Tonight a small audience of twelve people bore mid-week stormy weather and attended a meeting organised by Hamilton Left Initiative which called for solidarity with the ongoing struggles in North Africa and the Middle-East.
The first speaker was Cameron Harper, a Waikato University student, who presented a historical background to the uprisings. This set the tone for more detailed analysis by two guest speakers and Workers Party member Josh Glue.
Harper was followed by Egyptian speaker Maher Elbohouty. A lecturer and PhD student in engineering, he provided an interesting eye-witness account of the revolution in Egypt that included photos as well as other footage. Elbohouty gave what he jokingly called ‘my own analysis’ of the upheaval in which - amongst other things - he pointed out the role of the internet and Facebook in spreading the rebellion and also the sympathy of the masses with the plight of Palestinian people. He also emphasised the role and involvement of women and illustrated this with pictures of women in both traditional and non-traditional wear.
Mohammad Tellawey is a Palestinian who works as a medical doctor in Hamilton. The theme of his presentation was the definition of terrorism and state terrorism. He began by discussing the definition of the word terrorism and in particular he outlined definitions as according to UN conventions and then drew attention to how the actions of some states meet those definitions. With reference to the Israel Defence Force’s 2009 assault on Gaza he overviewed Israel’s behaviour and commented that terrorism can be partly defined in terms of the questions ‘Are the victims civilian or army?’, ‘What was the method?’, and ‘What was the aim?’. He also concluded that in his opinion as a doctor, the people in Gaza are under constant psychological stress from Israel’s military and economic actions against them.
Josh Glue was the final listed speaker of the evening. He focussed on the clear class aspects of the uprisings. First he gave emphasis to the self-immolation protest by graduate student Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia against government forces which would not allow him to make a living as a street vendor. Glue then went on to discuss the elements of working class and union action - including union formation - in Egypt. He spoke of the role of the secret police and how masses had attacked the offices of the secret police and seized documents pertaining to previous instances of torture committed against pro- democracy activists. Finally Glue posed why US intervention is negative in Libya and noted the real stress that the uprisings are placing on imperialism in the region.
Because of the relatively small turnout at the meeting the evening took shape more as an educational forum than as a broad public meeting. Afterwards there was time for closer discussion between audience and speakers, and those in attendance formed general agreement to build more local activity on such issues.