---------- Forwarded Message ----------
Date: Friday, July 04, 2003 10:13 AM +0200
From: Elliot Mathias <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: FW: Pro-Palestinian Strategy:  Their Minutes

Hey all,

check this out below.  It's an email from an attendee of last week's
Al-Awda convention - a Palestinian group that favors the right of return
- www.al-awda.org

Elliot Mathias
Director, Hasbara Fellowships
Aish HaTorah
US: 646-365-0030
IS: 064-231-428

Al-Awda Convention Workshop Minutes and Recommendations*

My personal report on the convention. - by Stanley Heller, one of Unity's

Our first international Convention drew 350 participants. That's a major
achievement. This convention really was international with people coming
from the
camps, from Jordan, Syria, Kuwait, South Africa, and even the island of
Mauritus (east of Madagascar). The political achievements were mixed,
Nationalist rhetoric kept getting mixed into our anti-apartheid movement.

Driving into Toronto was interesting. No American flags! :) There were
some Canadian flags on a few public buildings, but no national
glorification. There
were some signs about SARS in a poorer area with a Chinese and Vietnamese
shops, but no one was wearing a mask and the matter was quickly forgotten.
We met
at the University of Toronto Education Center, which is built right over a
subway. You could hear the trains roar all over the building. The
facilities were
first class, however.

It was great putting faces next to the names I've been viewing in
From this list I met Uri Strauss , Bahija Reghaei, Abraham Weizfeld,
Lowi, Steve Questor from Jews Against the Occupation (NYC), , and Mughir
al Hindi. I've written to this list about the libel suit being pursued by
Susan Howard-Azzeh from St. Catherines. She was there with her daughter
and it was excellent meeting them.

Hands down, the highlight of the convention was the speech by Salman
abu-Sitta. He dresses formally, but with style. At the dinner he wore a
handsome blue
suit with a bright red handkerchief. Born in the 1930's in Beersheba, he
became a refugee and now lives in Kuwait and London. He illustrated his
speech with
a Power Point presentation in which he explained in great detail how
5,000,000 Palestinians could return to their homes without any major
disruption to the
Jewish population. He had it all nailed down. The first returnees will
come to sites of the 500 demolished villages and build the houses for the
next wave
of refugees. He sees the whole process as taking 6 to 8 years. He talked
water, jobs, the whole gamut. Brilliant. As Edward Said said in 2000,
Abu-Sitta is a national treasure.

Abu-Sitteh received the Faris Odeh award, named after the Palestinian
youth photographed against the huge Israeli tank. I presented the Rachel
Corrie award
to representatives of the International Solidarity Movement from Toronto,
Vancouver and Montreal. They shared with us several wrenching accounts of
they saw in the territories.

It is becoming clearer to me that the refugee issue is at the heart of the
conflict even more important than borders. Merely ending the occupation,
the IDF out of the West Bank and Gaza, will not do the trick. The
Palestinians are an exiled people with an enormous desire to return to
their homes. This
means Israel proper. The US and the Israelis are going to have to deal
with this. If they don't all the paper agreements they get from the
Abu-Mazen's and
Arafats aren't worth a hill of beans.

Though our mission is to help the refugees, a lot of what went on at the
convention addressed larger political issues and this wasn't always to the
Members of the IAC were on two panels and gave the first address. No other
political group had such visibility which gives a false impression that
al-Awda is
an IAC project. The IAC's Richard Becker's analysis of the Palestinian
question and US anti-war work was very well done, but Elias Rishmawi's
speech had
problems. He thundered on about betrayals by PLO leadership, striking a
very militant position, but ended before giving a positive program. He
ignored criticisms from the audience about the costs of violence not only
to innocent
Israelis, but to Palestinians. I also disagreed with Ibrahim Makawi of the
pan-Arabist Abnaa' Al-Balaad group who kept talking about Palestine being
part of the
Arab nation and using the term "1948 occupied Palestine" instead of
Israel. Face
the facts. There are four million Israeli Jews. There isn't a chance for a
settlement if the Israelis think the Palestinians goal is to dominate Jews
treat them as miserably as the Zionists have been treating the
Palestinians. The dissolution of apartheid is the model to follow, with
the states or states
that arise from its abolition becoming the property of the citizenry, not
of a
national, ethnic or religious group.

