Marika Pratley , PFLP Solidarity Campaign Coordinator for Wellington and member of Vic Palestine Group
Over August Vic Palestine Group organised a series of events to create awareness and build support around Victoria University and Wellington for the Palestinian struggle. This included a film screening of Occupation 101, a Student Representative Council (SRC) on the right to education for Palestinians, a panel discussion on Israel and Palestine, and a fundraising gig to prepare for the photography exhibition “Unrecognised”, which is opened on Friday 19 August. Despite Zionists ripping down posters in an attempt to censor the campaign, there has been strong support and all events were well attended.
The SRC happened on the 29th of July in the Victorai University student union building, with over 140 people. The motion was put forward: “To affiliate to the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University as a public show of solidarity and support to all Palestinian students and teachers who are struggling to live,work and study under the illegal Israeli occupation.”, as part of the right2edu campaign*
John Minto from GPJA in Auckland was there to talk in support of the motion, and referenced the struggle of abolishing apartheid in South Africa as a reason for supporting the issue. There were also speakers from Vic Palestine, the Greens and other radical left organizations on campus. Debate on the motion was based mostly on people not understanding the need for international solidarity, rather than being Zionist supporters. However the outcome was an overwhelming majority of students in support of the right2edu campaign, and the motion was passed.
The SRC was followed by a panel in the first week of August. Nigel Parsons, a Political Scientist from Massey University opened the panel by discussing the Israel Palestine situation. Dr. Parsons used Foucault’s theory of Bio-politics as a basis fo discussing how the state functions in controlling people’s lives. He then proceeded to apply this through historical development of Israel, and how this control has impacted on the Palestinians as invidividuals and their community as a whole. He went onto discuss how the Oslo agreement relied on incorporating the PLO, leading to the Palestinian Authorities controlling their own resistance, and allowing for the development of settlements in the West Bank. He ended his talk pointing out that when demanding for ‘the right of state’ for Palestinians, its absolutely essential to consider what this means in practice, and what ‘type’ of state the Palestinians would be demanding.
This was followed by Hone Fowler from Kia Ora Gaza. He gave a skype presentation of photos from the Kia Ora Gaza convoy that visited Palestine in December last year, with other international organizations. Kia Ora Gaza are organising another group to go at the end of 2011 and are looking for volunteers.
The final part of the panel was presented by Nadia Rhiannon from Vic Palestine. She focused her talk on the experiences of Palestinian youth, and how they relate to the occupation. This included accounts of people in Palestine as well as her own experiences, being apart of the Palestinian diaspora that were born and raised outside of Palestine. She included example of how her cousin fell in love with an Israeli Conscientious objector, and what it feels like to have a displaced identity due to the denial of rights for the Palestinian community.
The final part of the Palestine Solidarity fortnight was a fundraising gig at Garett street in Wellington. This was done on behalf of the Concerned Citizens, to fundraise for a photo exhibition, which is intended to raise awareness of the UN meeting in September, which will decide whether or not Palestine will be recognized as a state. The photo exhibition is opening tonight in Wellington, and will be in the following cities on these dates.
Wellington - Garrett Street: 19th - 21st August
Dunedin - Tangente Cafe: 19th - 21st August
Hamilton - The Void: 19th - 21st August
Whanganui - The Arc Theatre: 19th - 21st August
Auckland - Te Karanga Gallery: 22nd August - 1st September
Gisborne - Dome Cinema: date TBC
East London (South Africa) - Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: August-September
*Further information can be found at http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/