Samidoun joined a Palestinian delegation meeting at the South African Embassy in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, 27 May, where Charlotte Kates and Mohammed Khatib of Samidoun joined Palestinian writer and activist Khaled Barakat and cultural troupe organizer Mostafa Awad for a discussion with South African Embassy Minister Plenipotentiary Ellwyn Beck.
He welcomed the Palestinian delegation and emphasized the long history of connections between the South African and Palestinian people, as well as the support of South Africa for Palestinian national rights.
Barakat spoke about the current political situation in Palestine; the extreme right-wing racist Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, including the addition of Avigdor Lieberman as Defense Minister; and the Palestinian people’s long struggle for liberation. He discussed the situation of Palestinians generally, including the siege on Gaza, the escalating attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the racist laws and repression directed against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Barakat also noted that the majority of Palestinians are refugees, yet the voices of Palestinians outside are often unheard and suppressed. He discussed the severe difficulties and crises facing Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon, and the struggle for the right of return. Barakat also emphasized the call for boycott of Israel and the importance of states implementing the boycott call in practice in response to this growing grassroots movement.
Kates presented an overview of the current reality for Palestinian prisoners, highlighting the escalation of administrative detention orders – imprisonment without charge or trial – and the injustice of Israeli military courts, where over 99% of Palestinians brought before them are convicted. She noted the current hunger strikes of Palestinian prisoners Montasser Eid, Adib Mafarjah and Imad Abu Rezeq, as well as the long line of hunger strikes, collective and individual, of Palestinian prisoners, noting that these hunger strikes were a call to the world to act and not remain silent in the face of political imprisonment. She noted South Africa’s support for the international campaign to free Marwan Barghouti, and the resonance of the political prisoners’ issue both for the South African and Palestinian struggles. Noting the recent victory of Palestinian professor Imad Barghouthi, she highlighted the importance of international support for imprisoned Palestinians. She also emphasized the international call by Palestinian prisoners and Palestinian civil society to boycott the security corporation G4S, which continues to provide control rooms, equipment and security services to Israeli prisons, interrogation centers and checkpoints.
Beck said that South Africa was indeed ending and had ended contracts with G4S at airports, and looking to address the issue in prison contracts with the corporation, the world’s second largest private employer. South Africa’s largest trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has called for an end to the G4S contracts.
Mohammed Khatib, of Samidoun and the Palestinian Youth Organization in Europe, spoke about the situation of Palestinian youth in Europe today, including the large number of Palestinians newly arriving from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. He emphasized the role of Palestinian youth in Europe in building the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and the eagerness of Palestinian students and youth to build ties with South African students and youth.
Mostafa Awad, Palestinian community activist in Belgium and organizer of Raja’een dabkeh troupe, discussed the importance of cultural work in Palestinian community organizing and activism, and in preserving Palestinian culture despite displacement and occupation. He noted that cultural expression both expressed the beauty and creativity of Palestinian culture, while reaffirming the right of refugees to return and the culture of resistance.
Beck expressed his support and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and the efforts being undertaken by Palestinian and Palestine solidarity movements and organizers to build the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions; all present committed to follow up on the discussions in order to further expand work around political prisoners, youth organizing, and Palestinian-South African joint struggle.