Activists from Palestine were again prevented from taking part in an important gathering of worldwide relevance, this time in the “Thematic Social Forum – World Social Forum 15 Years”, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The event took place between January 19 and 23, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the World Social Forum, a convergence process launched from that same city in 2001.
Those living in Hebron are denouncing a siege on their city since November 2015, in the context of the intensified surrounding and repression of every Palestinian in the occupied territories. In the old and new military check-points, even age restrictions are now imposed, according to Ahmad Jaradat, a coordinator of the Alternative Information Center AIC).
Answering through the Internet, Jaradat said that he lives in Sa’ir, north-east Hebron, which was declared a closed military zone in January 8th. “The situation is escalating day by day”, he says, explaining that it is difficult enough to get out for the travel under the current regime, let alone when not knowing if and when he will be able to get back again.
According to Jaradat, the three entrances to the town are almost constantly blocked, despite some brief periods in the last three days when people could cross on foot: Beit Aynoon, which leads to the city of Hebron and is closed by an iron gate, soldiers and check-point; the western entrance near Nabi Younis, closed constantly, with a check-point; and an eastern one, leading to a Bethlehem district through a road blocked by a check-point. “By the way, in Beit Aynoon, eight youths from the town were killed in the last three months”, he points out.
In the World Social Forum and at home: resistance
The Palestinian struggle has been one of the main promoted by the diverse and worldwide social movements building the World Social Forum. Last year, in Tunis, their plight for an end to the Israeli occupation and the condemnation for the third Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip in five years, in 2014, were among the issues in which participants were most engaged on, in the autonomous events, the convergence assembly and the demonstrations. The Palestinian tent attracted many engaged on the Palestinian cause all over the world.
Palestinian activists demonstrate in Tunis, at the march in the beginning of the
World Social Forum, March 2015. Photo credit: Moara Crivelente
This year, although the World Social Forum itself is scheduled for August 9th to 14th, in Canada, the 15th anniversary was marked by events of convergence among many social movements from different parts of the world. Among them, the diverse movements that participated in the “Humanitarian Mission to Gaza”, which departed from Tunis to Palestine right after the World Social Forum, in March 2015.
We were prevented from entering Gaza, however, by the Israeli and the Egyptian authorities, regardless of the efforts and official channels we employed in the request. Although our main purpose was to express solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, we were also going to bring food, blankets, toys and other things that might assist in a moment of dire humanitarian need, only seven months after the massacre and devastation caused by “operation Protective Edge”.
Our travel to the West Bank was not wasted, still, and those who could enter visited and met families, social movements and organizations, establishing contact and witnessing again the most brutal repression in demonstrations in Silwad, the “matrix of control”, as put by Jeff Halper in his latest book War Against the People: Israel, Palestine and Global Pacification (2015): check-points, the wall, surveillance, permit regimes, tear gas, bullets, and, the goal of all that, which is to root hopelessness.
In vain: the main result, which we could again see, is that Palestinians remain resolute in resistance, although disillusioned with the so-called “peace process”. For them, this process’ only result is further occupation, but it does not prevent them from going on.
Two of the members of the group were prevented from entering the West Bank from Jordan by the Israeli authorities and banned for five years. They have Arabic surnames. This was not the first time, and won’t be the last, since Israeli racist and oppressive regime starts at the border, terrorizing everyone who is engaged with Palestinian activism, especially those descendant from Arab families. I know of journalists who had to sign terms committing not to go to specific places or they would be deported, or prevented from ever coming back – at least that was the threat made to them in the super tense process of passport checking.
This time, as the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) published a list with the names of 158 Palestinians shot and killed by Israeli fire in the occupied Palestinian territories – as confirmed by the Palestinian Health Ministry – and violence rages on, leaving also over 20 Israelis dead, another forum was out of limits for Palestinian activists. The siege is stretched for “security reasons”, even at the international stage. Strengthening solidarity and boycott campaigns and their results are the “threats to Israeli security”.
Read the translation of the statement released yesterday by the participants to the Thematic Social Forum:
Note of Condemnation: Palestinians prevented from traveling to Brazil
It is with great indignation and concern that the organizations promoting the Thematic Social Forum WSF 15 Years, in Porto Alegre, are impelled to inform that Palestinians invited for the meeting were prevented from traveling to Brazil, blocked by the violent closure of the city of Hebron, in the West Bank, and the aggravated repression all over occupied Palestine by the Israeli forces.
Since October 2015, we received news on the blockade, military siege, control, forced registration, humiliation, violence and repeated assassinations, especially of youngsters and teenagers, in the historical Palestinian city of Hebron, as well as the transformation of areas of significance for the local population, such as Tel Rumeida and Shuhada Street, in closed military zones, restrictions that are not in place for the Israeli settlers, who move freely.
The Palestinians denounce the imposition of “collective punishment” by Israel against the population in Hebron, in an effort to drive it to exhaustion, so inhabitants abandon the city where the illegal settlements take over in extreme violence.
In the areas in current isolation process, barriers were erected with garbage, bricks, concrete, tanks and armed men who threaten and attack the residents and radicalize a siege of terror that has its roots in the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994. In February that year, a settler whose origins was the Brooklin entered the Mosque during Ramadan and opened fire, killing 29 and wounding dozens, until he was contained and killed by the population. In response, during the days that followed, the Israeli forces attacked and killed dozens of Palestinian civilians who protested against the massacre in the Mosque.
Collective punishment, which is a crime under international conventions, is frequently employed by the State of Israel. While the Israeli Government and institutions invite members of Parliaments, artists and celebrities from abroad to visit and participate in conferences in their Universities, to transmit an image of normality in the occupation’s relations, youngsters wounded by their soldiers are left to bleed out in the streets, with no permission to get medical assistance. International observers are prevented from entering and witness the massacre, Palestinian radios are closed to prevent them from broadcasting cries for help, and activists are prevented from assisting.
Members of the International Council of the World Social Forum and of the Front in Defense of the Palestinian People in Brazil have participated, last year, of a Humanitarian Mission to Palestine, but two Brazilians with Arabic surnames could not get inside, and all the others had their access denied to the Gaza Strip, massacred the year before until total destruction of its infrastructure. They have witnessed, however, the intolerable livelihood conditions in the occupied West Bank, the illegal settlements’ growth, the extensive control in the city of Hebron, and the tireless resistance of the Palestinian people.
We denounce and demand all efforts from the international community, in particular of the Brazilian authorities, a stand for the immediate end of the occupation of Palestine, the removal of the ostensible forces in the city of Hebron, the immediate assistance to the victims of repression and for the reconstruction of a free Palestine.
We reaffirm our firm adherence to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel until the occupation ends, and express our firm solidarity with the Palestinian people, to the members of the International Council and of the WSF process isolated in Hebron, to the researcher and coordinator of the Alternative Information Center in the West Bank Ahmad Jaradat, the director of the Teacher Creativity Center in Palestine, Refat Sabbat, and all the representatives of the Palestinian civil society’s organizations that have been repeatedly prevented from traveling to report the occupation’s reality to the world.
Until Palestine is free!
The organizations participating in the Thematic Social Forum WSF 15 Years, Porto Alegre, January 15th, 2016.