The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) and The Cordoba Foundation yesterday co-hosted the first, of what we hope will be many, successful joint ventures. Last night in the Kensington Close Hotel in Central London, the two organisations joined forces to hold a book launch in honour of Bill and Kathleen Christison, two ex-CIA analysts and extremely brave authors, whose most recent attempt to draw attention to the Israeli abuse of the Palestinian people is their frank, honest and moving book Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation.
Their book is a noble attempt to bring the injustices of the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people to light. Throughout their narrative they interweave their own first-hand experience of being in Palestine, where they have travelled extensively on numerous occasions, with the personal stories of the Palestinian people and friends they met along their way. One of the distinguishing features of this book is not only their accessible writing style and frank assessment of the situation on the ground but also their use of over 50 photographs and maps to illustrate their points and provide a "Graphic Perspective" of the situation on the ground. In their relatively short book they manage to cover a great number of vital issues including the illegal Israeli settlements, the separation wall, the systematic campaign of house demolitions and the inhumane siege on Gaza. As they have clearly stated on many occasions, there is a great need to let the world see with their own eyes what is going on hidden away behind the wall and that exposure and accessibility is what they hope their book will achieve.
The authors were joined by a distinguished panel of guests including, Oliver McTernan (Co-Founder and Director of Forward Thinking), John McHugo (Chair of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine), Anas Al-Tikriti (CEO of the Cordoba Foundation) and Dr Daud Abdullah (Director of the Middle East Monitor).
Following a welcoming opening statement by Anas Al-Tikriti, Bill and Kathleen briefly spoke about their book and the situation in Palestine.
At the half time break members of the audience were able to buy the book provided by the publishers Pluto Press at a discounted price. They were then able to meet the two authors in person and get their copies of the book signed.
Once the session resumed John McHugo gave a very powerful speech in which he discussed the existence of a culture of denial in the Western Press and he condemned the platform given to many writers in the Western media who have demonstrated a complete lack of competence in objectively covering the situation in Palestine by reference to their continued bias and distorted reporting of the facts. He also expressed his desire to see books such as Bill and Kathleen's in sixth form colleges around the world in order to foster a greater awareness of the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories among younger people.
Kathleen then honoured the audience with a short reading from chapter one of her book in which she described the difficulty and frustration that the Israeli separation wall, with its countless barriers and checkpoints, are causing for Palestinian residents.
An animated panel discussion followed in which Bill and Kathleen were asked to tell the audience a little more about their journey and experiences in writing the book. Dr Daud Abdullah also took the opportunity to highlight the absurdity of the fact that this week the world celebrated the twenty year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and yet no one in the Western press is drawing the obvious parallels to the current existence of the bigger, longer and increasingly more devastating Israeli Separation Wall.
Following this, the floor was open to the audience to ask their own questions of the panel.
Among the many questions asked were ones regarding the value of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The panel had different takes on this matter. Whereas Bill and Kathleen were in favour of BDS and any other means of mobilising international solidarity for the Palestinian people, Oliver McTernan was slightly more wary and said that although boycotts were useful we should be careful not to penalise Jewish people in general and he pointed to the many Jewish friends of Palestine who themselves oppose the Israeli regime.
Oliver McTernan also made the point that although people are very keen to take part in symbolic protests and marches, such as the march from Cairo to Jerusalem, it is really the authorities in Washington, London and Brussels who need to be reached with a stark reminder of Palestinian suffering.
Following general discussions on the legitimacy and legality of the state of Israel and the importance of international solidarity with the people of Palestine, the event came to a close. The event was a great success, it brought awareness to the book, which is a fantastic read for anyone wanting a straight forward and accessible account of the situation in Palestine and it also prompted important discussions on how we must all oppose the Israel government and unite to help the people of Palestine.