Last night LALIT held a vigil in support of the Palestinian people and criticizing the Israeli State with its shameless backing from the USA for its continued killing of Palestinians, continued colonization of the West Bank, continued siege over Gaza, continued push to take over of the whole of Jerusalem, and generally its having cynically sabotaged any two-state solution. And now, Israel’s new law dis-barring non-Jewish citizens from citizenship makes Israel become even more like the then already doomed Apartheid South Africa State.
The LALIT vigil called, inter alia, for:
1. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and the Minister Mentor Aneerood Jugnauth, when they go to the International Court of Justice at The Hague to take Britain to task for stealing Chagos, including Diego Garcia, to denounce Israel before Israel’s representative appears in front of this United Nations Court, which it is due to do a few days after the two Mauritian leaders take the floor on 3 September. We call on Prime Minister and Minister Mentor to denounce Israel, in particular, for itself being a colonizing State, and also for having flaunted a past Advisory Opinion handed down by the ICJ against the “Apartheid Wall” constructed by Israel.
2. The Mauritian Government to suspend its diplomatic relations with Israel until such time as Israel stops further colonization and retreats from colonized Palestinian land.
3. The Mauritian Government to instruct Minister Ivan Collendavelloo and the CEB to rescind the contract with the Israeli firm, ECI Telecom Ltd, to set up an internet network.
4. The Mauritian Government, and the Interior Minister in particular, to instruct the Prison Commissioner Vinod Appadoo to cancel his contract with Israeli consultants about mobile phone control in prisons.
About 50 people attended the vigil, and former President of the Republic, Mr Cassam Uteem, lit the first candle for the vigil on the side of the Main Road leading southwards out of Port Louis in front of the LALIT offices. He said he supported the demands.
Leading members of the Centre Idriss Goomany, like Imran Dunnoo and Norman Tambanivoul, the Federation of Private Sector Workers (CTSP) Jane Ragoo, Reeaz Chuttoo and Berty Beeharee, members of the Muvman Liberasyon Fam and LALIT were present.
Before the vigil, there were short speeches by four LALIT members as well as a series of video-clips to highlight the struggle of the Palestinian people against this constant oppression and large-scale violence since 1948.
“The situation today” by Ram Seegobin
Ram Seegobin situated the vigil in historic terms. Israel has recently passed a law turning any non-Jewish citizens of Israel into second-grade citizens, thus turning Israel even further into an “Apartheid State”. Israel had already turned the three parts of Palestine – The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – into quasi-Bantustans. US President Trump has recently, by pompously moving its embassy to Jerusalem, supported the Israeli attempt to take over the whole of Jerusalem. And colonization of the West Bank has continued unabated, while the Israeli “Army of Occupation” harasses and oppresses everyone living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Gaza is sealed off from the outside world in a stifling state of siege. The day of the vigil, Palestinians were mourning the deaths of three people, including a pregnant mother-and-her-baby, killed by Israeli missile strikes the day before yesterday. Ram also drew attention to the fact that Israel had voted against the decolonization of Chagos going to the ICJ, and Israel would be giving an oral statement at the ICJ next month. He said, in the face of all this, it is important that we remain active in the world-wide BDS movement, which is gathering strength every day.
Then there were projections of three clips:
* The famous video clips of 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi and her mother and sister confronting Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, which shows how occupying soldiers are just present, in peoples’ yards, refusing to leave. A relative of Ahed Tamimi had been shot the day before. When the soldier refused to leave, Ahed Tamimi clouted him in a most brave way, bare hand up against huge guns. Less armed she was than David. More armed he was than Goliath.
We are supplying the video YouTube address, because it is now quite difficult to find because the Israeli cyber-army has uploaded a host of propaganda videos against her.
* The video clip smuggled out to the public by an Israeli soldier or policeman of how brave and dignified Ahed Tamimi was while facing up to two screaming Israeli interrogators for two hours. She was jailed for 8 months for slapping a soldier.
* The photograph and interview of Micheline Awwad, the unidentified woman who had taken off her yellow high-heels in 1987 Intifada and photographed unbeknown to her, hurling a stone at the Israeli army. She came forward recently for a brief interview about her secret action.
