Published Jul 24, 2006 11:32 PM
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, held its fourth annual convention at San Francisco State University on July 14, 15 and 16. The conference was preceded by a rally of over 700 people at the Israeli consulate in San Francisco to protest the U.S.-funded Israeli terror campaign against Gaza and Lebanon.
The convention was hosted by the San Francisco State University chapter of the General Union of Palestinian Students. That Al-Awda held the conference was itself a political victory over rightwing, anti-free-speech forces in the administration who tried to block it.
Featured speakers included Prof. Rabab Abdul Hadi, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Los Angeles 8 defendant Michel Shehadeh and Dr. Hatem Bazian. Dr. Abdul Hadi put the Palestinian people’s struggle in the context of the world struggle against racism and oppression. She said that the United States and Israel are both settler states founded on the genocide of Native people and that “we must never forget on whose land we are walking.”
Dr. Abu Sitta debunked the myth that the Right of Return is unrealistic. He pointed out that rural population density in the so-called state of Israel is less than six people per square mile while the refugee camps of the Gaza Strip are the most densely populated places on earth. Most of the more than 400 Palestinian Arab villages destroyed by the Israeli army in 1948 remain uninhabited, he said.
Michel Shehadeh, a target of state repression since the 1980s, spoke about the importance of Israel to U.S. oil corporations and the military-industrial complex. He pointed out that Lockheed Martin, the largest U.S. war contractor, spends 14 times more on lobbying than the American-Israeli Political Affairs Com mittee. “If Israel were really acting against U.S. corporate interests, they could not compete for a minute,” he said.
The conference issued a statement condemning the U.S.-Israeli attack on Gaza and Lebanon:
“These assaults also aim to break the will of the Palestinian and Lebanese people, such that U.S. imperial and Zionist hege monic interests can reign supreme through out the region. This is consistent with U.S. policies in the Arab East, specifically with regards to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, which we likewise continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms,” it said.
The statement called for mass action in the U.S. in solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese people and supported the call for a march on Washington Aug. 12.
It concluded, “It is incumbent upon us to engage in an escalating campaign of protest and education which will be critical for building a movement that can challenge and ultimately bring an end to the brutality and injustice which is unfolding before us. It is long past due that progressive movements and forces in the U.S. unite and raise their voice in condemning the U.S. government, Zionism and Zionist policies in the region, and demanding that our people’s rights not be held hostage to the calculations of U.S. mid-term elections or any other secondary consideration. Now is the time for the anti-war movement to raise its voice in answer to the challenge that history has placed before us.
“We continue to affirm the inalienable right that all Palestinian refugees have to return to their homes, towns and villages. Our work in Al-Awda will continue to be dedicated to the achievement of this goal.”