Last week, the Caribbean Against Apartheid in Palestine (CAAP) group hosted a week-long Palestinian Film and Arts Festival. A first of its kind Palestinian event for Barbados, it attracted modest crowds over the six days.
Bringing the Palestinian story to the Barbadian and Caribbean public is important. Despite the strongly held positions by several in the region to Israel, it is necessary that the Palestinian side of the story be also told.
CAAP has embarked on a series of programmes to inform Barbadians about the Palestinian story and to encourage people to learn more and go beyond the standard narrative.
Playing an integral part in last week’s Festival was the P2 Gallery out of London, United Kingdom represented by its Director Yahya Zaloom. Yahya is of Palestinian background living in the UK. He explained that his passion was in looking at social justice through the Arts.
He argued that it was important for some to move away from the emotive political side of the Palestinian and wider Middle East crisis and use Arts and Culture to talk about what was happening. In this way, a wider audience can be reached and the issues would resonate better with those interested.
The P2 Gallery sent several photographs and documentary films for the Festival here. Unfortunately, some of the more important photographs were held up by Customs and required a high amount of duties before they could be released.
The photographs and films were produced by persons from outside of Palestine, mostly from western countries, who saw the need and importance of showcasing the difficulties faced by the Palestinian people in going about their daily lives in the occupied territories.
Through the lens of these artists, the harsh realities of the Palestinian people were captured. Those who attended the Festival were moved to tears by some of the stories told. It is not the stories that are common in mainstream media. These are accounts that must be dug out from beneath the surface and presented so that the world knows the true realities of a people living under occupation.
Generally, in speaking to others, the Palestinian story seems to be in another world, far removed from ours. Barbadians, by and large, may not pay too much attention to it unless it directly affects us while others tend to side with the narrative that this is Israel’s right to the land and the Palestinians should not object. Objecting and standing up to the occupation is tantamount to terrorism.
CAAP has used the word “apartheid” in its title to promote the fact that Israel does practice apartheid policies as it relates to the Palestinians. We in the Caribbean understand what apartheid means. Caribbean people, by and large, were there with black South Africans in their struggle against apartheid. Barbadians acknowledge the legitimacy of that struggle and were jubilant to see its end and the release of Nelson Mandela from jail for his own fight against that evil system.
Palestine today faces the same oppressive system, its people forced from their land, millions living as refugees across the globe. And those who live in the occupied territories are forced by the occupiers to live in sub-human conditions under the constant threat of intimidation and arrest or even murder.
During his lifetime, Nelson Mandela was an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause. He is quoted: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Mandela recognized that the Palestinians, like the South Africans under apartheid, were fighting for the right of self-determination. For this stance, Mandela remains a hugely popular figure in Palestine. Some Palestinians make the point: “He symbolizes the struggle the Palestinians are going through, and his fight against the apartheid state has many similarities to the ongoing conflict.”
As one blogger pointed out: “The Palestinian struggle has often been linked to black South Africans’ fight against the country’s hated white supremacist government, which ruled the country until 1994. One of the most common characteristics of the Israeli occupation has been its supremacist and violent tendencies. Israel’s security forces have suppressed any signs of unrest against a system which works in favour of one people at the expense of another, limiting their rights, wealth and freedoms, all while restricting their movement. This has led Israel to being described as an apartheid state.”
Dr Daud Abdullah, a Grenadian who is Director of Middle East Monitor based in the United Kingdom , was also in for the Festival. He spoke on the topic: The International Dimensions of the Conflict in Palestine. He recognized the importance of highlighting the Palestinian cause and its impact across the globe. And it does impact everyone, if not directly but indirectly.
He pointed out that Palestine represents the remaining legacy of colonialism. Created by the Balfour Declaration some 100 years ago, Palestinian lands were taken away by the colonial power of Great Britain from a people with legitimate rights to a people not entitled.
As I pointed out in previous articles, Barbados and other Caribbean governments have been over the years engaged on the Palestinian issue. Either from the Israeli side or the Palestinian side. Increasingly, countries across the world are recognizing the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause and condemning the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.
The media recently reported Barbados’ position on a United Nation’s demand stating as follows: “Barbados has backed a United Nations demand that Israel end its exploitation of all natural resources of occupied Arab land, including the West Bank and Gaza. In a vote in the UN’s Second Committee, Barbados joined most of its Caribbean neighbours and more than 140 countries to insist that Israel cease all actions that harm the environment in the Golan Heights, Palestinian lands and other occupied Arab lands. The draft text, which must now be approved by the General Assembly, also demanded that Israel’s destruction of the infrastructure, including water pipelines and sewerage networks in the occupied areas, must cease.”
The Palestinian cause is a legitimate cause and one in which all peoples of the world must acknowledge and understand if peace and justice are to be restored to an oppressed and dispossessed people. Ignoring it or pretending it isn’t happening doesn’t make it go away.
As the Mighty Gabby sang during the Festival:
That’s why I say:Free Palestine, Free Palestine
Let the wall come down, stop the occupation
Free Palestine, Free Palestine
Let the wall come down, bring peace to the region
Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI.
By Suleiman Bulbulia/Barbados Today