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Recognising Palestine

Demonstrators hold Palestinian flags during a protest against Israeli restrictions on Palestinians in Ramallah, West Bank on 11 September 2017 [Shadi Hatem/Anadolu Agency]
Demonstrators hold Palestinian flags during a protest against Israeli restrictions on Palestinians in Ramallah, West Bank on 11 September 2017 [Shadi Hatem/Anadolu Agency]

60 years after Che Guevara’s visit to Gaza transforming the Zionist colonisation of Palestine from a regional conflict to a global struggle against colonialism, a cross section of Barbadians gathered recently at the Venezuelan Cultural Institute in Hastings, Christ Church to participate in the Palestinian Film Festival.

Held under the auspices of Mr Alvaro Sanchez Cordero, Charge D’Affaires of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and organized by the group Caribbean Against Apartheid in Palestine (CAAP), the night featured one short documentary called A Heartfelt Wish and one longer film/documentary, WitchHunt.

The evening started with a welcome from Secretary of CAAP Lalu Hanuman, who explained that this Festival has become an annual undertaking at the anniversary of the partitioning of Palestine in November 1947. Highlighting the cause of Palestine and Palestinians in their struggle for justice and right of return is the main focus of CAAP. Through such gatherings CAAP hopes to sensitize Barbadians to the issues faced by Palestinians.

A Heartfelt Wish is a short documentary recording of what happened when leading filmmaker Peter Kosminsky joined a rabbi, a bishop, and 300 sixth form students in Sherborne, Dorset in November 2011, exploring Israel and Palestine through discussions based on his drama The Promise.

READ: Palestine, and the nations’ memory

The Promise aroused great controversy when its four 100-minute episodes were aired on Channel 4 in February 2011. It wove together the history of British involvement in the founding of Israel in 1947-48, seen through the eyes of a young British soldier, with the present day reality in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, witnessed by his teenage granddaughter.

The longer documentary WitchHunt explores the connections between the attacks on the Labour Party in the UK, the ongoing tragedy of Palestine, and the wider struggle against race-based oppression.

A lively discussion followed the films and several in the audience felt that the narrative of Israel’s God-given right to Palestinian land propagated over many years was one that needed to be corrected. Well-known attorney and activist Bobby Clarke questioned how could a claim over another people’s property and land -as Israel is doing with Palestinian lands- be acceptable under International Law? Those gathered agreed that Palestinians are forced to live under an apartheid system.

It was noted that Barbados has not yet recognised Palestine as a state although other CARICOM countries have done so. CAAP was urged to continue pursuing with the Government of Barbados the recognition of the Palestinian State.

Rights group: Our role is to reduce Palestinian suffering

Greetings for the event from Dr Linda Sobeh Ali, Palestinian Ambassador to Venezuela, were read out. Dr Ali congratulated CAAP on the work it was doing in highlighting the Palestinian cause.

Mr Alvaro Sanchez Cordero, Charge D’Affaires of Venezuela in Barbados and Cuban Ambassador to Barbados, Sergio Jorge Pastrana, both spoke at the event expressing their respective countries’ solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

As the United Kingdom prepares for General Elections this week it is noteworthy that criticism of the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party has intensified. The documentary WitchHunt, shown at CAAP’s event, is a 2019 film directed by Jon Pullman. The film is about allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. Pullman stated that he sought to place the allegations in a “wider historical context”. The documentary unpacks these allegations and looks at them from the narrative led by Israel to re-define and broaden the definition of anti-Semitism.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn [Chatham House/Flickr]

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn [Chatham House/Flickr]

The term ‘anti-Semite’ has been adopted and abused over the years as a definition to describe persons who have been critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

An anti-Semite has been defined as a person who bears a prejudice against the Jewish people. But the term anti-Semitism is confusing because the modern usage of ‘Semitic’ designates a language group, not a race. In this sense, the term is a misnomer, since there are many speakers of Semitic languages, like Arabs, Ethiopians, and Assyrians.

In the face of mounting criticism in many European countries and in North America towards Israel’s barbaric treatment of Palestinians and continued usurpation of Palestinian lands, there has been a further attempt to extend the definition of anti-Semitism. Israel has successfully lobbied several European Governments to pass laws equating anti-Zionist and anti-occupation of Palestine as anti-Semitism.

READ: The Zionists seeking to silence Corbyn are focusing on the wrong target

In an opinion piece titled ‘From Now On, Every Palestinian Is an anti-Semite’ in the Haaretz online, Gideon Levy spells out the dangerous precedent being set by these new laws, especially in France, where such laws were recently passed.

“The plague is spreading. Under cover of the (just) war against anti-Semitism, Europe and the United States silence every voice daring to criticise Israel. Under cover of this war, they are undermining their freedom of speech. Incredibly, this new phenomenon is not triggering any protest, as one would expect. Laws labelling anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and the anti-occupation movement as anti-Semitic, are passed with overwhelming majorities. Now they are playing into the hands of Israel and the Jewish establishment, but they are liable to ignite anti-Semitism when questions arise about the extent of their meddling.”

“For generations of Palestinians, Zionism is the essence of their existence; it expelled them from their country, deprived them of their lands, dishonoured them, ruined their lives, and kills and torments them to this very day, without the end being in sight. Are they forbidden from being anti-Zionists? Are they able to not hate Zionism?… They are not fighting Zionism because they are anti-Semites. They are anti-Zionist only because Zionism destroyed their lives.

READ: #Jews4Labour trends after calls not to back UK’s Corbyn

“And what are the protesters of the fence around the cage of Gaza? Are they anti-Semites? Are they not freedom fighters? And what about people of conscience around the world who identify with them? From now on they are all anti-Semites, and that is outlawed in France. And if denying the right of Jewish self-determination is anti-Semitism, how will the French National Assembly refer to Israel’s denial of the Palestinians’ rights? Why does it not pass a law about that? Only because the Palestinians and justice don’t have a powerful lobby in France.”

Such anti-free speech laws further weaken the Palestinian cause and embolden Israel in its aggression of the Palestinian people. One wonders if Jewish people themselves who are against the State of Israel and against Zionism will also be deemed anti-Semitic under these new rules.

This article was first published on Barbados Today, 11 December 2019 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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