The European Parliament in Brussels was home to a conference on the role of women in the Palestinian popular struggle on Tuesday, 26 September, featuring Palestinian women actively engaged in the liberation movement: resistance icon Leila Khaled of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Sahar Francis of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and Ahed Tamimi of the Popular Resistance Committees.
It should also be noted that Francis and Addameer are the lawyers of imprisoned Palestinian leftist parliamentarian, Khalida Jarrar. Jarrar was a fellow invitee to this conference before she was seized by Israeli occupation forces on 2 July along with fellow prominent Palestinian woman leader Khitam Saafin, the president of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. The images of Jarrar and Saafin, along with those of Ahmad Sa’adat, the imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Marwan Barghouthi, imprisoned Fateh leader, were highlighted on the main banner at the event, which read: “Existir es Resistir: Freedom” (Existence is Resistance: Freedom).
A photo of Jarrar was placed on the main speakers’ table in front of an empty chair beside Manu Pineda of Unadikum, the chair of Middle East affairs of the Communist Party of Spain. Parliamentarians Angela Vallina and Javier Couso, both of Izquierda Unida, both spoke at the conference from the main panel.
The event was organized by the Spanish delegation of Izquierda Unida (United Left) as part of the GUE/NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left) bloc in the European Parliament and the Unadikum Brigades of Spain, along with Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Addameer and the BDS movement.
Hundreds of people, including Palestinian community activists in Belgium, solidarity organizers from a number of groups, organizations and campaigns and European parliamentarians attended the event. As Pour la Palestine, the website of the Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine noted, the conference did not only highlight solidarity with Palestine, “but also with Venezuela, Cuba, and all peoples fighting oppression in the world.” The ambassador of Venezuela, Claudia Salermo Calmera, participated in the event, as did MEP Martina Anderson, former Irish political prisoner and Sinn Fein representative.
During the conference, Leila Khaled emphasized the importance of building the international boycott of Israel and international isolation of the occupation. “We must unite the peoples of the world under the banner of freedom and bring together all popular movements that resist oppression. The Nazis were tried in Nuremberg for their crimes. Today, Israel is experiencing impunty. You must bring the war criminals to justice and tell your governments that they must cease all cooperation with the Zionist state,” she said.
Tamimi also emphasized the importance of the boycott, noting that “The world must recognize the Palestinian cause. The occupation is not only the theft of land. We oppose racism, Zionism, the entire system of occupation and not only the settlements. We do not want your pity, we want freedom!”
Francis spoke about the situation of prisoners, including the cases of Khalida Jarrar, Salah Hamouri and other imprisoned Palestinians, including parliamentarians and human rights defenders. She urged pressure on governments to take action for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
All of the speakers were greeted with a standing ovation, and multiple participants participated in the question-and-answer dialogue following the main presentations. Several MEPs as well as Tahsin Zaki of the Palestinian Community of Belgium and Luxembourg, Michel Collon of InvestigAction, Pierre Stambul of the French Jewish Union for Peace and others participated in the active discussion.
The conference had come under attack by Zionist organizations that attempted to demand that the European Parliament’s president silence the event; however, the event was large, filled to capacity and highly successful with strong interest from parliamentarians and advocates alike.
Leila Khaled will continue her visit to Europe and will speak in Madrid on 30 September at the Communist Party of Spain’s Fiesta at 6:00 pm, along with Manu Pineda and representatives of Spain’s BDS and Palestine solidarity movements.