The one-day Palestine Film Festival held on Saturday 31 October, under the banner “Let’s go to Palestine without paying the plane fare”, was a roaring success. It was organized by LALIT, the Confederation Travailleurs Secteur Prive and the Idriss Goomany Centre, in collaboration with the Film Club and the Muvman Liberasyon Fam. The number of people taking a stand in favour of the Palestinian people is now beginning to grow, and the success of the Film Festival, in terms of attendance, enthusiasm and commitment, may help contribute to making this growth of support exponential from now onwards. The critical time in history demands this of us.
Three documentaries, one in the morning at LALIT’s headquarters in Port Louis, one in the afternoon at the CTSP union federation’s hall in Rose-Hill and the third at the Idriss Goomany Centre Hall in Plaine Verte at 8:30 pm, were all very well attended, the first and the third with every single place taken. And in the course of the debate afterwards, people stood up and took position in favour of working on the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) campaign, as well as putting their names down to join the BDS movement and/or to organize new showings of the three films. However, only seven people, all LALIT members, managed to watch all three films and to participate in all three debates.
The films projected were:
Arna’s Children, about the remarkable woman, not only born Jewish but as a young girl also an active supporter of Israel, who became an ardent supporter of the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom. Even as she was dying of cancer, she was still running her wonderful Children’s Home and Children’s Theatre in the Jenine Refugee Camp helping children express their anger through theatre;
Jaffa, mecanique de l’orange, about how the Jaffa orange propaganda that built up the world-wide view of Israel as a country established by brave pioneers on a “Terra Nulla” of abandoned desert land, gets turned on its head when we realize that Jaffa oranges existed and were exported long before the land and factories were confiscated by the Israeli State after it had forced the people of Jaffa flee into the Mediterranean through a terror campaign, and that in fact the port city of Jaffa was bombarded and looted by the Israeli state, as it was being born, and Jaffa, which was supposed to be part of Palestine by the UN line, was simply annexed by Israel after a terror campaign;
5 Cameras Brisées about the remarkable photographer who, in his documentation of the struggle of the people of B’lin against the Israeli Apartheid Wall, saw five of his cameras broken, on two occasions by bullets. We had never seen a sustained, organized documentary so close up to the action of a village, as this faithful documentation of the struggle of the people, the children too, of B’lin. The victory they win, and they do get a part of the Wall pulled down, is that they have stood up and opposed the military occupation, and they have done it for years.
At the opening ceremony in the morning, former President of the Republic Cassam Uteem gave an excellent speech in favour of the people of Palestine, and put the blame for the continued suffering of the Palestinian people firmly on the Israeli State and the USA which supplies the arms and political support for the Zionist regime. He also situated the present situation with the rise of ISIS or Daesh as the direct result of the Bush-Blair illegal war against Iraq in 2004. During the course of the speeches at the three events, Alain Ah-Vee and Ragini Kistnasamy (both LALIT leading members) gave speeches that linked their direct experience as participants in the struggle of the Palestinian people against the Wall and against check-points to the present geo-political situation. Reeaz Chuttoo, Jane Ragoo, Imran Dhannoo and Ally Lazer, also spoke at the events, taking bold positions to support the Palestinian peoples’ struggle.
LALIT leading member Ram Seegobin, from the floor, in Rose-Hill, put emphasis on the particular way in which a mass boycott works: it is not just one person refusing to buy two or three Jaffa oranges, though obviously once this becomes thousands of people it does have an important economic and therefore political effect; a boycott works because each of us, when we go to Winners or to Shoprite, demand, in front of everyone, out aloud, as it is our right to know, where this orange or grapefruit comes from, and if it is not labelled, we can demand to see the crate to know where it does come from. This conversation, held in polite tones is what causes a boycott to work. This public taking of a stand is what our contribution is. This is what it means to stand up and be counted. This is what it means to spread the word about Israeli occupation: the simple action of boycotting, but doing it out aloud. Taking part in a boycot is developing this personal ability to make a shop-worker or another shopper in the supermarket agree with you (in public) that it is not possible to go on supporting a State like the Israeli State while it continues its military occupation of Palestine, and that Israel must be isolated by actions, like this boycott.
After each event, people signed up to give a hand with the BDS campaign and/or to continue organizing showings of the three documentaries and debates afterwards in other associations.