The Association of Student Activism for Palestine held an online conference on Saturday, under the banner of “Justice for Palestine”. The intention, said the president of the association, Yahya AbuSeido, was to raise awareness about the Palestinian cause and promote campus and student activism at British universities.
AbuSeido urged students to unite in working for Palestine regardless of differences in political and religious affiliations. To this end, he suggested that new students should join their university Palestine societies. “This is a human rights issue,” he explained, “especially regarding Palestinian refugees and their legitimate right to return to their land.”
Prominent researchers, activists, and experts in Palestinian affairs took part in a series of seminars throughout the programme, among them Professor Ilan Pappé, American activist Miko Peled and student activist Adela Muhammad.
Professor Pappé, from the University of Exeter, presented a comprehensive analysis of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the people of Palestine. “Like many settler movements,” he explained, “the founders of Israel wanted new land without the indigenous people on it. The world knew in real-time that a crime against humanity was taking place against the Palestinians.”
Aadila Mahomed is a law and humanities student in South Africa. She drew attention to the fact that the young people of her country were “vital” in the struggle against apartheid. “Students in South Africa gathered support from campus to campus,” she explained. “They educated people about the inequalities that they faced.” The Palestinians, she pointed out, are not going away. “We need to help change their political reality as students before us have been able to do elsewhere. The Palestinians will be steadfast, and the soul of all humanitarians around the world will continue to be with them.”
Author and human rights activist Miko Peled noted that the “uncompromising determination” of many of the people taking part in the conference is the way to go. “We need to do more of this, explaining and campaigning for the right of return and against the occupation. Opposing Zionism is to oppose racism because Zionism is a political ideology that is racist and violent.” Zionists do not pretend to care about the rights of the Palestinians,” he added. “Justice must prevail, and a free Palestine must become a reality.”
According to Nasim Ahmed, a political analyst at MEMO, “Black Lives Matter has become a target for Israeli groups, because the movement supports Palestinian human rights”. That support has been reciprocated by the people of occupied Palestine, he added.
The former President of Sheffield Students Union, AbdiAzizi Sulaiman, reminded students about what they should hope to achieve: “If you are in Britain at a British university you should be seeking to change the British government’s foreign policy position.”
That position, students were told in the final session, supports a government which allows the impact of the Israeli-led blockade on Gaza to be devastating. “For example, the Palestinians in Gaza don’t have access to clean water, electricity, and many other essential services,” explained Obaida Elmodallal, President of the Palestinian European Youth Union. That, it was added, is because of policies devised and imposed deliberately by Israel and its allies.
It is not just in Gaza and the occupied West Bank that Palestinians face those and other difficulties. Their counterparts in refugee camps in Lebanon and other neighbouring countries are also deprived of basic human rights as well as everyday essentials. Making a real change to that situation is what the Association of Student Activism for Palestine is aiming to achieve.