The Centre for Political and Development Studies (CPDS), Gaza, held a lecture on Tuesday on How to Talk to the West: Language to Use and Not to Use. Pam Bailey, a pro-Palestinian American journalist who started her career working with the famous Chicago Tribune, an American newspaper, delivered a lecture attended by activists, journalists, and students. Language is a weapon used by the Zionists to defame the shining image of the Palestinians. Realizing language’s importance, Palestinians looked for means to get heard when speaking.
“Each time I return to the US, I make sure that I speak. Because the US is so huge, what people think in DC is so different from what people think in a rural area in the country,” said Pam Bailey.
Israel is considered to be the US’ closest ally in the Middle East, andthe apartheid policies practiced by the Israeli government are supported by many Americans. There are several reasons for this..
Polls Reveal Change
“A survey shows 63% of Americans are sympathise with Israel. Not surprising! Seventeen percent said [they sympathise with] Palestinians and 20% were undecided. There is bad and good news. If you look over time, the undecided group has gone increasingly towards the Palestinians. Sixteen percent of Americans favour the PA, while 19% favour Israel,” stated Bailey.
The Palestine Papers, published by Al Jazeera and the Guardian in 2010, caused an enormous stir and showedPalestinians what they have not been exposed to for decades. The PA, as the papers showed, compromised many of Palestinians’ rights and ended up empty-handed. Israel, supported by the US, refused to accept what is considered by many Palestinians as a setback. They have been perceived differently in the US than in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
“There was actually a positive story for you. All the sudden, the US media said: look at that. The PA was ready to give up everything, and yet Israel refused to accept any offer,” continued Bailey.
No Uniform in US
The Republican Party and the Democratic Party include under their umbrellas the vast majority of Americans. Support for Israel among conservatives is much higher than among liberals, leftists or independents.
“If you break it down, you will find that 80% of Republicans are supporters of Israel, while 57% of Democrats are pro-Israel. There is a dramatic shift among independent and democrats. The main message for you is that American public opinion is not uniform,” assured Bailey.
Gaza War: Change We Need
The Gaza War, which claimed the lives of more than 1400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, affected partially the way some Westerners think about Palestine. The scenes of bloodshed coming out of Gaza pushed people to think seriously about the cause. This was vivid as many people across the globe took to the streets in support for Palestine. Some others stormed Israel’s embassies calling for the international community to put an end to the systemic killing carried out by the Israeli war machine. This was not the position of mainstream conservatives media outlets like CNN and Fox News.
“Even during the Gaza War, CNN for instance was portraying the situation as if Israel was defending itself. Forty percent said Israel had a right to defend itself, while 40% were undecided,” stressed Bailey.
One poll shows, as Pam drew attention to, that 42% of Americans supported the Palestinian statehood’s bid. America is a huge country. Over 63% of Americans older than 18 don’t have passports. This means they don’t travel outside the country. They are not involved in politics. “This goes against you”.
Jews for Palestine
The Jewish community in the US is said to be the strongest in the world in terms of wealth, influence and organisation. There are Jewish organisations working hard to end the apartheid system in Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), one of the largest Jewish organisations in the US, recently joined in appealing forBDS. Code Pink, an organisation led by Jewish women, with the help of other organisations held a couple of days ago a conference in Washington to counter AIPAC’s annual conference. The conference, named Occupy AIPAC, hosted many speakers and achieved tremendous success.
“There are Jewish organisations that stand by Israel. Meanwhile, others support the Palestinians,” she added.
It’s said that the Palestinian cause is the most just one in the world defended by the most failed lawyer. Pro-Palestine activists and Palestinians on the ground realise the importance of media and language to get their voice heard. It’s important to tell people about the justice of the Palestinian cause and the injustice Palestinians have been subjected to through out history.
“Our job is to make people aware of the issue. People in the US get involved in issues related to the countries in which we have troops like Afghanistan. My and any activist’s job is to get them involved in countries that we don’t have troops in. They don’t see in Palestine a problem. They see it as hopeless. They see it as two peoples are fighting,” noted the American activist.
There are stereotypes recalled each time Palestine is mentioned. They change as time passes, but it takes much time to let Americans know about the reality on the ground in Palestine. Israel, supported by American taxes paid by ordinary people as America goes into a crisis, practices illegal polices against the indigenous people of Palestine based on discrimination and segregation.
Palestinians Have Nothing to Do With Holocaust
“The Holocaust is used to justify what is going on in Palestine. To respond to this, we would say it’s a crime against humanity. Palestinians have nothing to do with it. It’s a separate issue. Some say Israel is a small country surrounded by hostile Arab countries. To respond to this, we would say Israel is a nuclear country which has a strong army. Hamas is a stereotype used by Americans too. It’s being viewed as a terrorist organisation. We should go back to the original issue which is occupation,” emphasised Bailey.
“When it comes to Hamas, they said it wants to throw Israel into the sea. To respond to this, we would say Palestinians have been living under occupation for 63 years. The Likud Charter is as bad as Hamas’! Why do they focus on Hamas?” she wondered.
Collective Punishment is a Crime
Throughout the history of the conflict, Israel has used collective punishment to pressure the Palestinian people. The siege of Gaza is an example of this largely condemned policy.
“Collective punishment never works…they claim that there is no Palestinian Ghandi. To me, the thing I focus on is that resistance is there in the international law. Tell them BDS activists are in prisons,” she told the audience.
One example is IOF. It’s is not acceptable in mainstream media. IDF is not acceptable to the Palestinians. “I would say use the Israeli military term. It’s different when you write for EI,” she concluded.
The Harmful Oslo!
“The Oslo Accords were harmful to Palestinians,” critics say. “One of the dangerous things that the Oslo Accords brought about is that it showed to people that Palestine has a government and it’s an independent country,” added Bailey. “Be very careful when you talk about Fatah vs. Hamas. It’s not the biggest problem.”
Social Media works!
“New media means people are waiting for you to talk and report. If you see #Jstream, you will see that you are the source. You have to organise. Think about social media strategically. If you have a blog, have a focus to it. There is an example in Cairo, where Twitter made change. Don’t lose the opportunity,” she ended.
The lecture aimed at helping Palestinian youth get their voice heard and enhancing their presence in the international arenas. This Thursday, CPDS will host Derek Graham, an Irish activist, to talk about Palestine, Ireland, BDS and everything in between.