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MAWO Conference Report
On February 15 an all day conference entitled “One Hundred Years of Palestinian People in Struggle” took place at the Britannia Community Centre in Vancouver, Canada. The conference, organized by Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO), was organized on the heels of the recent Israeli massacre of the Palestinian people in Gaza.
The doors opened at 10am and people began to pour into the event to get signed up, pick up information on Palestine, and get ready for the first segment of the conference. Throughout the day over 75 people came to participate.
Things got started with the historical and educational film, Occupation 101. This gave a well rounded historical outlook on the Israeli genocide of Palestinians. Following the film the MC of the day, Janine Solanki, co-chair of MAWO, welcomed everyone to the conference. She explained the necessity of organizing this conference at a time when the Palestinian people have been enduring Israeli occupation and mass murder for over 60 years.
Shawkat Hasan, a long time Palestinian activist and member of the Muslim Canadian Federation, was introduced by Janine to give the conference opening. Shawkat spoke on his experience as a Palestinian witnessing the day to day racist violence of the Israeli government and military. He noted the importance of the spirit of the Palestinian people and how they have never given up in the fight for self determination.
All the way from New York City via video internet, Alison Bodine addressed the conference attendees on the history of Palestine. Alison is currently fighting a two year ban from Canada imposed on her due to a political targeting by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Alison began describing Palestinian struggle against oppression for over 100 years. Alison explained how Israel was created by the US and UK to constantly create tension in the Middle East.
This elaborate history opened up for the second presentation of the day by Nita Palmer, secretary of MAWO and member of the Fire This Time Newspaper editorial board. Nita noted how there are 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, known as the world’s largest open air prison, who are being denied the necessities of life due to the Israeli blockade. She also explained how Palestinians living within in Israel are second class citizens. “These absolutely unjust attacks on the basic human rights of Palestinians are a clear sign that the antiwar movement must call for the self determination for Palestine,” Nita noted. This extended to calling for the right of return of the 6 million Palestinians living abroad, most of which had to flee the violence of Israel.
At this point the MC, Janine, thanked the speakers, and opened a lunch break that went longer than expected as the conference participants engaged in many lively discussions!
Janine invited the co-chair of the Canadian Network on Cuba and the coordinator Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba, Tamara Hansen, to give everyone a brief update on the hurricane relief situation in Cuba. Tamara noted how Cuba, a country under attack from US imperialism, has stood side by side with the Palestinian people through all the attacks from Israel.
This was followed by a 20 minute multimedia presentation on the recent Israeli massacre in Gaza. News clips showed the aftermath of the criminal genocide on Gaza in December and January, and how the world reacted so angrily to this Palestinian holocaust.
This gave the visual for the final presentation of the day: “Gaza & Beyond” given by Ali Yerevani, a participant in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the political editor of the Fire This Time Newspaper. Ali went into depth into the current situation in Palestine today, and the significance of Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza. He reiterated what Alison said about the rise of Hamas in the 1990s and how they came to replace the traditional Palestinian leadership when the PLO stopped its long time demand of a one state solution. “This led to a crisis for Israel, as it had tried every murderous tactic to destroy the hearts and minds of Palestinians, but the heroic people never gave up hope,” Ali explained. “Israel has never defeated Palestine, because in the minds of Palestinians, they have never been defeated in the war against Israel and the US occupation.”
Everyone agreed on the need to show solidarity with the Palestinian people in struggle. Discussion became lively as people discussed how to most effectively build the antiwar movement to oppose and stop the Israeli genocide of Palestinians.
Janine welcomed back Shawkat Hasan to give his views on the discussion and give the closing to the conference. Shawkat thanked everyone for their important participation in the conference and how these continued actions are necessary if we want to build Palestinian solidarity.
This conference was a useful educational event for the dozens of antiwar activists as well as the large number of people who came who had never been to an antiwar event before. The conference came to a close one hour after it was supposed to due to the length of discussion and all the talks! But the day did not end there. Organizers and newcomers helped pack the materials away and headed straight for El Rancho Restaurant for a night of culture dedicated to the struggle for Palestine.