The Alternative Information Center (AIC) in Beit Sahour hosted two meetings on Tuesday May 4 relating to the World Education Forum (WEF) in Palestine, to be held in October 2010. A skype meeting was set-up between a group of Palestinian Committee members and participants in the Mexico Social Forum, followed by an information evening as part of the AICafe’s weekly events.
A Thematic Social Forum in Mexico City entitled, “From the peoples, ways out from the global crisis are possible,” was held between 2 and 4 May. The World Social Forum is an ‘alter-globalization’ space that has met regularly in different parts of the world since its beginnings in Porto Alegre, Brasil, in 2000. This year such a Thematic Forum focused on education will be organized in Palestine at the end of October.
During this event in Mexico, the expanded activities allowed alter globalization groups from Japan, India, Bangladesh, Palestine, Senegal and Brasil to communicate with the participants in Mexico through video meetings.
Such an expanded activity was organized between Palestine and Mexico. From the Palestinian side the following people participated: Ahmad Jaradat, a field researcher at the Alternative Information Center and member of the National Committee of the WEF, Omar Assaf, the General Coordinator of the WEF in Palestine, and Marjon Goetinck from the WEF organization team in Palestine. In the tent in Mexico about 20 persons participated, among them Leo Gabriel from the International Council of the WSF, Jenny Tapia from the Liason Group for the Mexico Social Forum, Pierre George, an expanded activities organizer. Among the participants in Mexico was Buuba Diop, an International Council of the WSF member, who works for the ICAE (International Council for Adult Education ) and is part of the organizing committee of the WSF 2011 to be held in Dakar.
Based on questions from the Mexican public, the Palestinian participants spoke about the organization of this important event WEF and its aim of providing an alternative to the current world system dominated by capital, domination, oppression and other forms of imperialism. Mr. Jaradat and Mr. Assaf spoke in detail about the reasons for holding this Forum in Palestine. They mentioned the need to impart the Palestinian educational experience to the world as part of a global cross-cultural exchange. Evidently, the speakers of the national committee spoke about the Israeli attack on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during December 2008 into January 2009. They emphasized the disruption to the education system, due to the damage caused during Operation “Cast Lead” and the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza. Furthermore they explained that this forum will not only serve as a gesture of solidarity with Palestine but also celebrates the power of education in bridging cultures and practices and, as an agency of change and freedom, freeing people from oppression and their relative isolation. The Palestinian call to hold the World Education Forum is a clear indication of the strength and determination of the Palestinian civil society in their struggle against Israeli occupation. The Palestinian speakers explained that the WEF in Palestine will be polycentric, with activities organized in Haifa, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Gaza and in Lebanon because of travel restrictions imposed by the Israeli forces. All border crossings to the Gaza Strip have been closed for more than two years now. Palestinians with a West Bank or Gaza ID are prohibited from travelling to Jerusalem or inside the Green Line (Israel, while Palestinians from Gaza are prohibited travel to the West Bank or vice versa. In addition to the venues in Palestine, the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will be hosting WEF activities where the WEF will extend its solidarity with the Palestinian refugees of Lebanon and all over the world.
A Mexico WSF participant asked about the effect of the Israeli occupation on education in Palestine. Mr Jaradat highlighted that the right to education is continuously violated due to occupational practices, be it the wall, military checkpoints, shutting down schools, using schools as a military base or arresting teachers and children. The Israeli occupation continues to severely cripple the running and functioning of the whole educational system in Palestine, hindering Palestinian access and quality of education. Despite the difficult situation, education has served as a means of empowerment within the Palestinian community and, as such, has played a significant role within the community since 1948.
The Mexican participants spoke about the value of taking part in the Social Forum in Mexico. The Forum for them is a space for denunciation of the criminalization of social protest, the attacks on human-rights defenders, the disregard for the interests of the working class, and the militarization that has been experienced in the country in recent years. A member of the International Council of the WSF from Austria underlined the similarities between the effect of the building of the wall in Palestine and the separation barriers in Mexico. These barriers are designed to prevent illegal movements across the Mexico and United States border. The United States has undertaken this massive project in the name of immigration control and national security, notwithstanding the project generates massive violations of human rights including unfair and discriminatory takings of private property without a clear and fair process affecting the means of subsistence and way of life of persons living in border communities, including the members of several indigenous groups. Additionally the wall destroys important environmental resources.
The Mexican participant expressed deep solidarity with the suffering of the Palestinian people. They thanked the speakers for this fruitful meeting which gave them a better picture about the situation in Palestine. At the end of the skype meeting that lasted two hours, the participants at the Mexico Social Forum wished the Palestinian organizers of the World Education Forum in Palestine the best of luck with their preparation and expressed their full support of this Forum. The WEF organizers thanked the participants in Mexico for their time and added that they intend to “expand” their Forum by promoting “expanded activities” linked to the WEF all over the globe.
Info evening in the AIC
During the second meeting in the AIC, the WEF organizers gave a presentation to a group of foreigners and Palestinians about the impact, objectives, program, thematic axes and organization of this Forum. The introduction was followed by a discussion and a round of questions. The public raised important questions such as how to boycott Israeli goods and services during the Forum.
The speakers clarified that the BDS Movement is a member of the National Committee, furthermore the organizers explained that boarding and lodging will be provided by Palestinian hotels, companies and organizations, in addition to solidarity accommodation offered by Palestinian families. Palestinian organizations such as the Alternative Tourism Group will organize trips for the participants. A participants at the meeting spoke about the need to have huge media coverage before and during this event, in Palestine as well as abroad.
As a final point the public was informed how to support and participate in this event, by mobilizing participation and support of international organizations and individuals, by participating in the WEF as an activity organizer or delegate, by writing texts about the WEF, by raising funds for the WEF or joining the volunteer team or sending volunteers.