Over 300 Palestinians, Israelis meet in historic conference in Hebron 8May11 May 10, 2011

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Conference participants stand for the Palestinian National Anthem (photo courtesy of Yousef Katalo)

The Alternative Information Centre -  8 May 2011

Over 300 Palestinians and Israelis met in Hebron on Saturday (7 May) in the first ever public conference between Israeli socio-political activists and the Palestinian political parties.

The conference, entitled A Joint Struggle for an End to the Israeli Occupation and Racism, was jointly conducted by the Palestinian Left in Hebron, the Alternative Information Center (AIC) and Tarabut-Hithabrut, a social political movement in Israel.

“This is a historic occasion and a milestone in Palestinian-Israeli relations,” notes Nassar Ibrahim, co-Director of the Alternative Information Center (AIC). “This is the first time in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the Palestinian political and social movements invite Israeli social movement activists to jointly conduct a public conference based on a clear political understanding,” Ibrahim adds. “This was not a conference of NGOs but of Palestinian and Israeli activists who wish to build a peace together that is forged from justice and shared values.”

“Hebron is a microcosm of Israeli colonialism and racism, so the decision to invite Israeli activists here is a most significant one,” said Fahmi Shahin, Coordinator of the Permanent Bureau of the National and Political Forces in the Hebron Governate.

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Governor of the Hebron District, Kamal Hmeid (second from left) sits with Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily (third from left) at the opening of the conference (photo courtesy of Yousef Katalo)

Kamal Hmeid, Governor of the Hebron District, welcomed conference participants, greeting the Israeli activists to Hebron and outlining Israeli colonial policies in the city that include settlements in the heart of Hebron, the Separation Wall, ongoing military presence, by-pass roads, checkpoints and closures. Governor Hmeid received strong applause when he noted the hope rendered by the recent Palestinian reconciliation agreement, and when he commended the steadfastness of all Hebron residents who withstand direct, daily attacks on their personal and national rights.

“We were excited and moved to create a joint space of discussion and action together with Palestinian activists from the national movement,” said Marcello Weksler of Tarabut-Hithabrut’s Executive Committee. “We are planning a joint evaluation meeting for next week, during which we will discuss next steps – this conference was the beginning and not the end.”

Israeli activists attending the conference are active in a number of social-political struggles within Israel, fighting for education, culture, work and labour rights, housing, Palestinian minority/national rights, feminism, environment, animal rights and economic justice, amongst others.

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Tarabut-Hithabrut representative Johayna Saifi spoke at the opening of the conference (photo courtesy of Yousef Katalo)

“The international community and international solidarity movement should be promoting meetings such as this,” added Ahmad Jaradat from the AIC, a resident of the Hebron district and one of the main forces behind this conference. “Western attempts at normalization through the Oslo process are a proven failure. After so many wasted years of so-called peace talks, isn’t it time to promote a real, sustainable peace between Palestinians and Israelis?”

Conference participants issued a joint statement at the end of the day which emphasized the rights necessary for a just and sustainable peace, the importance of Palestinian unity, support for the Palestinian popular struggle and creation of a democratic Middle East through democratic and popular struggles, the necessity of the democratic and progressive forces within Israel and the importance of a joint Palestinian-Israeli struggle for justice. The complete final statement in English may be viewed here.


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