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World Social Forum broadens space for Palestine voices in the international arena

December 9, 2022 at 4:41 pm

Women and youth activists from Maghreb, during the International Seminar of the World Social Forum (WSF), in Tunis, Tunisia, November 30, 2022 [Rosy Zuñiga/CEAAL]

On 29 November, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, a Jerusalem resident and another from Hebron were on their way to Tunis to share their first-hand accounts about facing colonial Occupation. Their arrival is an exception to the general rule, a life-threatening adventure in Palestine, where the Occupying army controls or restricts the freedom of movement.

The visitors travelled to partake in a seminar of the World Social Forum (WSF) International Board, organised to discuss the contemporary challenges of humanity and the conference’s role in supporting struggles against colonisation, apartheid and common threats to life, such as ongoing wars and the environmental crisis.

The first two days analysed the world and regional juncture, including the Maghreb and Tunisia, under coup-d’état performed by the conservative elected President. The WSF was present in the country during the Arab Spring, organising forums and seminars in the following years. It has now returned to Tunisia, worried and supporting acts of resistance.

International Seminar Working Group of the World Social Forum (WSF), in Tunis, Tunisia, December 3, 2022 [Rosy Zuñiga/CEAAL]

International Seminar Working Group of the World Social Forum (WSF), in Tunis, Tunisia, December 3, 2022 [Rosy Zuñiga/CEAAL]

The seminar highlighted the impact of world mainstream policies over exploited and marginalised communities. Moving accounts from female rural workers, forgotten and abused in the Tunisian fields, turn far away reports into living words. The oppression tends to crush these women like cattle, killing many workers along the way. A fisherwoman recalled her story: She does not walk ever since she fell ill in the winter waters. While working, migrant castaway bodies show up on the shore, returned by the relentless Mediterranean Sea. Such accounts are standard in North Africa and Europe. Tunisian fishermen and women must choose between continuing to work or dragging these bodies to the beaches, grieving their death on the morning sand. The victims are young, pregnant women, children and the “light of Tunisia” fades away, as regretted the mourning lady to the public.

Ahmad Jaradad, a member of Alternative Palestine, condemned the “global craziness” destroying life and dignity. Occupied Palestine is a cruel expression of such “craziness”, denounced by international law but protected by Neoliberalism and its military wings – a WSF historical enemy. The rising to power of far-right zealots boosted this oppression.

In 2015, a WSF-organised solidarity mission left Tunis for Jordan and Palestine, intending to listen to residents from all over the West Bank. “Tell the world what you saw”, echoed the Palestinian citizens to their visitors. Israel tries to suffocate the Palestinian voice by subduing the mainstream narrative in the Western media, describing the colonial push against the Occupied people as an alleged “self-right defence”. Since then, the situation has worsened, with the US election of Donald Trump and his “peace deals” with Jerusalem – with a notorious Zionist bias. Trump and his associates never gave a ear to the Palestinian people and entirely ignored their claims and needs. His plan aimed to expel the Indigenous people from all of Palestine, transferring embassies and yielding the city to Israel. Trump lost his re-election bid in the United States, but the Israeli offensive over Jerusalem and West Bank has moved faster since then. The region continues with an unprecedented expansion of illegal settlements, military demolitions, forced evictions and summary executions of the Arab people.

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The Working Groups dedicated two days to discussing the necessary changes to World Social Forum after 22 years, following its first edition in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The world goes crazy under usurping claws, but the WSF seemingly maintains serenity by obeying its original Charter of Principles. For some time, the main issue is if the process is restrictive or drained of its potential to face the oppressive systems. As a political construct, could the World Social Forum boost further mobilising alternatives? Could it further express and call for solidarity from struggling people? In short, the foundational chart protects the WSF diversity, barring anyone from speaking for everyone else. However, with such a cornerstone, its main deliberative body – the International Board – has never effectively expressed itself about the increasingly faster political developments. Instead, the participating organisations are responsible for voicing such needs through the group. The international solidarity – a wireless network facing powerful telecommunications empires and social media – is precisely the difference maker to reverberate the Palestinian voice.

Therefore, the need to raise voices of solidarity led the WSF International Board to debate alternatives in its silence and advance, discussing and “saluting” a long-standing proposal at the table. The idea is to share the WSF architecture with a body capable of transmitting positive messages. It is the “new WSF family”, as described by the members who unanimously approved the proposal. That still unnamed body will have the autonomy to organise decision-making processes. It will be an active solidarity assembly, separate from the International Board, tasked to keep centrality to the WSF. The new body may self-organise through regional processes or dialogues with thematic forums.   This body aims to reactivate the World Social Forum – Free Palestine and other assemblies, defining strategies and actions for the global process.

The proposal reach may show effectiveness as the building process advances, intending to go beyond any specific matter. The body will explore common interests and causes for humanity, including illegal wars, environmental crises and assaults on democracy and human rights, worldwide. The first step is to respect the international rights of the Occupied people and to hold the Occupiers accountable. We need to organise grassroots movements through  “wireless networks”, raising a unified and mobilising voice to the global arena – including, of course, the Palestinian people. That is the next challenge for the World Social Forum.

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