One of the best speakers was a man who knew South African apartheid very
well, Na'eem Jeenah, a Muslim scholar and head of the Palestine Solidarity
Committee of South Africa. He explained the similarities and differences
South African and Israeli apartheid with the Zionist variety being the
more vicious! He pointed out that the South Africans government never
tried mass expulsion of blacks and that it never included in the
government parties dedicated to
that kind of "solution". As for repression he pointed out the lack of
collective punishement in South Africa. He explained that his own brother
was killed
by the authorities, but his family never feared that they would lose their
or be expelled. He said that what activists are calling the "apartheid
wall" had no precedent in South Africa. Nor did South Africans ever invade
with tanks and jet planes. While explaining that the ANC did at times kill
civilians (what at the time were called "soft targets") he said that he
completely opposed it and that the main factors that ended apartheid were
popular resistance and international solidarity actions.

Another impressive speaker was Dr. Gadha Talhami who spoke on the panel
"Palestinian Women in the Struggle for Liberation and Return". She
people to look ahead several years and look at the big picture. She warned
"alternative" plans for refugees like Shlomo Gazit's idea that the
Palestine Authority should have a "law of return" modeled after the
Israeli law. Then all
the refugees in Jordan, Syria, etc. would get Palestinian citizenship and
would stay there forever. She also warned about the "Iraq file", Israeli
claims against Iraq for property of Iraqi Jews who left for Israel. The
health care system is in tatters and polluted water is killing people all
over, but
Israel will demand that Iraq first deal with claims of Israeli from Iraq
who are living very adequately in Israel. Talhami also warned the "Iraq
file" would be used as a weapon against Palestinian claims for
compensation against the
Israeli government. She advised us to remember that Palestinians had
nothing to do with forcing Jews out of Iraq and told us about a
Palestinian leader who
in the early '50's pointedly told the Iraqi Prime Minister that his
actions encouraging emigration were doing no good.

In the hallways a number of "Unity" folks talked and I got a sense that we
could really make something of our list. We've got to accept two ways of
Jews should join in solidarity groups as individuals and making the fight
that way. They should also be comfortable in forming Jewish groups against
occupation and apartheid. This helps Palestinians combat false charges of
anti-Semitism and organizes those who prefer to embrace their Jewish
identity in their
political work.

There was one glaring problem with the convention, a total absence of
Jewish speakers and participants. At our demonstrations in Washington and
York they were included, but not in Toronto. That's a real mistake. An
Israeli-Jewish presence demolishes the propaganda which insists that the
Right to
Return is "national suicide" for Israelis.

At the close of the Convention there was a strategy session with time for
recommendations about future work. Because of delays in morning sessions
the section started several hours late and several key al-Awda leaders
had to leave to
make travel connections. I missed the session for the same reason. The
strategy session was problematic. In many organizations the Convention is
the ruling
body of the organization. Not so for al-Awda. The al-Awda by-laws don't
even mention the word convention. I think it's clear that the measures
adopted at the session could only be advice to the Co-ordinating
Committee (Al-Awda's highest body), but some on the CC argue that what
was adopted in the Stragegy
Session are now official Al-Awda positions.

Upon reading the minutes I wasn't impressed with the four "resolutions"
adopted. [See full text at end of post] One I completely oppose. It reads:
convention, demands the immediate stop of using Israel/Palestine in all of
its document, as it implies the existence of a Palestinian State." I can't
understand it at all. My first impression is that there must be a typo and
that the
resolution was complaining about an "Israeli state". This is the thinking
of those who talk about the "Zionist entity" and can't stomach the word
Israel. I
can understand the fury of suffering people caused by Israelis, but this
of rhetoric plays right into the hands of those who say the real goal of
the Palestinians is to drive the Israelis "into the sea". Nationalism is
a bad idea for Jews. It's a bad idea for anybody.

