"Mapping Our Return": My report on the 2018 al Awda conference
The conference was held in Long Beach, CA recently. It was an emotional and informative experience. I have written down some of my notes here, of course. But the title of the conference itself was the most important aspect. "Mapping Our Return".
How can one possibly map a return to a country that has been brutally seized via murderous force coldly administered by heartless invaders, ones who now have the full military and financial support of American Zionists -- as well as the possession of approximately 200 nuclear bombs? How indeed.
I would suggest that one road we could outline on this map of return is to hold the next al Awda conference in Jerusalem -- entitled "The Year of Our Actual Return". And Palestinian-Americans with dual citizenship could all attend this conference too. Just an idea.
The conference itself opened with a moment of silence for the thousands of victims of Zionist apartheid in Gaza. I still cannot believe, in a modern world such as ours where our children watch all that caring and sharing on Sesame Street for crying out loud, people and governments and especially the UN still allow such injustice and brutality to exist.
"Al Awda (the Return) binds Palestinians legally, culturally and morally together -- even despite 70 years of being constantly attacked by well-funded detractors," said the first speaker. "And we Palestinians, like all other human beings, have the right to leave our homes in the morning and to know that our homes will still be there when we return."
Even though Zionist thieves stole everything Palestinians have, the victims are just supposed to forget this? No, no and no.
"Who owns Jewishness?" the next speaker asked. "Zionists claim to own it but they do not." And Palestine is not a "revolution industry" either. Palestinians just want to go home.
Oslo was a disaster. Among other things, it sold Palestinians out to the NGOs, like in Haiti. "There are 10,000 NGOs in Haiti -- where the money goes to the NGOs instead of the people. The same thing happened in Palestine after Oslo -- deliberate structural violence. Oslo is an unbelievable colonialistic document. You should read it some time."
Then we watched a film entitled "1948: Creation & Catastrophe," showing the horrors of the Nakba itself. Old footage of sad Palestinian refugees and dead Palestinian bodies. Not a dry eye in the house.
The next speaker was a professional comedian. "You get a lot more people to listen to you if you use humor to get your point across," he said. But if you dare to get too political, forget about ever going mainstream. You gotta sell your soul to the Zionists in order to do that."
A fashion designer spoke next. "I could not get a visa to show my designs at New York Fashion Week. But when I showed them in Milan, Israelis claimed credit for my designs!" But Israelis still won't let Palestinians in the West Bank work for her to produce garments. No surprise there.
Two more ideas were presented regarding how to support al Awda: Money and Truth. Money will help support the creativity of Palestinian artists -- and money will also help get out the truth. "Elevate and make visible the political reality" of the Nakba, of the West Bank, of Gaza, of Shatila and Yarmouk.
Next a cartoonist from Brazil spoke and he said all the right stuff about Palestine -- but then started riffing off on happenings in Syria and Russia, something he obviously hadn't researched very well. Several of us audience members descended on him afterwards and tried to set him straight. "No, Assad is not an evil dictator. No, Russia is not the imperialist here." But did he listen to us? Who knows.
Other speakers talked about taxation without representation, ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and the brutal attacks on Gaza. "Israel fears all Palestinian resistance -- but especially nonviolent resistance. The Great March of Return terrified Israelis."
Next speaker. "What we have done for the last 70 years hasn't been working because we are here and not in charge of Palestine. We must attack -- attack every lie. Every time. All the disinformation. It's not the Zionists' promised land, Zionists are not the only descendants of Abraham. Israel is not a democracy. It is not even Jewish. And it is definitely not a friend of the United States."
Then there was a Gala dinner and a fashion show. Time well spent. Time to take the #61 bus back to my hotel.