“Any Israeli soldier can go into any Palestinian home in any village, town or city and remove a person. The Palestinian police can do nothing. We have no protection. We have no security,” said Dr. Hanan Ahmad Awwad, president of the Palestinian Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). She spoke to the organization’s Philadelphia chapter on June 8th . Dr. Awwad, born in Jerusalem, is a scholar, writer, poet and peace activist and is on a speaking tour of the US. In 1990 Dr. Awaad helped to organize the “March for Peace” and the “Human Chain Around Jerusalem”.
Dr. Awaad began her talk with a brief history of how the Palestinians lost their homeland, initially in 1948 and the remainder in 1967. In her view, years of humiliation, attacks and occupation have led to a feeling of hopelessness for most Palestinians. According to the speaker this and the lack of progress under PLO leadership led to Hamas being democratically elected in 2006. Awaad contended however, that the United States, Israel’s strongest supporter, declared Hamas a terrorist organization and unworthy of support. Israel has used this as an excuse and a strategy to weaken the power of the Hamas government. Awaad’s presentation went on to claim that Hamas wants a negotiated settlement for land and peace and a cease-fire.
Throughout her talk, Dr. Awaad spoke to the extreme suffering of the Palestinian people. The lecture traced the effects of the wall, checkpoints and closed boarders preventing people from getting to work, the ill from hospitals and students from school. In these circumstances, food, medicine, fuel, water and other needed supplies can’t get in. There is great scarcity especially in Gaza making life very difficult. Awaad noted that Palestinians pay taxes but received no money to provide services for the people.
Questions were asked about the peace movement in Israel. Dr. Awwad alleged that since Bush has been president, it has become silent, charging that peace conferences say the right things but do not show their solidarity through action. Some believe fear is the cause.
One person asked, “What percentage of the Palestinians support a peaceful solution to the conflict?” “One hundred percent of the Palestinians want a negotiated settlement for peace and land,” answered Dr. Awwad. “The Palestinians have no army and cannot fight an armed struggle,” she continued. “Violent acts by Palestinians are in retaliation for violent acts of Israel against Palestinians and not organized terrorism. Nobody points to or condemns Israel for what it does.” Dr. Awwad said the Palestinians have a right to resist the occupation, “even the United Nations agrees to this.”
Dr. Awwad believes that a cultural and economic boycott of Israel would not be effective without a well organized plan and alternatives. She stated that the Arab League has presented many plans that Palestinians have supported but Israel just ignores. Dr. Awwad said “A “One State Solution” will not work , because Israel will never accept it. She believes Israel may change its policies if the United States changes its policies. Many of those attending the meeting agreed.
The Following Information Is Reprinted from The American Friends Service Committee’s Palestine-Israel Timeline. It is only a small portion of the Timeline.
The British controlled Palestine from 1918-1948 by a Mandate from the League of Nations. The Arab people’s plea for independence was ignored and their revolt was crushed and leaders executed. Meanwhile Jews from Eastern Europe began immigrating to Palestine in the early 1900’s fleeing persecution. In the 1930’s Jewish immigrants from Germany and German controlled areas were fleeing the Holocaust. By 1939 Jews comprised 31% of the population of Palestine. In 1947 Britain requested the United Nations to deal with Palestine. United Nations Resolution 181 called for Palestine to be divided into a Jewish State (57% of the land) and an Arab State (43% of the land). Jerusalem and Bethlehem would be under international control. In 1948 Civil War erupted and ended with Israel controlling 70% of Palestine, including part of the Arab State. More than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed and 85% of the Palestinians were displaced. United Nations Resolution194 supported the right of Palestinians to regain their homes or receive compensation. This never happened. Instead large scale Jewish immigration to Israel from Europe, North Africa and Asia occurred from 1948 – 1958.
In 1967 The Six Day War resulted in Israel occupying the West Bank, Gaza Strip, the Syrian Golan Heights and Egyptian Sinai. It expanded the boundaries of Jerusalem and extended Israeli law over East Jerusalem. More than 500,000 Palestinians were displaced. United Nations Resolution 242 called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops of the newly occupied territories. United Nations Resolution 338 called for a cease-fire and comprehensive peace conference. Israel began establishing settlements on the newly occupied territories. (41 years later the situation worsens.)