From the Beirut International Forum on Justice in Palestine: Statement by Richard Becker on behalf of the ANSWER Coalition

ANSWER delegates and friends at the International Forum on Justice in Palestine.

This statement was delivered by ANSWER Coalition West Coast Regional Coordinator Richard Becker at the Third International Forum on Justice in Palestine held in Beirut, Lebanon, May 14-15.

On behalf of the ANSWER Coalition in the United States, we are honoured to be invited by the Arab-International Centre for Communication and Solidarity (AICCS) and its partner organizations to participate in the Third International Forum on Justice in Palestine. I am also honored to be following Rene Gonzalez of the Cuban Five. Along with our other activities we were part of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five from 2001.

Today, we join with justice-minded people around the world in saluting the heroic Palestinian hunger strikers, who for nearly a month have persevered against the vicious policies of the Israeli Prison Service. And we condemn the brutal, racist Israeli state regime that for the past seven decades has sought to destroy an entire people.

Inside the United States – the main funder, armor and protector of the Zionist state – the corporate media continuously distorts the situation in Palestine, turning reality upside down, presenting the Palestinians as the aggressors and Israelis as victims. And we know that Israel, which has long served as a base of western imperialism, could not carry on its oppression of the Palestinian people and its destruction throughout the region without the vast support it receives from Washington.

There is one simple and indisputable fact that proves Israel is a colonial-settler state. Today, while there are more than 6,300 prisoners illegally held in Israeli prisons – nearly 1,500 more than just three years ago – there are exactly zero Israelis held in Palestinian jails.

If we knew nothing but this one single fact, we would know who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed, who is the colonizer and who are the colonized. In addition, 81 percent of all Palestinians from the West Bank held in Israeli prisons are there for “security” violations – in other words, for struggling for liberation. All those detained in the West Bank and jailed inside the 1948 borders are held in clear and undeniable violation of international law.

Israel continues to rule over the Palestinian people in the West Bank using the Emergency Regulations employed by the British when they were the colonizing power in Palestine.

The killings, torture, checkpoints, settlements, house demolitions, destruction of olive and fruit groves, the theft of water, the lethal blockade and isolation of Gaza, the apartheid roads, the apartheid everything, continue day after day after day.

Anyone who still doubts the apartheid character of the Israeli state should consult with our brothers and sisters who suffered the horrors of South African apartheid, and who have built one of the most powerful and effective BDS movements in solidarity with Palestine anywhere in the world.

That the BDS campaign has made important gains all over the world is testified to by the fact that the Israeli government and its supporters have launched a major counter-offensive. They are afraid of BDS and the growing support for the Palestinian cause, including inside the U.S, where numerous religious denominations, colleges and some labor unions have joined the campaign.

In 2014, a coalition of forces including dock workers, other unions, the ANSWER Coalition and other organizations conducted a mass protest at the Port of Oakland, California, preventing the unloading of an Israel-based Zim ship. As a result of this and earlier actions, Zim no longer docks at the Oakland port. This was a great victory for the solidarity movement.

In March of this year, when AIPAC held its annual conference in Washington, D.C., the ANSWER Coalition together with the Al-Awda Coalition and others marched from the White House to the conference site in protest.

The pro-Israel lobby has made crushing the BDS movement in the U.S. its top priority. Their key tactic is an attempt to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to ban any criticism of Israel, especially on college and university campuses.

The Trump administration includes some of the most extreme supporters of the Zionist state in history, including its ambassador to Israel, and Trump himself has outrageously called for recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. At the same time, we recall that at the AIPAC conference in 2016, Hillary Clinton called for a “militant” offensive on campuses to destroy BDS. We have no confidence in either of the two parties of imperialism and reaction.

The supporters of the Israeli apartheid state have good reason to be worried by the international BDS campaign. It is clear that support for the Palestinian cause has grown, particularly among young people.

The growing support for the Palestinian cause in the U.S. and the world is due, above all, to the heroic resistance and incredible steadfastness of the Palestinian people.  We recall that when David Ben-Gurion was asked long ago what would happen to the expelled Palestinians, he cynically replied: “The old will die and the young will forget.” Ben-Gurion was wrong – the Palestinian people continue the struggle and the world continues to support them.

We demand that Israel meet the demands of the striking prisoners; freedom for Marwan Barghouti, Ahmad Saadat and all political prisoners; an end to U.S. aid to Israel and to colonial occupation; self-determination for the Palestinian people, including the right of return; and an end the U.S. wars and interventions against Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria!

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