I think the formulation "Israel/Palestine" is an excellent term. It
recognizes Palestinians and Israeli Jews as basic ethnic groups of the
land. It
references all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan without
borders. Its use certainly shouldn't be banned within al-Awda.

Two other resolutions emphasized rejection of compromise of Palestinian
rights and support for struggle "spearhead by the intifada". Activists
the term to mean uprising, popular struggle, but the way the resolution
makes it easier for opponents to advance the slander that we support

I wish some concrete suggestions had been made, like support for the
Rachel Corrie Resolution, and for committees opposing deportation of Amer
Jubran and
scores of Canadian Palestinans. There was no resolution about refugee
rights in
Lebanon, Jordan, etc. and that's a real mistake.

There's also the question of who is a member of al-Awda and who is not.
The by-laws are incredibly broad allowing membership to anyone who
believes in our
mission and "who donate time and resources for the right to return". At
the Convention the CC voted to study the idea of formal membership where
people would formally sign up.

There were plenty of logistic problems at the convention, mostly stemming
from over ambitiousness, every spare minute being set aside for panel or a
sessions ignoring time limits, 15 minute lunches, CC sessions going on
until the early morning hours, lack of a large Al-Awda banner, etc. . It
was a tremendous effort with mixed results.

Finally, Al-Awda and other groups are organizing a project called "Wheels
of Justice". A bus will be driven all over the US and Canada with Al-Awda
slogans, literature, exhibits, loudspeakers, etc. Cool!


Minutes of the Strategy Session


Resolution #1

On the definition of the Right of Return

"The Palestinian right of return is a historical, national and collective
right rooted in the individual and collective inviolable right of an
and a

people to their original homes, property, and homeland, and to restitution

regardless of agreements, developments in international law, and political

framework. It is a right that transcends generations, political entities,

is not subject to any form of negation or compromise. It is an

right to the fundamental right of unconditional self-determination for the

totality of the Palestinian people regardless of their place of


On the Road Map

"Al-Awda convention opposes the US approved Road Map which aims at

suppressing the Palestinian people human and national rights. Al-Awda
Convention expresses support for the Palestinian people struggle,
spearheaded by the
Intifada, to achieve national resistance goals including, but not limited

ending the Zionist colonization, implementing the right of return and

self-determination. Al-Awda convention does not recognize the
right of the Palestinian leadership, elected or self appointed, in

any Palestinian national right, especially the right of return."


On the use of Israel/Palestine in Al-Awda Documents

"Al-Awda convention, demands the immediate stop of using Israel/Palestine

all of its document, as it implies the existence of a Palestinian State."


On Political Prisoners in Israeli & Palestinian Authority jails "Al-Awda
Convention demands the immediate release of all political prisoners from
all Israeli and Palestinian Authority jails."

Recommendation: #1

National Days Of Action

"Al-Awda Convention resolved to the following days as National &


Days of Action on the Right of Return, where local chapters would do

jointly or

collectively as planning allows:

September 26-28, 2003: Second Intifada 4th anniversary

April 9, 2004: Deir Yasin Massacre

May 15, 2004: 1948 Nakbah ."


Next Convention

That Next Al-Awda Convention would take place in one to two years,

in the Bay

Area (North California, USA)


Al-Awda Convention Workshop Recommendations*


Fundraising and Refugee Support

- Continue Supporting the work of Palestinian Children Welfare Fund


- Re-Activation of the Refugee Support Committee

- The use of the List Serve to meet these goals

Divestment & Boycott Campaigns

- Boycott until Return

- AFJ (More information will be provided later detailing this



- Use of all media formats

- Focus on Alternative media

- Research Media


- Forming Women for Al-Awda

- Focus on building women leadership

- Condemn oppression resulting from all factors


- Join Campaign against Caterpillars

- Train on Lobbying

- Push for Palestinian Rights in the next elections, especially with


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Polina M Vanyukov
Carnegie Mellon University
Porter Hall 208
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
phone: 412.268.3226

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