Host Committee Welcome – Al-Awda Fourth International Convention

Host Committee Welcome
San Francisco State University
San Francisco, California
July 14, 2006
by Eyad Kishawi

On behalf of the San Francisco Host Committee, I would like to welcome all of you today.  Two weeks ago, Gaza was invaded, again, and now Israel is invading Lebanon, again.  Iraq and Afghanistan are occupied.  The US and Israel are threatening Syria and Iran.  We meet in the shadows of what some may call a regional crisis, and others may label as the logical articulation of the balance of powers, without the white-washing of diplomacy, peace accords, and the claims of artificial parity between oppressed and oppressor; between colonized and colonizer, between prisoner and torturer.

We seek an end to our dispossession.  We seek return to our beloved Palestine, to Haifa, to Yafa, to Tel Abib, to Al Quds, to Nassrah and every other village from which we were forced, as well as to Gaza and the West Bank.  We seek to live free of the exclusionary-racist construct stating that there are Jewish-only roads, Jewish-only homes, Jewish-only hospitals and Jewish-only land.  The more we are pushed by dispossession into struggle, the more we realize our human potential to live as equals on our land free of the shameful European heritage that was transplanted in our region, a heritage of imperialism, racialization and anti-semitism directed at the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim peoples.  This heritage is executed with US made F-16’s, Apache Helicopters and Caterpillar bulldozers.

They ask us to moderate our speech, moderate our positions to a point where our very expression of identity, and culture, let alone national, civil, constitutional and human rights, has become an out-right expression of extremism.  To tell the US government that it has no right to invade Iraq and steal its oil, or Israel and its Zionist supporters that it represents the last bastion of genocidal racism, has become in itself an act of terror against Samuel P. Huntington’s “western civilization.”

It is to be expected that Bush, Rumsfeld and company would propagandize as such.  The danger, however, lurks right here in the academy.  It is when scholarship gives way to parroting of governmental power; when might becomes right, and moreover, it is when intellectual discourse is replaced with political maneuvering, pandering to the Israeli consulate, all for the purpose of censoring Arab, Palestinian, African and Latino voices at the university.  San Francisco State University and its administration, has become a microcosm of US society, where the students who came here to seek education, in the face of economic and racial inequities, are confronted with structural racism disguised in the uniforms of law and order.

Let us remind SFSU administration that when the civil rights movement called for integration, White extremists claimed that a race war would follow and they were wrong.  When South Africa said no to apartheid, the racist rulers and US supporters, including Dick Cheney, claimed that the blood of the White minority would fill the streets, and they were also wrong.  In every case, the voice of the oppressor has stood on the wrong side of history.  Which side of history does SFSU administration want to stand on?

After a prolonged struggle and a tortuous process, filled with hearings, the Student Center Governing Board yesterday voted for placing a mural of Edward Said (program) in the company of Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez.  Thanks to the tireless and courageous efforts of the General Union of Palestine Students and a tireless and conscious student coalition, the vote was a landslide of 6 to 2 (RECOGNIZE).  The 2 opposers were not Israel and Micronesia; they were the two administrators present and decided to come down on the wrong side of history.  Like John Bolton’s vetoes in the face of international law and justice, the two administrators voted against the will of the student body in waiving the fees for this conference, and they were wrong.

Only Palestinian students must pay what others don’t have to, and must be shuffled from one building to the other, like refugees escaping the daily air raids, while exercising their constitutional right to assemble.  Only Palestinian students must meet in the presence of armed police with their administrators.  Only Palestinian heritage and call for return, whether it is in the shape of a house key on a mural, or in a conference, must be taxed, questioned, scrutinized and asked for justification.  Like John Bolton’s vetoes against human justice, the 2 no votes were remarkable, and we took notice.

Like the General Union of Palestine Students, we are accustomed to speaking Truth to Power, but the program of this conference is more importantly a working program.  Altering the material balance of powers requires a transition from the realm of the political to the realm of the material, and we therefore adopted two major themes:

  1. Programs that support the Palestinian refugee populations in struggling for return;
  2. Programs that divest from Israel until return is achieved, and serve to expose its exclusionary-racist nature.

We ask everyone to come to the workshops, not as a member of the audience, but as an active participant.  Each program-oriented workshop will report on the current status of the movement, formulate a new program collectively and adopt a working mechanism to execute these agendas.  We recognize that this challenging era of imperialist expansion requires rethinking and adaptation.

On behalf of the host committee, we would like to thank San Francisco State University for hosting us.  We are delighted to have you in San Francisco and look forward to strategizing and organizing together.

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on WhatsApp
Share on Telegram