Jenifer Flintoft of the Portsmouth and South Downs Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSDPSC) writes about the recent work of the local campaign and the group’s forthcoming events.
PSDPSC is an active group of local people aiming to promote a just solution to the situation which exists in Palestine and Israel, by raising awareness of the reality of the occupation.
The public is gradually becoming more aware of the situation in Palestine and Israel, but there is still a long way to go.
British tabloids tend to be uncritically pro-Israel and the message that emerges from the media portrays a conflict as a case of ‘six of one & half a dozen of the other’. Most media coverage is limited, superficial, and by no means always accurate, as for example in 2013, when Martha Kearney stated on BBC Radio 4’s World At One that Israeli soldiers died on the same day as activist Rachel Corrie (who was crushed by an Israeli Defence Force armoured bulldozer in Gaza in 2003) when in fact, none had.
We don’t hear or read much in the news about the illegal settlements throughout the West Bank and when we do, the facts are often distorted. News coverage often refers to settlements ‘that the Palestinians claim are illegal’, even though Israeli settlements are deemed illegal under international law.
And then there are the abuses of human rights that we rarely hear about in the news.
We don’t often hear about Gazan fisherman being shot at or having their boats impounded even though they are within the fishing limit imposed by Israel.
We don’t hear about the house demolitions and the endless destruction of villages in Palestine by the state of Israel.
We don’t hear about the treatment of Palestinian prisoners – about the practice of administrative detention, about terrified children being locked up for long periods for throwing stones.
We don’t hear about women giving birth on the ground when detained at checkpoints, or of deaths that occur because people are refused entry to Israel for medical appointments.
Because we don’t hear about these things accurately or enough, we aim to educate people about the reality of the occupation, the human rights abuses and the devastating impact of the occupation on the lives of Palestinians.
We also hope to instil empathy and compassion in people to encourage more local residents to become active campaigners. More pressure is urgently needed on British politicians to exert effective pressure on the Israeli Government to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory and the blockade of Gaza, and to offer the Palestinians a just peace deal.
Some of our work involves fundraising. We make regular donations to Medical Aid for Palestinians, and occasionally to other Palestine-related causes or organisations.
We organise regular demonstrations, pickets and rallies, inviting people to show solidarity with the Palestinian people, for example, picketing supermarkets that sell goods produced in illegal settlements. We organised a rally in Portsmouth when Gaza was bombarded in 2012, attracting almost a hundred people at very short notice.
We offer talks in local schools and colleges, where children are quite rightly taught about the Holocaust, but not about the Nakba of 1948, when over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their villages and many others were killed. We would like to redress this imbalance in teaching global history and to help children – and adults – to recognise and reject Islamophobia in our communities.
We also run local campaigns, for example, as in 2011, when we succeeded in persuading Portsmouth City Council to exclude Veolia from a new rubbish collection contract on the grounds of the company’s grave misconduct in supporting Israel’s illegal settlements. At present, we are campaigning against the extension of Veolia’s Integra Contract with Hampshire City Council for the county’s entire waste management systems, including incinerators, skips, bottle banks etc.
Not everyone gets involved in politics, so for people who hesitate to come to meetings, we run regular concerts and film screenings.
A recent concert featured popular Scottish folk-singer Ewan McLennan and although a small-scale event, raised over £100 for Medical Aid for Palestinians. In January we held a folk concert at the Art Cafe in Victoria Park, featuring the Polite Mechanicals, a folk/jazz/klezmer quintet from Portsmouth, and a Palestinian oud player. We raised £388 for Medical Aid for Palestinians.
In November we organised a free screening of The Band’s Visit, an award-winning film depicting the impact of the Israeli occupation on the lives of ordinary people (both Israelis and Arabs). Its plot featured an Egyptian brass band sent on a diplomatic visit to Petah Tiqva in Israel and was both a clever, subtle slice-of-life comedy, and poignant cross-cultural exploration. The evening was a great success with the audience who donated generously.
In May 2015, we are planning a fund-raising meal in a Church Hall, the idea being to make links with other groups in the community and to raise money for Palestine. We also hope to raise money with a sponsored walk.
We hold approximately eight public meetings a year, which include updates on the situation in Palestine and suggesting ways people can help, such as boycotting Israeli goods, or by emailing and lobbying politicians. Our next public meeting will be on Saturday 11th April when we hope to have a speaker from Jews for Justice in Palestine.
In April we are planning a public hustings. We have invited the prospective Parliamentary candidates for Portsmouth North, Portsmouth South, Havant & the Meon Valley and we will be asking them for their views on Palestine.
We also organise an annual Palestine Day with nationally renowned speakers such as Baroness Tonge and MEP Keith Taylor. The speakers for our Palestine Day this year are Aimee Shalan, Director at Friends of Birzeit University, Kevin Ovenden, a prominent member of the Gaza Aid Flotilla of 2010, Salim Alam, PSC Campaigns Director, a lecturer in Sports History who will speak about Palestinian football.
Find out more about us and get involved by clicking on the links below.
Download and share the flyer for the Palestine Palestine Day Feb flyer
Photograph copyright Wikipedia Creative Commons.