On Friday night (25th March 2011) MEMO and the PSC co-hosted Palestinian author Ramzy Baroud for a book signing in London’s Mosaic Rooms. He spent the evening “in conversation” with Maha Rahwanji talking about his latest book “My Father was a Freedom Fighter – Gaza’s Untold Story”. The audience was treated to a reading of several excerpts from his book which Ramzy then elaborated upon in discussion with Maha followed by a lively Q & A session.
Ramzy succeeded in humanising the crisis in Gaza for the audience, which was part of his intention when he set out to write the book. He explained that although the story was based around his father and his family he had not initially set out to publish an expose on his family per se but he had simply wanted to use their experiences as a vehicle to put a human face to the Palestinian conflict. Through a combination of humorous anecdotes and tragic tales he helped the audience put the crisis into context at a personal level that was easy to relate to.
He explained that the non-Palestinian discourse around the subject of Palestine appears to be essentially reductionist, in that matters are often boiled down to black and white issues such as questions over a one state or two state solution; violent resistance versus non-violent resistance and so on. To truly appreciate the Palestinian narrative, he tells us, we need to shift our own views on the subject. We must move from an academic, polemic approach to a more human and personal one.
Ramzy referred in his conversation to the latest Europe wide public opinion poll done by MEMO which indicates that the European public have a clear understanding that Palestinians are the victims in this scenario while Israel is the primary aggressor. Now, is the time to utilise this public awareness, he insists. Instead of people pointing the finger of blame at the Palestinian victims and referring, for example, to divisions between Fatah and Hamas for the lack of Palestinian unity, we should instead focus our efforts on where we are as individuals and look at our own level of responsibility. We are now the ones funding the Israeli war machine, whether we are from London, Paris, Toronto or Washington, and before we tell others what to do we should look at our own level of complicity. He encouraged active involvement in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for instance, which he said is our chance as civil society members to turn talk into action. This is how we can contribute to the liberation of a long-term imprisoned people. The tenacity of the Palestinian people to have been able to hold on for over 60 years despite, invasion, occupation, wars, the building of a separation wall, an illegal siege and so on, and yet to still be there demanding their rights and insisting on remaining in Palestine is inspiring. We must draw from that inspiration and do our part to help free Palestine too.