<style>.post-37016 .entry-title{color: }</style>311
<style>.post-37016 .entry-title{color: }</style>311
<style>.post-37016 .entry-title{color: }</style>311

Engaging on the Right Side

By Luisa Morgantini

Italian civil society’s commitment to self-determination and freedom for the Palestinian people has a long and tortuous history. Until the early 1980s, international politics was carried out by parties, mainly of the left: communists and socialists, but also Christian Democrats and Christians for Socialism. At that time, the parties were strong, as were the militants. Even students, starting with the 1968 struggles, were engaged in activities for the PLO and paraded in the streets with the keffiyeh and for the fedayeen.The Sabra and Shatila massacre in September 1982 awakened the conscience of a large part of civil society. Wounded Palestinians were treated in Italian hospitals. Italy’s major trade unions took the lead in solidarity. (I was in the leadership of the metalworkers’ union at the time, and during the national strike for the labor contract, the Palestinian issue was represented by its flags and Palestinian students in Italy.)At the time, we were mainly aware of only the Palestinian refugees and fedayeen, not yet the Palestinian population of the 1967 occupied territories or the Palestinians discriminated against in Israel. A few months before the advent of the first Intifada, together with the International League of Peoples, we organized a work camp in Taybeh, in Israel, at the urging of the PLO in Italy. After that, we began to have a continuous presence in Palestine through delegations and volunteers in order to stand by the Palestinians in their struggle and then return to Italy to explain the Palestinian reality through political initiatives.In the meantime, in Italy, the left-wing parties were changing and losing not only members but also the interest in international politics that had existed from the postwar period onwards, on the side of all people struggling against colonialism. Strong, however, in those years, were associations and movements for peace, against missiles, against NATO, for disarmament. We succeeded in including Palestine as part of the movement’s agenda.

With Faisal Husseini, Zahira Kamal, and others.

The human chain around Jerusalem in December 1989 was an historic event that was strongly supported by the Italian peace movement. We called it Time for Peace, and it was organized by PLO Palestinians, Israelis from Peace Now, Hadash, Women in Black, and various internationals, mainly Italians (over 1,200 Italians out of 1,300 internationals). They called for recognition of the PLO and self-determination for the Palestinian people: two states for two peoples. The police violently attacked the demonstration: an Italian woman activist lost an eye, and dozens were injured. In Italy, in the last major demonstrations, more than 100,000 people paraded through the streets of Rome, driven by the same motivation that had prompted the human chain in Jerusalem. The following years brought the Gulf wars, divisions in the pacifist world, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Oslo Accords. At some point, peace was thought to have broken out. Instead, we entered a period that opened the door to wars in the Middle East and the continuing policy of colonization and apartheid in occupied Palestine. The Oslo Accords showed their reality, a trap for the Palestinians, closure of Jerusalem for the Palestinians, abundant checkpoints, and the division into areas A, B, and C that created de facto bantustans.

Meanwhile, Israeli hasbara intensified and lobbied the institutional arena and the media with a narrative that presented an upside-down world: Israelis were always victims who had to defend themselves against the terrorist actions of Palestinian extremist groups. With the advent of the second Intifada and after Sharon’s provocative walk on Al-Haram al-Sharif, we organized Action for Peace, in which hundreds of Italians came to Palestine to make peaceful interpositions to defend the civilian population from soldier attacks. We were present in nearly all the cities under curfew.

Hamas’s nefarious choice to organize suicide bombing actions against civilians contributed greatly to the reduction of the solidarity movement with Palestine. But the growth of populism and the turn to the right in Italy and Europe have also been instrumental.

With my friend Fatima Atuwani from Masafer Yatta.

In 2010, we founded AssoPacePalestina
and continued to support the movement of Palestinian Popular Committees that opposed the construction of the Wall. Through their nonviolent popular resistance, the Palestinian narrative came to the fore. Bilin, Nabi Saleh, Budros, the Jordan Valley, and the hills south of Hebron with At-Tuwani became, through the testimonies of the protagonists we invited to Italy, witnesses of Palestinian resilience and resistance.

AssoPacePalestina has since become a national organization, which is very important because the solidarity committees – except for the BDS campaign of which we are a part – are usually local committees.

We support the self-determination of the Palestinian people, and we try to make known the truth, helped by those who join us on knowledge and solidarity trips to Palestine. Participants have numbered in the thousands over all these years. A pillar of our activities is to raise awareness of the vibrant Palestinian culture: we organize exhibitions, film screenings, theater performances, and events, thereby aiming to break the stereotype that depicts Palestinians as either victims or extremists.

Our campaigns revolve around denouncing Israel’s violations of international law, settler aggression, and pogroms. We demand freedom for Palestinian prisoners and protest house demolitions, extraterritorial assaults, and extrajudicial executions. We advocate for an end to the Gaza embargo and for Israel and its rulers to finally be brought before the International Criminal Court.

We will continue on this path, lobbying our governments, aware of the complicity of the European Union, the United Nations, and our government with Israel’s policies of colonization, occupation, and apartheid.

The path is not easy, and we have not yet had many successes. But we are on the right side, and thus it’s worth it!


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