Friday, October 5, 2012

A Hopeful Kick-off

I'm writing this in New York City. I have just returned from Barnard College, a private women's college affiliated to Columbia University, where I attended the "Kick-off Celebration" for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The RToP, named after the British philosopher and humanitarian Bertrand Russell, is a people's tribunal that was first envisioned in 2004 after it became clear that the international community (including, be it said, the government of Ireland) intended to ignore the legal consequences of the International Court of Justice’s 2004 Advisory Opinion on the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory:

All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction;  all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.

The Barnard event was co-sponsored by Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, the Black Students' Organization (BSO), LUCHA, Students Against Mass Incarceration, International Socialist Organization, Radical College Undergraduates Not Tolerating Sexism, Turath (the Arab Students' Organisation at Columbia University), and the Muslim Students Association. In keeping with this mix, the performers and the audience represented a multicultural/multiethnic/multiracial diversity that, united in support of Palestinian human rights, itself generated a heady feeling of hope and optimism. The people of the world are with the Palestinians, even if their governments are not!

This blog is not setting out to be a review of the event, which a late start combined with my jet-lag induced me to leave before the end. However, the two hours that I experienced featured a succession of highlights, ranging from The Peace Poets through American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks (who disappointingly disavowed any Irish heritage) to the gloriously zen Alice Walker.

The New Internationalist has just published an article called Palestine is no longer a dirty word by my friend Frank Barat, who has been coordinator of the RToP since it started. I want to finish up with a quotation from this that conveys better than anything I've read recently the reasons why so many people all over the world are passionately committed to the Palestinian cause:

Palestine is not a faraway conflict between Jews and Muslims. Palestine is about us, all of us. Palestine is about human civilization and what it represents. Palestine is about the world we are living in. Its history, its present and its future. Palestine is about Greece, Spain. The names are different but the struggle is the same. It is a struggle for justice, dignity, freedom, respect, humanity, love – and it is an exhilarating one. 

And, I might add, Palestine is about Syria and Iran and Somalia - and Ireland. Over the next two days the struggle will continue in the Cooper Union, when the RToP's international jury will place the United States and the United Nations in the dock.

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