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www.alliance21.org > Workgroups > Thematic Groups > Building Peace: Understanding First, So We Can Act > Journey to Palestine: Report

Building Peace: Understanding First, So We Can Act

Building Peace: Understanding First, So We Can Act

Background and preparation

This journey, which took place from April 10 to 14, 2002, was prepared from one day to the next. It was the response to a call launched by the Brazilian Organizing Committee of the World Social Forum (WSF) to join a Brazilian delegation of parliamentarians and members of Brazilian organizations active in the WSF, which was getting ready to go to Palestine. The call was sent to approximately one hundred members of the WSF International Council on April 4. The next day, two member organizations of this network had given a positive answer: Alternatives, from Canada, and the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation (FPH) in Paris. The two organizations also support the networks of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World. On the weekend of April 6 and 7, Gustavo Marin of the FPH and Robert David of Alternatives were ready to start out for Jerusalem on Monday, April 8, as the Brazilian Committee had requested in its call.

The Brazilian delegation, however, was not ready to leave and we had to wait for answers from other members of the International Council to enlarge the group. A Brazilian group, organized by the Movement of Landless Farmers (MST), was able start out on Tuesday the 9th. It comprised José Arbex, a journalist, Paulo Suess, a theologian, and Ronaldo Zulke, a parliamentarian of the state Rio Grande do Sul. Robert David and Gustavo Marin, accompanied by his FPH colleague Karine Goasmat, thus left to join the Brazilian delegation. In addition, Christophe Aguiton of Attac-France arrived on the same day and (Mrs.) Nicola Bullard of Focus, based in Bangkok, arrived the following day. We were therefore able to constitute a small delegation of the member organizations of the WSF Committee and participate in the different initiatives that were taking place in Palestine. (The Israeli army had begun its intervention on March 29 in the Palestinian cities and camps and had surrounded the headquarters where Yasser Arafat was locked up along with about forty internationals, including Paul Nicholson, leader of Via Campesina, and Mario Nill, leader of the MST).

A significant fact that needs to be strongly underscored is that since the very beginning of the Israeli army intervention, several hundred persons, active in the new civil-society organizations and movements manifesting their refusal of capitalistic globalization and asserting that a different world is possible, had gone to Palestine. The presence of the so called "internationals," not only in the big street demonstrations initiated in Seattle then in Genoa, in Barcelona, etc., as well as in Porto Alegre, is a singular fact in the scenario of the conflicts marking this period. These groups, each with their own profile, implementing various and plural actions, are fighting for peace where warriors have only aggravated the suffering of the peoples and where diplomats have demonstrated their helplessness.

We were able to enter Israel, then to reach East Jerusalem, at a moment when the airport police were turning back foreigners who were coming in large numbers and were being suspected of wanting to enter the militarized zones.
We were able, however, to enter individually without any incident and were welcomed by our Palestinian and Israeli friends who were waiting for us at the airport or in East Jerusalem.

We should mention that our projections, even though all based on a common solidarity with the Palestinian people and on the equal search of possible ways to peace, were not precisely the same. Some of the Brazilian members had come mostly to manifest their solidarity with Mario Nill, the MST leader shut in with Arafat; others with Marcos Koneski, a Brazilian priest who was in the Church of the Nativity. Others wished most of all to go to Ramallah, to Jenin, or to Bethlehem as far as the army-controlled road blocks, to show their solidarity. Finally, others placed the accent on listening to and reflecting with the Palestinian and Israeli partners united in solidarity to think, together, about how, while trying to meet the emergencies, to prepare the medium and the long term, starting now, in this context of war.
Of course, our common objective was to manifest our solidarity with the Palestinian people and to try to define, with the help of our Palestinian and Israeli partners, the way to make of this first trip the starting point of a long-term joint effort.
It was difficult for some of our interlocutors to stop for a second and ask questions such as: Why has Israeli society reached a point where a major part of the population backs Sharon’s war? The pacifist demonstrations in Tel Aviv and the march toward Jenin to stop the war assembled two to three thousand people, which is of course notable, but they did not succeed (have not yet succeeded?) in changing the policy of the Sharon government. Overwhelmed by the emergencies of survival, it is understandable that the Palestinians do not have time to ask questions such as: How did we get here? and especially: How can we, right now, start building a new path, implementing a different strategy, and not be condemned to repeating a tragedy, each new chapter being more painful than the last?
We should say, however, that the various international solidarity groups presently active in Palestine are seeking, each in their own way and with their own priorities, to connect the emergency actions with a longer-term vision. There are those riding in the Palestinian ambulances in Ramallah to try to provide emergency care, others are participating in marches to Jenin or in demonstrations in Ramallah itself, and others yet are taking part in pacifist demonstrations in Jerusalem, or organizing meetings with Palestinians and Israelis to think about and prepare the medium and long term. Of course, links are woven among all these groups and we tried, insofar as possible and in such a short time, to participate in all of these initiatives.
In spite of the quite natural difficulties we had in achieving a better coordination among ourselves, the WSF group participated in many activities in connection with another delegation of Brazilian parliamentarians accompanied, among others, by Michael Haradom, coordinator in Brazil of the organization Shalom-Salaam Paz, a very active Ally of the Sao Paulo Group of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World, and a member of Cives, an association of company managers that is part of the eight organizations of the Brazilian Organizing Committee of the WSF.


Gustavo Marin
Director of the Forum for a New World (...)
+ de 26 article(s)

Karine Goasmat
Exemole, France
+ de 4 article(s)

Robert David
Alternatives, Canada
+ de 3 article(s)

Journey to Palestine: Report

-Chronicle of the meetings
-Proposals for further action

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