International Union of Parliamentarians for Palestine Brussels may 2008
Third Congress of the International Union of Parliamentarians for Palestine (IUPFP),
Welcoming speech from by Luk Vervaet, president of the Belgian branch of the IUPFP
Your Excellencies ambassadors,
Honourable members of parliament,
ladies and gentlemen,
comrades and friends,
May I welcome you in the name of the Belgian executive branch of the IUPP, to this inauguration of the Third National Congress of the IUPFP.
I would like to express feelings of pride and gratitude on the behalf of the Belgian branch of the IUPFP for allowing us to host your Congress in Brussels, capital of Belgium and capital of the European Union.
There are two aspects at this congress under the theme “60 years on Al Nakba, 60 years of Resistance”: on the one hand the aspect of 60 years of struggle and resistance and on the other hand the aspect of 60 years ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people.
By organising your third congress here in Brussels, we wish to make the following statement :
This congress that is taking place in the heart of the European Union is a statement that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not an ‘internal conflict’ between Jews and Arabs about their respective borders and states, nor is it a conflict between the Arab states and Israel. For us the Palestinian people are fighting the last anti-colonial struggle that opposes a colonial West in favour of the colonised people of the world. Decisive partners in this conflict are the USA and Europe and we wish to underline their responsibility. If it were not for these powers this conflict wouldn’t have started 60 years ago, without them the conflict that have could already been solved, and without them there would be no starvation in Gaza as we are witnessing today.For all of us, for all progressive humanity this Congress is the occasion to say that we are all in debt to the struggle of the Palestinian people.
For those who follow television in France or Belgium there is more attention from in the media for “May 68”, the student and workers revolt that shook all western countries 40 years ago, than there is for the 60 years of struggle of the Palestinian people. We want to emphasise that the struggle we should be celebrating and honouring in this month of may 2008 is the one that has continued for over 60 years, with a whole people involved, with a continuous intensity: a struggle at the forefront of world politics.
It is their example of struggle and resistance against all odds that has inspired entire liberation movements the world over to have the courage to engage in the struggle for liberation and justice, and it has inspired different generations of youngsters in all countries, including mine. I can tell you that for my generation of “May 68” the influence of the Palestinian resistance, together with the resistance of Vietnam, were decisive factors in the progressive and anti-imperialist awakening of my generation.
So we are all in debt to the Palestinians but we have given them too little in return.
Professionally, I am a teacher in prison and I can assure you that there is a lot of concern amongst progressive and democratic people about the evolution of democratic rights in our countries since 9/11 and about a Europe that is sliding slowly but surely towards an Americanised conception of society. As you all know ‘the biggest example of democracy’ in the world has at the same time ‘the highest prison rate’ in the world. Two of the elements by which the American concepts are entering Europe are 1, policies and thinking on punishment and mass incarceration and 2, the European anti-terrorist legislation. This conference is an appeal to all democratic people in our country and in Europe to unify and concentrate our forces to obtain from our parliaments the removal of democratic Islamic movements and parties like Hamas from the list of terrorist organisations and to close down Gaza, the world’s biggest open prison. It’s time to wake up, time to get rid of our fear and indifference and to speak out. It is time to be aware that allowing a democratic elected government to be on a ‘terrorist list’ and allowing collective punishment of an entire population will have a disastrous effect not only for the people directly involved, but also on the anti-democratic trend on our own continent.
By organising this international congress of the IUPFP we seize the occasion to launch an appeal to all present and former Belgian members of the Federal Parliament of the different regions in Belgium, of the different local councils at the lowest level to join the IUPFP. We make the same appeal to present and former members of the European Parliament here in Brussels.
The program of the IUPP is not extreme but common sense and says in essence two things:
1, We demand the right to return for all Palestinian refugees
2, We demand the right for self determination for the Palestinian people to liberate their land and to establish its democratic state on the entire territory with Jerusalem as capital.
On this 60th anniversary of Al-Nakba we launch an appeal to elected representatives every level to support this program, to put it on the agenda of their elected bodies and to demand an end to the politics of double standards.
To conclude these welcoming remarks I will cite just two examples of a long list that illustrates this double standard of the West:
On the Palestinian refugees: On the one hand there are numerous European laws and conventions that claim that all refugees must have “the right to return to their homelands” but position is not applicable for the Palestinian people. We cannot support a European policy on migration that is tough that refuses and expels people without pity to “the land where they came from” and at the same time refuse this right for the Palestinians who are claiming this same right.
On Apartheid: In 1948 in the same year that the state of Israel was created the Apartheid regime of South Africa was introduced; in 1994, after nearly 50 years of national and international struggle and mobilisation the South African Apartheid regime was brought down. The anti-Apartheid movement in the world, governments included never accepted the existence of “thuislanden” like Ciskei or Transkei for the black population as a viable solution for the Apartheid state. So why are we accepting this for Palestine?
The experience of the Apartheid regime that was introduced 60 years ago and came to an end in 1994 strengthens our belief that after 60 years of Palestinian resistance and suffering a unified struggle nationally and internationally of all democratic forces will beyond any doubt be capable of bringing down the last apartheid regime in the world and to reinstate the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
Palestine will win!
SONS OF MALCOLM