It was a long night, and tomorrow morning we (Haneen Naamneh and me) should be speaking in the first session, set implausibly to 9:00 am. But I know that if I don’t post now I will not have the opportunity to return to this valuable night… If you want to know all the details you might be able to find the whole session filmed in Al-Jazeera or posted later in YouTube, so I will give only a quick, swiftly organized and not necessarily very accurate outline.
The conference takes place in a big hall in the industrial area, where you can feel the force of the German model. A romantic green mountain is rising just on the other side of the neat street, with some agriculture still taking place in the middle of the city, while the premises themselves are spacious, modern and efficient.
The whole conference is built around the idea of ODS – the assumption that by restoring the rights of the Palestinian people, which were robbed by Zionism, and the establishment of a One Democratic State in a whole of Palestine for the returning refugees and all the current inhabitants of Palestine, everybody can leave in peace and prosper. At first glance it seems strange to discuss solutions to the complicated issues of Palestine and the Middle East from the calm of rich Europe. But if we remember that Europe was torn by wars and bitter rivalries for many centuries, and finished the worse of them just 68 years ago, then the calm of today’s Europe starts to like a promise for better days also in our region.
Except for ODS, all the speakers in the opening were united about one more thing: Praise to the organizers, and mostly to the role of Verena and Attia, that by their devotion and skill made this extraordinary conference possible.
Evelyn Hecht-Galinski gave the first introductory speech, outlining in strong phrases the moral case of the struggle for justice for the Palestinians and rejection of Israeli racism. She shamed the local German leaders that always come running opportunistically to support Israel but ignore events like this Stuttgart conference.
Ian Portman from the Palestinian Committee in Stuttgart, the moderator, demanded that Germany will stand for Justice and Democracy for all. He mentioned the supply of nuclear-capable submarines to racist saber-rattling Israel as the most blatant example where Germany is actively involved in putting the lives of millions in the Middle East in direct and immediate danger.
The highest point in the opening session came with the video message of Richard Falk, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. His strong condemnation of the denial of the Human Rights of the Palestinians, as well as the futility of the Two State illusion and his call for adoption of ODS were a boost for the proposition of the conference.
The next two speakers were trapped in the complex that might daunt the rest of the conference: How much time can you spend talking just to denounce evil and preach democracy, Human rights and peace for all? The organizers tried to solve this by assigning the speakers specific intriguing subjects to talk about…
Ilan Pappe, as an Historian, was requested to evaluate the significance of the recognition of Palestine as “non-member state” in the UN. His task didn’t become easier by the fact that this supposedly historic event was almost forgotten since it was hailed as a big achievement and put on the conference’s schedule. Anyway, he gave a learned assessment of the context of this resolution, as part of the international institutions servitude to imperialist policies, in spite of some nicely worded declarations about the sovereignty of the peoples and Human Rights.
Relying on documents that were recently opened to the public about the internal deliberations of the Israeli Government just after the 1967 occupation, he showed how the idea of the two state solution was basically an Israeli design to solve an Israeli dilemma: How to get as much as possible of the land of Palestine with as few as possible Palestinians. He showed how the Israel use the term of “peace process” to create an illusion that will allow it to continue with the de facto annexation of the West Bank, while it aspires to carry no responsibility to the fate of the people it occupies, trying to develop some sort of self-rule. In this Israeli design, which is the real context of the process as long as it is based on Israeli superiority, the proposition of a Palestinian state is not to provide real independence even in the West Bank, but only an enhanced form of the same self-rule.
Joseph Massad made a detailed analysis about the history of Anti-Semitism in Europe (and even the US) – and the common grounds between it and Zionism. He pointed to the fact that both believe that Jews have no place in Europe, and that this idea was opposed by the majority of the European Jews, orthodox and modernizers, which aspired to keep their traditional lives or to be part of the European enlightenment.
The poor Palestinian ambassador to Germany, which attended and welcomed the conference, clearly didn’t know how to compromise his wish to encourage this important gathering in support of the Palestinian rights and the PA commitment to the two state solution, which he felt obliged to confirm. I almost felt sorry for him when he was humiliated by questions from the public, probably by Palestinians in the audience, about corruption in the PA and about its multiple security services, which make life harder for the Palestinian and make the occupation easier for the Israelis.
The real joy was to meet old and new friends, chat and plan for the next steps in the struggle for ODS.