“Day-to-day confrontations” by Kisna Kistnasamy
Kisna Kistnasamy is one of the LALIT members who has been as a volunteer alongside Palestinian people in the West Bank, and she has been twice. In a third visit, she was amongst those attempting to get to Gaza when the Raffa Crossing was closed by Egypt. (It is still closed, exceptionally open to let Mecca pilgrims through.) In her speech, she wove in comments on the two young women whose actions we had seen preserved in video or photograph form, highlighting the inequality of the struggle. “It can’t be called a conflict,” she said, when Israel is an army of occupation up against ordinary people trying to survive. The mainstream media, she said, misleads us on this.
She described, as only someone who has lived under occupation can, the daily humiliation and struggle just to get to school, to visit a friend, to pick olives in the harvest season, to go to the dispensary or hospital. She also described the resilient love-of-life of the Palestinian people living under the yoke of this hideous occupation, from the Nakba in 1948 and the continuing catastrophe, year after year. She put emphasis on the people within Israel who oppose the Occupation – however few – and how the very fact that there are such brave people is a source of hope for a day when everyone will live inequality and peace.
Two short video clips were then shown on the recent Great March of Return in Gaza – giving an idea of the scope of the movement, its vivacity, and even the culinary traditions, the children flying kites, the determination to go back to their land. A third clip of the invasive presence in Hebron in the West Bank of the Israeli army, and how difficult it is for peaceful protestors even to chant a few slogans without the soldiers yelling at them, threatening them with guns, and even getting trigger happy.
“Emphasis on 1948 now, not just 1967” by Alain Ah-Vee
Alain Ah-Vee, another LALIT member who has been to Palestine – he went on the March Against the Apartheid Wall from Jericho to Jerusalem – described the meaning of occupation, and what a check-point is. You might need to go through one to get to your place of work every day. Each check point is numbered, and you have to have a pass with the check point number on it to get through. He knew of cases where, from sheer bureaucratic nastiness and spite, Palestinian people were given passes for particular checkpoints that made them have to do hour-long detours just to get to work, when there was another Checkpoint really close by.
In his speech, he referred to the importance of the shift in emphasis, that now Palestinians are, by the “Great March of Return”, putting emphasis on their expulsion in 1948, and not just on the flaunting by Israel of the 1967 boundaries: Israel’s continued colonization and aggression have gone past that.
Lindsey Collen said that there were two background points to the four demands we put forward today, as well as to our support for the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions against Israeli institutions) movement in all its forms. These are that Israel is a colonizing power of an anachronistic nature; when India was already getting its Independence, Israel (with Western encouragement) was colonizing Palestine as if it were a terra nullius – a land without people – and is still today, in 2018 colonizing Palestine. And at a more specific level, Israel is about to defend British colonization of Mauritius and Chagos at the ICJ when the Mauritian case begins on 3 September. So, Israel is both a colonizer, and a defender of British colonization of Mauritius. Israel, ever the hypocrite, is even prepared to come and give a position before the very same ICJ that it repudiates the findings of about its “Apartheid wall”.
The demands outlined in paragraph 2 above, are aimed at the State of Mauritius. She gave examples of other States, like Ireland, and Municipalities (in the UK and other countries) and Provinces (in Spain) that support the BDS movement, and called on everyone present to begin a new phase of BDS in Mauritius. Call on academics to refuse contact with Israeli institutions, call on artists and sportspeople to maintain a boycott, and on trade unions to begin to boycott Israeli institutions like trade unions that have gradually submitted before the Israeli army of occupation of Palestine.
Then everyone present, moving to the front of the building where we would light a candle, Former President of the Republic, Mr. Cassam Uteem, made a moving speech. He said that the degree of suffering of the Palestinian people was so great that UNRWA Christopher Gunness spokesperson broke down in tears on live TV on 30 July after attack on UN school in Gaza. He played the sound of the clip:
The UN Relief and Works Agency is the organization trying to keep Palestinians alive when they are under siege and occupation.
He said LALIT’s constant political work on the Palestinian issue was important, and that we, like everyone else in the world, have a responsibility to put an end to this suffering and to Israel’s impunity.
Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, buses, lorries going past, slowed down respectfully to read the banner we were holding: Solidarity with the Palestinian People.