In Santiago Chile there is a historical football team called “PALESTINO” that was formed in 1920 by Palestinians. The Palestinian flag is raised in the stadium and the fans shout a powerful slogan: “Palestine needs PALESTINO». This is a very profound slogan which I however believe also applies to a different version: “The world needs Palestine.” That’s what I will try to interpret.
Dear friend Ambassador of Palestine, Dr. Walid Hasan, dear comrade Neoklis Sylikiotis, dear friends from Palestine and dear comrades, thank you all for being present here today so that together we can stress the importance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. This Day was established by the United Nations in 1977 – ten years after the June 1967 war, as a result of which the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem began, the longest occupation in modern history.
Among us here this evening are Palestinians of all ages, refugees perhaps for the second time.
The first wave of refugees was created in 1948 with the establishment, in accordance with Resolution 181 of the UN General Assembly, of the State of Israel and the terrorization and expulsion of the Palestinians from their land.
A second wave of refugees in 1967 and the full occupation of Palestine by Israel followed, scattering the Palestinians all over the world.
However the wars that devastated Lebanon, Iraq and Syria also uprooted many thousands of Palestinians for a second time. We cannot forget the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees in the Yarmuk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus.
Today it is estimated that there are more than 5 million Palestinian refugees throughout the world. Entire generations are born and growing up without knowing the land where their parents and grandparents were born. They are dying holding the key of the house they left behind tight in their hands.
Arguably one could pose the question: “Don’t you see what is happening in Syria and the millions of displaced persons and refugees, which is much more urgent?”. We reply that of course we see what’s going on in Syria, but this is precisely the reason why we must not permit the Palestinians to be forgotten. We see and feel very clearly all that is taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean region and the Middle East because Cyprus is also part of this region; a region that perhaps in recent years is experiencing the most tragic period in its history.
The imposition of the “New World Order” and therefore the plans for the “Greater Middle East”, with the ultimate goal being the control of natural resources and energy sources by the US and its allies, have led to the most negative developments for the peoples of the region. The imperialist interventions are following one another: Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and the creation of a “constructive chaos” that these forces believed would serve their geostrategic interests, as well as of course the increase in the sale of weapon systems and military equipment in the countries of the region for the bloodshed to continue. However their plans escaped from the “test tube” and as a consequence Aladdin’s lamp let loose in this chaos the so-called “Islamic State» (DAESH) and other related criminal organizations which are spreading terror and death in the region and beyond, threatening the calmness of those who came up with the idea of creating these organizations.
While the “constructive chaos” is developing, destroying and killing the peoples in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, another disaster is intensifying in the very heart of the Middle East – Palestine. On the territory on which according to the Oslo agreements the Palestinian State would have been established, the destruction of any prospect of creating this state is taking place. As a consequence, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, new housing units are continuously being built, but not to house Palestinian families that are desperately in need. These housing units are being constructed in line with a government plan and are being made available at very favorable prices in order to house settlers of Jewish origin. The number of settlers in the occupied areas has now surpassed 750,000, of which over 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The colonialization is being imposed on Palestinian land, indeed in many cases on private properties. The main objective is to cut off the West Bank from East Jerusalem – the capital of the future Palestinian State. At the same time, the objective is also the geographical isolation of areas in the West Bank, excluding territorial cohesion and thus the very viability of a state.
The colonization is taking place before the eyes of humanity, causing untold suffering: Palestinian homes are being demolished, even on the pretext that the small boy of a family threw stones at a soldier. Families are being evicted in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods to settle settlers who came from the USA – as is the case in the heart of the city of Hebron. The settlers are attacking even olive trees – the historic and sacred tree of Palestine, to terrorize. But colonization is also being imposed through the threatened violent shift of the Palestinian population – as in the case of the Bedouin communities, mainly those living in the region E1 between East Jerusalem and Ramallah. That is the area which provides for the capital of the Palestinian State to be developed and for the northern part to be united with the southern part of the West Bank.
In the Bedouin communities even shacks, tents and schools built with car tires have also been demolished. Why? This is happening because they had no building permit from the Israeli authorities and the necessary infrastructure doesn’t exist. Where can they find any infrastructure in the middle of nowhere? Furthermore, where do they want to take the Bedouins? They want to transport these people who have been living for centuries moving with the animals, who know how to read the stars and be protected from the rain, a small town that is being built specifically in the Jordan Valley. Doesn’t this remind you of the story of the Native Indians in America? Only that in their case this was done decades ago, while now we live in the 21st century and nobody can claim that they do not know about all what is happening to the Palestinians, given that all of these acts are also being constantly denounced by the specialized UN agencies, but also in the reports issued by the Heads of the Delegation of the European Union Member States in east Jerusalem.
The occupation has a very ugly face: night raids, arrests and imprisonment. According to figures released from the “Addameer” organization, in October there were 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners, of whom 6 Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, 64 women and 400 children. It is estimated that by 1967, 750,000 Palestinians have been arrested. There is not a single family that has not suffered. The Israeli authorities call them terrorists – but they also called Nelson Mandela a terrorist.
To recount all the suffering of the Palestinian people would take hours. We would have talked about the wall of shame, the deprivation of water resources, the complete dependence of the economy and the huge unemployment levels, the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007 and about the regular military raids carried out against the Palestinian people. In 2014 alone these raids have cost the life 2,300 people, among them 541 children. This is something that we must do in order to comprehend how much the Palestinians need our solidarity.
As I said at the beginning, I would try to interpret why “the world needs Palestine”.
When a people goes through all the above in their daily life, but also in the place of an uprooted olive tree they plant ten new roots.
When a child has to go through road blocks in order to reach school and that child might not return home alive, but nonetheless she misses no school-day, and the parents see her off to school despite the fear.
When messages of peace are sent out of prison walls.
When the women of Palestine are in the front line of struggle.
When the youth know how to sacrifice, but also how to enjoy life.
Then the only thing left for us to do is to bow before the strength and decisiveness of this people and stand by it. Because it struggles to end occupation. Because it indicates to the international community the need to respect International Law, the UN resolutions, because otherwise we as humanity will continue sliding into chaos. Because it reminds all UN member-states that if they wish to be called states respecting the rule of law, they should recognize the Palestinian State; the Palestinian State which as an independent, sovereign, viable, contiguous state, on the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital would take its equal place next to them, a place it should have occupied decades ago. Because with its dignity and strength they remind us that above all we should be human.
Permit me a final phrase: to especially thank our friends and comrades from Kiti and the surrounding region who embraced this event, as well as the children of the band and their leaders, in short everyone who worked and turned this day into a festival of solidarity – that necessary weapon in the struggles of the people.
Solidarity event organized by the AKEL Delegation of the GUE/NGL Group in the European Parliament
Address of Vera Polycarpou, Head of the International Relations and European Affairs Department of the C.C. of AKEL
24th November 2016, Kiti, Larnaca