCI Catalunya and Baladna Youth Association, the participants learned from Palestinian activists and organizations about the political and social context in different regions of the territories occupied by Israel in 1948 (Palestine ’48) . They also learned about the work Baladna does with Palestinian youth in Haifa, Umm Al-Fahm, Nazareth and the Naqab area and the challenges they face within the State of Israel.
During the week, the participants met with the technical team of Baladna Youth Association in Haifa, where they discussed how the State of Israel tries to erase Palestinian identity, for example by not explaining the Nakba in the schools and not offering education in Arabic, only in Hebrew, among others. They also explained the specific difficulties that the youth of ’48 have in identifying themselves as Palestinian in this context, since apart from Israel’s efforts, they have not experienced the Nakba or the 6-day war, and how Baladna adresses the situation. One of the members of the organization stated that “ethnic cleansing is not only done on the bodies of Palestinian people, it is also done on their minds” and pointed out the responsibility of Europe in the occupation of Palestine. The participants also went on a political tour of Haifa, where they were able to visit a neighborhood from which all the Palestinian inhabitants who lived there were expelled during the Nakba of 1948. The abandoned houses can still be seen and there is evidence of who it is the family that owns each one, to whom the State of Israel denies the right to return to it.
The group was able to attend a meeting with Adalah – Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the only firm of Palestinian lawyers who fight in court to achieve improvements in the quality of life of the Palestinian population of ’48, point out the police impunity and the multiple discriminations to which Israel subjects the Palestinian people. Adalah claims that by bringing these cases to trial we frame them in a political way and collect obvious evidence of the apartheid practiced by the State of Israel.
Another day, SCI International activists visited Umm Al-Fahm, where the city’s youth movement took them to see the ruins of a village from which the State of Israel expelled their relatives during the Nakba, they destroyed it and planted a pine forest on top of it so they couldn’t go back. Destroying and planting forests on ancient Palestinian villages to prevent refugee’s right to return is a technique systematically used by the State of Israel. They were also able to see the double fence that surrounds a nearby Jewish settlement and the wall that separates historic Palestine in two, dividing families, fragmenting the Palestinian population and making their day-to-day life difficult. Palestinian activists also pointed to the imbalance of investment between Palestinian-majority and Jewish-majority towns.
The group later visited Nazareth, where an activist from the organization Badil – Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights gave them a political tour of the city and denounced the criminalization and repression facing the Palestinian community , whether Christian or Muslim. He also explained how the State of Israel stifles the natural growth of cities with a Palestinian majority by not giving them permits to build and thus causing a major housing crisis in these cities, which are overpopulated. In addition, he pointed out the great difficulties that Palestinian people have in accessing loans and mortgages. By concentrating Palestinians in a small area, the State of Israel pursues one of its main objectives for the occupation, which is to have as much land as possible with as few Palestinians as possible, the activist noted. Later, the group met with youth activists from Baladna Nazareth at the organization’s headquarters, where they shared their experiences as young Palestinians and stated that “stopping fighting is a privilege we cannot afford because we do not want live in an unjust world where our people are oppressed.”
Finally, the participants were able to visit a village not recognized by the State of Israel in the Naqab area where several Baladna Naqab activists explained the context of the unrecognized Palestinian Bedouin villages in the area. The activists explained that, once again, the goal of the State of Israel is to expel them from their land in order to steal it. To force them to leave, the State does not recognize these villages and does not provide them with basic services such as electricity, water, health or education. In addition, their houses are constantly under threat of demolition, as the State considers them to be illegal constructions. One of the members of the organization pointed out that uprooting the Bedouin communities, who were mostly engaged in agriculture, from their lands is a form of violence, since they lose their community, their customs and their methods of life and survival. The inhabitants of these communities and of so many others who flatly refuse to leave their homes claim that “existance is resistance”.
Thus, a series of problems were identified that faced the population of Palestine in ’48 such as the attempt by Israel to erase and fragment the Palestinian identity, the housing crisis and the forced displacement and discrimination by all state bodies in all areas of life. However, SCI activists were able to learn firsthand the multiple forms of non-violent resistance carried out by the Palestinian people and their will to continue fighting for a Palestine free of occupation and apartheid. Thank you to all the Palestinian people who have shared with us their experience, knowledge and stories of struggle and resistance. Ongoing Nakba, ongoing resistance!