Palestine Social Forum 2002

Dec 26, 2002

Activists from around the world joined local Palestinian groups for the World Social Forum on Palestine in late December 2002.

Hundreds of delegates, representing dozens of local and international organisations debated the future of the Palestinian solidarity movement only yards from Yasser Arafat’s shattered presidential compound in Ramallah. Dr Mustafa Barghouthi, one of the organisers of the conference, told the opening session:
‘Today we are achieving a dream. It was a dream to have this Social Forum happening in Palestine. When we were in Porto Allegre last year, we proposed that there should be a Social Forum in Palestine. Many people thought that it would be impossible, but actually we see it as a reality today, thanks to the determination of our friends who believed in us.’

Both international and Palestinian delegations had to struggle through Israeli road blocks and checkpoints to reach the forum. Belgian, Spanish and Filipino participants were arrested by the Israeli authorities as they flew in to Tel Aviv. For Palestinians, everyday travel in the West Bank has become almost impossible. The short journey from Ramallah to Jerusalem often takes hours, while Bethlehem remains under military occupation.

Despite this isolation, there is growing support throughout the anti-capitalist movement for the Palestinian struggle. Zelitro Luz Da Silva, speaking in the name of the Brazilian landless movement, MST, told the conference

‘The Palestinian cause is an increasing concern of the Brazilian people. I want to assure you that the Palestinians receive total and unconditional support from my organisation, and the other social organisations in Brazil.’

A large delegation of French trade unionists included activists from Attac and a group of teachers. Rachel is involved with the Edufip network which is twinning French and Palestinian schools. ‘The Palestinian issue is such an obvious example of globalisation. If Israel didn’t receive so much American help and support, I think that the Palestinians would have their state by now.’

For many, the crucial issue was resistance to war on Iraq. European delegates described how meetings such as the European Social Forum in Florence are helping to build a mass anti-war movement across the continent. Alessandra Mecozzi from the Italian metal workers’ union FIOM told the conference:

‘More and more people all over Europe believe that we are seeing preparations for a ‘preventative war’ against Iraq. This war is illegal from the point of view of international law. It is not part of the ‘war on terrorism’ it is about domination. This is a war to control oil. Our priority is to be against war. Our priorities are peace and justice. In the European Social Forum we said very strongly: ‘there is no peace without justice’.

Hundreds of other local activists joined delegates from the conference for a demonstration on 28th December. At a rally in Al-Manar Square in central Ramallah, members of the international delegations read messages of solidarity to the crowd, which included volunteers from the Palestinian medical relief committees, health workers, human rights activists and students.

Palestinian campaigners are calling for more international solidarity delegations to visit the Occupied Territories to provide protection for the Palestinian people. Activists say they fear that Israel may use the cover of war in Iraq to expel Palestinian political leaders or to carry out assassinations and arrests. For Mustafa al-Barghouthi, the forum in Ramallah was just a first step. ‘We have great hopes that we will have the next social forum in the independent state of Palestine’ he told the conference, ‘because the Palestinian people are stronger than the injustice practiced against them.’


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